EVE POLLARD, editor of the Sunday Express, resigned yesterday after three-and-a- half years in the post. She is being replaced by Brian Hitchen, editor of the Daily Star, which is owned by the same parent company, United Newspapers.
Ms Pollard's departure ends one of the most unusual double acts in British newspapers: she is married to Sir Nicholas Lloyd, editor of The Daily Express since 1986, who is a firm supporter of the former prime minister, Baroness Thatcher, and was knighted in 1990. It also leaves Bridget Rowe at the People as the only female editor of a national newspaper.
Under Ms Pollard's editorship the Sunday Express, a popular, fervently right-of- centre broadsheet experiencing long-term decline, became a tabloid with an emphasis on leisure and human interest stories - her early experience was in magazines. But in the face of fierce competition from the Mail on Sunday, published by its rival, Associated Newspapers, it failed to keep the initial circulation boost she achieved.
Average circulation for the first half of 1994 was 1.544 million, down 10 per cent on the equivalent 1993 period. The Mail on Sunday, by contrast, sells 1.932 million.
Ms Pollard, whose style of editing has attracted much adverse comment in the columns of Private Eye (it dubbed her La Bollard), became a familiar figure to millions through her parallel broadcasting career.
She has frequently appeared on programmes such as ITV's celebrity panel show Through the Keyhole, commentated on society events such as Ascot, and is often found at show business events. Yesterday morning, before breaking the news to staff, she was on breakfast television reviewing the newspapers.
Her departure was not entirely unexpected - there had been reports of clashes with senior managers at the organisation - nor entirely unwelcome to her staff, many of whom talk with exasperation of her tendency to make last-minute changes.
She has never remained long in any one job: Lord Stevens, chairman of United Newspapers, recruited her from Mirror Group Newspapers, where she edited the Sunday Mirror for Robert Maxwell between 1988-91.
One report says that her decision to publish the story of the Princess of Wales's alleged nuisance phone calls last Sunday after it appeared in the News of the World (days after the Daily Express was ordered not to run it) under an unsympathetic headline was the final straw. But this was discounted by industry insiders.
It was not clear last night who would edit the Star, whose circulation trails badly behind the Sun and Daily Mirror. A rumour that Kelvin MacKenzie, the former editor of the Sun and former managing director of BSkyB, might take it was denied by Mr MacKenzie. Phil Walker, deputy editor of the Star, could step up to the editorship.