Pundits say Johnson will be a tough act to follow

By Alyson Fixter

Boris
Johnson’s colourful career as editor of The Spectator was praised by
both friends and rivals this week after he announced his resignation
from the post to focus on a frontbench political role under new Tory
leader David Cameron.

But long-running speculation about his replacement was damped down
by Spectator publisher Andrew Neil, who has insisted there will be no
decision till after Christmas.

Johnson announced on Friday that
he would step down from his six-year stint at The Spectator to take on
the role of higher education spokesman for Cameron, adding that he and
his staff had had “more fun than seems altogether proper” during his
editorship.

His tenure has been marked by a string of sexual
scandals that have led to the magazine being nicknamed “The Sextator”
by the News of the World – including his own affair with columnist
Petronella Wyatt, Rod Liddle’s shenanigans with his secretary, and
one-time Home Secretary David Blunkett’s career-ending relationship
with publisher Kimberly Quinn.

His post is to be filled
temporarily by deputy Stuart Reid, who has been credited with doing
much of the legwork during Johnson’s editorship, but it is thought
higher-profile names are in the frame for the position long-term,
including Scotland on Sunday editor Iain Martin, Sunday Telegraph
deputy editor Matthew d’Ancona and Spectator political editor Peter
Oborne.

Journalists and politicians said Johnson, who raised
circulation to a record 70,000, would be a hard act to follow. John
Kampfner, editor of the New Statesman, said: “Boris has achieved a
remarkable feat in turning a magazine replete with right-wing rantings
much of the time into a fashion statement and a must-read accoutrement
for Britain’s chattering classes.

“He’s been a very good
editor, but if there has been a downside it is that the magazine has
unfortunately been defined more for its extra-curricular activities
than the merits of its journalism.”

Haymarket owner and Tory peer
Lord Heseltine said Johnson was “larger than The Spectator”, adding:
“He’s become almost a national institution. It’s very rare for a
politician to rise to such prominence in opposition.

“He will help to support David Cameron’s determination to change the image of the Tory party.”

Matthew
d’Ancona said The Spectator had “tremendous intellectual rigour as well
as fabulous wit” under Johnson, adding: “His unique style of writing
affected the whole magazine and made it something one turned to with
fascination and delight.”

And Stephen Glover, on-off columnist
for The Spectator, who had a highprofile falling-out with Johnson
earlier this year over censorship one of his articles, said: “It’s hard
to be candid because I still write for the magazine, but Boris has
succeeded, not always deliberately, in making the magazine a lot more
high profile than it’s ever been before. He’s kept the show on the road
and handed it over in a good state.”

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