New Government! New Guardian! Alan Rusbridger is shaking up his staff with Blairite conviction

"Youth! Youth! There is absolutely nothing in the world but youth!"

Those words of Oscar Wilde, drawn from The Picture of Dorian Gray, weren't cited by Alan Rusbridger, the editor of The Guardian, in an unsettling electronic memo which he sent out recently to specialist writers on his staff. But they might as well have been.

Accusations of ageism, arrogance and authoritarianism have been levelled at Rusbridger's regime since he seized upon the change of government to suggest that it might be time for changes on The Guardian's staff. A samizdat-style denunciation faxed to rival titles, including The Independent, claims that The Guardian's youthful editor is "busy trying to rid the paper of some of its most stalwart specialists ... moving or pushing out many of the best-known names from the Preston days."

But, Rusbridger, who succeeded Peter Preston as editor just over three years ago, can brush off these accusations as easily as Tony Blair, in this time of triumph, can laugh off Leo Abse's excoriating psychological study, The Man Behind the Smile: Tony Blair and the Politics of Perversion. Just as Abse defended Ancient Labour, The Guardian's self-styled "stalwart specialists" argue that the unprecedented new popularity of a radical old institution to which they have devoted their working lives has been gained at an unacceptable price.

Rusbridger's ageing critics haven't gone so far as to cite Freud, but their criticisms of "New" Guardian are as venomous as those levelled at New Labour. And, in the present triumphalism, as futile.

Rusbridger came across as supremely relaxed when I met up with him in his office a few days ago. In fact, he was positively beaming throughout our hour-long chat.

He declined to endorse direct parallels between himself and Tony Blair - "You may do so but it would invite derision if I did" - but he did state with apparent pride: "The process of modernisation on The Guardian has reflected the process of modernisation in the Labour Party. We've reached the same conclusions by separate routes."

Asked to elaborate on this, he said that the old Guardian, like Old Labour, "opposed lots of things the Tories did which we'd now think weren't terribly bad in retrospect ... I mean, a lot of the trade union stuff doesn't seem as horrendous now as it seemed at the time."

He believes that morale at its Farringdon Road home fell to a dangerously low level in the late 1980s when the New Right's political hegemony seemed impregnable and The Guardian was "stuck in a very Old Labour mindset and basically pissing in the wind". Now "we are read by the people in power".

Buoyed by the May Day victory of Blairism - and a corresponding surge in The Guardian's circulation last month - Rusbridger is now effectively neutering his newspaper's own unwritten version of Clause Four, which basically held that a specialist post on Britain's liberal-left broadsheet should be like academic tenure at an ancient university.

Oh yes, of course he broadly believes that Guardian staffers should still be able to count upon a job for life, but no one can expect to hang on to the same job all their life. "By and large I believe in cuddly management, and that is what I'm practising," he explained. "But, as with a Cabinet reshuffle, there will be a few people who get moved to the backbenches." The whole aim of the exercise, he insists, is to root out pockets of stagnation and grant opportunities to bright youngsters.

Rusbridger, who is 42, could pass for one of the twentysomethings whose youthful energy and eagerness he so evidently values. But he swiftly counters accusations of ageism by telling you that the colleague he leans upon most for advice is David McKie, an assistant editor who is in his early sixties. McKie, one suspects, performs the same role at New Guardian as John Prescott performed for New Labour before the election. Doubtless he would say that Rusbridger's project is all about "traditional values in a modern typeface".

Already there are still a few Jeremiahs who warn that the euphoria will fade and both New Labour and New Guardian will soon experience a downturn. The media consultant Jim Chisholm reminded us recently that The Guardian tends to struggle rather than thrive under Labour governments.

Rusbridger brushed off that report. He counters, quite justifiably, that The Guardian - or The "Grauniad" as we affectionately knew it - was a quite different paper when Jim Callaghan was in Number 10. Once sombre and grey, it has lightened up and broadened its appeal considerably.

Rusbridger himself now openly mocks the "brown bread and sandals brigade" who formed the bulk of the paper's readership back then. The twentysomethings who today increasingly dominate New Guardian's newsroom, he points out, "are proud of working for what they see as a rather hip metropolitan paper".

Doubtless, these able and ambitious young thrusters are thrilled to be in a happening workplace guided by an editor who, like our new youthful PM, is possessed by the Dorian Gray syndrome. But, as they fantasise about their bright futures at Farringdon Road, they might do well to remember these wise Wildean words: "For there is such a little time that your youth will last - such a little time ... The pulse of joy that beats in us at 20 become sluggish."

Alan Rusbridger's young Turks, like the eager young Blairites, cannot deny the ageing process. They too will succumb to sluggishness. Who, then, will be their guardian?.

peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Fans hold up a scarf at West Ham vs Liverpool
footballAfter Arsenal's clear victory, focus turns to West Ham vs Liverpool
New Articles
i100... she's just started school
New Articles
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
New Articles
i100... despite rising prices
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Head of Marketing - London

£60000 - £85000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Interim Head of Marketing / Marketin...

IT Application Support Engineer - Immediate Start

£28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Software Application Support Analyst - Imm...

Digital Project Manager

£25 - 30k: Guru Careers: A Digital Project Manager is needed to join an exciti...

Paid Search Analyst / PPC Analyst

£24 - 28k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Paid Search Analyst / PPC...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam