Charles Moore Charles Moore

How I became editor of The Spectator (aged 27)

Thirty years ago this weekend, I became editor of The Spectator. In the same month, the miners’ strike began, Anthony Wedgwood Benn (as the right-wing press still insisted on calling him) won the Chesterfield by-election, the FT index rose above 900 for the first time and the mortgage rate fell to 10.5 per cent. Mark Thatcher was reported to be leaving the country to sell Lotus cars in America for £45,000 a year. Although she now tells me she has no memory of it, Wendy Cope wrote a poem entitled ‘The Editor of The Spectator is 27 Years Old’. Because I was young, the events are vivid in my mind, but in fact a greater gap separates then and now than separated then from the Suez crisis. I remember thinking that people who could remember Suez seemed very old and to be speaking of a different world. The same presumably applies to 27-year-olds today when they hear archaic expressions like ‘the Soviet Union’ or ‘Arthur Scargill’.

The first Spectator edited by Charles Moore. He also wrote the cover story that week.

The first Spectator edited by Charles Moore. He also wrote the cover story that week.

Certainly, in journalism, the difference is enormous. Print union tyranny had not yet been broken by Mrs Thatcher’s reforms. The Spectator had no daytime lock, no passes, no emails, no mobile telephones, and no editorial computers. The paper cost 75p (£3.75 today) and lost £300,000 a year, and although Alexander Chancellor, its best editor of modern times, had almost doubled the circulation, it stood at less than 20,000 (60,000 today). Its character was completely personal and non-corporate. Henry Keswick had bought the paper as part of his then political ambitions, and had appointed Chancellor because, it was alleged, he was the only journalist he knew. He eventually sold it to his friend Algy Cluff.

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