Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Roland Watson Appointed Times Political Editor

All change in The Times lobby team. I understand Philip Webster is moving to Wapping to oversee the paper's general election coverage and then to Brussels where he will be the new Europe Editor. He is being replaced as political editor by Roland Watson, the paper's Head of News and former US editor. He had previously spent some time in the lobby team some years ago.

Let there be no doubt about it - Watson is a first class journalist and a thoroughly nice guy, although I think he will adopt a tougher approach to political coverage. Times editor James Harding has seen which way the political wind is blowing and clearly feels that Webster's Labour contacts are going to decline in usefulness to the paper over the coming months.

Tim Montgomerie reports
that the Tory Party is NOT being taken over by Etonians. No, but perhaps the lobby is, as I understand Roland Watson was at Eton at the same time as David Cameron. The Telegraph's Patrick Hennessy and the BBC's James Landale are both Old Etonians and no doubt there are a few more (UPDATE: Tom Newton-Dunn from The Sun is another). I think journalists may need reminding of this when they talk about the Etonisation of the Tory Party!

Meanwhile, The Guardian's Education Editor Polly Curtis is joining their lobby team as Whitehall Editor, replacing David Hencke, in January.

UPDATE 11.50am: And in a futher lobby development, The Sun's David Wooding is leaving his job as Whitehall Editor to become Associate Editor of the News of the World. Dave is almost part of the lobby furniture and will be sadly missed. He's one of the most popular political journalists around, and his departure will severely weaken The Sun's political output. No word yet on his successor. And Dave, you'd better change your Twitter wallpaper...

Fact 1: 5.5% of Tory MPs went to Eton

Fact 2: 18.75% of daily & Sunday newspaper political editors went to Eton.


Malcolm Redfellow said...

Glad to see you agree with Mandelson, that News International and all its works have entered a Faustian pact with the Cameron clique.

So, describe, if you can, what the pay-back would be with a Tory Government? Gelding the Beeb? Ever looser regulation? A free hand for Sky to fleece the sports-viewer? Tax breaks for Rupe? At the very least, first bite at any political story (after all those complaints about pre-Commons announcements, too! Tsk! Tsk!)

And no space at the top table for likely lads from Saffron Walden High? Unforgivable.

Sean Haffey said...

Eton is a marvellous school: arguably the best in the country. However, there remains a problem with the percentage of Old Etonians among Conservative MPs.

Eton represents perhaps 0.1% of scholars (I suspect a good deal less) but 5% or more of Conservative MPs, including many of the front bench. In other words, they are at least 50 times over-represented.

This is bizarre, and puts the matter of female representation in parliament in the shade. If we want our MPs to be more representative, then we should impose "all-state-school-educated" shortlists and bar any OE from standing for election or re-election until the balance is redressed.


Jabba the Cat said...

@ Sean Haffey
"...then we should impose "all-state-school-educated" shortlists..."

Then the country will really go to the dogs, yoof in chagre. Mind you, they could try running the Commons on multiple choice questions principles...

DespairingLiberal said...

Tim Montgomerie does not report that the Tory Party is not being taken over by Old Etonians. He simply reports that there are fewer Eton MPs now than there were in 1963 in the Tory Party, hardly a revelation. As people quite correctly point out on his blog, that being the case, how come so many are in the front bench? In fact, he simply proves the point that the Conservative Party in office has now returned to the 1950s, with the Eton and Oxbridge mafia running things from the top.

Unsworth said...

@ Sean Haffey

"there remains a problem with the percentage of Old Etonians among Conservative MPs."

Why is that a problem?

Are we selecting MPs on the basis of their being 'representative'? 'Representative' of what, precisely?

Or do we select on the basis of ability, integrity and, more importantly, their likely impact on Parliament and the Government?

After all, how many chav MPs ought there to be? Mind you, I can certainly think of one or two who exactly fit that description.

Unsworth said...

@ Malcolm Redfellow

Well, one might expect that News International will continue to receive the same preferential treatment that it has for the past decade under a Labour 'Government'.

