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31 March 2023

“New ideas”? Axed Times columnist addresses the elephant in the room 

After 18 years David Aaronovitch was mysteriously let go from Rupert Mudroch’s paper, but he feels “free at last”.

By The Chatterer

David Aaronovitch, the long-standing Times columnist, has opened up about his recent departure from the Rupert Murdoch-owned newspaper. 

Launching his new Substack on Friday morning, Aaronovitch sought to “address the elephant in the sack in my room”. Or as best he could. 

“Just before Christmas a sudden Zoom call with two deputy managing editors was used to inform me that I was no longer needed at the Times where I had been a columnist for the best part of 18 years,” he wrote in the maiden post on his page, “Notes from the Underground“. “The reason given was a desire for ‘new ideas’. That was the full extent of any explanation.” 

Aaronovitch wrote that he had “smiled wryly” recently when, in an opinion piece for the Times, Sebastian Payne, director of the right-leaning Onward think tank, noted that few Labour-supporting columnists are making the case for Keir Starmer on a regular basis, as many were for Tony Blair in the run-up to the 1997 election. 

“Smiled wryly,” Aaronovitch clarified, “because it is hard for a columnist to make the case for anything if they don’t have a job.” (Aaronovitch’s replacement, Juliet Samuel, formerly of the Telegraph, is a notable shift to the right.) 

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Despite his mysterious removal, Aaronovitch sounds upbeat and ready to cause some trouble on Substack (Times columnists, watch out). He opened his first post with the words: “Free at last, free at last, thank God Almighty (and the editor of the Times) I’m free at last. After 13 years behind a paywall and required to negotiate every week what my column would be about and often losing, from now on I will write what I like when I want to write about it…”

[See also: Will the Sunday Times turn on “wokery”?]

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