Political nous and sense of fun secures The Spectator editorship for d'Ancona

By Lou Thomas

The new editor of The Spectator has been advised by his counterpart at the New Statesman to show that "he and he alone" is in charge of the Right-leaning political weekly.

The Sunday Telegraph deputy editor Matthew d’Ancona is to become editor on 3 March. Previous editor Boris Johnson resigned from The Spectator in December to become shadow higher education minister just as the magazine hit an all-time circulation high of 70,000 copies a week.

New Statesman editor John Kampfner said: "The onus is on Matthew to demonstrate that he and he alone is the editor of The Spectator and that he does not take instructions from [chief executive] Andrew Neil or anybody else."

In a statement d’Ancona said: "Under my editorship I want The Spectator to adapt its fine traditions as a source of superb writing, news exclusives and wit to a new and exciting political landscape."

It is believed that d’Ancona is wary of allowing the magazine to be in hock to supporters of David Cameron, but he will be forced to take into account a new political background, far different from the William Hague-led Tory party of Johnson’s debut.

Neil said: "We looked, above all, for someone who had a strong track record in political commentary, but also someone with a sense of fun, because The Spectator needs both, and irreverence.

Matthew fits that bill. He’s one of the best political commentators in Britain, but he’s not just a political anorak. He’s as good at the back of the book as he is at the front."

Asked if he thought d’Ancona would court as much controversy as Johnson, Neil said: "I think that would be almost impossible. I think that we’re all hoping now that the magazine becomes well known, and even notorious, for some of its strongly held views rather than the behaviour of some of its staff."

Kampfner said that Johnson gave The Spectator a high profile and did it "spectacularly well", but that d’Ancona now had the opportunity to give it some greater journalistic rigour.

He said: "What makes a magazine talked about is its journalism. Therefore he has a task of producing some strong, rigorous, entertaining journalism."

Asked about the competition between The Spectator and the New Statesman, Kampfner said: "I think it’ll be a different kind of battle. I think it’ll be much more a battle of journalism now than of profile. Let battle recommence."

Johnson said: "This is the best possible outcome and good news for modern man. I’m sure Matt will do a bang-up job as editor. I look forward very much to reading the magazine."

CAREER PATH

1991: Trainee at The Times. Worked as news reporter, education correspondent and leader writer.

1994: Appointed assistant editor at the age of 26.

1996: Joined The Sunday Telegraph as deputy editor (comment) and as a political columnist.

1998: Deputy editor of The Sunday Telegraph.

2004: Named political journalist of the year at British Press Awards.

2006: Became editor of The Spectator.

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