MEDIA POLITICAL MAGAZINES: Political mags seek out young blood - For PROs hoping to get their message to decision-makers and opinion-formers, there are no more useful magazines than these, says Ed Shelton

The House magazine has for 25 years been the local newspaper for

the Westminster village, providing a 'who, why, what, and where' for

those inhabiting the corridors of power.

The magazine is premised on the same impartiality the Speaker is bound

by, and is read by those in public life who need to know what is

happening in parliament on a weekly basis.

With The House acting as the objective conduit for news and information,

the two partisan titles, The Spectator and the New Statesman, sit on the

right and left respectively, serving as forums for debate and


Each is vital for communicators wanting to reach the political class.

They offer more challenging environments than each party's own

publications and are used by those in positions of power to talk to

activists, or by those outside SW1's charmed circles wishing to send a

message to the top.

Joy Johnson, former Labour director of communications, says: 'Their main

use is for key message projection - they are useful for talking to

like-minded people if you want to get a debate going. If you want to get

a message on the economy to the Treasury or Number 10, for example, the

New Statesman is a good place to be.'

BBC political correspondent Nicholas Jones says they access a wide range

of people who are more likely to be forthcoming with them: 'Political

journalists know the access these publications have means you can give

more credence to their quotes.'

Of the two, The Spectator has both the longer history (founded 1828) and

the higher circulation. It has always been known for high-quality, if

somewhat stuffy, writing. Under the editorship of Boris Johnson, it has

been a more lively read.

The New Statesman is also seeking to reach a younger and less male

audience. The magazine is thought to have done a good job in recent

years of making itself more relevant and moving beyond the confines of a

public sector management readership.

Previously very Blairite, the magazine is owned by the ex-minister

Geoffrey Robinson, whose disaffection with the Labour establishment is

sometimes reflected in its pages.

According to some sources, this has helped offset the traditional

advantage accruing to whichever of the two magazines opposes the

government of the day.


Peter Wilby

Position: Editor

Publisher: NS

Circulation: 21,058

'Our typical reader is interested in politics and culture, probably

active in party politics, leaning to the left, liberal-minded, probably

in an executive job, more likely in the public sector, possibly a


The average age is rather higher than we would wish, in the late 40s,

and far more male than we would wish.

'We are constantly trying to do something about this. The problem is we

do not have sufficient funds for marketing, so we find it difficult to

get across to people that we do not just repeat Labour party politics -

we also have large arts and books sections.

'In the last few years, there has been an emphasis on written humour and

irreverence. We've moved away from excessive 'think tankery' into a more

engaging free-flowing approach.

We are providing something that people should be able to enjoy -

something that gives them a different and broader take on politics.

'The emphasis for the election will be getting good writers to write

about the campaign. We have appointed an election fashion correspondent

to judge how they dress and what effect it might have on their appeal,

we will be taking a close look at the performance of the spin


'We also have a fantasy politics game when readers choose their own

fantasy cabinet.'


Sir Partick Cormack

Position: Editor

Publisher: Parliamentary Communications

Circulation: 5,000

'The magazine was founded 25 years ago by MPs who felt there was a need

for an in-house journal for MPs. It was a modest publication when it

started with just a dozen pages, but it can now run to more than 100

pages and carries a lot of feature material.

'Each week we tend to major on a particular theme. We've had issues

focusing on rural affairs and also look at subjects such as defence,

transport, the arts or foreign affairs. Every opinion is reflected.

'Aside from what happens in the chambers, we follow the work of the

committees and run regular features on regional assemblies, Europe or

the US Congress. We have a small staff of journalists, but try to make

sure articles are, if possible, written by parliamentarians.

'We have a number of distinguished people writing for us on a freelance

basis, including Matthew Parris of The Times and Michael White of The

Guardian. The magazine goes free to all MPs and Lords and we also have

subscribers from commerce, industry, trade unions, embassies, local

authorities and trade associations.

'I like to think readers will be well-informed about what goes on and

about the atmosphere here, and that we help make up for the fact that

there are no longer detailed parliamentary reports in the



Boris Johnson

Position: Editor

Publisher: The Telegraph Group

Circulation: 56,705

'There is no such thing as an average reader of The Spectator. We are

getting younger and more Labour-supporting readers, though we are

broadly a Conservative magazine.

'Whatever we are doing, we are doing it right, as our circulation

continues to rise, which is extraordinary when the whole country seems

to be moving to the left.

'Why are we flourishing? I think people want a focus for some kind of

opposition and that is what we provide. We have an eclectic mix of

content and provide a broader service than the New Statesman.

'I believe the best writers tend to be reactionaries. I don't know why,

but I think it has been so for the last 100 years, which is one reason

for our success.

'We are trying to broaden the magazine's appeal - there have been

moments when it has been too clubby (gentleman's) and fogeyish. This

week for example, we have a brilliant piece about why girls are nicer

than boys and we have a piece by a woman who went to Alaska to see what

George Bush is up to.

'We are going to be building up coverage bringing in more writers for

the election. All the coverage in the press so far seems to have been

unbelievably trivial and boring. The press has decided the country has

made up its mind already, but The Spectator will fight on!'

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