Lebedev urged not to hire Rod Liddle as Indy editor
Russian under pressure not to appoint former BBC man - and he doesn't even own the paper yet
The rumour that the former BBC Today programme editor and professional controversialist Rod Liddle could be the next editor of the Independent if Alexander Lebedev buys the paper - still a big if - has raised an unusually loud storm of protest.
Since he left the BBC in 2002 and became a widely used columnist, Liddle has attracted charges of sexism, racism and climate change denial - none of which are thought to be attributes Independent readers would respect in their paper's editor.
It's the misogyny charge that's the big problem (not helped by the well-known story that he left his honeymoon early to be with his mistress, an episode that led not only to divorce but to his wife having ten sacks of manure dumped outside the Spectator office). He began one column in the Spectator: "So - Harriet Harman, then. Would you? I mean after a few beers obviously, not while you were sober."
As a result, all sorts of people, including anonymous staffers at the Independent and various journalists with access to columns not already taken by Liddle, have pounced on the Lebedev rumour and are doing their best to nip the appointment in the bud.
The fact that Lebedev (above) hasn't even bought the struggling newspaper yet - and the chances of him doing so are no better than 50-50 - has not put them off.
Gaby Hinsliff, writing in the Guardian, reminded readers that Harman wasn't the only Cabinet minister Liddle had mused about sex with: he once employed the same trick when writing about Caroline Flint. Hinsliff's point was that such is the importance of women readers to a modern newspaper publisher that the editor, if not female, does at least "need to be a man who likes and listens to women, inside and outside the paper".
Surprisingly, even his former boss at the BBC - where Liddle was generally thought to have done a great job at Today before he left over the Corporation's strict impartiality rules - appears to have it in for him. Richard Sambrook tweeted: "Dear Mr Lebvedev, if you want to know what it's like to employ Rod Liddle as an editor give me a call. Strictly impartial view of course."
One journalist has stood up for Liddle. Toby Young, author of How to Lose Friends and Alienate People, blogging for the Telegraph yesterday, wrote: "He may be a professional controversialist, but he's also fearless - a rare commodity in Fleet Street these days. And it's this that makes him an ideal candidate to edit a national newspaper."
But Young's is a voice in the wilderness. Yesterday, more that 2,000 people supported the Facebook protest, 'If Rod Liddle becomes editor of The Independent, I will not buy it again'. ·
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