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    17 February, 2005

    Boring left-wing mags

    I meant to record this article by Dylan Jones in Monday's Guardian media section, where he argued that the New Statesman was essentially a boring rag. As he said:

    It's the magazine's personality that's the problem: it hasn't got one. Or rather it has, but it's not very big.

    I've been reading the NS weekly since 1978. Or, more honestly, I've been taking it since 1978. I certainly read it in the 1980s and early 1990s. In the late 90s I started skimming it, reading I would guess less than half the articles, which is where I probably am now, even though I continue to pay my subscription. I thought it completely failed to get US politics in the 80s and early 90s. But it was important to the UK debate on the liberal left. I also thought it improved markedly under Ian Hargreaves. It has always of course published worthy articles. You can find Richard Crossman despairing in his diaries at having to publish yet another article by Michael Meacher, for example. Click read more below.

    Given its out-and-out opposition to the Iraq war, and the apparent market for anti-war news and comment, you would have thought it would have managed to build a more substantial base. But too many of its commentators - Pilger most obviously - have an entirely predictable approach to these issues and seem to be writing not to persuade anyone but to reaffirm the prejudices of their friends.

    There are some people who have to be read - Nick Cohen for one. John Lloyd when he appears. Darcus Howe even when you disagree with him. Andrew Billen and Andrew Stephen. John Kampfner sometimes has something new to impart. Not the ludicrous Amanda Platell though - I disagree with Dylan Jones on that. Kevin Maguire is a good addition. But none of this adds up to a personality. Does anyone see the NS as essential to debate on the left? I don't think so. It doesn't project passion, it doesn't surprise, and it rarely makes you argue with yourself. Most of these things you get from other publications.

    The NS may also now face some competition from Tribune. Chris McLaughlin is an experienced journalist with a tabloid background. He may well liven things up.

    One thing that is missing from the public sphere of the British Left is a publication like the old Marxism Today. Even if Martin Jacques has forgotten how much of a role his publication played in awakening the consumerist agenda that underpins so much of New Labour.


    Andrew Brown said...

    I used to have a subscription but it got too boring and I found out I was skipping 70% of the magazine. And then I figured that I didn't want to pay for John Pilger's upkeep. So I'm reading Prospect instead.

    By the way, I've returned the compliment and added you to my blog roll.

    Leighton Andrews said...

    I read Prospect as well, plus lots of others. But we could still do with a better NS. Thanks for the reciprocity!

    BB said...

    I used to get it fairly regularly up to '97, but in recent years I've only got the Xmas edition (just what you need to put you in a festive mood). I do find most of it worth reading, but it certainly is "stuffy" and, erm, bourgeois. I mean, Roger Scruton as wine correspondent?

    My theory is that there's a point at which the political spectrum wraps around, and where Guardian and Telegraph readers meet is the NS.

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