'Telegraph' delay on succession

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Britain's highest selling broadsheet, the Daily Telegraph, remained rudderless last night as a fourth deadline for the appointment of a new editor passed without a decision.

Fleet Street had been steeling itself for puffs of white smoke to seep from the 12th floor of the Canary Wharf tower yesterday afternoon. But as the paper went to press, Conrad Black, chairman of the Telegraph group, had failed to announce a replacement for Max Hastings, who resigned nearly three weeks ago.

Industry observers are interpreting the time it has taken to fill the editor's chair as confirmation of the turmoil into which Mr Hastings's shock resignation has thrown Mr Black and his newspapers.

Sources close to the Telegraph confirmed last night that Andrew Neil, former editor of the Sunday Times, was offered the job by Mr Black after Mr Hastings quit. However, Mr Neil is understood to have insisted on continuing his lucrative radio and television activities.

Mr Black is believed to have then offered Mr Neil the role of editor- in-chief of both the Daily and Sunday Telegraph, allowing Mr Neil to carry on his outside work. Dominic Lawson, the editor of the Spectator, would then have taken over the day-to-day running of the Daily Telegraph.

According to a well-placed source, Mr Black "someone with an obsession in more than just the Catholic church and the Tory party". Observers will see the latter comment as a reference to the candidacy of Charles Moore, the right-wing editor of the Sunday Telegraph.

Mr Moore, who is seen as the most obvious internal successor to Mr Hastings, told his staff yesterday morning that he understood Mr Neil would not be made editor of the daily paper.

Telegraph staff now expect a final decision by the end of the week.