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The Spectator is a weekly Britishmarkermagazine first published on 6 July 1828. It is currently owned by the Barclay brothers, who also own The Daily Telegraph. Its principal subject areas are politics and culture. It generally takes a right wing, conservative editorial line, although regular contributors such as Rod Liddle, Frank Field and Martin Bright write from a more left-wing perspective. The magazine also has extensive arts pages on books, music, opera, and film and TV reviews. In late 2008, Spectator Australia was launched. This offers 12 pages of "Unique Australian Content" (including a separate Editorial page) in addition to the full UK contents.

Editorship of The Spectator has often been part of a route to high office in the Conservative Party; past editors include Iain Macleod, Ian Gilmour and Nigel Lawson, all of whom became cabinet ministers. Editorship can also be a springboard for a greater role in public affairs, as with Boris Johnson (1999 to 2005), Conservative Mayor of London.

The magazine had an ABC circulation figure of 77,146 in 2008.

Policy positions

From its founding in 1828 The Spectator has taken a pro-British line in foreign affairs; such was the case in 1904 when it raised concerns about the anti-Britishmarker and Pan-Asian attitudes prevalent amongst Indianmarker students in Japanmarker.

Like its sister publication The Daily Telegraph, The Spectator is generally Atlanticist and Eurosceptic in outlook, favouring close ties with the United Statesmarker rather than with the European Union, and it is usually supportive of Israelmarker. However, it has expressed strong doubts about the Iraq war, and some of its contributors, such as Matthew Parris and Stuart Reid, express a more Americosceptic, old-school conservative line. Other contributors such as Irwin Stelzer argue from an American-style neoconservative position. Like much of the British press it is critical of the unilateral extradition treaty that allowed the Natwest three to be extradited, and in July 2006 the magazine devoted a leading article to lambasting the US Senate. According to former editor Boris Johnson, the Spectator's baseline editorial policy is to "always be roughly speaking in favour of getting rid of Saddam, sticking up for Israel, free-market economics, expanding choice", though it is "not necessarily a Thatcherite Conservative or a neo-Conservative magazine, even though in our editorial coverage we tend to follow roughly the conclusions of those lines of arguments."

Cultural positions

The Spectator is one of the few British publications that still ignores or dismisses most popular culture, in the way that (for example) The Daily Telegraph did under W.F. Deedes, or The Times did under William Haley. The magazine coined the phrase "young fogey" in 1984 (in an article by Alan Watkins).

The Spectator does have a popular music column, though it only appears every four weeks, while a cinema column contains a review of one film each week by the non-specialist Deborah Ross. By contrast, opera, fine art, books, poetry and classical music all receive extensive weekly coverage.


Although there is a permanent staff of writers, The Spectator has always had room for a wide array of contributors. These have included Donald Hankey ("a student in arms"), Auberon Waugh, Jeffrey Bernard (the "Low Life" column) and Taki (the "High Life" column). Following Bernard's death, the "Low Life" column is now written by Jeremy Clarke. Joan Collins contributes regularly as Guest Diarist, as does Barry Humphries. For the past few years the weekly provider of Spectator’s Notes has been Charles Moore. Some recent reviewers include semi-residents, Deborah Ross and James Delingpole, notable for their unusual styles of Cinema and TV criticism. John Cleese acted as 'Contributing Editor' ten days after the Ides of March 2009.

The book reviews are often 'outsourced' to outsiders who are experts in the given subject, so consequently it is rare to see the same review author twice in as many weeks. The restaurant section is also an irregular piece. British-born South African journalist, Jani Allan is also a former correspondent.

The chess columnist since 1977 has been Raymond Keene who retains the role despite the unauthorised copying of a piece by Edward Winter for his column of 7 June 2008. The matter was reported in Private Eye.

Twenty-first century

The magazine has prospered in recent times. Former editor Boris Johnson, who gave The Spectator more appeal with his famous profile and charm, resigned in December 2005, on taking up an appointment as Shadow Minister for Higher Education. Johnson's final months as editor were marred by the negative reaction to an editorial written by Simon Heffer criticising the people of Liverpoolmarker for engaging in vicarious victimhood following the death of Kenneth Bigley. Johnson made a personal apology. Recent articles have resumed the theme in commenting on public declarations of grief following the murder of Rhys Jones.

The circulation was not at all hindered by the notoriety the magazine achieved after revelations about Johnson's affair with one of his columnists Petronella Wyatt, the extramarital adventures of its publisher Kimberly Quinn and affair of the associate editor Rod Liddle.

The "Kings of the Deal" article

The Spectator caused controversy in 1994 when it printed an article entitled "Kings of the Deal" on the Jewish influence in Hollywoodmarker, written by William Cash, who at the time was based in Los Angelesmarker and working mainly for The Daily Telegraph. Cash claimed that the Jewish media elite was "culturally nihilist" and that Jewish influence reflected a Jewish lack of concern for traditional cultural values . Cash is the son of Bill Cash a British Conservative politician and Member of Parliament for Stone.

The Telegraph had considered the article too risky to publish, but Spectator editor Dominic Lawson thought Cash's idea was as old as Hollywood itself and that Lawson's being a Jew would mitigate adverse reactions to publication. There was, however, considerable controversy, although owner Conrad Black did not personally rebuke Lawson. Max Hastings, then editor of The Daily Telegraph, wrote with regard to Telegraph group owner Conrad Black, who also owned The Jerusalem Post at the time, "It was one of the few moments in my time with Conrad when I saw him look seriously rattled: 'You don't understand, Max. My entire interests in the United Statesmarker and internationally could be seriously damaged by this'."

The article was defended by some conservatives. John Derbyshire, who says he has "complicated and sometimes self-contradictory feelings about Jews", wrote on National Review Online regarding what he saw as the Jewish overreaction to the article that "It was a display of arrogance, cruelty, ignorance, stupidity, and sheer bad manners by rich and powerful people towards a harmless, helpless young writer, and the Jews who whipped up this preposterous storm should all be thoroughly ashamed of themselves".

The psychologist Kevin B. MacDonald, writing in response to Derbyshire's critical review of his book The Culture of Critique, wrote of how "chilling" it was that "critics of Jews simply disappear from sight - their professional horizons limited if not entirely ended." MacDonald used Joseph Sobran and Cash as examples of such people "who have called attention to Jewish power and influence in certain areas. Jewish groups have made any critical discussion of Jewish issues off limits and that's vitally important because, yes, Jews are a very powerful group."

Similarly, Kevin Myers wrote in The Sunday Telegraph that "we should really be able to discuss Jews and their Jewishness, their virtues or their vices, as one can any other identifiable group, without being called anti-Semitic. Frankness does not feed anti-Semitism; secrecy, however, does. The silence of sympathetic discretion can easily be misunderstood as a conspiracy. It is time to be frank about Jews." Myers complained that Jews described The Spectator as anti-Semitic.



  1. BBC NEWS | Politics | Johnson wins London mayoral race
  2. The Spectator, 8th July 2006
  3. Jani Allan bites back at 'ferret' The Independent. 22 August 1992
  4. The case of George Soros 22 December 2004
  5. Chess Notes Edward Winter, 29 October, 2006, note 4682
  6. Dumbing-down time, The Spectator, 7 June 2008, p. 64
  7. Private Eye, 1222, 31 October 2008.
  8. Kings of the Deal and responses from subsequent issues
  9. If Conrad Black was a bully - I never saw it - Telegraph
  10. John Derbyshire on NRO
  11. The Conservatism of Fools: A Response to John Derbyshire

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