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Former Observer editor calls Daily Mail’s Paul Dacre ‘a very great man’ and ‘newspaperman of genius’ in Guardian letter

By Sam Forsdick

Former Observer editor Roger Alton has come to the defence of departing Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre, calling him a “very great man and a newspaperman of genius”.

Alton (pictured) wrote to the Guardian in response to Polly Toynbee’s column in Friday’s newspaper headlined: “Bully-in-chief Dacre is off. Good riddance.”

In her column Toynbee described Dacre as “poisoner of the national psyche, bully-in-chief, whose iron whim has terrified prime ministers for a quarter of a century”, before going on to examine his legacy.

Alton (pictured) wrote to the Guardian to respond to a number of points in what he called Toynbee’s “extraordinarily mendacious” article.

Alton, who has also served as editor of the Independent and executive editor of the Times, wrote: “As someone who has knocked around a few newsrooms, let me assure you that there is less ‘racism, homophobia and philistinism’ – to quote Toynbee – at the Daily Mail than at many of the other places I have known.

“Paul Dacre is a very great man and a newspaperman of genius who has done as much to improve the quality of life in Britain as anybody I can think of.

“One of my great regrets about his departure is that the scoundrels, rogues and thieves who stalk this pleasant land will soon have a much freer ride than before. They will not be sad that he is going.”

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He added: “Ms Toynbee refers to the 1950s: a pleasant decade in my memory, not least because no one had to listen to Polly Toynbee talking nonsense.”

Last week it was announced that Dacre would be stepping down as editor of the Daily Mail in November to take up the broader role of chairman and editor-in-chief of Associated Newspapers. His departure was met with mixed response.

Mail on Sunday editor Geordie Grieg will be replacing Dacre at the daily title, with Mail deputy editor Ted Verity set to become the new editor of the Sunday paper.

Email pged@pressgazette.co.uk to point out mistakes, provide story tips or send in a letter for publication on our "Letters Page" blog

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