Did ex-Independent editor Amol Rajan suddenly switch his newspaper’s support to the Tories so David Cameron would go to its owner Evgeny Lebedev’s birthday party?
It was an editorial volte-face that confounded The Independent’s Left-wing readership.
Why did editor Amol Rajan suddenly swing his newspaper behind David Cameron two days before the 2015 Algemene verkiesing?
A senior political source has claimed to The Mail on Sunday that Mr Rajan – now a rising star at the BBC – had agreed to support the Konserwatiewes if Mr Cameron agreed to attend the birthday party of his proprietor, the Russian businessman Evgeny Lebedev.
Mr Lebedev turned 35 the day after polling day, and The Guardian reported that Mr Cameron had attended the party to celebrate.
Mr Rajan, who has faced controversy in recent weeks over an explosive BBC documentary which prompted the Royal Family to threaten to boycott the Corporation, made history as the first non-white Fleet Street newspaper editor when he was appointed in 2013 op die ouderdom van 29.
A former adviser and confidant to Mr Lebedev, Mr Rajan is tipped as a frontrunner to replace BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg.
The source pointed out to this newspaper that in the months before the 2015 Verkiesing, Mr Rajan’s Independent had been highly critical of the Conservatives’ record in the Coalition Government.
A front page story on April 4, one month before the Election, revealed that in a private Whitehall meeting to discuss the Coalition’s priorities, a senior Conservative Minister had told a Liberal Democrat Cabinet colleague: ‘You take care of the workers and we’ll take care of the bosses.’
A senior political source has claimed to The Mail on Sunday that Amol Rajan (op die foto) – now a rising star at the BBC – had agreed to support the Conservatives if Mr Cameron agreed to attend the birthday party of his proprietor, the Russian businessman Evgeny Lebedev
A blistering editorial on the same day declared: ‘The Conservatives have misread the national mood again, showing that they do not reflect Britain as once they did.’
Dit het bygevoeg: ‘The plain fact is that the Conservatives have misread the national mood again, and it is depressing their electoral appeal …The Tory leadership looks and sounds a little too public school, a touch too smug and a bit too sympathetic to business vested interests.
‘Despite very welcome moves on equal rights for gay people, and on race, the Conservative Party does not reflect the nation in the way it did when it was at its most electorally successful.’
The newspaper even hinted that it might come out in support of Labour leader Ed Miliband.
‘Perhaps Mr Cameron and, disputedly, Nicola Sturgeon are right that Ed Miliband isn’t prime ministerial material and that he has never had a real job but, sover, it is Mr Miliband who is proving to have more of the popular touch, outside Scotland.’
Over the following weeks, Independent editorials criticised the Conservatives’ Right to Buy plans, saying they would ‘only add to the scale of Britain’s housing crisis’.
Another editorial branded the Tories’ decision not to raise taxes as ‘foolish’. In one editorial published on April 27, The Independent said: ‘Ed Miliband’s call for control on private-sector rents is likely to resonate with many young voters’ and that ‘the Government has done far too little about [the housing crisis]’.
Mr Lebedev turned 35 the day after polling day, and The Guardian reported that Mr Cameron had attended the party to celebrate (Op die foto: Evgeny Lebedev and Prime Minister David Cameron at Chequers on February 16, 2015)
But on May 5, two days before the Election, The Independent performed an about-turn, praising Mr Cameron for creating two million jobs, which it described as ‘an exceptional achievement’.
It added that the Tories ‘deserve tremendous credit’ for improving schools.
And in a complete shift in direction from its earlier support for Mr Miliband, the newspaper said that if the Labour leader got into power, he would rely on the SNP to govern which ‘would be a disaster for the country’.
The Independent did not endorse a single party before the General Election but said that a ‘Lib-Con coalition would both prolong recovery and give our kingdom a better chance of continued existence’.
The Independent’s U-turn did not go unnoticed. Die volgende dag, the paper received a flurry of letters from aghast readers.
Een het geskryf: ‘I’m at a loss to understand your support for another Tory-Lib Dem coalition to preserve the United Kingdom.’
'N Ander het geskryf: ‘We now know, vir seker, that The Independent’s sympathies lie somewhere between the left of the Conservative Party and the right of the Liberal Democrats, through its endorsement of the current Coalition Government.
‘I find it very disappointing, but not altogether surprising, having sensed an increasingly Right-of-centre bias in recent weeks.’
One reader chided the paper: ‘Whoever wrote the editorial comment ‘In defence of liberal democracy’ would do well to take a refresher course on how political systems actually work.
Mr Rajan (op die foto), who has faced controversy in recent weeks over an explosive BBC documentary which prompted the Royal Family to threaten to boycott the Corporation, made history as the first non-white Fleet Street newspaper editor when he was appointed in 2013 op die ouderdom van 29
‘The one guaranteed way to harm Britain’s fragile democracy and to ensure that the Scots will break from the UK is to vote in another confrontational, divisive Conservative government of the kind which has led us to the present turmoil.’
Another reader wrote: ‘The cat is now out of The Independent bag.’
Mr Lebedev, a self-confessed Anglophile, went to great lengths to woo Mr Cameron, landing an invitation to Chequers, the Prime Minister’s country retreat, in Februarie 2015 to conduct a newspaper interview.
The pair have remained close, with Mr Cameron attending the Russian media mogul’s London Christmas party in 2019.
The Mail on Sunday revealed last week how the Queen had united with Princes Charles and William in a threat to boycott the BBC over Mr Rajan’s documentary.
The broadcast sparked a furious backlash and an unprecedented statement from the Royal Family that blasted the broadcast’s claims as ‘overblown and unfounded’.
Mr Rajan last night denied any suggestion that he had changed the editorial line to please his boss.
Mr Lebedev said: ‘As far as I am aware, this story is totally false.’
Mr Cameron did not respond to a request for comment.