John Lloyd has become a much lauded guru of serious journalism. A former member of a fascinating group called the British Irish Communist party, he is now a loyal Blairite, and edits the on the whole very good Financial Times Saturday magazine. He is also the author of an interesting recent book on the British media which for some reason escaped the notice of this column. One day we may put that right.
Mr Lloyd recently used the pages of his magazine to make an ex-cathedra pronouncement. This was that the Guardian is poised to become the new paper of the British establishment. His suggestion, which is certainly correct, is that the Times has voluntarily given up its position as the establishment newspaper. Mr Lloyd did not propose that his own newspaper, the Financial Times, was suited to take its place, and he is surely right about this too. The FT could have taken over the role for the asking several years ago, but has increasingly turned its attentions from this country, where its sales have plummeted, to international climes, where they have soared.
This was no casual benediction on Mr Lloyd’s part. He has correctly interpreted the Guardian’s ambitions. Nine or so months ago, some commentators were suggesting that the paper had fatally missed the boat by not going tabloid. The Times and more particularly the Independent were carrying all before them with their tabloid formats, and the Guardian was losing circulation. Eventually the paper announced that it would adopt a Le Monde-sized format — somewhere between a tabloid and a broadsheet — and would spend more than £50 million on installing new presses. There were again some sceptical voices, but my own view, though it may have pained some readers to hear it, was that the Guardian was playing a rather intelligent long game.