By Refusing to Publish Iain Duncan Smith's Final Call to Arms, the Telegraph's New Editor Was Sending a Message: The Era of the "Torygraph" Is Over

By Platell, Amanda | New Statesman (1996), November 10, 2003 | Go to article overview

By Refusing to Publish Iain Duncan Smith's Final Call to Arms, the Telegraph's New Editor Was Sending a Message: The Era of the "Torygraph" Is Over


Platell, Amanda, New Statesman (1996)


Headline on the Daily Telegraph above a picture of Iain Duncan Smith and his loyal team on the day he faced the vote of confidence from his party: "In one year, I had the record for sustaining 42 agonising strokes of the cane." The 43rd stoke came with the refusal of the normally loyal Telegraph to run IDS's call to arms, a personal plea written especially for the paper. It would have been a shoo-n under the former editor, Charles Moore. As it happens, the caning story related to a Sting serialisation, but IDS was soundly beaten, none the less. The new editor, Martin Newland, rejected IDS's piece. The message to the faithful was: we are the "Torygraph" no more. One has to question whether it was the right decision from a purely news perspective, as IDS's last stand ran heavily in all the morning's broadcast media including, crucially, the Today programme, still the agenda-setter for the broadsheet market. And it was a piece of history in the making.

So all credit to the Times, which snapped up the piece and ran it under the headline: "Back me: I'm ready to face my leadership's shortcomings." Irritatingly for IDS, it was positioned next to an excoriating piece by Simon Jenkins. "IDS was always a disastrous choice," wrote Jenkins. "If he were to survive today it would be another signal of the Tortes' unfitness for power." In addition, it was opposite an editorial calling for him to fall on his sword, or anyone's sword, for that matter. The editorial was ruthless: "better the end of a thing [IDS] than the beginning".

This was the beginning of a new era not just for the Tory party, but also for the Telegraph, where Newland showed little patience with his leader-writers. In one meeting, where the old fogey rightwingers Daniel Johnson and Dean Godson were arguing the fate of IDS, he cut them short, saying: "I've heard enough from you two." He then, to everyone's amazement, refused the IDS piece. A lot of the old guard are on tenterhooks now, waiting to see which way their new boss jumps--and hoping it is not on them.

One of his first acts was to abolish the parliamentary page and to sack the paper's delightful parliamentary reporter, Michael Kallenbach. Editors waste journalists with Kallenbach's rich political knowledge at their peril.

John Humphrys once told me that he was rubbish as presenter of the Today programme for at least a year into the job. I doubt he could ever have been rubbish at anything, but there you go. …

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