At 'The Telegraph', a question of leadership

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The Independent Online

Last week's resignation of Martin Newland, the editor, was prompted by the management's withdrawal of a leading article in support of David Cameron in the Conservative leadership race. The paper's ambivalence over the leadership has been at the heart of the turmoil that rocked the paper last week. Factions at the Telegraph are divided over their support for the two candidates, with Simon Heffer, associate editor, a Davis supporter, sparring bitterly in the pages with Boris Johnson, a Cameron supporter.

Newland was understood to support Cameron, but earlier this month a supportive leader was pulled on the orders of the management. The executives' reluctance to endorse the likely Tory winner may signal a willingness to take the paper out on a right-wing political limb.

A key aide in the Davis campaign said it would be "pretty odd" if the paper - so long identified with the Tories - failed to reach a decision on the leadership. The view from the Cameron camp was more phlegmatic. "We're just getting on with what we can do," said one lieutenant.

Many see the Tory leadership race as mirroring the newspaper's own divide between satisfying its old-guard readers, while introducing innovations in an attempt to reach a new, younger generation. A recent redesign failed to raise circulation - now 901,667 - while full colour is three years away and the paper has yet to decide whether to go tabloid.

The decision of the much-liked Newland to quit came as a surprise to management. However, it cannot have been that much of a shock after a series of assaults to his authority, including the imposition of editor-in-chief John Bryant with just 24 hours' notice. Mr Bryant will assume the job of acting editor.

It could be months before a permanent editor is appointed. Candidates include Jeff Randall, former BBC business editor, Simon Heffer, Will Lewis, the paper's deputy, and Sarah Sands, The Sunday Telegraph editor.