Given what a shining New Statesman’s James Macintyre took to top freelance totty Rowenna Davis, it was only going to be a matter of time before she ended up writing for the struggling magazine. Last month she wrote a piece slamming parliamentarian’s use of unpaid interns suggesting that “MPs’ dependence on unpaid interns gives those from richer backgrounds a headstart on breaking into politics.” A fair point perhaps, so what’s this Guido reads? “The New Statesman Brand and Project Department is looking for an intern…” Paid? Yeah right…
Guido is frankly surprised with Mehdi Hasan’s latest article “In Defence of Ed Balls“. Not that the ‘senior political editor’ of the New Statesman is defending the indefensible, it is his admission that “I don’t know him. Never met him.”
How do you get to be a ‘senior political editor’ of a supposedly serious political journal without ever having met Ed Balls? Staggering.
As so often happens, who broke the story first is fiercely contested. Guido doesn’t have a dog in this fight, but for the record, since the Staggers is trying to cite Guido as evidence to back up its claim that it broke the news, here is the timeline:
- Unnoticed by Guido when it happened was Andy Sparrow’s PMQs live-blog, which had this at 11:57:
11.57 am: Hot news: We’ve just heard that Geoff Hoon and Patricia Hewitt are going to make some kind of statement about Brown’s leadership after PMQs. That’s all I know at the moment.
- The first Guido knew was when someone shouted out across the newsroom after Andy Sparrow’s Tweet came up on the Guy News Tweetdeck screen, that was time-stamped at 12:01.
- The Guardian’s website also had a teaser headline at 12:15.
- The New Statesman at 12:17 publishes what it calls an “Exclusive“ that “A letter is being circulated among Labour MPs this afternoon calling for a secret ballot on Gordon Brown’s leadership. According to one MP who would like Brown to leave office, the letter is being co-ordinated by a number of rebels, including the former cabinet ministers Charles Clarke, Patricia Hewitt and Geoff Hoon.”
So there you have it. The Guardian was first, though in the augmented reality of the Staggers “It was the NS wot got it“. In reality, you snooze, you lose, it ain’t news.
Sparrow told Guido that “it would be nice to take the credit myself, but actually Patrick Wintour obtained the information.” Incidentally, Guido understands that ITN’s Channel 4 News has changed policy on breaking news. Whereas it restricted scoops to the 7 p.m. broadcast they now put it up as soon as they can on the website and tweet the link. A cultural change for a mainstream media source. Steve Hilton getting nicked was tweeted last night by Cathy Newman in advance of telly viewers being told.
It almost goes without saying that Guido tries to be first. If not first, fast. When inevitably occasionally wrong, not for long. We no longer have news cycles, we have news streams…
In the week we celebrate the Fall of the Wall (more in this coming week’s Guidogram) the covers of our political weeklies are worth comparing. The Speccie reveals and condemns Soviet agents at the highest levels of the Labour Party. The New Statesman glories in a cover with a flattering (old) picture of the communist tyrant Fidel Castro. On the inside is a feature on his allegedly ‘popular’ variant of socialism. So popular is Castro’s socialism that he has turned the island into a prison, locked up dangerous poets, not held an election in half a century and jailed dissident democrats. No mention in the article of the people who to attempt to flee to Miami on floats made out of car tyres or the level of destitution to which the country has been reduced. Perhaps Castro is popular in the same way that the Staggers is ‘popular’. Up to date ABC circulation figures are no longer available, but the suspicion is that since they have got rid of the adult political reporters the weekly circulation has gone below 20,000 – less than the daily readership of this blog. Online data since the beginning of the year shows the relative downward trend:
Perhaps if it was more in the real world politically – the latest claim is that the Chief Rabbi of Poland is a Tory stooge – the downward trend of the Staggers might be arrested. Perhaps they are hoping, vainly in Guido’s view, that a change of government will boost circulation…
Almost every time Guido writes about James Macintyre an email arrives in the inbox complaining about everything from mis-spelling his name to not giving the whole truth. Once he complained bitterly that some nuance was wrong (that he hadn’t formally applied for a job with Ed Miliband, but had been considered for a SpAd job with Miliband and was furious when he discovered that his close buddy Derek Draper told Ed not to hire him – if you are really interested).
The tone is often: “Are you going to correct that o’ fearless truth seeker? Or just bathe in inaccuracy as ever? Which one?”
Macintyre’s journalism, such as it is, and Guido is in a position to verify this with documentary evidence, often amounts to little more than emailing a Labour spin doctor, and asking them have they “got any dirt”. He was not so long ago sniffing (pardon the pun) around for cocaine-related dirt on Cameron. Fair enough, Guido is in no position to criticise Macintyre for muck-racking. This was the manner in which he got his famous “Obama thinks Cameron is a lightweight” line. It was fed to him.
