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  • Jason Nisse

Is The Times A Changin'?

Updated: Sep 30


Amidst the market turmoil, there was a was some significant news emerging from The News Building, overlooking London Bridge station. After 10 years in the chair, John Witherow stood down as editor of The Times, to be replaced by his deputy Tony Gallagher.

I’ve known Tony for over 35 years, since we were journalism students at The City University. In those days he was a left wing firebrand, leading us all onto the picket lines in the print workers’ dispute at Wapping. However, through a career that has taken him to Today (RIP), the Daily Mail, the Telegraph (as editor), The Sun (also as editor) and The Times, via a detour working in the kitchen of a trendy north London restaurant, he’s clearly moderated his views. However, though some might assume he is now right of centre, he’s not shown his political colours in any overt way.

By choosing Tony rather than Michael Gove, who held a number of senior editorial roles at The Times before going into politics, Rupert Murdoch has chosen to keep The Times at arm’s length to the Conservative government. Although it could be argued that Gove would be a red rag to Liz Truss’s bull, as he supported Rishi Sunak in the leadership contest.

Not choosing an overt Conservative is a wise move. It was assumed that when Witherow took over James Harding, who had irritated David Cameron’s administration with its campaigning agenda, he would steer the Thunderer into the arms of the Tories. But he didn’t.

Under Witherow, The Times stayed avowedly neutral, even on the vexed issue of Brexit, where it was a breath of fresh air among a media that was either pro-EU (FT, Guardian) or anti (Mail, Telegraph, Sun), though in the end it mildly encouraged a Remain vote while Gallagher’s Sun was strongly Leave.

While he has been criticised for spiking a negative story on Carrie Johnson in the summer, I suspect that the Gallagher Times will continue on its middle path for the following reasons:

· By choosing Witherow’s deputy (so breaking the unwritten rule that the deputy never gets the job), Murdoch is promoting continuity, not lease because Tony has been in charge for most of this year as the editor has been ill;

· I suspect Murdoch likes to have a publication that he can point to as not being party political as an answer to accusations of promoting right-wing, liberalist, politics;

· With Labour holding a massive lead in the polls, now is not the time to start kowtowing to the Tories.

The Times, I reckon, is not a changing’.

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