UK & World News

  • 29 December 2012, 13:41

Former Newspaper Editor Lord Rees-Mogg Dies

Lord Rees-Mogg, the former editor of The Times, has died at the age of 84.

As William Rees-Mogg, he was editor from January 1967 to March 1981.

His son, the Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg, told the newspaper that the peer had only discovered recently that he had inoperable oesophageal cancer.

"It has been a mercifully short illness. He died very peacefully and a member of his family was with him. He was very prepared for it," he said.

Throughout his journalistic career Lord Rees-Mogg wielded considerable influence in Tory circles, particularly during the Thatcher and Major governments.

He once famously but unsuccessfully challenged the legality of John Major's ratification of the Maastricht Treaty, an action described at the time as being in character - "showy, mischievous, slightly absurd, but with a dash of plausibility".

Later, in an article in The Times, he described Mr Major, the then Prime Minister, as "over-promoted, unfit to govern and lacking self-confidence".

"His ideal level of political competence would be Deputy Chief Whip or something of that standing," he went on.

Born in Bristol, Lord Rees-Mogg was educated at Balliol College, Oxford, after which he was recruited as a reporter at the Financial Times.

In 1960, he joined the Sunday Times where he was successively City Editor, Political and Economic Editor and Deputy Editor, before becoming Editor in 1967.

During his leadership the newspaper stubbornly defended Richard Nixon against all the Watergate evidence filed by his Washington staff.

But he was a radical editor, making the reporting more investigative and its opinions more challenging.

He received a life peerage in 1988 and sat as a cross-bencher, although he had twice in the 1950s stood for Parliament as a Conservative.

He was also a former vice chairman of the BBC and chairman of the Arts Council.