The battle between Britain’s political magazines has intensified this summer as editorial changes at the big names on the newsstand mark a serious bid to move forward.
More at new statesman, the longest-serving statesman of left-wing journals, award-winning Melissa Denes, also late Guardian, is of take control of features under the direction of Jason Cowley, while plans are underway to expand its international and political coverage.
the London book review is perhaps more of a literary journal, but its political essays have become must-read in Westminster in recent years and, with the recent departure of its founding editor Mary-Kay Wilmers, it is also going through a period of change.
The fog clouding the British political landscape has never been so dense. And there are new perils to navigate, from chasms of division within parliamentary parties to generational divides that shape public debate.
In treacherous times like these, the magazine-buying voter might just want a friendly guide. But which title to choose? Fraser Nelson, the Spectators editor-in-chief, welcomes the journalistic gauntlet thrown down by Rusbridger. “Perspective is a great magazine with everything to play with,” he said over the weekend. Pursuing political dogma would be a mistake, he argues. “I’m very skeptical of the idea of politically aligned magazines. You can’t even set the Spectator as a conservative magazine. There is no market for it in this country. Whenever a publisher spots a policy gap in the market, that title always fails.
With modern political tribes hard to define, let alone satisfy, expanding readership is a struggle, especially in the face of a myriad of print and online rivals. Next to the established right masthead of the Spectator are niche newcomers such as Critical, born of schisms in Point of view, as good as A herd and Reaction.
On the side of the dominant left, the new statesman, created in 1913 by Fabian Society luminaries George Bernard Shaw and Beatrice and Sidney Webb, is now flanked on either side in varying degrees of closeness by serious writing inside the Conversation and Tortoise, and the more determined socialism of Novara Media and the quarterly “radical red and green” Red bell pepper. during this time Tribune, the former newspaper of the Labor stalwarts, established in the 1930s, is now also increasingly focused on harder left-wing content.
So Perspective has his work cut out for him. After all, every title already believes it has something unique to say, or as Novara Media puts it: “Our goal is simple: to tell stories and provide analysis shaped by the political uncertainties of the times, elevating critical perspectives that you are unlikely to find elsewhere”. The real trick, then, is to appeal to a broad enough base.
Rusbridger, 67, spearheaded the shift to free digital journalism in the Guardian during his tenure from 1995 to 2015 and plans to nurture Perspective as “a cradle of thoughtful ideas and debates”. Announcing his appointment, he said the magazine was “an increasingly important space in a polarized society that sometimes feels like it’s lost the art of listening.” Under Goodhart, PerspectiveContributors, including Timothy Garton Ash, Michael Ignatieff, and John Lloyd, discussed difficult topics at length. His successors, Bronwen Maddox and Tom Clark, tried to come up with the same thing.
Nelson predicts renewed success for Perspective if he can deliver longer, well-written pieces: Spectator is a magazine of dazzling variety but most of our articles are much shorter. PerspectiveThe journalistic project of is that some issues deserve more space.
The best prospect for Perspective, Nelson adds, is to remain ideologically “heterodox,” but there are other dangers that lurk in any political magazine. “There is a big problem if a publication is consistently loss-making. Then you look at the “sugar daddy” owners, and they get in your way. Benefactors and sponsors are a problem, although, as the Guardian model shows now, reader donations and membership can work as long as they know what they are buying into.
Nelson took over the Spectator ten years ago, amid claims, it was in terminal decline. Acquired by billionaire Barclay brothers, Sir Frederick and the late Sir David, in 2004, the vast majority of its revenue now comes from readers.
For journalist and former Labor adviser Tom Baldwin, the biggest threat to a political headline today is the sheer volume of commentary. “There is a confusion and a cacophony of noise which makes it quite difficult to develop our policy. We used to wait a week for the thoughtful thoughts of a writer like Alan Watkins or Hugo Young. Now, with honorable exceptions in journals like Andrew Rawnsley or Gaby Hinsliff, they’ve already voiced their opinions elsewhere by the time they come to write.
“As a teenager obsessed with politics, I used to read Tribune. I don’t know where I would go now to find out where politics is going. the new statesman has its prejudices and the Spectator is good as long as you just want to know what’s going on in Downing Street. There is a wider and yet also shallower pool of political commentary than at any time in my life. It’s a time of enormous challenges, so you would want journalism that reflects that.
John Kampfner, one of Cowley’s predecessors in new statesman, hope to read more political commentary with an international perspective. As a consultant now working on the financially reinvigorated New European newspaper, he also wants less pure political analysis and reporting from Westminster. “We need to move away from the myopic bias of British journalism,” he said. “There is often an extraordinary lack of contextualization.”