Barclays urged to uphold house agreement by NUJ

Barclay brothers: “unlikely to make major changes before Christmas”

Telegraph Group NUJ members have urged the Barclay brothers to “uphold the existing house agreement” amid threatened resignations about the possible future role of Andrew Neil.

The NUJ chapel at Telegraph Group met on Thursday to discuss news that Hollinger International had agreed to sell the Telegraph titles and the Spectator to the Barclays for £665m.

And the chapel this week sent a letter to Aidan Barclay, the son of Sir David, who is expected to be the new Telegraph Group chief executive.

In it journalists welcomed the new owners, saying they were “reassured by your publicly stated commitments to maintaining the titles’ journalistic excellence and editorial independence”.

As a first step to building a “constructive relationship” they said: “We would welcome guarantees that you would uphold the existing house agreement.” They also asked for a face-to-face meeting.

Some 300 out of an estimated total of 700 Telegraph Group journalists are in the NUJ and they won official recognition last year.

Telegraph NUJ members have also written to the Department of Trade and Industry urging the Secretary of State not to refer the sale to Ofcom.

At a national level, the NUJ has already expressed concern about the role Andrew Neil could play at The Daily Telegraph. The former Sunday Times editor is currently publisher of the Barclay brothers-owned Scotsman titles and The Business.

Columnist Craig Brown has said that he will resign if Neil becomes editor of The Daily Telegraph.

In a letter to the Guardian he said: “Neil’s outlook is essentially angry, fingerwagging and neophiliac, while the Telegraph’s is cheerful, tolerant and traditional.

“Putting Neil in charge of the Telegraph would be like putting a bull in charge of a china shop. At the first sign of that livid head coming around the door, I’d be off – and I’m sure I wouldn’t be alone.”

Telegraph NUJ father of chapel, John Carey, said:”I think it is much too early to say what the chapel’s reaction to Andrew Neil would be. Certainly, there would be concerns – but until we have had the chance to meet the new owners and discuss what their plans are, I cannot predict how many would share Craig’s views.”

In his Evening Standard column on Wednesday Neil predicted that the Barclays would be unlikely to make any major changes at the Telegraph before Christmas. Neil added that his own role at the Telegraph “remains to be resolved”.

by Dominic Ponsford

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