Stephen Glover: Why all newspapers need faithful and benevolent guardians

From the moment of its birth, people have been trying to kill off The Independent. On the day before its launch, Max Hastings, then editor of The Daily Telegraph, sent a bottle of champagne to our offices in City Road, wishing us luck and promising to "bury" us. The following day he dispatched a wreath, complete with a trailing black ribbon.

As it started, so it has gone on. Over the years I have lost count of the number of times rivals and pundits have informed readers that The Independent was on its last legs. It is curious how some journalists, who should in theory be in favour of increasing the number of titles, often seem eager to close them. Perhaps they find The Independent especially annoying, though it is hard to understand why they should.

For once, though, there seems to be some basis for speculating that the paper might be sold, although suggestions that it may be closed are surely wide of the mark. Last Tuesday The Times ran a piece under the headline: "O'Reilly open to offers for The Independent newspaper". The story claimed that Sir Anthony O'Reilly, the controlling shareholder of the Irish-based Independent News and Media (INM), which owns this newspaper and its Sunday sister, was effectively putting them up for sale.

By way of substantiation, The Times quoted "a source close to Independent News and Media" as saying: "Does Sir Anthony want to sell The Independent? No. Is it formally for sale? No. But is it fair to say that he is open to discussions with potential buyers? Yes he is." Of course, we do not know who this source is. It could be a PR person or a senior journalist or a canteen lady who knows about as much of what is going on in Sir Anthony's mind as I do. To hang such an important story on one unidentified individual is rather unsatisfactory.

Nonetheless, we should take it seriously. Like all newspaper publishing groups, INM has taken a battering in recent months, and its share price has been travelling south. A debt repayment looms, and the company has tried unsuccessfully to sell valuable assets in Australia and New Zealand. In such a climate Sir Anthony would be failing in his duty if he had not weighed up the pros and cons of offloading the Independent titles, which are thought to lose some £10m a year. He also has a rival Irish tycoon called Denis O'Brien breathing down his neck. Mr O'Brien, who has acquired about a quarter of INM's shares, has strongly argued that the company should find a buyer for The Independent and its Sunday sister.

It goes without saying that I hope that Sir Anthony does not get rid of the titles, whose faithful and benevolent guardian he has been as its sole owner for the past 11 years. But times are very, very tough for newspapers. If Lord Rothermere is forced to flog the London Evening Standard, which he and his father had particularly cherished, it is not unimaginable that Sir Anthony will also have to steel his heart. It is all very well my sitting in my study in north Oxford exhorting him not to, and asserting that, despite present difficulties, newspapers have a bright future. Hard choices may have to be faced now.

If the titles were sold, who might buy them? Even in the present economic climate there is probably a long list of candidates, no doubt many of them unsuitable. My dear and esteemed colleague Professor Roy Campbell-Greenslade, who has been mentally trying to sell off The Independent for as long as I can remember, has touted the charms of a Mexican multibillionaire called Carlos Slim, an investor in The New York Times who also owns 1 per cent of INM. Perhaps Roy knows a great deal about Mr Slim – perhaps, indeed, he is already intimate with him – but I fear I cannot help here.

Another perhaps more plausible – and certainly much spoken of – candidate is the Russian oligarch and former KGB agent Alexander Lebedev, who has just acquired 75.1 per cent of the Evening Standard. As that paper loses more than £10m a year, he might be chary about taking on extra responsibilities, the more so, as he admitted in an interview with The Sunday Telegraph eight days ago, because his own wealth has been clipped by the credit crunch. Even if he were gung-ho about acquiring another newspaper, the rest of us should be cautious. Let's see how this former KGB man (who some suggest is not unfriendly to the Kremlin) fares with the Evening Standard before entrusting him with more precious jewels.

So I don't know. I only hope that a new owner of this newspaper, if there is one, understands its origins and purposes, and does not fall under the charms of a snake-oil salesman who simply wants to make money out of the arrangement and does not care for The Independent at all. In that case Max Hastings' unfortunate wish might finally come true. I'm sure there is a good would-be proprietor out there, but the difficulty lies in finding him. How much better it would be to stay with the one the paper has got.