Since when has it been any different? Northcliffe?

Sean Haffey said...

> Jabba and Unsworth

I thought there was no chance that my post would have been taken seriously by anyone. But to make assurance doubly sure, I added the ;-)

Here it is again ;-)

However, there is a genuine question about how we can possibly have the best government when we select MPs from so few.

richard.coope said...

The real issue here is surely the under-representation of Old Etonians in the Labour ranks.

Some positive selection should soon deal with that.

Malcolm Redfellow said...

Unsworth @ 1:06 PM: I can assure you that I am on record (in both incarnations) as deploring that, too, including way back to Blair's original flight to the throne-room. Let us together revisit Gaby Hinsliff's piece for The Observer (23 July 2006), and find common ground on which to expectorate: perhaps over the comment Nor does [Murdoch] respect intellectual lightweights, a category in which he currently places Cameron ... dubbing Cameron bright but 'totally inexperienced'. The Tory leader's wealthy background may also be an issue - Murdoch's inner circle prefers self-made men.

I know I repeat myself, most recently today, in Tim Montgomerie's bijou poodle parlour and conversazione, @ 12.22 PM, yet there should be no double standards when it's a disgraceful Faustian bargain. The problem with Murdoch & co. is that they've fattened and battened on various pliable governments since ... well ... at least 1979.

Now, assure the world there were no "negotiations" between Cameron's office and the Wapping mafia over the "cast-iron" promise recantation. Because that would undermine the belief of several cynical, if Tory-sympathetic journos, working for other outlets.

On a different tack, Sean Haffey's irony is well-put. Except there are many, many schools way above Eton in league tables. What was the old one about the "cream of society"? Anent which, My daughter brusquely tells me that "Economics with Politics" at A-level was regarded as the softy for those not up-to-speed for straight Economics. Now, who can she be thinking about?

DespairingLiberal said...

Interesting that you got that stuff about Cameron making a deal with Murdoch through Malcolm, as Iain Dale censored me in the past when I dared to suggest the same. Perhaps Iain did not quite grasp the meaning buried in your rather high-falutin Proper English prose style?

Unsworth said...

@ Sean Haffey

Yes. Just - for the purpose of reinforcement and clarity - extrapolating the position, you see? Hence my comment about chavs.

Unsworth said...

Well I think we should define 'good school' before we go much further. Clearly Eton is a 'good school' if one is likely to go into politics (and some other areas such as banking and the Household Cavalry).

By contrast the alumni of your bog standard local secondary may provide suitable candidates for other professions. My local secondary produces quite superlative cage-fighters, for example.

Malcolm Redfellow said...

As I recall, Evelyn Waugh has a neat moment in Decline and Fall, when his character is reduced to teaching in prep schools. He goes to the agency (a barely-disguised Gabbitas-Thring, lately another victim to Windscale/Sellafield syndrome) and is told:
"We class schools into four grades: Leading School, First-Rate School, Good School, and School. Frankly, School is pretty bad."

Danvers said...

Of course 100% of the lead actors in the US hit TV series, The Wire and House are (both) Old Etonians as well.

What does this say about the Etonisation of US TV drama. Does President Obama have a view on this?

We should be stopped.

(DAE 1989-1994)

Bird said...

Good riddance to Philip Webster, who was outed in Alastair Campbell's diaries as a New Labour gofer.
The bad news is that Tom Baldwin, another Labour stooge, is back from being the Washington correspondent.

Unsworth said...

Ah yes, Waugh. He has one weeping - sometimes with grief, sometimes with helpless laughter - but always observing with a truly savage eye.

Thanks for reminding me.

Danvers said...

forgot to tick the box to get follow up comments emailed...

Paul Linford said...

It's stretching things a bit to put a "party political" interpretation on these changes., Phil Webster has been Times pol ed under both Tory and Labour governments and his contacts are just as good on either side. Similarly, the fact that Roland Watson went to Eton does not make him any closer to the Cameron clique than to any other political grouping. In short, they are both bloody good, professional hacks.