Media: Total Politics aims for neutrality

You may love it or you may loathe it, but you certainly cannot escape it.

Politics is rarely, if ever, out of the headlines and in an election year, the media magnifying glass will not be diverted from Westminster.

For a subject matter with such breadth, depth and scope, there are few publications dedicated to its very existence.

Of course, this could be because politics is the fodder of most media outlets without needing its own 'home'.

However, Total Politics publisher and Conservative Party activist Iain Dale says his magazine sprang out of a frustration over the lack of titles devoted to the topic.

Influenced by the US newsstand, where political titles are never in short supply, he launched Total Politics as 'partly a trade magazine and partly a lifestyle magazine'.

Funded primarily by advertising, the magazine is distributed free to the vast majority of its readership, although it is also available on newsstands.

More contentiously, the magazine is bankrolled by Lord Michael Ashcroft, a leading Tory. However, Dale rejects any argument that this affects the magazine's political neutrality.

'The editor and political editor are not Conservative,' he points out. 'I am a Conservative, but I do the monthly interview and that's it.

'I believe anybody who reads the magazine would find it difficult to find any bias. I just say, "read the magazine" and if you think that there is any bias after you have read it, then we have failed.'

Total Politics also has an editorial board, which meets twice-yearly to brainstorm ideas. Members include former Liberal Democrat leader Lord Ashdown, Liberty director Shami Chakrabarti, MPs David Davis (Tory), Denis MacShane (Labour) and Chris Huhne (Lib Dem), and Green MEP Caroline Lucas.

'The board was set up partly to allay any concerns that there may be any bias,' admits Dale. 'If it did have any concerns about the direction of the magazine, members would speak up.'

Total Politics is not, essentially, a news magazine, but is dominated by features, interviews, opinion, history, campaigns advice and lifestyle. The team prefers to be contacted by email and is open to pitches from PROs on anything politics-related.

PR and public affairs professionals agree it is essential reading to anyone interested in the sector.

'I'd say it has become one of the key in-house magazines of the public affairs sector,' says Sacha Deshmukh, MD of Mandate. 'It has good coverage from across the political spectrum and levels of government.'

Jonathan McLeod, chairman of public affairs at Weber Shandwick, agrees: 'It really deserves support. It has shown a real interest in the public affairs industry and has striven to treat it as part of the political scene, which it is.'

Circulation: Approximately 20,000
Frequency: Monthly
Launched: June 2008
Number of issues to date: 20
Number of followers: @iaindale has on Twitter at time of going to press

A MINUTE WITH ... Iain Dale, publisher, Total Politics

- Who reads Total Politics?

Anyone involved in politics. The magazine is sent to every elected politician including MPs, Lords, MEPs, members of Welsh and Northern Irish Assemblies, Scottish Parliament, all senior cabinet positions on councils, top civil servants, public affairs professionals, journalists and opinion formers.

- Where did the idea for the magazine come from?

I was frustrated as a political magazine buyer. There was nothing that appealed to me. We had The Spectator on the right and the New Statesman on the left, but that was it. There was nothing that looked at the process of politics.

- How influential is Total Politics?

I do an interview every month with a senior figure in politics that runs to four or five pages.

I spend 90 minutes on the interview - anyone is going to let down their guard in 90 minutes. We get lots of coverage in the national media of those interviews, the most recent example being our John Bercow interview.

- What is your prediction for the upcoming general election?

I predict, at the moment, it will either be a Conservative majority of ten to 20 seats, or a hung parliament. I am not convinced by predictions of a Conservative landslide.

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