After creaking along largely unnoticed in the later years of its life, it would appear that the octogenarian Tribune has finally reached its last gasp. I confess I hadn’t paid it any attention at all in the last ten years or so. I preferred it in its old format resembling a newspaper, as opposed to the magazine it later became. Its circulation fell it seems to around 5,000, but I wonder how much of that was bulk orders from trade unions, sustaining it as ordinary subscribers fell away. Today, I imagine that the new Momentum driven Labour Party membership gleans most of its analysis from websites.
Back in the 1980s and 1990s I did occasionally contribute articles and reviews to Tribune. But the peak of my journalistic career came in 1991 when I can fairly claim to have been the runner-up to be editor, after Phil Kelly left. This claim is somewhat undermined by the fact that there were only two of us being interviewed, and I suspect I was there merely to make up the numbers. Still, they paid my travel expenses so I had a day out in London to compensate for what must have been an embarrassing 20 minutes for me and my interviewers. God knows what I said, but even if I had suggested starting a fashion section it wouldn’t have made any difference to the outcome.
It’s curious that the New Statesman, which in the past earned the nickname The Staggers because of its regular financial crises is now seemingly on a firm footing – but despite Labour having more than four times the membership of the Conservatives, the Spectator’s circulation is more than twice that of the New Statesman. Of course, the readerships of both magazines are not duty bound to tally with one party or another, but it would seem that people of a left leaning bent are less keen to shell out on a political magazine that may reflect their views. Perhaps they just can’t afford to. Nevertheless, both mags have increased their circulations lately.
The one journal which must have anticipated circulation growth in the Corbyn era is the Morning Star – to which he was a regular contributor. (I’m sure that even as I write, Daily Mail hacks are trawling through 40 years of back issues to find the ‘dirt.’) But the Morning Star appears to be floating around the 10,000 mark and is supported by donations. Perhaps if the Guardian plods on its merry path towards a bright, spangly new centrism, the Morning Star’s circulation will pick up. Subscribers would save a fortune, at least.