Captain Moonlight's Notebook

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The Independent Online
THE HEADLINE on the relaunch brochure says: 'More than you'll find in a month of Sundays.' And inside it talks of 'a winning team'. This weekend the New Statesman & Society should have been looking forward to a successful public flotation in a couple of months to raise a quarter of a million pounds. Now it could be desperately fundraising to fight libel suits from the Prime Minister and a North London cook.

At Thursday's relaunch party in a small room at the Palace of Westminster, just after the first writs, you could move only when people left to gape at the Clare's Kitchen van outside. Miss Latimer's firm had been catering for an earlier function.

Crushed between supporters and the press was Steve Platt (left), the New Statesman's editor, a man more used to shade than limelight. I had met him earlier in the day at his magazine's office in a converted Victorian factory yard beyond a railway bridge at Shoreditch, in London's East End - a long way from the grand house off Lincoln's Inn Fields that the magazine once owned. The move east has followed the decline in sales and status from the 1960s when the New Statesman was the organ of the intellectual left and circulation was 100,000 a week.

Today the magazine's circulation is 23,000, but reminders of its past are littered around the office - cartoons and drawings by Vicky and Low, photographs of past editors - Kingsley Martin, Richard Crossman, Anthony Howard - and even broken typewriters on stacks of old editions.

Unlike those earlier nimble intellectuals of the left, Steve Platt is almost unnoticeable. He is a very nice man, retiring rather than pushy, a 38- year-old geography graduate from the London School of Economics who drifted into journalism in the Eighties because he liked campaigning.

After university came squatting, alternative housing, co-operatives - all those Seventies causes. He set up an organisation called the 'The Self- Help Housing Resource Library' and wrote what he describes as 'a sort of coffee-table book on squatting'. Journalism followed in the mid- Eighties, when I suppose you could say his career took off.

By 1990 he had become editor of the New Statesman and within two years halted the circulation slide, turning a pounds 350,000 loss into a pounds 15,000 profit.

What else is there to say about him? Er . . . nothing really. Except I should emphasise his integrity. He told me his salary (pounds 26,000), his shareholding (pounds 1,500), that he had never been married but has a 15-year-old daughter by one woman and was living with another. 'I answer these questions,' he said, 'because they are questions I expect other people to answer as well.'

(Photograph omitted)

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