Macintyre has been pushing the Labour spin line that Michael Kaminski, the Tory ally in the European parliament, is some kind of anti-semitic, far-right extremist. Some have been urging Kaminski to sue the New Statesman, Kaminski tells Iain Dale in this month’s Total Politics
What I’m facing here in the UK is not only a very disappointing standard of political debate, but very disappointing standards of journalism. Rabbi Schudrich made a statement about the allegations in this magazine. He sent them a statement and they ignored it. They didn’t print it. Rabbi Schudrich made it very clear that he didn’t want to make any political statements about me, but he wanted to make clear that he has nothing against me and does not regard me as an anti-Semite. Come on. Just recently, I came back from Israel where I was received at the top level of government. I had my statement posted on the Israeli ministry of foreign affairs. The Israeli ambassador to Brussels accepted my invitation to visit our group next week; can you imagine that the Israeli state would receive me if they had any doubts about my attitude towards the Jewish people and the state of Israel?
Now it is clear that either Kaminski or Macintyre are not telling the whole truth, and the Rabbi is the one in a position to settle this outright once and for all. The word is that Rabbi Schudric is going to make a definitive statement.
The graphic above shows how the New Statesman has lost ground over the last two years. With the paid-for print circulation now in the low teens of thousands it has only a quarter of the Spectator’s paid-for circulation. Online the advantage the magazine enjoyed when it was ahead of the game has now evaporated. It was at one time one of the better online political websites and despite a recent revamp it has continued to lose ground. “Why?” is the question the new owner Mike Danson must be asking himself.
There are two reasons Guido thinks* – the decline of the enthusiasm of the left as a decade of disillusion takes a heavy toll and the fact that it isn’t a very good read. Serious writers like Martin Bright and the effervescent Nick Cohen have been lost and replaced with new blood who are hardly “must read” material. Mehdi Hassan is finding his footing, James Macintyre’s articles betray his mentoring by Derek Draper, often reading like the work of a student journalist on a college newspaper. For a serious political weekly they lack serious political reporters.
The dullness quotient can be high elsewhere in the magazine. Maguire’s cheeky diary was often a work of fiction, but at least it was entertaining fiction. Peter Wilby usually has something interesting to say, Pilger is Pilger if you like that sort of thing. A lot of the rest of the stuff is worthy and boring. The Spectator is far more fun, mischievous and readable.
It is hard to see how even as canny a publisher as Danson can avoid losing money if it doesn’t change editorial course. If of course he bought it vainly for influence, fine, though even there how much influence does it have nowadays? The circulation numbers don’t lie, with a declining readership half the size of this blog’s audience, Guido thinks the announced “greater focus on photography” is unlikely to cut the mustard in Labour’s inner circles. A political weekly needs to get great political stories to succeed. When was the last time the New Statesman had a real scoop?
*Third possible reason applies to all left-wing, politically correct publications since the late sixties – it is hard to be fun when you are earnest and have to watch your words. Fun sells.
The low circulation New Statesman continues to fascinate Guido, a co-conspirator has sent in an example of a lavish bit of sycophancy which really deserves a bigger audience.
You may remember that James Macintyre was not so long ago bitterly disappointed at failing to become Ed Miliband’s SpAd after Derek Draper advised Ed against hiring him. This week Macintyre was embedded on a junket to Bangladesh and India with Ed Miliband and Dougie Alexander to see poverty first-hand and get a few photo-ops with the ministers. Looks like Macintyre is re-applying for the SpAd job with the man he describes optimistically as “a leader-in-waiting”:
It is amazing to think that if the conventional wisdom is right, and Labour loses, these talented ministers, with so much to offer, will suddenly be out of a job. I can’t remember who their Tory opposite numbers are, but it is fair to say that certain parties I have spoken to, from NGO workers to diplomats to foreign politicians, are keeping their fingers crossed that the consensus will be proved wrong.
Can you hear that sucking up sound? You would think that the ‘political correspondent’ of a magazine with pretensions to being a serious journal would know his subject. It falls to Guido, again, to help out the Statesman’s political team: Andrew Mitchell and Greg Clark are their opposite numbers…
Guess that is what happens when you make Derek Draper’s “lunch partner”, James Macintyre, political correspondent. That source has now dried up… […]
Guido thought the deal was that he would buy out Geoffrey Robinson’s 50% when Gordon left office. Oh, hang on…[…]