Those of a right-leaning persuasion are nowadays adept in their ability to contrast the relative fortunes of the Spectator and Staggers: the latter is instantly held to be an economic basket case, kept afloat only by generous external intervention, while the former, true to free market orthodoxy, is profitable even in these straitened times, thus demonstrating the superiority of the right.
If only it were so straightforward: as the latest foray of the increasingly right-wandering and over-provocative Rod Liddle has showed, there is something that Fraser Nelson and his band of contributors are not being totally transparent about, and that is the corner-cutting that seems to have been done in order to lower the magazine’s cost base. I will explain.
Liddle, whose most notable recent achievement was the glorious failure of his attempt to become editor of the Independent, felt the need to comment on the killing of an off-duty soldier in Woolwich last week. The world had to hear the wise words of the great Rod. So he opined that the alleged attackers were “black savages”, before concluding that Islam was not a religion of peace.
Evan Harris has today noted that there were clear breaches of the PCC code here – that being the kind of voluntary self-regulation that Nelson, as well as many mainstream editors, favours – and that this should have been obvious to writer, sub-editor and editor. He is being too generous to the Speccy: my reading is that Liddle was allowed to publish this without anyone else intervening.
And that makes the whole process so much more cost-effective (I’m quite willing to accept the counter-argument, that there were sub-editor and editor present, but then, Nelson would have to explain how both came to be so inept as to let Liddle’s rant through). Liddle has, after experiencing severely adverse reaction to his description, removed the word “black” and apologised.
Zelo Street regulars may by this point experience a sense of déjà vu: this incident follows that “Andrew Marr’s Mystery Lady” quiz, which was aborted by another Speccy regular, “Mr Steerpike”, an alias of the odious flannelled fool Henry Cole, who Nelson has made a “contributing editor”. That suggests that Cole is also allowed to publish his dubiously sourced copy directly.
The dangers inherent in allowing pretend journalists that level of privilege should be screamingly obvious – well, to anyone except Fraser Nelson. If properly trained hacks like Rod Liddle can foul up, just think of the potential damage that a combination of ignorance and overconfidence could achieve. But I have no problem with what the Speccy is apparently doing.
After all, the prospects for more Spectator sport are indeed excellent.