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Leader writers are newspapers' hidden persuaders, an aura of mystery surrounding the emergence of their judgements. So who are these shadowy figures?


Dejevsky usually writes the first leader in The Independent and Ben Chu writes the second. Charles Nevin writes the third leader, with a byline from Monday to Thursday. Specialist writers also contribute leaders. Subjects are usually decided by the late morning, after the main news conference, but can change until quite late in the day. After six years at the BBC World Service specialising in Russia and eastern Europe, Dejevsky started contributing freelance features on China to The Times. This was followed by stints as The Times's Moscow correspondent and as comment editor, Paris and Washington correspondent and diplomatic editor on The Independent, before taking over from John Rentoul as chief leader writer. Chu came to The Independent from an Oxford history degree. Dejevsky says: "The main thing about being a leader writer, and the reason I was drawn to it and still love it, is that you have to take a point of view and often you have to do it very quickly. I tend to write more confidently when my name is not attached; somehow you assume the identity of the paper, whereas when you write a column, you have to be yourself completely."

Tim Hames: THE TIMES

After joining The Times in 1996 as a leader writer, Hames became its chief leader writer in 2001. He was previously a lecturer in politics at Oxford University. "That used to be how they recruited leader writers," he explains. "They were regarded as creatures completely separate from journalism." He is joined by Michael Binyon, who writes the bulk of foreign leaders, but is also an expert on British transport and the arts. Roland Watson, a former chief political correspondent, shares domestic politics with Hames and writes most of the American leaders. Giles Whittell, a former correspondent in Los Angeles, is a feature writer of some repute. "He tends to be our man of all trades - a bit of domestic, some foreign affairs," says Hames. Camilla Cavendish writes leaders on domestic policy, business and corporate affairs. Hames adds: "It continues to surprise me how seriously Times leaders are taken. The future of the Royal Opera House shouldn't necessarily hinge on what a man thinks between four and five in the afternoon."


On any day, The Daily Telegraph has a fluctuating cast of four or five leader writers. Kruger, the chief leader writer, mainly covers British politics and culture. Columnists Simon Heffer and Janet Daley also contribute, as well as regular freelancers Damian Thompson and Annunziata Rees-Mogg. Simon Scot-Plummer is the full-time foreign leader writer and for "jolly thirds" the paper turns to Christopher Howse, Sam Leith and Andrew McKie. Kruger, an Edinburgh and Cambridge University graduate, was a freelance leader writer while at the rightwing think tank the Centre for Policy Studies from 2000 to 2003, then went to work for the Conservative Party as a policy adviser. He was appointed deputy comment editor at the Telegraph in May 2005 and chief leader writer in January. He says: "Telegraph leaders are the codification of the spirit of the paper - urbane, amused, Tory. We try to present a world view that is authentically conservative and yet entirely independent of the Conservative Party."


Earlier this year, Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre persuaded Utley to leave The Daily Telegraph for a reported £120,000 salary. As well as writing his own bylined column, Utley is in charge of the daily leaders, previously the responsibility of Michael Toner. Utley prefers to maintain a silence on the subject, because he believes that leaders are a collegial effort - the voice of the paper, and not of an individual.

Julian Glover: THE GUARDIAN

In a reshuffle at The Guardian in February, Glover was made chief leader writer, freeing his predecessor Martin Kettle "to write more broadly across the paper and the web". Glover joined The Guardian in 2000 and launched its politics website ahead of the 2001 general election. He has been a regular contributor to the leader column for the past six years. In 2003, he moved to the news desk, running the paper's political coverage and in 2005 moved to the lobby as a political correspondent. Ian Black writes The Guardian's foreign leaders, Richard Adams is economics leader writer and Tom Clark, previously Alan Johnson's special adviser and at the Institute for Fiscal Studies, writes on social policy. The Guardian's third slot, "In Praise Of..." tries not to be too wry. The most notable Guardian leader of recent times was in March, when the paper called for Tony Blair to go.

Graham Dudman: THE SUN

When he is not busy clamping down on expenses, The Sun's managing editor Graham Dudman is in charge of the leader writers. Perhaps his most important contribution has been spearheading The Sun's efforts to reach a reconciliation with the people of Liverpool over the paper's coverage of the Hillsborough disaster. In a charm offensive, further necessitated by the tabloid's deal to tell Wayne Rooney's life story, Dudman appeared on local radio phone-ins. The parents of two children who died in the stadium tragedy 17 years ago went public saying they accepted his apology.

Kevin Maguire: DAILY MIRROR

The Daily Mirror's associate editor, columnist and former political editor, Maguire writes most of the paper's leaders. He particularly enjoys attacking David Cameron - "same old Tory, same old story" - for instance when it was revealed that when the Conservative leader cycled to work, supposedly upping his green credentials, he was followed by a car. "I propose ideas to the editor and deputy editor and decide the line and then do it," says Maguire, who used to be chief correspondent on The Guardian and labour correspondent on The Daily Telegraph. "We've got little space, so I've got to know what we're going to say and say it pithily and directly. I have written some ferocious leaders on Cameron. It's easier for broadcasters to pick out a quote from a tabloid leader, because ours are shorter and more direct. The idea is to make them very quotable."

Patrick O'Flynn: DAILY EXPRESS

The Daily Express's chief political commentator, O'Flynn also writes most of the paper's leaders. When composing them, usually not until after afternoon conference, he has the Express readership very much in mind - "people who work hard for not a huge amount of financial reward and play by the rules". Prior to his current role, O'Flynn was political editor on the Express for five years, chief political correspondent and deputy political editor on the Sunday Express and political editor on the Birmingham Post. "I do most of them if I'm in and around. I'm chief political commentator. We tend to leave the choice of what we're doing until afternoon conference at 4.30pm. At the end of afternoon conference, it's agreed what the subject will be," says O'Flynn. "I write with the readership in mind. The Express readership is ... very sensitive to stories about people who don't deserve things getting them and people who break the law of the land and get off lightly."


The Financial Times has four full-time leader writers and a further five writers who regularly contribute to the pages, but also file for other parts of the paper. There is no chief leader writer as such. David Buchan, who joined the paper in 1975, became a leader writer after holding posts including diplomatic editor, Paris bureau chief, Brussels bureau chief, east Europe correspondent and defence correspondent. David Gardner writes on the Middle East and South Asia. From 1999 to 2001 he was South Asia bureau chief and from 1995 to 1999 Middle East editor.