Huntin', fishin', goin' nowhere

Rumours of his departure are much exaggerated, says London Evening Standard editor Max Hastings

Ever since Max Hastings was appointed editor of the London
Evening Standard in 1996, commentators have been murmuring how unlikely a candidate he is for the job. If you ignored the fact that he was a highly successful editor of
The Daily Telegraph for the preceding 10 years, his country-squire passions and aversion to London at the weekend did suggest that it was an anomalous choice.

Ever since Max Hastings was appointed editor of the London Evening Standard in 1996, commentators have been murmuring how unlikely a candidate he is for the job. If you ignored the fact that he was a highly successful editor of The Daily Telegraph for the preceding 10 years, his country-squire passions and aversion to London at the weekend did suggest that it was an anomalous choice.

Hastings has survived the death of the two men who appointed him, Lord Rothermere and Sir David English, the former proprietor and editor-in-chief, respectively, of Associated Newsapers. He has edited the Standard through interesting times for London, doing a steady job. It's a more prosaic task than editing The Telegraph, where he could leave the actual journalism to others. "It's very hands-on," he says, with a 6.30am start and "important decisions to be made in 10 minutes rather than over hours".

The paper, Hastings boasts, has greatly improved its turn-around times and offers thorough coverage of issues such as crime and the mayoral contest. Some of his staff make fun of his enthusiasm for "pretty girls with picture bylines" - Mimi Spencer, now editor of ES magazine, famously had more pictures in the paper than the Prime Minister when she was a writer - but if that is true, it hardly makes him unique.

The accusation is also levelled that the Standard doesn't know if it's a local or national paper, with foreign coverage varying wildly. "One of the things you're paid for as an editor is to judge what people want," he says, "and if we decide to cover a foreign story we want to do it as well as all the nationals." Still, Hastings admits there was a "steep learning curve" after he arrived from The Telegraph.

Unlike Paul Dacre, editor of the Daily Mail, Hastings is not publicity-shy. He appears often on Question Time, gives interviews and writes his own signed leading articles. Alastair Campbell and others used to barrage him with faxes and phone calls complaining about the paper's coverage. What was the editor's response? "I'd tell then to sod off. I've found myself saying, do remember that I neither hold office under the crown, nor am I at this point soliciting a peerage from Tony Blair, so you can't talk to us as if we're flunkeys." The angry fax tide ebbed after he published one in the paper.

Hastings assures those who have expressed concern about the Associated bid for the left-leaning Daily Express by pointing out that he has never been rebuked by Dacre or Rothermere for his own centrist politics. "They regard it as healthy that the Mail and the Standard take the opposing point of view on a lot of issues." He also says rumours that he plans to retire after the next election are untrue.

An acclaimed military historian, Hastings perches in his chair in his office overlooking roadworks on Kensington High Street and barks out answers. His secretary is even more frightening, and half his staff are scared of him, though everyone who knows him says he is scrupulously fair. You interrupt him at your peril - he simply talks over you until you shut up - though he ought perhaps to come up with some new interview sound-bites as many his quotes are verbatim repeats. He has, to date, shown at least three interviewers a particular Campbell fax asking sarcastically whether Ken Livingstone was writing the Standard's headlines, and commented, "I'm having it framed", although nine months have passed and it remains frameless in his drawer.

Londoners stuck on Tube trains may have noticed advertisements for the Millennium Dome, in which the Evening Standard is quoted extolling its virtues. Is this the same Standard that has spent all year calling for the Dome to be scrapped?

"I complained bitterly about that", he says. "That was from a column by Simon Jenkins [a Millennium Commissioner] and they used it as if it was from the Standard. I rang up Jennie Page [then the Dome supremo] and I said, 'If you ever use that again, I will sue you for your last penny'.She said she wouldn't do it again, but she knew full well what she was doing."

Hastings campaigned for the creation of the mayoral post but he was suspicious of Ken Livingstone politically, so is he surprised at his performance as Mayor so far? "Yes, frankly, I am, though I do keep wondering what happens next. I would say he's behaved pretty responsibly on many issues and if he keeps this up he'll have our support."

A One Nation Tory who says he despairs of the "Little Englander" policies of William Hague,he is also sufficiently content with the Labour government to expect to endorse it at the next election. But his love of shooting and fishing (he took part in last year's Countryside March in London, on one of the few weekends he has ever spent in the capital) can hardly endear him to New Labour. "I've managed to be on not very good terms with three successive prime ministers now, and I'm beginning to think that's the way it should be."

He has mixed feelings about Metro, the apolitical daily freesheet produced on a shoestring budget and defensively launched as a way of stymieing a similar plan from News International. "I don't think any honest editor is happier to have a rival in the field who will make us all work harder", he says. "But I've been very encouraged by the way our circulation has stood up to it."

So far, the Standard's circulation has taken a hit of around 10-15,000 copies but remained steady at 439,000. But Hastings says that complacency would be misplaced. "The whole newspaper industry is going to go through quite a nail-biting time over the next few years, discovering if those who pick up their freesheets as teenagers move on to wanting to pay for newspapers later," he says.

News
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
Sport
Romelu Lukaku puts pen to paper
sport
News
Robyn Lawley
people
Arts and Entertainment
Unhappy days: Resistance spy turned Nobel prize winner Samuel Beckett
books
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
News
people
Life and Style
Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson voice the show’s heroes
gamingOnce stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover
News
i100
News
people
Extras
indybest
Life and Style
Phones will be able to monitor your health, from blood pressure to heart rate, and even book a doctor’s appointment for you
techCould our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?
Travel
Ryan taming: the Celtic Tiger carrier has been trying to improve its image
travelRyanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?
Sport
Usain Bolt confirms he will run in both the heats and the finals of the men's relay at the Commonwealth Games
commonwealth games
Life and Style
Slim pickings: Spanx premium denim collection
fashionBillionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers 'thigh-trimming construction'
News
Sabina Altynbekova has said she wants to be famous for playing volleyball, not her looks
people
News
i100
Life and Style
tech'World's first man-made leaves' could use photosynthesis to help astronauts breathe
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
Latest stories from i100
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 Media

Data Scientist

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: A data analytics are currently looking t...

Insight Analyst Vacancy - Leading Marketing Agency

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: A leading marketing agency have won a fe...

Account Manager, London

£18000 - £22000 per annum, Benefits: Excellent Uncapped Commission Structure: ...

Sales Executive, London

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Charter Selection: This exciting entertainment comp...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star