`Statesman' editor stays mum on proprietor

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The Independent Online
Will Ian Hargreaves, editor of the New Statesman, dare to give the magazine's sugar daddy, multi-millionaire Geoffrey Robinson MP, a dressing down in print for his controversial offshore financial dealings? The question was in the air last night at the Staggers' Christmas Party.

The NS - whose latest slogan is "What's Going on" - has said next to nothing about the Paymaster General's financial interests in Guernsey. It sought to laugh off the embarrassment in its last issue with a humorous reference to the Robinson affair in its satirical `Journal of Lynton Charles MP'.

Mr Hargreaves, formerly editor of The Independent, was planning yesterday to tackle this thorny subject in his next editorial, but he declined to disclose his views before the magazine hits the central London news-stands today. "I don't contest the view that the subject of how individual ministers and politicians behave compared to their party's policies is a subject of importance ... but Geoffrey Robinson has been an absolutely exemplary owner who has given editorial freedom to the staff of this magazine. What goes in is entirely a matter for my judgement."

Mr Hargreaves has turned down numerous invitations from radio and TV stations to comment on the controversy. He has been accused of wimpishness by the Daily Mail's diarist - an accusation he shrugs off with waspish contempt. "I didn't notice the Mail covering extensively (its proprietor) Lord Rothermere's decision to cross the floor (from the Tories to Labour)."

Mr Robinson rescued the New Statesman from the brink of bankruptcy and handed over controlto a "blind trust" when he became a member of the Government. According to Mr Hargreaves, he has expressed no comment as the NS has grown increasingly critical of Labour in recent weeks.