I'm no Labour crony, BBC's new political editor tells critics

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The Independent Online

Andrew Marr, whom the BBC has chosen as its next political editor, denied yesterday that he was appointed because he was supposedly close to the New Labour "in-crowd".

Mr Marr, 41, who edited The Independent between 1996 and 1998, said in an interview with the BBC's Breakfast with Frost programme that the suggestions he was too close to the Government had been the product of the media's need to find a story.

"Everyone is looking feverishly for a row about my supposed New Labour sympathies and the fact that I am enormously close to the New Labour in-crowd. I have to say that the nearest I get to the New Labour in-crowd is the fringes of one of David Frost's parties," he said.

Conservative Central Office welcomed the appointment of Mr Marr, with a spokesman saying the party had "no problem". "We know Andrew. He is a distinguished journalist and we have no doubt he will continue the BBC tradition of unbiased reporting," he said.

However, the former Tory chairman Lord Tebbit attacked his appointment. "The BBC is run by the Labour Party and takes its orders from it," Lord Tebbit claimed. "So this will make no difference."

Mr Marr, who is currently a newspaper columnist, will replace Robin Oakley at the end of July. Mr Oakley, 59, is taking early retirement from the job of political editor but he will continue to work with the BBC's political team, presenting The Week in Westminster during this year's party conference season.

Mr Marr is a former reporter and columnist for The Scotsman, The Economist and The Independent, and since 1998 has written for The Observer and for the Daily Express.