Media Lifeline: The Spectator

campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 11 September 2009 12:00AM

Fraser Nelson becomes the latest to take the helm at the distinguished political weekly.

1990: Dominic Lawson isn't the first Lawson to edit Britain's most-distinguished political weekly - his father Nigel occupied the role from 1966 to 1970. And, coming as it does after the editorship of Charles Moore (the incumbent from 1984 to 1990), his appointment tends to reinforce the impression that the magazine is the home of a rather stuffy sort of High Tory journalism.

1995: But there's something of a departure in 1995 when, Lawson having decided to move on to the even stuffier sister title, the Sunday Telegraph, the Spectator replaces him with the infinitely more proletarian Frank Johnson, an ex-Telegraph leader writer. He's a wonderfully waspish writer, but he's no charmer, and remains rather aloof from his staff. He soon begins to irritate the Spectator's publisher, Kimberly Fortier.

1999: So it's no surprise when he's edged aside to make way for Boris Johnson - who becomes the public face of the magazine in a period of unprecedented sexual scandal (his affair with a colleague, Fortier's with a Home Secretary).

2006: So when Johnson departs to further his political career as Mayor of London, it's perhaps no surprise when the magazine turns to Matthew d'Ancona, who is neither patrician nor blessed with shaggy blond hair - though he has, as is Spectator custom, been a senior Telegraph hack. Having written several books with theological themes, he proves a thoroughly modern technocratic editor. He gets circulation above 75,000.

2009: But d'Ancona's editorship sort of ... well ... peters out. He resigns, talking vaguely of the fresh challenges he's got and how the job is a bit like the role of Dr Who - a gig with a limited shelf life. Into the hot seat steps the magazine's political editor, Fraser Nelson.

Fast forward ...

2015: Nelson had been saddled with the plaudit "the most talented political editor of his generation" by the magazine's chairman, Andrew Neil - but despite this, he does rather well. And it's not entirely a surprise when he resigns to contest a by-election. There's even talk of him being fast tracked, despite his un-patrician libertarian tendencies, into a junior ministerial position under the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Boris Johnson.

This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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