New Statesman

New Statesman
New Statesman
Type Weekly
Format Magazine
Owner Mike Danson (Full-stake)
Editor Jason Cowley (from September 2008)
Founded 1913
Political alignment Centre-left
Headquarters 7 Carmelite Street
London EC4Y 0AN
Circulation 24,160, (paid circulation 16,647) (2010)[1][2]
Official website

New Statesman is a British centre-left political and cultural magazine published weekly in London. Founded in 1913, and connected with leading members of the Fabian Society, the magazine reached a circulation peak in the late 1960s.[3]

In the 29 May 2006 issue, then-editor John Kampfner stated that the New Statesman remained "true to its heritage of radical politics". The magazine is committed to "development, human rights and the environment, global issues the mainstream press often ignores".

The longest serving editor was Kingsley Martin (1930–60). The current editor is Jason Cowley, who assumed the post at the end of September 2008. In 2009, Cowley was named current affairs editor of the year at the British Society of Magazine Editors awards.[4]

The magazine is sometimes affectionately referred to as "The Staggers" because of its historical crises in funding, ownership and circulation. The nickname is now used as the title of its popular, rolling blog.



New Statesman was founded in 1913 by Sidney and Beatrice Webb with the support of George Bernard Shaw and other prominent members of the Fabian Society.[5] Its first editor was Clifford Sharp, who remained editor until 1928. Desmond MacCarthy joined the paper in 1913 and became literary editor, recruiting Cyril Connolly to the staff in 1928. During Sharp's last two years in post he was debilitated by chronic alcoholism and the paper was actually edited by his deputy Charles Mostyn Lloyd. Lloyd stood in after Sharp's departure until the appointment of Kingsley Martin as editor in 1930 – a position Martin was to hold for 30 years. Although the Webbs and most Fabians were closely associated with the Labour Party, Sharp was drawn increasingly to the Asquith Liberals.

1930–1960: The Statesman under Kingsley Martin

In 1931 the Statesman merged with the Liberal weekly the Nation and Athenaeum, and changed its name to New Statesman and Nation, under which title it remained until 1964. The chairman of Nation's board was the economist John Maynard Keynes, who came to be an important influence on the newly merged paper, which started with a circulation of just under 13,000. It also absorbed The Weekend Review in 1933 (an element of which survives in the shape of New Statesman's Weekly Competition).

During the 1930s, Martin's Statesman moved markedly to the left politically. It became strongly anti-fascist and was generally critical of the government policy of appeasement of Mussolini and Hitler (though it did not back British rearmament). It was also, notoriously, an apologist for Joseph Stalin's Soviet Union. In 1934 it ran a famously deferential interview with Stalin by H. G. Wells. In 1938 came Martin's refusal to publish George Orwell's celebrated despatches from Barcelona during the Spanish civil war because they criticised the communists for suppressing the anarchists and the left-wing Workers' Party of Marxist Unification (POUM). "It is an unfortunate fact," Martin wrote to Orwell, "that any hostile criticism of the present Russian regime is liable to be taken as propaganda against socialism."[6]

The Statesman's circulation grew enormously under Martin's editorship, reaching 70,000 by 1945, and it became a key player in Labour politics. The paper welcomed Labour's 1945 general election victory but took a critical line on the new government's foreign policy. The young Labour MP Richard Crossman, who had been an assistant editor before the war, was Martin's chief lieutenant in this period, and Statesman published Keep Left, the pamphlet written by Crossman, Michael Foot and Ian Mikardo that most succinctly laid out the Labour left's proposals for a "third force" foreign policy rather than alliance with the United States.

During the 1950s, Statesman remained a left critic of British foreign and defence policy and of the Labour leadership of Hugh Gaitskell (though Martin never got on personally with Aneurin Bevan, the leader of the anti-Gaitskellite Labour left). It opposed the Korean War, and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament grew directly out of an article in the Statesman by J. B. Priestley.

There was much less focus on a single political line in the back part of the paper, devoted to book reviews and articles on cultural topics. Indeed, with these pages managed by Janet Adam Smith, who was Literary Editor from 1952 to 1960, the paper was sometimes described as a pantomime horse: its back half was required reading even for many who disagreed with the paper's politics. This tradition would continue into the 1960s with Karl Miller as Literary Editor.

After Kingsley

Martin retired in 1960 and was replaced as editor by John Freeman, a politician-journalist who had resigned from the Labour government in 1951 with Bevan and Harold Wilson. Freeman left in 1965 and was followed in the chair by Paul Johnson, then on the left, under whose editorship Statesman reached its highest ever circulation of just over 100,000. For some, even enemies of Johnson such as Richard Ingrams, this was a strong period for the magazine editorially.

