IoS 1000th issue: 1995-1996, Peter Wilby

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

The North Pole was melting, civil servants were being paid too much and the Prime Minister couldn't put a foot right. Sound familiar?

When I look back through the archives to a period when nobody had heard of a derivative, New Labour had just been invented and the internet was barely a rumour, the surprise is that so many of the themes are familiar. The Government was in deep trouble and there was talk of leadership challenges to the prime minister: "Poor Mr Major, he just can't get anything right," was the headline on Alan Watkins' column. MPs were mired in sleaze. We forecast a global stock-market collapse, fretted about the possibility of identity cards, revealed that 23 "fat cat" civil servants and quango heads earned more than £100,000 a year, and warned that polar ice was melting.

Other stories became bigger in the years after I left the editor's chair. Patrick Hosking, then our business editor, warned of dire consequences from the growing movement to demutualise the building societies and suggested we shouldn't trust City institutions with our savings ("Who's minding your money?" was the headline.) We disclosed that British Gas would get a multi-million-pound bonanza from plans for a millennium jamboree on a site it owned in Greenwich, south London.

And there was the one that got away. The news desk offered an exclusive about the "millennium bug" – the theory that all the world's computers would go haywire, causing banks to seize up and planes to fall to earth, because their time-code programs couldn't cope with a change from 999 to 000. I rejected it as an obviously ridiculous scare story. I had to wait four years, during which the bug became the talk of the age, to be proved right.

Then, as now, the IoS had a small team, glittering with talent: Neal Ascherson, Allison Pearson, Blake Morrison, Geraldine Bedell, Geoffrey Lean, Nick Cohen, Charles Nevin and Paul Routledge were among our writers when I took over. I recruited Decca Aitkenhead and Andy Beckett, later award-winning journalists, then at the very beginning of their careers. When Thomas Hamilton massacred 16 small children and their teacher in Dunblane, Cohen was the only reporter available. His Sunday piece, we agreed, far surpassed those written by teams of seven or eight sent by our rivals.

Aitkenhead later gave a front-row account when Julie Burchill began a much-publicised affair with another woman. (The woman happened to be her flatmate.) And Catherine Pepinster, now editor of the Catholic paper The Tablet, revealed to the world the late Harold Pinter's affair with Joan Bakewell.

The mid-1990s were a strange, unsettling time for newspapers, as they struggled to cope with the growth of 24-hour news outlets. Managements changed editors as often as their shirts. After 17 months, I was fired by David Montgomery, chief executive of the Mirror Group, then the joint owners. He wanted, he said, someone metropolitan, sophisticated and fashionable. Since I was none of those things, I replied, he was right to look elsewhere. Bizarrely, I was by then the fourth-longest-serving editor of a national newspaper.

Click on the image above to see Peter Wilby's selection

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Life and Style
food + drink
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

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

Ashdown Group: Analyst Programmer (Filemaker Pro/ SQL) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days, pension, private medical : Ashdown Group: A highly...

Ashdown Group: IT Support Analyst - Chessington

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Service Desk Analyst - Chessington, Surrey...

Charter Selection: Graphic Designer, Guildford

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Charter Selection: This renowned and well establish...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas