Socialist Worker

The Spectator—a sordid establishment journal

by Simon Basketter
Issue No. 2707

Boris Johnson, editor of the “Sextator” from 1999 to 2005

Boris Johnson, editor of the “Sextator” from 1999 to 2005 (Pic: FCO)


The Spectator magazine claims it invented the usage of “the establishment” in 1955 to mean the networks of power that run society

That claim is as true as Mary Wakefield’s account of her family suffering coronavirus that it printed along with her husband Dominic Cummings’ view in March.

The usage of the term is at least 100 years older, but nonetheless The Spectator is the magazine of the establishment.

Wakefield had been at The Spectator for two decades after she won a travel ­writing prize.

The prize was judged by the then-editor of the magazine, Boris Johnson. 

The Johnson editorship ran from 1999 to 2005. He set about making the magazine a byword for Westminster intrigue known as the “Sextator”.

The scandals, while tedious and often cringeworthy, did show how close the ­networks of power were. 

And they cost both Johnson and Labour’s David Blunkett—among others—cabinet positions. 

It continues today. So chancellor Rishi Sunak was best man at the wedding of the magazine’s political editor James Forsyth to ITV News’ national editor Allegra Stratton. Sunak and Forsyth are friends and “Old Wykehamists”, graduating from Winchester College public school. 

Boris Johnson—most vicious of Tory clowns
Boris Johnson—most vicious of Tory clowns
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Stratton has announced she’s leaving ITV News for a job at the Treasury. 

The history of the magazine is of cabinet ministers and Lords—either on their way up or down.

The Spectator does a good job of maintaining its access to the hallways of respectability. 

Its influential chairman is Andrew Neil whose career, beyond promoting his own ego, has been as an ideological bag carrier of ruling class ideas in the media. 

He served Rupert Murdoch and the squabbling Barclay brothers who own the magazine from tax havens.

The Spectator has a long history of publishing writers who revel in inflaming hatred. 

Rod Liddle rarely goes a month without accusations of attacking ethnic minorities or those advocating women’s rights.

His columns are essentially ghost written with longer words than his ghost  written bile in the newspapers. 

Bigotry

Taki Theodoracopulos is a columnist with a decades-long history of plastering bigotry across the Spectator’s pages.

He has suggested that black people have lower IQs and wrote a column originally headlined, “In praise of the Wehrmacht.” 

Defences of the bigotry the magazine carries argue that—insert bigot’s name here—is simply one voice among the pages of The Spectator. 

To deny them the magazine as a platform would thus infringe their freedom of expression. 

It runs less offensive pieces by moderates, such as Nick Cohen, for balance.

There are many odious writers in the Spectator. But it is not simply clickbait. 

The Spectator has a long history of printing bigotry that reveals what passes for thought in ruling class circles.

When it denounced Hollywood as run by Jews in the 1990s, it was ­reflecting the common sense of its writers and its readers. 

When Liddle tried to get the trial of black teenager Stephen Lawrence’s murderers stopped by being in contempt of court, it wasn’t a childish accident. It was deliberate.

The magazine is that of the establishment and its ­overpriced pages often do give an insight into the minds of the rich. 

And like what takes place on the office sofa, it is not a pretty sight.


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Tue 2 Jun 2020, 09:56 BST
Issue No. 2707
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