After Johnson's departure in 1970, the Statesman went into a long period of declining circulation under successive editors: Richard Crossman (1970–72), who tried to edit it at the same time as playing a major role in Labour politics; Anthony Howard (1972–78), whose recruits to the paper included Christopher Hitchens, Martin Amis and James Fenton (surprisingly, the arch anti-Socialist Auberon Waugh was writing for Statesman at this time before returning to his more natural home of The Spectator); Bruce Page (1978–82), who moved the paper towards specialising in investigative journalism, sacking Arthur Marshall, who had been writing for Statesman on and off since 1935, as a columnist, allegedly because of the latter's support for Margaret Thatcher; Hugh Stephenson (1982–86), under whom it took a strong position again for unilateral nuclear disarmament; John Lloyd (1986–87), who swung the paper's politics back to the centre; Stuart Weir (1987–90), under whose editorship Statesman founded the Charter 88 constitutional reform pressure group; and Steve Platt (1990–96). In 1991, it absorbed Marxism Today. By 1996 it was selling 23,000 copies a week. New Statesman was the first periodical to go online, hosted by the, in 1995.

Statesman acquired the weekly New Society in 1988 and merged with it, becoming New Statesman and Society for the next eight years, then reverting to the old title. In 1993, Statesman was sued by Prime Minister John Major after it published an article that discussed rumours that Major was having an extramarital affair with a Downing Street caterer. Although the action was settled out of court for a minimal sum, the paper's legal costs came close to bankrupting it.[7]

In 1994, KGB defector Yuri Shvets said that the KGB utilized New Statesman to spread disinformation. Shvets said that the KGB had provided disinformation, including forged documents, to New Statesman journalist Claudia Wright which she used for anti-American and anti-Israel stories in line with the KGB's campaigns.[8][9]

Since 1996

New Statesman was rescued from this near-bankruptcy by a takeover by businessman Philip Jeffrey but in 1996, after prolonged boardroom wrangling[citation needed] over Jeffrey's plans, it was sold to Geoffrey Robinson, the Labour MP and businessman.

Robinson sacked Steve Platt, and appointed as editor Ian Hargreaves, formerly editor of The Independent newspaper, on what was at the time an unprecedentedly high salary. Hargreaves in turn fired most of the left-wingers on the staff and turned Statesman into a strong supporter of Tony Blair as Labour leader.

Hargreaves was succeeded by Peter Wilby also from the Independent stable, who had previously been Statesman's books editor, in 1998. Wilby attempted to reposition the paper back 'on the left'. His stewardship was not without controversy. In 2002, for example, the periodical was accused of antisemitism when it published an investigative cover story on the power of the "Zionist lobby" in Britain, under the title "A Kosher Conspiracy?".[10] The cover was illustrated with a gold Star of David towering over a Union Jack.[11] Wilby responded to the criticisms in a subsequent issue.[12] A year earlier Wilby was accused of being anti-American because of his reporting of the 11 September attacks on New York and Washington.

John Kampfner, Wilby's political editor, succeeded him as editor in May 2005 following considerable internal lobbying[citation needed]. Under Kampfner's editorship, a relaunch in 2006 initially saw headline circulation climb to over 30,000. However, over 5,000 of these were apparently monitored free copies,[13] and Kampfner failed to maintain the 30,000 circulation he had pledged. In February 2008, Audit Bureau Circulation figures showed that circulation had plunged nearly 13% in 2007.[14] Kampfner resigned on 13 February 2008, the day before the ABC figures were made public, reportedly due to conflicts with Robinson over the magazine's marketing budget (which Robinson had apparently slashed in reaction to the fall in circulation).

In April 2008 Geoffrey Robinson sold a 50% interest in the magazine to businessman Mike Danson, and the remainder a year later.[15] The appointment of the new editor Jason Cowley was announced on 16 May 2008 but he did not take up the job until the end of September 2008.[16]

In January 2009, the magazine refused to recognise the National Union of Journalists, the trade union to which almost of all its journalists belonged, though further discussions were promised.[17]

The New Statesman runs the 'New Media Awards' [18]

Guest editors

In March 2009 the magazine had its first guest editor, Alastair Campbell, the former head of communications for Tony Blair. Campbell chose to feature his partner Fiona Millar, Tony Blair (in an article "Why we must all do God"), football manager Alex Ferguson, and Sarah Brown, the wife of Prime Minister Gordon Brown. This editorship was condemned by Suzanne Moore, a contributor to the magazine for twenty years. She wrote in a Mail on Sunday article: "New Statesman fiercely opposed the Iraq war and yet now hands over the reins to someone key in orchestrating that conflict".[19] Campbell responded: "I had no idea she worked for the New Statesman. I don't read the Mail on Sunday. But professing commitment to leftwing values in that rightwing rag lends a somewhat weakened credibility to anything she says."[20]

In October 2010 the magazine was guest-edited by the British author and broadcaster Melvyn Bragg. The issue included a previously unpublished poem[21] by Ted Hughes, "Last letter", describing what happened during the three days leading up to the suicide of his first wife, the poet Sylvia Plath. Its first line is: "What happened that night? Your final night." -- and the poem ends with the moment Hughes is informed of his wife's death.

