John Lloyd, the <i>New Statesman</i> and me

Anthony Barnett
Anthony Barnett
24 April 2003

It gives me genuine pleasure that we are publishing John Lloyd on openDemocracy.

In 1986 I applied to become editor of the New Statesman. I had written its diary for nearly two years. My bid was supported by various writers who already had some reputation at the time such as Angela Carter; Salman Rushdie; Marina Warner; Francis Wheen and others.

It was approaching the zenith of Margaret Thatcher’s influence. Desperate to defeat her, the then leader of the Labour party, Neil Kinnock, wanted to take every measure possible to ensure that opposition to her was united. He feared, fairly or not, the consequences of my editing of what was then the UK’s premier political weekly.

He persuaded John Lloyd to stand and, according to John’s own report, when I made the stronger impression in the first round of interviews, told him to “pull his socks up”. Which, it seems, he did.

At any rate, much to my chagrin, I was deprived of the prize. Since then, we have both got the episode off our chests in another magazine with which we are associated, the British monthly, Prospect.

Labour lost the 1987 election. Subsequently John returned to the Financial Times and went to Moscow to be its correspondent there – where he became one of the most distinguished reporters observing the end of the Soviet Union.

Then, while remaining at the FT, he became an associate editor of the New Statesman and a regular columnist for it. Two weeks ago he resigned. In his last column he explained that he felt its anti-war stance had ceased to grapple with realities; a theme he addresses in his article on the failures of the left, in this edition of openDemocracy.

Like the current editor of the New Statesman, Peter Wilby, I oppose the American invasion of Iraq. But I agree with John Lloyd that there were honourable reasons to want to see the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, and there is a great need to debate the consequences of America’s attempt to overthrow him in a serious and open-minded way.

This is a matter of global politics that goes well beyond the British scene. Others will join John Lloyd in the openDemocracy debate on the implications of the Iraq conflict. Lloyd supports the approach taken by the current leader of Britain’s Labour Party, Tony Blair. I think George Bush’s war strategy counts more than the one conceived in Downing Street.

At the centre of this argument are issues of human rights and international democracy. I am glad openDemocracy hosts them and that John Lloyd has joined us in our discussion. I cannot forbear to add that these were also themes I argued the New Statesman needed to take up in 1986.

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