Ex-Times editor Rees-Mogg, who supported Mick Jagger, dies

LONDON, Dec 29 (Reuters) - William Rees-Mogg, a former

editor of Britain's Times newspaper who famously backed Mick

Jagger when the Rolling Stones singer was jailed for a drug

offence, has died at the age of 84.

On its website, the Times said Rees-Mogg, a former chairman

of the Arts Council and vice-chairman of the BBC, had been

suffering from oesophageal cancer.

Rees-Mogg became editor of the paper in 1967 and, despite

establishment credentials built up at independent school and

Balliol College, Oxford, soon showed a rebellious streak.

In July of that year, he published a celebrated leading

article criticising the jailing of Jagger for a minor drugs

offence, headlined: "Who Breaks a Butterfly on a Wheel?"

Later Rees-Mogg, in an article in the Times after he had

stepped down as editor, described John Major, Conservative prime

minister for most of the 1990s as "over-promoted, unfit to

govern and lacking self-confidence".

"His ideal level of political competence would be deputy

chief whip or something of that standing," he added, in a

contemptuous reference to Britain's behind-the-scenes political

party managers.

However Rees-Mogg stubbornly defended former U.S. President

Richard Nixon against all the Watergate evidence filed by the

Times' Washington staff as the scandal that led to Nixon's

resignation in 1974 unfolded.

The Times was bought by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp in

January 1981, at which point Rees-Mogg, who had backed the

Murdoch purchase, resigned to make way for one of Britain's most

celebrated editors, Harold Evans, who became Reuters

editor-at-large in 2011.

The paper's website carried a tribute from Murdoch on

Saturday.

"William Rees Mogg was a distinguished editor of the Times

for 14 years, during which time he modernised the paper,

reaching out to a younger readership with expanded coverage of

news, sport and features," Murdoch wrote.

"It is to his great credit that he retained the intellectual

integrity of the paper while attracting a broader based and

markedly more female readership for the paper.

"He gave me invaluable support when I acquired Times

Newspapers in 1981, and remained someone on whom I could always

count for impartial counsel."

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