LONDON: William Rees-Mogg, a former editor of Britain’s Times newspaper who famously backed Mick Jagger when the Rolling Stones singer was jailed for a drug offence, has died at the age of 84.
On its website, the Times said Rees-Mogg, a former chairman of the Arts Council and vice-chairman of the BBC, had been suffering from oesophageal cancer.
Rees-Mogg became editor of the paper in 1967 and, despite establishment credentials built up at independent school and Balliol College, Oxford, soon showed a rebellious streak. In July of that year, he published a celebrated leading article criticising the jailing of Jagger for a minor drugs offence, headlined: “Who Breaks a Butterfly on a Wheel?”
Later Rees-Mogg, in an article in the Times after he had stepped down as editor, described John Major, Conservative prime minister for most of the 1990s 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 added, in a contemptuous reference to Britain’s behind-the-scenes political party managers.
However Rees-Mogg stubbornly defended former U.S. President Richard Nixon against all the Watergate evidence filed by the Times’ Washington staff as the scandal that led to Nixon’s resignation in 1974 unfolded.