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.
'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
Sir Partick Cormack
Publisher: Parliamentary Communications
'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
Publisher: The Telegraph Group
'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!'