Guardian of history

oddly for a historian, Richard Gott (Books, 28 January) shows a distorted view of his old paper, the Guardian. He says it threw away its past in the Sixties when it moved to London. No, it didn't, and I was there while he was in South America. He says "the romantic gene" has now all but gone. Romantic? In the Sixties, when the paper was threatened by a merger with the Times (before the staff found out in time to stop it), when it faced bankruptcy and the money was not there to pay wages and newsprint bills? Yes, marketing methods he disapproves of were moved in to save it, otherwise the Guardian would now be just an item of history. When it started to print in London, it tried but failed to raise its circulation to a viable level, and its news coverage was something of a joke. The nickname "The Grauniad" was coined because there were so many literals. It was only when Alastair Hetherington appointed John Cole as news editor that the paper sharpened up, regained its old Manchester confidence and started to compete. The circulation went up. The good writing went on, and still does.

The Guardian is as radical in its writers and opinions as it ever has been: recent examples are the investigations into the treatment of asylum-seekers and the lives of workers on breadline wages.

Jean Stead
News editor and assistant editor of the Guardian, 1970-83
London NW3

Richard Gott is a product of Winchester, so it was a bit rich of him to criticise Alan Rusbridger, the Guardian editor, for the heinous sin of being a "public schoolboy".

Peter Hillmore
London W2

This article first appeared in the 04 February 2002 issue of the New Statesman, Revealed: how Labour sees women