Prime Minister leads tributes to 'Fleet Street legend' William Rees-Mogg after former Times editor dies aged 84David Cameron praises journalist's 'wisdom and good advice'Veteran editor also wrote long-running column for the Mail on Sunday
23:07 GMT, 30 December 2012
The Prime Minister led tributes to the ‘Fleet Street legend’ Lord Rees-Mogg who died over the weekend at the age of 84.
As editor of The Times for 14 years, he was credited with forging its reputation for investigative journalism and cutting-edge commentary.
Among his most influential articles were a piece in 1963 headlined ‘A Captain’s Innings’ calling for Prime Minister Alec Douglas-Home to resign, which he did shortly afterwards, and the editorial ‘Who breaks a butterfly upon a wheel’, soon after becoming editor in 1967, criticising a jail term handed to Mick Jagger for drugs offences.
'Fleet Street legend': Former editor for The Times Llord Rees-Mogg died over the weekend aged 84
He left the paper in 1981 and later served as chairman of the Arts Council, vice-chairman of the BBC and most recently a columnist for the Mail on Sunday newspaper for nearly a decade. He was made a life peer in 1988.
Educated at Charterhouse public school and Balliol College, Oxford, he started out as a leader writer on the Financial Times in the early 1950s.
After twice running unsuccessfully as an MP he worked as a speechwriter for Anthony Eden, before moving to the Sunday Times where he worked his way up to Deputy Editor before being offered the top job at the Times.
Tribute: David Cameron said Lord Rees-Mogg edited The Times 'through a tumultuous period with flair and integrity'
His tenure was sometimes controversial, particularly his support for US President Richard Nixon during the Watergate scandal.
He resigned from the paper after initially backing his staff who opposed Rupert Murdoch’s bid to buy the newspaper, then changing his mind.
During the late 1970s and early 1980s, he was a cheerleader for the monetarist policies of Margaret Thatcher – his friend since university.
But he was a vocal critic of John Major, trying unsuccessfully to challenge his Maastricht laws on legal grounds, and then described him in The Times as ‘over-promoted, unfit to govern and lacking self-confidence.’
David Cameron yesterday paid tribute to him saying: ‘William Rees-Mogg is rightly a Fleet Street legend – editing The Times through a tumultuous period with flair and integrity.
‘I always found him full of wisdom and good advice – particularly when I first became Leader of the Opposition. My thoughts are with his wife and five children at this sad time.’
His son Jacob, Tory MP for North-East Somerset, said his father had discovered only in the past few couple of weeks that he was suffering from inoperable oesophageal cancer and that he died ‘very peacefully’.
His wife Gillian and their two sons and three daughters and grand-children had been at his bedside during his final days.
He said his father’s ‘reputation as a wordsmith who could produce long and elegant articles was unsurpassed’, but added that he always made time for his family.
‘I had the greatest father anyone could ever want, who always encouraged his children in the different things that they did’, he said.
Lord Rees-Mogg (right) is pictured with Rupert Murdoch (centre) and Sunday Times editor Harold Evans following the announcement that
Mr Murdoch was to buy The Times
Lord Rees-Mogg's son, Jacob, said his father had 'this fascinating position in British public life for the last 60 years'
‘He had the most extraordinary knowledge of almost every subject you could ever ask him about, and had this fascinating position in British public life for the last 60 years.
‘He interviewed the leader of the opposition only six weeks ago. We are all enormously proud of him and all that he did; and yet he found time to be the most active and loving father.’