Former editor is Hague's new hope

The media: Tories target former `Mail on Sunday' chief to help revive fortunes as gays find a new voice in the press

UNTIL RECENTLY, he spun news to Middle England. Now Jonathan Holborow is set to join the fight to sell William Hague to the middle classes.

The leader of the Conservative Party is expected to hire the former editor of the Mail on Sunday as his pounds 150,000-a-year communications director. His task will be to spin positive stories directly to newspaper editors.

Mr Holborow is seen by Tory leaders as having a feel for the middle classes after his success in adding more than 300,000 to the sales of the Mail on Sunday in his six years at the helm.

The Charterhouse old boy left the newspaper last month, claiming to be taking early retirement. He had taken the title from 1.93 million sales in 1992 to more than 2.2 million a week, outstripping the Sunday Express - the one-time bible of the Tory petit bourgeoisie.

Holborow wears his public school education on his sleeve and is described by former staff at the paper as brusque and no-nonsense. "He had a demanding style and was not adverse to a bit of humiliation," says one. "It is safe to say he was not universally loved by his staff."

His fortunes at the Mail on Sunday were always in doubt after he offered a fulsome front-page apology to the actress Brooke Shields this year after the newspaper wrongly reported that she had been searched for drugs by police.

Mail on Sunday sources said Mr Holborow has a "gut instinct" for issues which affect middle-class voters, which he learnt at the knee of Sir David English, the recently deceased editor-in-chief of Associated Newspapers. Mr Holborow, 55, spent almost his entire journalistic career working under English at Associated Newspapers, owner of the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday, starting in Manchester in 1967. English's political support for Margaret Thatcher helped to define the politics of the Eighties.

However, others demur. "He's not got sensitive political antennae. He's not really someone who has the long term vision," said one ex-colleague.

"He thinks he has great political instinct, but he's not really a political animal," said another.

The appointment, which is expected to be confirmed in the next few days, underlines anxiety in the Hague camp about the Tories failure to show any improvement in opinion polls.

Mr Holborow is wanted by Mr Hague to spearhead a shake-up of the party's press operation at Conservative Central Office, in Smith Square. The move threatens to sideline Gregor Mackay, Mr Hague's press officer, but sources at Central Office said he would remain in place while the press team reports to Mr Holborow as the head of communications.

Some insiders privately believe it smacks of panic before next year's European elections.

Mr Holborow will not be asked to replicate the role of Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair's press secretary, in rebuilding the Opposition's image. The day-to-day task of dealing with the press and running a rebuttal operation to stop negative reports is likely to be handed to a former journalist. There was speculation at Westminster last night that Mr Hague was seeking to recruit a Times journalist, Nicholas Wood, for that task.

Staff at Smith Square would like to move to purpose-built offices like Labour, but having recently refurbished their war room the Tories lack the resources to move before the next election. They are likely to establish a rebuttal unit and have borrowed from Labour by creating a media monitoring unit.

With Michael Portillo waiting in the wings to strike, Mr Hague knows his leadership will come under threat if the Tories fail to make an impact in the local elections and the European elections next year.

"The European elections are a fairly key point in the electoral cycle and the middle classes are the key swing voters. The Mail on Sunday was seen as more evenly divided between Labour and Tory supporters and that is the target audience that we have to connect with," said a shadow ministerial source.

So far, the Tories poll standing has remained resolutely at rock bottom. Shadow ministers have privately discussed what they can do to raise the party's profile, and make more impact on the Government.

They were furious at the way the party conference was allowed to be dominated by the feuds over Europe, and held an angry post-mortem in the Shadow Cabinet as soon as they returned to Westminster.

Life and Style
“What is it like being a girl?” was the question on the lips of one inquisitive Reddit user this week
News
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
Life and Style
beauty
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Sport
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
transfers
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

Sport
German supporters (left) and Argentina fans
world cup 2014Final gives England fans a choice between to old enemies
Arts and Entertainment
A still from the worldwide Dawn of the Planet of the Apes trailer debut
film
News
peopleMario Balotelli poses with 'shotgun' in controversial Instagram pic
News
A mugshot of Ian Watkins released by South Wales Police following his guilty pleas
peopleBandmates open up about abuse
Sport
Basketball superstar LeBron James gets into his stride for the Cleveland Cavaliers
sportNBA superstar announces decision to return to Cleveland Cavaliers
Sport
Javier Mascherano of Argentina tackles Arjen Robben of the Netherlands as he attempts a shot
world cup 2014
Arts and Entertainment
The successful ITV drama Broadchurch starring David Tenant and Olivia Coleman came to an end tonight
tv
Sport
Four ski officials in Slovenia have been suspended following allegations of results rigging
sportFour Slovenian officials suspended after allegations they helped violinist get slalom place
News
14 March 2011: George Clooney testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing titled 'Sudan and South Sudan: Independence and Insecurity.' Clooney is co-founder of the Satellite Sentinel Project which uses private satellites to collect evidence of crimes against civilian populations in Sudan
people
Arts and Entertainment
Balaban is indirectly responsible for the existence of Downton Abbey, having first discovered Julian Fellowes' talents as a screenwriter
tvCast members told to lose weight after snacking on set
Life and Style
More than half of young adults have engaged in 'unwanted but consensual sexting with a committed partner,' according to research
tech
Life and Style
A binge is classed as four or more alcoholic drinks for women and five or more for men, consumed over a roughly two-hour period
tech
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

JavaScript Developer (Angular, Web Forms, HTML5, Ext JS,CSS3)

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: JavaScript Dev...

BC2

£50000 - £70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

SAP Data Migration Consultant

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client, a FTSE 100 organisation are u...

Programme Support, Coms, Bristol, £300-350p/d

£300 - £350 per day + competitive: Orgtel: My client, a leading bank, is curre...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice