'Fantastic timing': a baptism of fire at the Jewish Chronicle

After leaving the Express in anger, Stephen Pollard is relishing his new role.

Stephen Pollard has gone down in Fleet Street lore for having performed the ultimate act of Reggie Perrin bravura. When dismissed from the Daily Express as a leader writer in 2001, he used his last article to deliver a message to the paper's proprietor, Richard Desmond, spelling the words "Fuck you Des- mond" with the first letter of every line.

"I regret it completely, 100 per cent totally," Pollard says now. "It was a really stupid thing to do."

This moment of madness has, fortunately, not damaged his career. Seven weeks ago he took up the editorship of The Jewish Chronicle, the weekly national newspaper that he calls "Israel's candid friend". Israel's assault on Gaza has been, for him, "fantastic timing – if you're an editor you couldn't want a better story". He has been forced to stamp his mark on the paper sooner than he might have expected.

Pollard is an ardent defender of Israel – some say too ardent – arguing it is Israel's duty to protect its civilians from Hamas's ongoing assault. "The daughter of our chairman – her house was blown up this week. If she had been in her house, she would be dead. All I'm saying is, you have to understand why the Israelis are acting as they are, in defence."

And he is angry with the media's presentation of the Gaza conflict, not least The Independent's. The BBC's Middle East editor, Jeremy Bowen, is also guilty of "hopeless bias". But his real beef is with the BBC itself.

"My problem is not so much bias; everyone has views. My problem is with the very nature of the BBC. I object to the fact I have to pay for something I don't want to hear. If you want a television but don't want to watch the BBC, you still have to pay. It's a ridiculous anachronism in a digital age."

Conversation becomes heated when I accuse him of bias in his own paper. The lead news item on the JC website when we meet is a story about an attack on Israel from two rockets fired from Lathat "lightly wounded two people". This soon after an Israeli bomb killed 40 Palestinian children in an undefended school.

"But don't forget who our readership is. They are interested in getting the news about Israel. It's not a biased view. We are presenting one aspect of all the news that is going on. Nobody gets all their news from the JC; we're a complementary news source."

If Pollard's position is occasionally confusing, so are his politics. He is proud to call himself a neo-con but at the same time has long identified himself as left-wing. Having always voted Labour, he would go for Cameron if an election were called tomorrow. "Under no circumstances would I vote for Brown, who I think is a liar and a disgrace to his office."

After giving up on his childhood ambition to be a barrister – "I basically wanted to be Rumpole" – Pollard became a researcher to Peter Shore, the unusually Euro-sceptic Labour MP. After several years working for left-wing think-tanks, including the Fabian Society, he was asked to do a stint writing leaders for the Evening Standard. It was his first taste of journalism, a profession he had always considered "grubby". Work on the Daily Express, Times, Independent and Sunday Telegraph followed. "Once you've had a lucky break, journalism is simply about delivering the right numbers of words on time," he says. "That's all editors want."

Although he had a "normal, nominally orthodox north-west London Jewish upbringing", it wasn't until his mid-thirties that he began to think about Judaism seriously. It was at a dinner party with old university friends that Pollard first felt loyal to Israel. "It was the time of the first Intifada and everyone was boycotting Israel. When I asked whether that included boycotting Dixons, which is owned by Stanley Kalms, they said "yes, Israel, Jews, it's all the same thing". They were literally saying they would boycott anything Jewish. I was quite shocked. It was then I started to feel more Jewish. Until then it had never crossed my mind that anti-semitism was a real issue. But then I thought whoa! Hold on a minute."

Pollard has already stripped out the celebrity features in the JC and plans to put an emphasis on serious comment. He is proud of his latest signing, Daily Mail sports writer Martin Samuel. The popular but neglected "community" slot at the back – assorted pictures of family events – is to become "the literal and metaphorical heart of the paper" as an eight-page pull-out. And there are plans to beef up regional coverage, combined with a roadshow tour of events round the country, including a JC Question Time.

Feedback has so far been mostly positive. As he says: "Jews are certainly not backwards in coming forwards with their opinions."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
techYahoo Japan launches service to delete your files and email your relatives when you die
Life and Style
Child's play: letting young people roam outdoors directly contradicts the current climate
lifeHow much independence should children have?
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book
booksFind out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Arts and Entertainment
<p>Troubled actor Robert Downey Jr cements his comeback from drug problems by bagging the lead role in Iron Man. Two further films follow</p>
filmRobert Downey Jr named Hollywood's highest paid actor for second year running
Life and Style
Dale Bolinger arranged to meet the girl via a fetish website
Sign here, please: Magna Carta Island
propertyYours for a cool £4m
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
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

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Graduate Sales Executive

17.5k + Commission (£18.5k after probation period): ESI Media: You will be res...

PPC Account Managers

£25k - £30k (DOE): Guru Careers: Two expert PPC Account Managers are needed to...

PPC Manager

£30,000 - £35,000: Sauce Recruitment: PPC Manager urgently required for indepe...

Content Manager - Central London

£35000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Content Manager - Central...

Day In a Page

Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn
Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Meet the man who doesn't want to go down in history as the country's last Scottish Secretary
Legoland Windsor's master model-makers reveal the tricks of their trade (including how to stop the kids wrecking your Eiffel Tower)

Meet the people who play with Lego for a living

They are the master builders: Lego's crack team of model-makers, who have just glued down the last of 650,000 bricks as they recreate Paris in Windsor. Susie Mesure goes behind the scenes
The 20 best days out for the summer holidays: From Spitfires to summer ferry sailings

20 best days out for the summer holidays

From summer ferry sailings in Tyne and Wear and adventure days at Bear Grylls Survival Academy to Spitfires at the Imperial War Museum Duxford and bog-snorkelling at the World Alternative Games...
Open-air theatres: If all the world is a stage, then everyone gets in on the act

All the wood’s a stage

Open-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
Rand Paul is a Republican with an eye on the world

Rupert Cornwell: A Republican with an eye on the world

Rand Paul is laying out his presidential stall by taking on his party's disastrous record on foreign policy
Self-preservation society: Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish

Self-preservation society

Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish
Generation gap opens a career sinkhole

Britons live ever longer, but still society persists in glorifying youth

We are living longer but considered 'past it' younger, the reshuffle suggests. There may be trouble ahead, says DJ Taylor