Andrew Neil appointed Spectator chief executive

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The Independent Online

The former Sunday Times editor Andrew Neil today confirmed he has been appointed chief executive of The Spectator, whose editor Boris Johnson was sacked as Tory arts spokesman this weekend following publicity about an alleged affair.

Mr Neil voiced his "full confidence" in Mr Johnson and pledged that he would not seek to interfere in the editorial content of the magazine, owned by publishing tycoons the Barclay brothers.

He also expressed confidence in the magazine's publisher Kimberly Quinn, who was in the headlines earlier this year when it was revealed she had a relationship with Home Secretary David Blunkett.

But he made clear that he wanted to see Johnson take a lower profile in future, and warned that he would probably have to quit the editor's seat if he was reappointed to the Tory front bench.

Mr Neil insisted that the decision to move The Spectator within the Barclays' media empire from the Telegraph group into the Press Holdings Group, of which he is chief executive, was made in August, before publicity about Mr Johnson's private life and before the magazine's controversial editorial about Liverpool.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "I will do what chief executives do, which is bring together the editorial and commercial sides of the company, push forward the strategic development of the magazine to the greater glory of all concerned.

"The independence of the editor will remain intact and indeed will be preserved under the new arrangements as never before.

"The man responsible for the content and line that the Spectator takes will be Mr B Johnson, who has my full confidence, as does Kimberly Quinn, the publisher of the magazine."

Mr Neil sent a clear message to Mr Johnson to concentrate on his day job and keep himself out of the headlines.

"I think we are now looking forward to a period of quiet," he said. "I think the more time the editor spends in Doughty Street editing the magazine and the less we see of him in the newspapers then the better for the editor and the better for the magazine.

"I think his appearances on television have made him a popular national figure and for a small magazine like The Spectator to have a popular national figure as its editor is a great asset.

"But there is good publicity and bad publicity and there are some things which have seen in the papers recently which haven't done the magazine any great favours and I am sure we will now see less of that."

Although The Spectator has previously been edited by Conservative MPs, including Iain Macleod, Ian Gilmour and Nigel Lawson, none of them were on the frontbenches at the time, said Mr Neil.

And he added: "I don't think they are compatible in the long term, because the position The Spectator must take on any issue must be the editor's position and not the one of the front bench to which he belongs.

"It is my instinct that you can't both have to represent a party line as a frontbench spokesman and be editor of an independent-minded magazine. The two are incompatible."