Normally, we wouldn’t blog about a journalist moving jobs — but Tim Montgomerie is an exception. He is an actor in, not just an observer of, Britain’s political drama which is why it’s significant that he has decided to step down as opinion editor of The Times, to do other things (as yet undefined).
Normally, ‘do other things’ is a euphemism – but in Tim’s case, it fits a pattern. He is a serial political entrepreneur, an ex-Iain Duncan Smith staffer who set up ConservativeHome website, and the Centre for Social Justice think tank and can be found behind various other projects (PoliticsHome, 18 Doughty Street TV, and others). A few years ago he became a newspaper columnist, adapting to the genre with an ease that dismayed his rivals (myself very much included).
Hiring him as Comment Editor was an inspired move by The Times‘ editor John Witherow. The business of political comment is mutating, moving online and diversifying into audio, video and social media. Tim was a natural at all this but he has also added heft and zest to its pages – the Matt Ridley column, for example, has become an invaluable Bloody Mary administered on a Monday morning. Tim will also keep on his own weekly column, with the luxury of having more than four hours to write it.
There’s an election a year away which a normal, cynical journalist like me sees as a great spectator sport. But being confined to the journalistic sidelines during this election was never really an option with Tim. He loves the Conservative Party, he sees a huge battle around the corner and he wants to do something to help win that battle. And how? I have no idea, but I’m pretty sure about one thing: we’ll be hearing a lot more from him in the next few months.