Closed doors should be opened with great care...

Last week, the oddly named Information Tribunal decreed that the Government should release the minutes of two crucial Cabinet meetings on 13 and 17 March 2003 at which the invasion of Iraq was discussed. This decision upheld a ruling by the Information Commissioner, Richard Thomas, under the Freedom of Information Act. The Government was given 28 days to respond.

Believing as I do that we were misled into the Iraq war, I should be delighted with this decision. The journalist in me certainly is. Yet I wonder whether ministers will speak frankly if they fear that their remarks will be public knowledge within a few years while they are still in office. The danger is that they will only say what they really think in private huddles that go unrecorded.

This is what happened under Tony Blair with his "sofa government". Minutes were not taken while important decisions were made. According to Clare Short, who resigned over Britain's involvement in Iraq, we are likely to be disappointed by the minutes of the two meetings in March 2003. She says there was "very limited proper discussion in Cabinet".

An independent report released last week, chaired by Paul Dacre, editor of the Daily Mail, could lead to greater transparency. On the one hand, it recommended that the "30-year rule" under which records of Cabinet meetings and official memos are released to the public should be reduced to 15 years. It also suggests that the civil service code be amended to help ensure that civil servants keep full and accurate records.

If this really happened – and if ministers could be confident that their Cabinet deliberations wouldn't end up in colleagues' instant memoirs – we might get a fuller and more honest account of the workings of government after 15 years than we do at the moment after 30.

Sport
Alexis Sanchez has completed a £35m move to Arsenal, the club have confirmed
sportGunners complete £35m signing of Barcelona forward
Voices
Poor teachers should be fearful of not getting pay rises or losing their job if they fail to perform, Steve Fairclough, headteacher of Abbotsholme School, suggested
voicesChris Sloggett explains why it has become an impossible career path
Sport
world cup 2014
Sport
Popes current and former won't be watching the football together
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
Arts and Entertainment
In a minor key: Keira Knightley in the lightweight 'Begin Again'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Celebrated children’s author Allan Ahlberg, best known for Each Peach Pear Plum
books
News
peopleIndian actress known as the 'Grand Old Lady of Bollywood' was 102
News
Wayne’s estate faces a claim for alleged copyright breaches
newsJohn Wayne's heirs duke it out with university over use of the late film star's nickname
Life and Style
It beggars belief: the homeless and hungry are weary, tortured, ghosts of people – with bodies contorted by imperceptible pain
lifeRough sleepers exist in every city. Hear the stories of those whose luck has run out
News
business
News
Mick Jagger performing at Glastonbury
people
Sport
Santi Cazorla, Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini of Arsenal launch the new Puma Arsenal kits at the Puma Store on Carnaby Street
sportMassive deal worth £150m over the next five years
Arts and Entertainment
Currently there is nothing to prevent all-male or all-female couples from competing against mixed sex partners at any of the country’s ballroom dancing events
Potential ban on same-sex partners in ballroom dancing competitions amounts to 'illegal discrimination'
Sport
Germany's Andre Greipel crosses the finish line to win the sixth stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 194 kilometers (120.5 miles) with start in Arras and finish in Reims, France
tour de franceGerman champion achieves sixth Tour stage win in Reims
Extras
indybest
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
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
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

Web / Digital Analyst - Google Analytics, Omniture

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client who are a leading publisher in...

Sales Perfomance Manager. Marylebone, London

£45-£57k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

Social Media Director (Global) - London Bridge/Southwark

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Social Media Director (Gl...

Personal and Legal Assistant – Media and Entertainment

£28,000 - £31,000: Sauce Recruitment: A Global media business based in West Lo...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice
Hollywood targets Asian audiences as US films enjoy record-breaking run at Chinese box office

Hollywood targets Asian audiences

The world's second biggest movie market is fast becoming the Hollywood studios' most crucial