LETTER:Myth of the New Statesman's 'golden age'

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The Independent Online
From Mr Godfrey Hodgson

Sir: As an associate editor of the New Statesman at the time when Bruce Page was editor, may I correct the myth which seems to be taking root about that magazine. This holds that there was a golden age under the editorships of Paul Johnson, Richard Crossman and Anthony Howard, and that this prelapsarian idyll was ruined by Bruce Page's "batty" ideas.

The truth is that the real golden age ended with the end of newsprint shortage. Circulation fell like a stone during the editorships of Messrs Johnson and Howard, and continued to fall after Bruce Page left. The paper was losing money (offset by the income from investments made in earlier, more prosperous times) when Page took over. By enormous personal efforts and with the help of a truly remarkable staff, which included Martin Amis, Julian Barnes, Duncan Campbell, David Caute, Anna Coote, Christopher Hird, Christopher Hitchens and Francis Wheen, Bruce Page was the only editor who succeeded temporarily in arresting the circulation decline.

Right or wrong, Bruce's conception was that the commercial prospects were limited for a magazine offering 1,200-word essays, however talented their writers. Instead he tried, very hard and with considerable success, to create a professional magazine that might inject some factual reporting into discussions in Labour circles. The project failed, but that does not mean that it was "batty".

Yours sincerely,

Godfrey Hodgson


5 October