I wanted to let you know about the new issue of Spectator Life that’s out today – free with the latest issue of the Spectator. It’s my first issue in charge as editor and I’m pleased to say that one of our stories – a profile of Alan Yentob by ex-Newsnight producer Meirion Jones – has made it on to the front page of today’s Sun. It’s a great read. The Sun has splashed on the allegation that Yentob branded Meirion and his fellow producer Liz MacKean 'traitors to the BBC' after they publicly complained about the Beeb’s decision to pull the film they’d made exposing Jimmy Savile as a paedophile a year before he died. Yentob strongly denies saying this, but Jones’s source – a BBC colleague – claims to have heard it directly from Yentob’s mouth and sent an email to the Director General, which Jones has a copy of, complaining about Yentob’s remark. The Conservative MP Philip Davies has called for an investigation into the matter, so we may not have heard the last of it.
There’s plenty of other good stuff in the magazine, too. It’s got a great piece by Roger Scruton on the new leader of the Labour Party ('For Jeremy Corbyn and his followers, it’s as if the Berlin Wall never fell'), a glimpse inside the strange world of Evgeny Lebedev, London’s newest media tycoon, by Freddy Gray ('He once took up the Dolls’ House diet, which involves eating from a tiny plate using miniature cutlery') and a gossipy account of the havoc being wreaked by Westminster’s barmy army of SNP MPs ('Standing on chairs in Parliament’s Sports and Social bar, a band of portly gentlemen are bellowing out Scottish folk songs'). There’s also a raft of new columnists, including Merryn Somerset Webb, Bruce Palling, Sarah Vine and Candida Crewe.
I’ve been writing a weekly column for the Spectator since 1998, but apart from a one-off supplement about the new Tory Establishment a few years ago this is the first time I’ve done any editing. I’ve enjoyed it enormously. Editing a magazine, even a fairly modest supplement like Spectator Life, is an opportunity to indulge yourself – to approach those writers you enjoy reading and, hopefully, come up with an idea that will inspire them. To give just one example, at Spectator parties I often end up swapping anecdotes with fellow contributors about terrible experiences we’ve had on radio and television as the token 'right winger'. That gave me an idea for a regular column – Pundits in Peril, in which guest contributors would take turns to tell their war stories. Douglas Murray agreed to write the first one and it’s a corker.
But it’s not all self-indulgence. Editing a magazine is also a collaborative enterprise and I’ve been blessed with a brilliant deputy editor in the form of Danielle Wall and an extremely conscientious, long-suffering team of sub-editors led by the formidable Peter Robins. If it wasn’t for their professionalism and attention to detail, the new issue of Spectator Life wouldn’t be anything like as good.
I was also lucky in that my predecessor as editor, Olivia Cole, has done a great job in forging an identity for the magazine – elegant, witty, intelligent and, from time to time, a little bit waspish. Not unlike Olivia, in fact. She has handed me the keys to a Rolls-Royce and all I’ve got to do is avoid driving it into a wall. I hope you enjoy the ride.