Ian Craig: Lobby journalist for the 'Liverpool Echo' and 'Manchester Evening News' for more than two decades

The sudden death of Ian Craig, who was a stalwart of the Westminster press lobby for more than 25 years, has generated a stream of tributes unusual both in their number and in their warmth.

In a quarter of a century as political editor of the Manchester Evening News he was known at Westminster not just as a sharp journalist with a nose for news but also as a most gentlemanly, friendly and helpful person. "Ian had a fantastic ability to read the political weather," was one of the compliments paid to him. His long-time friend and lobby colleague Ian Hernon summed him up: "He was an old-school reporter, pretty hopeless at technology, who believed that his job was to dictate stories fast and first. Often from the pub." Another political journalist, Adel Darwish, wrote mournfully: "The press bar felt empty and sad yesterday afternoon, with one of us missing."

Ian Craig, born in 1945, grew up in Glasgow and North Wales. As a teenager one of his early jobs was putting plastic gifts into copies of the girl's comic Bunty, produced by D.C. Thomson. He was sacked for trying to set up a union branch in the sternly anti-union firm.

He began to make a name after getting a junior job with the evening paper the Liverpool Echo, interviewing the Beatles and treasuring a photograph of himself having tea and biscuits with them. In his off-duty hours he was much involved in theatre, directing a production of Robert Bolt's A Man For All Seasons.

Moving on to become local government editor, he established a reputation as a tenacious reporter who could unearth many stories. The Merseyside political labyrinth provided a useful journalistic grounding for Westminster, where in the early 1980s he went to work as the Echo's lobby editor. In 1984 he moved to the Manchester Evening News, spending the next 25 years in the Westminster village.

In bidding farewell to him, Ian Hernon delivered a sombre valedictory: "He joins a regiment of pals who never made it to retirement. They include fellow hacks, officials and politicians. The point is that this is a killer place. Long hours, the hothouse atmosphere, stress, the political roughhouse, travelling, separation from families – and, let's be honest, 17 bars – all combine to prevent many making old bones."

Craig was proud of the fact that over the years he interviewed five prime ministers. In a tribute one of them, Tony Blair, described him as "a very talented journalist and a true gentleman." Craig, however, did not particularly warm to Blair, once writing: "He was not an easy person to interview. Unlike John Major, who gave the impression he cared what you thought, Mr Blair always seemed to have something else on his mind as he answered questions."

Craig cut a distinctive figure at Westminster with his immaculate sense of dress: he was once described as "dapper to the point of dandyness." The former Newspaper Conference chairman John Hipwood said of him, "With his trademark long-striding walk and his navy blue beret, he was well-known in the Commons and around Whitehall."

Away from Westminster he and Brendan O'Malley co-wrote a book, The Cyprus Conspiracy, which was short-listed for the Orwell Prize. It argued that the 1974 partition of the island came about partly because of an American plot to maintain military bases there.

Together with his collaborator Paul Desmond he also produced highly-regarded short films on topics such as Vincent van Gogh. At his death they were working on a project on Elvis Presley impersonators. In May 2008 the pair put together a project which encompassed both Craig's interest in film and his enduring fascination with the Commons: they raised money for charity with a 15-minute film on the closure of the Press Bar in Westminster. Inevitably entitled Time Gentlemen Please, it took several prizes at film festivals.

Craig said at the time: "The Press Gallery bar has been the scene of many dramatic moments over the years and it was sad to see it demolished as part of refurbishment of the Gallery. We were pleased to film the old bar before it went and to put on record the views of veteran journalists."

The tributes to him were numerous. Jon Smith, political editor of the Press Association, described him as "always the consummate professional who knew where the stories were and worked hard to get them." He added: "He was such a well-loved member of the Lobby who always made time to help colleagues."

According to Andrew Grice, political editor of The Independent, "Ian was a gent, an extremely kind and generous man who always had time to help and advise colleagues and rivals – which is not always the case in the competitive world of political journalism. I will always be indebted to him."

David Hencke, chairman of the press gallery, said: "Ian will be sorely missed. He was a great guy – incredibly friendly to everyone. He had a great nose for news and kept well abreast of everything happening in Westminster." The former Manchester Evening News editor Mike Unger described him as "one of the great political journalists of his generation, with an outstanding record in both local and national politics. He was quiet, thoughtful, intelligent and hugely calm under pressure."

The paper's former London editor Ian Wylie recalled: "We worked alongside each other for the best part of a quarter of a century and in all that time we never once had a cross word. The number of shocked colleagues paying tribute to him is a mark of what a lovely man he was."

David McKittrick

Ian Craig, journalist: born 14 May 1945; died London 23 October 2009.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
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 General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager / Sales Executive - Contract Hire

£35000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leader provides c...

Recruitment Genius: Project Coordinator

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Project Coordinator is requir...

Recruitment Genius: Area Sales Manager - Midlands

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer - 3-4 Month Fixed Contract - £30-£35k pro rata

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a 3-4 month pro rata fi...

Day In a Page

John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

Computerised cooking is coming

From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water
Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
Football Beyond Borders: Even the most distruptive pupils score at homework club

Education: Football Beyond Borders

Add football to an after-school homework club, and even the naughtiest boys can score
10 best barbecue books

Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin