My Mentor: Dominic Lawson On Tony Howard

'He taught me that politics is actually about much more than the arguments'

Tony Howard has a tremendous record of bringing on young people. He was editor of the
New Statesman when I was at university - as an undergraduate, in those far-off days, we read that and not
The Spectator - and brought in Julian Barnes, James Fenton, Christopher Hitchens and Martin Amis. It was an extraordinary accumulation of talent by a single editor, so I was very excited when, after I left university, I was was asked to work for him.

Tony Howard has a tremendous record of bringing on young people. He was editor of the New Statesman when I was at university - as an undergraduate, in those far-off days, we read that and not The Spectator - and brought in Julian Barnes, James Fenton, Christopher Hitchens and Martin Amis. It was an extraordinary accumulation of talent by a single editor, so I was very excited when, after I left university, I was was asked to work for him.

I worked for him at the BBC between 1979 and 1981, first on Reputations, a series of biographies taking a fresh look at political figures of the past, and then on The World Tonight.

I learnt a lot from him at an early age. He had - and still has, at the age of 70 - an astonishing work ethic, alongside an extraordinary eye for detail. He was a very critical, very demanding taskmaster and taught me that there were no shortcuts to getting big stories, no substitute for knowing the details and for doing the work.

He was fascinated with the extent to which politicians' private likes and dislikes influence their political actions. As a young man, one has the delusion that politicians' actions are governed by disinterested analysis or by mere intellectual prejudice. One of the things one learnt from Tony, who had an encyclopaedic knowledge of the private lives of politicians, was that often what determined their actions was a particular enmity towards, or friendship with, other politicians. It taught me that politics is actually about much more than the arguments.

I owe him a huge amount. As the son of a Tory politician, certain people would have had a suspicion about me - and his support, as a man of the left, was useful in my getting a job at the Financial Times, where I began my career in newspapers in 1981.

I've never heard him complain about anything. If you came into the office late with both legs chopped off by a train, he'd say, "Oh come on, don't make a fuss." And he was right.

Dominic Lawson is editor of 'The Sunday Telegraph'

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