It's war at 'The Lady' magazine

Editor Rachel Johnson is a snob, vain, a loose cannon with no visual sense. And all she thinks of is sex. Who says so? Why, Julia Budworth, co-owner of the upmarket women's weekly magazine
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It's official – the lady is a tramp. At least she is if you believe Julia Budworth, co-owner of Britain's oldest women's weekly, The Lady, who has launched a blistering attack on the magazine's high-profile editor, Rachel Johnson.

In an interview with The Independent on Sunday, Mrs Budworth laments appointing Ms Johnson, who is the sister of Boris, the Mayor of London, as editor last year, describing her as vain, mad, snobbish and obsessed with penises.

Her outburst comes ahead of the publication this week of Ms Johnson's book, A Diary of The Lady, chronicling her first year at the helm of the genteel magazine. Mrs Budworth claims Ms Johnson is using the magazine to promote herself: "It's all about her," she says. "I suppose it's the same with Boris and we should have spotted that. But nobody told us."

Mrs Budworth accuses her editor of being "a loose cannon" and obsessed with male genitalia. "All she thinks of is sex. You can't get her away from a penis. I think it comes from growing up with all those boys." She goes on to condemn Ms Johnson's taste, saying she has "absolutely no visual sense", and describes her as vain and snobbish. She also calls her "a climber, like the other Johnsons". "Rachel said we wanted her as editor because of her 'famous family'. Can you believe it? Who are these Johnsons?"

The woman in question expressed surprise at the allegations. "The idea that I've sexed up The Lady is complete nonsense. Anyone who has read it will know that its unique selling point is that we don't need sex to distinguish our features, because the magazine stands for wholesome, ladylike values. I would be completely mad if I departed from that."

However, the current issue of The Lady contains an extract from Jilly Cooper's new novel Jump!, in which a gardener seduces a dowdy spinster. "I am unbelievably sensitive about having sex in the magazine, and in deference to the readers I rang Jilly Cooper and told her we would have to change the word 'erection' to 'an Everest', and we replaced 'pubic hair' with 'lady garden'."

Ms Johnson was made editor last year with a brief to halt declining sales, double circulation and raise its profile, which she says she has done. "We've put on 7 per cent sales," she says, "And who would be talking about The Lady now if I hadn't come in and created a buzz? Who was talking about The Lady before? I've given it hundreds of thousands of pounds of free publicity."

In the interview, Mrs Budworth criticises her brother for failing to address the magazine's decline over the past 20 years, and blames her son, Ben, for failing to sack Ms Johnson.

"I remain utterly in awe of the redoubtable Mrs Budworth," says Rachel Johnson. "Britain definitely needs more Mrs Bs. She is completely within her rights to hold and express her opinions of me. But when it comes to The Lady, I hope she will see there is method in my apparent madness. If I wasn't editor I doubt Mrs Budworth would be giving entertaining interviews to the press."

Asked whether she is using The Lady as a vehicle for self-promotion, Ms Johnson said: "That's a fair cop."