Stephen Glover: Telegraph's new hardman finishes Barclay revolution
Monday 30 November 2009
The appointment of Tony Gallagher as editor of the Daily Telegraph confirms his dominance of the paper. It was he, rather than Will Lewis, the nominal editor, who largely oversaw the Telegraph's coverage of the MPs' expenses scandal. When Mr Lewis was recently absent on a three-month business course at Harvard, Mr Gallagher hardly needed to pick up the reins since they were already in his hand.
If the Telegraph's news coverage is more popular, focused and aggressive, much of the credit should go to Mr Gallagher. He is a hard news man who learnt his trade at a rough-and-tumble news agency in Bristol which supplied the nationals with stories, and then at the Daily Mail. He knows things about story-getting which the urbane Will Lewis can only dream about, and boasts a Stakhanovite work rate. His extraordinary organisational and presentational gifts were in evidence throughout the MPs' scandal.
But Mr Gallagher is not a news man with much hinterland or a world view. For this reason he was not marked out for the highest office at the Mail. Nor was he the Daily Telegraph's choice when it was looking for a deputy editor a few years ago. The job was first offered to Jon Steafel, a Mail executive some degrees senior to Mr Gallagher, who turned it down, hoping for better things on his own paper, before being accepted by Ian MacGregor, a former Mail executive. Mr Gallagher was then recruited by his old friend Mr MacGregor as the Telegraph's head of news.
By some margin he is a rougher beast than any of the previous 13 editors of the Daily Telegraph. He is not a deep thinker. I doubt he could even be described as a Tory, though he is certainly right-wing. Unlike his predecessors, he appears to have no great respect for institutions such as the monarchy, Parliament and the Church of England. Under his editorship the paper's news coverage will be sharp and aggressive – the BBC's Mark Thompson should put on his tin hat – though its feature and comment pages may be less remarkable.
In short, Mr Gallagher is not a "Telegraph man" as the term might be understood by anyone who cherishes the paper. God alone knows how he will get on with heavyweight Tory columnists such as Simon Heffer and Charles Moore, though as a devout Roman Catholic he may find something to talk about with his co-religionist Mr Moore. Admittedly Ben Brogan, the new deputy editor, is altogether a more suave and ratiocinative character, whose gifts may compliment Mr Gallagher's. Mr Brogan also knows more about politics in general and the Tory party in particular, having been a lobby journalist for both the Mail and the Telegraph.
As for Mr Lewis, although he will remain editor-in-chief, I doubt he will have much continuing influence on the paper's character. He is being put in charge of a new digital division with a staff of 50, and his main job will be to try to monetise the paper's website – no easy task. If he does not foul up, he will one day succeed my old hero Murdoch MacLennan as chief executive of the Telegraph Media Group. An interesting question is whether he or Mr Gallagher should pick up the many prizes being showered on the Daily Telegraph for its coverage of the MPs' expenses scandal. By rights it should be Mr Gallagher.
When Lord Hartwell was chairman and editor-in-chief of the Daily Telegraph from 1954 until 1987, he presided over a devolved power structure comprising a managing editor and an editor. The first looked after the news, the second supervised the leaders and opinion pieces. When I joined the Daily Telegraph 30 years ago, Peter Eastwood was its managing editor, and Bill Deedes its editor. You could say Eastwood was a kind of precursor of Mr Gallagher. For all his great skills, it would have been thought unwise to have put him in charge of the whole paper.
Thirty years later, the present proprietors, the Barclay Brothers, have no such reservations about their new editor. The revolution that started when they acquired the Daily Telegraph in 2004 is now complete. With the anointing of Mr Gallagher, the paper's old culture – traditionalist, seldom hectoring, and dependably respectful of our institutions – has finally been swept away.
Are we going to see a new culture of bullying at No 10?
Last week The Guardian reported that a former News of the World reporter called Matt Driscoll had been awarded nearly £800,000 for unfair dismissal and disability discrimination by an employment tribunal. What was noteworthy is that the man who presided over this culture of bullying was Andy Coulson, then the editor of the News of the World, now David Cameron's spin doctor.
The Guardian waited for the rest of the Press to follow up its story, but this didn't happen. Other national newspapers did not consider Mr Coulson's bullying tendencies worthy of mention. This irked Alan Rusbridger, The Guardian's editor, who Twittered last Thursday: "The Story the British Press did not want to cover." He referred his Twitter followers (there are now over 7,000 of them) to Professor Roy Campbell-Greenslade's blog on Media Guardian. The Prof also smelt a rat.
On Twitter a couple of days earlier, Mr Rusbridger had written: "Good job not A Campbell, otherwise it would be a story." Doesn't he have a point? If Tony Blair's former spin doctor and the Prof's one-time associate had helped incur a pay-out of nearly £800,000 for overseeing a regime of bullying, he would have been the subject of considerable adverse coverage. Yet the newspapers spared Mr Coulson.
Mr Rusbridger and the Prof evidently think this is an example of newspapers protecting one of their own. I wonder. It may be true that the Murdoch-owned Times and Sun kept out Mr Coulson's name as an ex-editor of a sister newspaper. I can imagine The Guardian doing the same if – God forbid – one of its former journalists got into a spot of bother.
But I doubt that the omission by other papers is explicable by the conspiracy which Mr Rusbridger and the Prof allege. If Mr Coulson had committed a significant offence, of course they would have written about it.
As it was, they probably thought that it was not a particularly important story, and therefore little was to be gained by getting on the wrong side of the next Prime Minister's powerful spin doctor by publishing it. Of course, this is no justification. It is also a lowering thought that, after one spin doctor bully in Alastair Campbell, we may be getting another in Andy Coulson.
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