Recently Jonathan Calder joked about expecting dismissal as New Statesman online columnist for being spotted by the editor carrying a copy of the Daily Mail at conference.
At least I assumed it was a joke. But now I wonder. For I read in this week's magazine that Julian Clary has been relieved of his column (that sounds uncomfortably close to a double entendre) by the Staggers' powers that be. Of course since his piece is humourous, it could be a joke and Clary has just decided he's had enough. But my antennae are always twitching as to whether the NS will retain its sense of humour.
Back in the 1980s it was virtually unreadable - a steady diet of left-wing politics, unleavened by humour or light relief of any kind. So, despite its right-wing leanings, I became a Spectator reader.
A few years ago, however, I changed loyalties and took out a subscription to the Staggers having begun to find the Spectator too conventional in its right-wingery, while the NS seemed to have rediscovered its lighter side, stopped taking itself too seriously and engaged an eclectic range of contributors. Not everyone liked its use of comedians as columnists (This Week - Kelly Monteith on the US Presidential Elections), but both Julian Clary has really been very good at doing humour for a serious readership (as has Shazia Mirza whose column appeared on alternate weeks from Clary's).
Now I'm worried that the humourous bits of the magazine will be given over to worthy articles by Polly Toynbee or Jackie Ashley and their like and the magazine will become unbearable for all who don't spend their whole lives dreaming up schemes to organise the poor. Fortunately, if that does turn out to be the case, my subscription is due shortly and I can always decide not to renew. But let's hope not! I have got to like the Staggers over the years and feel that reading it is a kind of insurance policy against developing excessively right-wing views as I advance further into middle age.