|The Right Honourable
The Lord Rees-Mogg
14 July 1928|
Bristol, Gloucestershire, England, UK
|Died||29 December 2012
London, England, UK
|Alma mater||Balliol College, Oxford|
William Rees-Mogg, Baron Rees-Mogg (14 July 1928 – 29 December 2012) was an English journalist and public servant. He served as editor of The Times (1967–81), chairman of the Arts Council of Great Britain, and vice-chairman of the BBC.
Not yet eighteen, Rees-Mogg went up to Balliol College, Oxford as a Brackenbury Scholar to read history in January 1946 as a place had fallen temporarily vacant. By the end of the summer term he had been elected to the library committee (the junior committee) of the Oxford Union Society and was due to be an officer of the Oxford University Conservative Association under Miss Margaret Roberts, President for Michaelmas Term 1946. However, after two terms he was forced to give up his place to a disabled ex-serviceman. In 1946-8, beginning with an exceptionally bitter winter, he did his National Service in the Royal Air Force education department, rising to the rank of sergeant (his poor eyesight ruled out pilot training, which would have made him a commissioned officer). His duties included attempting to teach illiterate recruits to read and write, and his reference from his commanding officer stated that he was competent to perform simple tasks under supervision. He returned to Oxford to complete his degree, and became President of the Oxford Union in Trinity (summer) term 1951. He graduated that term with a Second.
Rees-Mogg began his career in journalism in London at The Financial Times in 1952 becoming chief leader writer in 1955 and, in addition, assistant editor in 1957. During this period, he was Conservative candidate for the safe Labour seat of Chester-le-Street in a by-election on 27 September 1956, losing to the Labour candidate Norman Pentland by 21,287 votes, as he did in the subsequent general election by a similar margin.
He moved to The Sunday Times in 1960, later becoming its Deputy Editor from 1964 where he wrote "A Captain’s Innings", which many believe convinced Alec Douglas-Home to resign as Tory leader, making way for Edward Heath, in July 1965.
Rees-Mogg was editor of The Times from 1967 to 1981. He criticised, in a 1967 editorial entitled "Who breaks a butterfly on a wheel?", the severity of the custodial sentence for Mick Jagger on a drugs offence. With colleagues he attempted a buyout of Times Group Newspapers in 1981 in order to stop its sale by the Thomson Organisation to Rupert Murdoch, but was unsuccessful. Murdoch replaced him as editor with Harold Evans. Rees-Mogg wrote a comment column for The Independent from its foundation in the autumn of 1986 until near the end of 1992, when he rejoined The Times where he remained a columnist until shortly before his death. In his Memoirs, published in 2011, he wrote of Murdoch: "Looking back, he has been an excellent proprietor for the Times, but also for Fleet Street."
Rees-Mogg was a member of the BBC's Board of Governors and chairman of the Arts Council, overseeing a major reform of the latter body which halved the number of arts organisations receiving regular funding and reduced the Council's direct activities. Having been High Sheriff of Somerset from 1978 to 1979, he was knighted on 3 November 1981. In the 1988 Birthday Honours, Rees-Mogg was announced to be made a life peer and was raised to the peerage on 8 August that year as Baron Rees-Mogg of Hinton Blewett in the County of Avon, and sat in the House of Lords as a cross-bencher. He was a member of the European Reform Forum. The University of Bath awarded him an Honorary Degree (Doctor of Laws) in 1977.
Writing in The Times in 2001, Rees-Mogg, who had a house in Somerset, described himself as "a country person who spends most of his time in London", and attempted to define the characteristics of a "country person". He also wrote that Tony Blair was as unpopular in rural England as Mrs Thatcher had been in Scotland. By now his liberal attitude to drugs policy had led to his being mocked as "Mogadon Man" by Private Eye.
The magazine later referred to him as "Mystic Mogg" (a pun on "Mystic Meg", a tabloid astrologer) because of the perception that his economic and political predictions were ultimately found to be inaccurate.
In 1964 Rees-Mogg purchased Ston Easton Park near Bath, Somerset, the former home of the Hippisley family. The house had been threatened with demolition and Rees-Mogg partially restored it. He sold the house to the Smedley family in 1978.
Rees-Mogg and his wife Gillian Shakespeare Morris had five children. They included:
|Deputy Editor of the Sunday Times
|Editor of The Times
|Chair of the Arts Council of Great Britain