In April 2011 the magazine was guest-edited by the human rights activist Jemima Khan. The issue featured a series of exclusives including the actor Hugh Grant's secret recording[22] of former News of the World journalist Paul McMullan, and a much-commented[23] on interview[24] with Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg, in which Clegg admitted that he "cries regularly to music" and that his nine-year-old son asked him, "'Why are the students angry with you, Papa?'"

In June 2011 Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury created a furore as guest editor by claiming that the Coalition government had introduced 'radical, long term policies for which no one had voted' and in doing so had created 'anxiety and anger' among many in the country. He was accused of being highly partisan, notwithstanding his having invited Ian Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary to write an article and having interviewed the Foreign Secretary William Hague in the same edition. He also noted that the Labour Party had failed to offer an alternative to what he called 'associational socialism'. The Statesman promoted the edition on the basis of Williams' alleged attack on the government, whereas Williams himself had ended his article by asking for 'a democracy capable of real argument about shared needs and hopes and real generosity.'

List of editors


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ Magazine ABCs: New Statesman sales plummet | Media |
  4. ^ Mark Sweney[1] "Morgan Rees of Men's Health named editors' editor at BSME awards", Guardian, 11 November 2009. Retrieved 18 April 2011
  5. ^ "From the archive: 9 April 1913: Launching the New Statesman" republished in The Guardian, Wednesday 9 April 2008.
  6. ^ The Russia complex: the British Labour Party and the Soviet Union, By Bill Jones Google books
  7. ^ "BBC News: Major faces legal action over affair"
  8. ^ The journal of intelligence history. International Intelligence History Association. p. 63
  9. ^ Spies, in from the cold, snitch on collaborators. Insight on the News, 13 Feb 1995 by Jamie Dettmer.
  10. ^ Sewell, Dennis (14 January 2002). "A Kosher Conspiracy?". New Statesman. Retrieved 2009-08-26 
  11. ^ Image of New Statesman Cover from wikipedia commons
  12. ^ Wilby, Peter (11 February 2002). "The New Statesman and anti-Semitism". New Statesman. Retrieved 2009-08-26 
  13. ^ Wilby, Peter (18 February 2008). "The Statesman staggers on". The Guardian (London). 
  14. ^ Tryhorn, Chris (14 February 2008). "New Statesman sales plummet". The Guardian (London). 
  15. ^ James Robinson "Mike Danson takes full ownership of New Statesman", The Guardian, 14 April 2009
  16. ^ Stephen Brook "Cowley named as New Statesman editor", The Guardian website, 16 May 2008.
  17. ^ Owen Amos "New Statesman management to discuss NUJ recognition", UK Press Gazette, 16 January 2009. Retrieved 4 February 2009.
  18. ^ New Media Awards 2008 - Home
  19. ^ Suzanne Moore [2] "The human heart is on the Left. That is why I had to resign from the New Statesman when I saw what Alastair Campbell did to it", Mail on Sunday, 22 March 2009. Retrieved 23 March 2009.
  20. ^ Owen Boycott [3] "Knives out at New Statesman as Alastair Campbell editing stint sparks 'crisis of faith'", Guardian, 23 March 2009. Retrieved 23 March 2009.
  21. ^ Maev Kennedy[4] "Unknown poem reveals Ted Hughes' torment over death of Sylvia Plath", Guardian 6 October 2010. Retrieved 6 October 2010.
  22. ^ Hugh Grant [5] "The bugger, bugged", Guardian, 12 April 2011. Retrieved 18 April 2011.
  23. ^ Simon Jenkins [6] "Nick Clegg, you chose to be coalition arm-candy, so accept being a punchbag", Guardian, 7 April 2011. Retrieved 18 April 2011
  24. ^ Jemima Khan [7] "I'm not a punchbag - I have feelings", New Statesman 7 April 2011. Retrieved 18 April 2011.


  • Howe, Stephen (ed.). Lines of Dissent: writing from the New Statesman 1913 to 1988, Verso, 1988, ISBN 0-86091-207-8
  • Hyams, Edward. The New Statesman: the history of the first fifty years 1913–63, Longman, 1963.
  • Rolph, C. H. (ed.). Kingsley: the life, letters and diaries of Kingsley Martin, Victor Gollancz, 1973, ISBN 0-575-01636-1
  • Smith, Adrian The New Statesman: portrait of a political weekly, Frank Cass, 1996, ISBN 0-7146-4645-8

External links

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