My Week: Matthew d'Ancona

Monday, 28 May 2007

Day 13 of the Great Tory Grammar Schools Row and The Spectator has been right at the heart of it. I am sympathetic to most of what David Cameron has done and admire his courage in urging his party to change (not a bad idea after three election defeats). But on grammar schools he is plain wrong. Today, the news is that Graham Brady, the shadow Europe minister, will be sacked for his rebellion over the 11-plus.

I post a few paragraphs for our new Coffee House blog. The idea is to recreate on the web the coffee house milieu from which emerged the original Spectator, founded by Addison and Steele in 1711. Spec staff and others chip in to the site during the day with news, gossip and links, with comments being fired across by readers. The more dissent and mischief the better.

It’s working really well – page impressions are up more than 40 per cent month on month. I want the website to be at the heart of what we do – not just a place to read the magazine online, but a space for other, new Spectator offerings, wit and instant analysis. Hence Stephen Pollard and Clive Davis have already joined us as bloggers, with more to come.

Tuesday, 29 May 2007

The busiest day for copy-editing. Our cover is a terrific piece by James Forsyth on Brown’s big decision on Iraq, illustrated by my hero, Peter Brookes, with Gordon as poodle and Bush sniffing his behind.

Then, in the evening, it’s off to a dinner with Congressman Mark Kirk, a moderate Republican who, in a splendid irony, happens to represent the same district in Illinois that Donald Rumsfeld did in the Sixties. He is fluent, savvy and gives a hilarious account of being chewed out by Karl Rove. If I were a betting man, I would put a sly fiver on this congressman as a presidential candidate for 2013.

Wednesday, 30 May 2007

In at 6am, as always, on edition day to get pages away and sort out the week’s editorial. It has to be grammar schools again – there is a lot of talk among Tories about ‘moving on’and the row being over, but nothing has been settled as far as I am concerned. Fraser Nelson’s political column is spot on – if Cameron thinks this is tough, he is going to get a shock when he faces Brown across the Despatch Box. Our mysterious Tory mole, Tamzin Lightwater, reports that David Willetts and Oliver Letwin have been found having a screaming match in the ‘Meditation Space’at Party HQ. Who is Tamzin? All I’ll say – ever – is that it isn’t me.

Lunch courtesy of Charles Finch at Rubinacci in Mount Street, then a busy afternoon of interviews for a Radio 4 programme I am working on to coincide with the 10th anniversary of Diana’s death

Thursday, 31 May 2007

Dominic Grieve, the shadow attorney general, forces Cameron (still on holiday in Crete) into a corner by seeking reassurance that more grammar schools would be built in his area if population growth required it. The answer from Tory Party HQ is yes – amazing, for a party that was saying only a few days ago that it was ‘delusional’to talk about more such schools.

I do a quick post: ‘Did the other guy just blink, or is he simply muddled?’This, I learn later, pleased the Tories, who were following the remarkable turn-around on their computer screens – another illustration of how important it is for us now to offer rolling commentary and not just a weekly showcase.

In the evening, I am master of ceremonies at our fourth and final Elgar concert, held in the boardroom of our new offices in Old Queen Street. It is excellent to be in the heart of Westminster and an added bonus to discover the extent of the links between Elgar and the house, which was once owned by one of the composer’s most devout patrons, Frank Schuster.

It’s also a pleasure to be able to welcome Spectator readers into our new home and pour them a glass of champagne in the gardens overlooking Birdcage Walk and St James’s Park. Madeleine Mitchell and the Bridge Quartet give a wonderful performance.

Friday, 1 June 2007

Always a good day to catch up with political contacts and do some forward planning. A shadow Cabinet member calls, fretting over the grammar schools debacle, but relieved (rightly) that the party has landed Andy Coulson, ex-News of the World editor, as their communications chief. He’ll be brilliant and the fact that someone of his stature is keen to join the Cameron team is just the boost that the Tory leader needed in this week of all weeks.

The weekend

I file my Sunday Telegraph column: I have established that Andy Coulson is earning £275,000, a tidy sum, but much less than some of the wilder figures being suggested.

The Martin Amis piece on Blair in The Guardian is terrific, so I file a quick post on that to Coffee House. Then it’s off to Hackney lido with the kids. Man cannot live by blogs alone.

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