Spectacular own goal for Spectator…?

THE Spectator is currently trying to put distance between itself and the current leader column, which says some rather unpleasant things about Liverpool in its assessment of the city’s reponse to the Bigley murder in Iraq. No-one has admitted to writing it yet, but it has the tone of a certain Mark Steyn, and has a few stylistic similarities to the column the Daily Telegraph refused to publish the other day, which Slugger linked to.

An extract from the Leader column reads:

A combination of economic misfortune

  • peteb

    As I may have mentioned elsewhere..

    If only the Spectator had an astute editor who had insisted on a rewrite, as the Telegraph did with Mark Steyn’s article.

  • peteb

    According to Melissa, Boris Johnson’s PA, at Boris’s official blog

    “the flu really has taken its toll and Boris would like to apologise unreservedly for any offence caused.”

    He’s blaming the flu?

  • peteb

    permalink for Boris’ blog entry

  • dave

    I find this article hitting home at the truth, it is a percepetion that the people of Liverpool tend to blame everyone else for thier troubles but is it TRUE of course it is.

  • Mick Fealty

    As a relatively small circulation political magazine I don’t think the Spectator is under the same commercial pressure as the Telegraph to consider the sensibilities of particular groups.

    However, there is an interesting dilemma here for Boris. Which of his interests come first, his political career, or his future as a political journalist/editor?

    I doubt if the controversy will have done his magazine any harm – hitting item 2 on BBC Radio 4’s 6 O’Clock News can only entice readers formerly bored back into buying it again.

    But to publish, be admonished by the political boss and then have to apologise, is not good for the soul, or the political career.

    Success in one sphere, may cramp his style in the other. And he may find that he cannot continue to ride two ponies for too much longer!

  • davidbrew

    the Speccie was right, if a bit lacking in subtlety. I find a similar parallel closer to home- the whining self-pitying world loathing citizenry of a place they style “Derry”. (runs for cover from hordes of whining self-pitying world loathing derrymen)

  • peteb

    You can run… but you can’t hide, david! ;o)

    As for Boris’ political career.. what career?

    Boris’ political boss, Michael Howard, has described the editorial as “nonsense from beginning to end”.. that’s the Conservative party’s shadow minister for culture and the arts for you!

  • Colm

    This whole issue is a media created story.

    Whenever a tragedy occurs that has a Liverpool connection, Hillsborough being the most prominent and now Ken Bigley, the media tend to go into what I call ‘stereotype city’ mode.

    Firstly they go overboard with sympathy for the ‘salt of the earth’ scousers exagerating the close-knit community element. Then after a few days they become bored with that and start suggesting the Liverpudlians are a bit too weepy and maudling , and finally they go into full backlash thrust with “they’re all self-pitying whingers”.

    The truth is the people of Liverpool are essentially no different really from that of any other large provincial conurbation. It is a city made up of hundreds of thousands of individuals all with their own personalities. The people of that city indulged in no greater a grief and mourning for Ken Bigley than the people of Milton Keynes, but the media liked to pretend otherwise.

    It’s a storm in a Fleet St (there’s an old fashioned term) teacup.

  • Pat Mc Larnon

    Agreed Mick the Spectactor will hardly need to backtrack in the manner undertaken by The Sun newspaper that has been crawling up its own backside since the lies it printed after the Hillsborough disaster. Ther Liverpool boycott of that particular rag is apparently as strong as ever


    One wonders what Gregory and Boss Hay will make of your scandalous allegations.

  • Mick Fealty

    Just to offer some defence to Boris and the Spec, I think the point of the piece is at the very end.

    It’s a quote from Scott at the end. Far from an assertion of western superiority it is a regret that people have become too risk averse:

    “We took risks. We knew that we took them. Things have turned out against us. Therefore, we have no cause for complaint.

  • Colm


    I understand that point, but as I stated above the whole controversy was in my opinion manufactured by the press. Boris Johnson complained about the ‘self-pity’ of Liverpool but in relation to Ken Bigley where was it. It is a stereotype of the city created by the media, and that self same media then knock the city down. They can’t win. If Boris Johnson really want to knock the sentimentalists he should have turned to his colleagues in the rest of journalism and in particular Television news who played up the whole saga into something much bigger than it ever should have been . A personal tragedy, a murder, one of thousands in Iraq yet which has become arguably the most publicised single death of a briton since Diana. Attacking Liverpool falsely was easier than attacking SKY News, The Daily Mail, ITN and all the rest of the British mass media. That is the real complaint I have with the Spectator article.

  • Mick Fealty

    I agree it is trivial in some respects. The storm in the teacup (it seems to me) only arises because it was a leader, and the editor has a dual position in the British shadow cabinet and as an editor.

    Had it been an inside piece under Steyn’s byline – it would likely have passed with the barest minimum of comment.

  • Colm

    Was it written by Mark Steyn. Has that been acknowledged?

  • Mick Fealty

    Nothing’s been given away to my knowledge. I was just attempting explain why I believed it made the news.

  • peteb


    The editorial may have gotten more publicity because it was an editorial under Boris’ reign but I think to describe it as trivial is to underestimate the extent to which the writer deliberately set out to provoke a reaction (possibly as a result of previous articles being rejected?)

    As Colm said, Liverpool is an easy target in part because of the media’s image of it, but the Spectator ran an editorial with accusations of welfarism (read ‘spongers’) and to the death toll at Hillsborough being ‘over 50’ – 96 people died that day and the mass media’s reaction at the time is still felt, the Sun’s circulation figures in the city have never recovered. That’s not simply being overly-sensitive, that’s a large number of people recognising the nature of certain elements of the mass media, and, being aware of that nature, this editorial was never going to be allowed to go unchallenged.

    The other point I wanted to make is that the Spectator editorial suffers the same flaw as Mark Steyn’s original article – which may be more than a coincidence – it has a point, but that point is hidden beneath excessively provocative statements, statements that don’t stand up to analysis.. it’s shoddy writing at the end of the day.

    I blogged this Irish Examiner opinion piece a couple of days ago as an example of a more thorough analysis of the mass media’s, and everyone else’s, culpability.. unlike Steyn, or the Spectator, it doesn’t stop at the easy targets.

  • peteb

    Thought I’d add this story from today’s Observer “Now Boris is ordered to charm Liverpool”

    “Contacted by The Observer yesterday, Johnson, sounding a little hoarse, said: ‘I tell you what, I don’t want to talk about it right now, much as though I’m obliged to you for giving me the opportunity to dig myself further into this hole. I am going to go in the near future to see the place for myself. I think it’s probably the best thing to do now. So anyway, that’s the plan.'”

    Love the quote from Alan Bleasdale – “I’d only read the Spectator if it was dipped in Dettol”