Boris Johnson takes chair in `Spectator' reshuffle

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The Independent Online
THE SPECTATOR, the right-wing magazine widely perceived as needing a fresh voice in Blairite Britain, yesterday announced that it is to have a new editor, Boris Johnson.

Mr Johnson, a blonde-haired wunderkind, is charged with giving the political weekly the sharp journalistic edge it needs to regain the political influence it had in the 1980s and early 1990s.

"Under Charles Moore and Dominic Lawson the paper had real power in Westminster, fuelling the rifts in the Tory party over Europe," says a former The Spectator writer, "but politics have changed and The Spectator has been left behind. Circulation is okay, but the magazine itself is editorially lacklustre." Peter Wilby, editor of the rival New Statesman, said: "The Spectator is a shadow of its former self. It is out of touch and not interesting enough."

Boris Johnson is currently a columnist on the Daily Telegraph. At 35 he has become known as one of the wittiest writers in English journalism, although his style is more P. G. Wodehouse than Martin Amis. Of his vision for The Spectator, he comments: "res ipsa locitur" (things will speak for themselves). "In the glutinous consensus of New Britain, The Spectator is a refuge for logic, fun and good writing. It challenges the orthodoxy, whatever that happens to be. It will continue to set the political agenda, and to debunk it."

The appointment comes amidst much gossip about the unhappiness at The Spectator under the stewardship of Frank Johnson, who will now become a Telegraph columnist.

Mr Johnson's appointment in 1995 was controversial as various other Telegraph journalists, including its then deputy editor Simon Heffer, were encouraged to think that they might get the job. Mr Heffer walked out when The Spectator editorship went to Frank Johnson, a close friend of Barbara Amiel, the wife of Telegraph proprietor Conrad Black.

Since then, there has been much criticism of Frank Johnson's management style. Attention is now focussed on deputy editor Petronella Wyatt, whose style, like Frank's, is of the `old school'. "It's the talk of the town that Petronella is spending a lot of time working on her book, but that is the way of Telegraph management; it lets you live the lifestyle of the gentlemen editor," said a Telegraph journalist.

While the magazine claims it is hugely successful, making about pounds 1m a year, and with circulation well above 50,000, others say bulk sales are heavy and newsstand sales flagging. "The real figure is around 40- 45,000," says an insider.

The word

of boris

"I see no difference between the persecuting of Glenn Hoddle for his wacko views about reincarnation and persecuting Salman Rushdie for upsetting a load of Muslims ... We expend a huge amount of government money to protect Rushdie, and when poor old Glenn says something about reincarnation, the Prime Minister goes on television and sacks him."

Talking on Newsnight

"These scrap-the-pound merchants couldn't organise a profiterole in the EU canteen."

On the pro-European movement

"We have spent so long relying on Uncle Sugar we have barely the transport planes to lift the skin off a rice pudding."

On Britain's military reliance on the US

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