street of shame

Spectator sport
Andrew Neill, Issue 1623

andrew-neill.jpg
BRILLO PADDING: Andrew Neill claims he likes media and government to be at loggerheads
"RELATIONS between journalists, journalism, media and government should always be bad. And never, on any account, allowed to get better," pronounced swashbuckling Spectator chairman Andrew "Brillo Pad" Neill, putting on his best press maverick act at a House of Lords committee session last month.

Asked by Tory peer and expert cash-splasher Baroness (Dido) Harding how politicians could help the Fourth Estate, Neill brusquely informed them: "Stay the hell out of it... we're not on your side, you're not on our side."

He went on to tell parliamentarians: "I do not want any of your help. I have rebuilt the Spectator without any help from anybody here or any government or any tax incentives or any intervention."

Bull run
When a video of the diatribe went viral online, Brillo was praised by Speccie editor Fraser Nelson for his bullish words.

Or should that read bullshit words? Anyone who has been to a Spectator summer party – which Conservative prime ministers and most of their cabinets attend every year – or spent an evening at the mag's backslapping "Parliamentarian of the Year" awards will have seen some textbook good relations between the media and the Tory party in particular.

It's not only current politicos who get star treatment – former PMs are welcome too: the very week before Neill's speech, his magazine's offices hosted the book launch for Liz Truss's much maligned book Ten Years to Save the West.

Just the job
Spectator staff also operate on something of a revolving door with Downing Street. The magazine's long-serving political editor, James Forsyth, jumped straight through and is now chief of staff for his best friend Rishi Sunak.

His predecessor Dominic Cummings ran the Spectator's website before his own stint in Number 10. He worked for Boris Johnson, himself a former editor of the Spectator who actually combined that job with being Conservative MP for Henley – a comfy arrangement which Brillo oversaw for more than a year.

Business and trade secretary Kemi Badenoch did a stint as a "digital director" at the mag too. Three other previous Spectator editors, including Nigel Lawson, went on to become Conservative cabinet ministers.

Aid memoire
Neill's emphasis on his magazine's independence from government money is just as bogus. During the pandemic the Speccie leaned heavily on furlough cash to stay afloat.

In June 2020, Neill himself wrote a piece for the Spectator saying things had not worked out as badly as feared and the magazine would be giving the money back "in a phased manner over the next two months".

"We were grateful for government help, which allowed us to conserve cash and still see our people paid 80 percent of their salaries," wrote our man with the begging bowl then, rather more honestly.

To read all these stories in full, please buy issue 1623 of Private Eye - you can subscribe here and have the magazine delivered to your home every fortnight.

Next issue on sale: 19th June 2024
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More top stories in the latest issue:

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When it came to the wait for the London mayoral results, political hacks couldn't help speculating wildly about the potential for a huge upset.

HUW & CRY
When the Sun reported the resignation of BBC newsreader Huw Edwards, it casually ignored the cackhanded way it handled its exposé last summer.

DEER IN HEADLINES
The Sun revelled in the unmasking of the "real life" woman behind the stalker in Netflix's Baby Reindeer – but didn't mention its own role in the unmasking.

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