LONDON, Dec 29 (Reuters) - 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
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.
The Times was bought by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp in
January 1981, at which point Rees-Mogg, who had backed the
Murdoch purchase, resigned to make way for one of Britain's most
celebrated editors, Harold Evans, who became Reuters
editor-at-large in 2011.
The paper's website carried a tribute from Murdoch on
"William Rees Mogg was a distinguished editor of the Times
for 14 years, during which time he modernised the paper,
reaching out to a younger readership with expanded coverage of
news, sport and features," Murdoch wrote.
"It is to his great credit that he retained the intellectual
integrity of the paper while attracting a broader based and
markedly more female readership for the paper.
"He gave me invaluable support when I acquired Times
Newspapers in 1981, and remained someone on whom I could always
count for impartial counsel."