Editor's head wanted for cash

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The Independent Online

A battle for the editor's chair of the left-wing weekly New Statesman and Society has broken out, with friends of the present incumbent, Steve Platt, denying he has resigned, will resign or has ever expressed any desire to do so.

Paul Anderson, deputy editor of the magazine, said last night: "Steve Platt is not resigning and has no intention of resigning." This stance is at odds with claims from some board directors that Mr Platt, editor of the magazine for the past five years, has wanted to leave for some time. Mr Platt, a prominent critic of Labour leader, Tony Blair, has no intention of resigning, said a close associate.

A statement is expected shortly from the board announcing they are seeking fresh capital - around pounds 1.5m - for the "Staggers", which has seen its circulation remain flat at 20,000 while similar publications, notably the Spectator, have been winning critical plaudits and enjoying financial success.

As part of that fund-raising exercise, the board will demand Mr Platt's head. According to one senior company source, soundings from prospective investors have indicated that he is not "good box office".

Directors have been surprised by the large amount of interest being shown in the job. Some well-known figures, a senior insider said, recognise that "this is a huge opportunity in the run-up to the general election".

Heading the drive for changes are Christopher Price, the magazine's chairman, and Brian Basham, the City public relations adviser who recently joined the board. They are understood to be keen to broaden the magazine's coverage away from pure Labour Party issues. With more than one eye on the Spectator, they want the New Statesman to carry more pieces from star writers and to have brighter arts pages.

Mr Platt, though, is believed to be fiercely resisting radical change. He is thought to enjoy some residual support from Philip Jeffrey, the millionaire businessman who controls just short of 50 per cent of the shares in the magazine.

The reforming faction has been quick to deny any influence has been brought to bear by Mr Blair's office. If there was any, they say, it would be ignored since that would be seen as tantamount to suicide for the weekly which has always prided itself on its independence.