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Peter Oborne resigns from Telegraph over HSBC coverage

The paper’s chief political commentator has departed.

Peter Oborne has resigned from the Telegraph, posting a blog on OpenDemocracy attacking his former employer for its reporting of HSBC’s tax affairs.

He writes:

After a lot of agony I have come to the conclusion that I have a duty to make all this public. There are two powerful reasons. The first concerns the future of the Telegraph under the Barclay Brothers. It might sound a pompous thing to say, but I believe the newspaper is a significant part of Britain’s civic architecture. It is the most important public voice of civilised, sceptical conservatism.


This brings me to a second and even more important point that bears not just on the fate of one newspaper but on public life as a whole. A free press is essential to a healthy democracy. There is a purpose to journalism, and it is not just to entertain. It is not to pander to political power, big corporations and rich men. Newspapers have what amounts in the end to a constitutional duty to tell their readers the truth.

Oborne adds that his concerns about the relationship between editorial and commercial at the paper have been running for a while:

I wrote a long letter to Murdoch MacLennan setting out all my concerns about the newspaper, and handing in my notice. I copied this letter to the Telegraph chairman, Aidan Barclay. I received a cursory response from Mr Barclay. He wrote that he hoped I could resolve my differences with Murdoch MacLennan. I duly went to see the chief executive in mid-December. He was civil, served me tea and asked me to take off my jacket. He said that I was a valued writer, and said that he wanted me to stay.

I expressed all of my concerns about the direction of the paper. I told him that I was not leaving to join another paper. I was resigning as a matter of conscience. Mr MacLennan agreed that advertising was allowed to affect editorial, but was unapologetic, saying that “it was not as bad as all that” and adding that there was a long history of this sort of thing at the Telegraph.

As his full piece at OpenDemocracy makes clear, the HSBC tax story was merely the last straw.

The latest issue of Private Eye has further details:

On Tuesday morning the [HSBC] tax scandal was on the front pages of the FT, Mail and Guardian. By the end of Tuesday afternoon, with still no word about it on the Telegraph website, the ever-helpful Eye rang the newsdesk and financial desk to tip them off about the story since they seemed unaware of it.

This mole will be watching with interest to see which publication snaps up Mr Oborne’s services.

Update: 8.26, 18 Feb

Speaking on the BBC's Today programme, Oborne has called for an "independent review" into the Telegraph, investigating the relationship between advertising and editorial: “There’s a pattern here . . . when HSBC was being investigated, the advertising dries up”, he said.

He suggested that Charles Moore, a former editor of the Daily Telegraph, or Fraser Nelson, editor of the Spectator, could head an independent review.

I'm a mole, innit.

New Statesman
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Quiz: Can you identify fake news?

The furore around "fake" news shows no sign of abating. Can you spot what's real and what's not?

Hillary Clinton has spoken out today to warn about the fake news epidemic sweeping the world. Clinton went as far as to say that "lives are at risk" from fake news, the day after Pope Francis compared reading fake news to eating poop. (Side note: with real news like that, who needs the fake stuff?)

The sweeping distrust in fake news has caused some confusion, however, as many are unsure about how to actually tell the reals and the fakes apart. Short from seeing whether the logo will scratch off and asking the man from the market where he got it from, how can you really identify fake news? Take our test to see whether you have all the answers.



In all seriousness, many claim that identifying fake news is a simple matter of checking the source and disbelieving anything "too good to be true". Unfortunately, however, fake news outlets post real stories too, and real news outlets often slip up and publish the fakes. Use fact-checking websites like Snopes to really get to the bottom of a story, and always do a quick Google before you share anything. 

Amelia Tait is a technology and digital culture writer at the New Statesman.