Elton's Independent is a fine campaigning issue

I never see the point of celebrity guest-editors of newspapers and magazines (nor, come to that, of Radio 4's Today programme).

Elton's Independent is a fine campaigning issue It is such an obvious gimmick, a one-off promotion without any real editorial value.

So I was predisposed not to get excited by Simon Kelner's decision to move aside from his Independent editor's chair in favour of Elton John.

But I have to say, despite the consequent wholesale down-playing of the day's major news agenda, today's result is not at all bad. In fact, just the opposite. It's one of the best examples of celebrity editing.

It amounts to a single-issue campaign, with the first 10 pages marking World Aids Day, plus a leading article by Elton. It is a reminder that we in Britain have tended to forget about, or turn a blind eye to, the world-wide Aids tragedy.

Devoting the front cover to a drawing of roses is bold. The copy is mostly excellent (a good contribution from Stephen Fry). The graphics are a little iffy. Overall, though, the impact is terrific.

Elsewhere, on separate topics, there is a fine piece about the music industry by Paul Gambaccini and the interview with Elton by Jimmy Carr has its amusing moments.

I could poke fun at the opening sentence of the explanatory blurb on page 2: "Unusually, there is no news on the cover of The Independent today." But I am resisting it.

Instead, let me simply give a flavour of Elton's moving, and positive, editorial:

"This World Aids Day marks the beginning of a fourth decade living with a global killer... [But] I am compelled not by despair but by hope.

I'm heartened by the recent statistics from UNAIDS that tell a promising story – 5m people on treatment and a 25% drop in new infections across the worst-affected countries since 2001.

I'm motivated by the progress that Aids has quite unintentionally moved forward, rather than the destruction it has left in its wake.

Because despite the chaos Aids has wrought, it has also resulted in remarkable human compassion and ingenuity...

When epidemics claimed the lives of millions of nurses, teachers, miners, and soldiers, an army of ordinary people proved to be much stronger, building networks, raising funds, and opening their hearts to the sick and their homes to the orphaned...

The innovation and ingenuity that has enabled millions to live longer lives has benefited so many more. The Global Fund has increased resources for more than just Aids: 35% of its funding strengthens health systems that reach all patients, not just those with HIV...

I am proud that the Elton John Aids Foundation has contributed to this progress for nearly 20 years..."

Next to the main leader is a disturbing secondary article about the moves by pharmaceutical companies that could block the supply of affordable anti-retroviral medicines to the developing world.

Overall, despite not changing my mind about guest-editing, I am pleased to say that today's Indy is as good as the gimmick gets.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Roy Greenslade, for guardian.co.uk on Wednesday 1st December 2010 11.47 Europe/London

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