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Another Scoop About The New Statesman

This is a guest post by Avicenna

Harry’s Place recently noted the New Statesman “scoop” over supposed gaffe by easyJet’s in-flight magazine, which organised a fashion shoot at Berlin’s Holocaust Museum. This from a magazine which recently printed an interview with Khaled Meshal, leader of Hamas, an organisation which describes the Holocaust as a Zionist lie. There are arguments for publishing both articles, but it seems odd that the New Statesman thinks it is in a position to preach.

But then hypocrisy is the stock in trade of the increasingly absurd New Statesman.

Editor Jason Cowley will today be hauled in front of Central London employment tribunal over the magazine’s treatment of former senior staffers Barbara Gunnell and Ian Irvine. The two experienced hacks were part of the team (led by acting editor Sue Matthias) which steered the magazine through what is now being seen as a golden era after the departure of John Kampfner last year. Gunnell was assistant editor at the Independent on Sunday and comment editor of the Observer before moving to the NS. Irvine is one of the most respected figures in literary journalism. Both were targeted by Cowley when he took over the magazine last autumn.

It is always possible the magazine will see sense and settle. But the left-wing credentials of the New Statesman were already looking shaky before the ignominy of an employment tribunal. There is, for example, the small matter of trade union recognition. Despite publishing an annual supplement advertising the benefits of trade union membership, the magazine doesn’t recognise an NUj chapel. Indeed the removal of Gunnell and Irvine was part of the process of dismantling it. Other trade union members who have left or been removed since Cowley took over include deputy editor Sue Matthias, political editor Martin Bright, arts editor Alice O’Keefe and chief sub Caroline Palmer, who was mother of the chapel. Notably, four of these are experienced women journalists, whereas Cowley’s hiring policy has been distinctly laddish.

The NUJ has been strangely silent over the issue. Having failed to secure recognition, Sue Harris, who is the magazine organiser at the union has now stopped returning calls from the beleaguered staff, who are afraid to mention the issue of trade union rights, according to insiders.

To be fair, the union is discharging its duty by paying for Gunnell and Irvine’s lawyers. This is the very least they could do for Gunnell, who is a former President of the union. And that is, after all, one of the reasons members of unions pay their dues.

Perhaps NUJ General Secretary Jeremy Dear will be making an appearance at the employment tribunal, which lasts all next week. This might make up for his bizarre decision to write for this year’s scab-produced New Statesman trade union supplement.

Solidarity is a rare commodity these days. But in case there are comrades out there who care about such things, the address of London central employment tribunal is Ground Floor, Victory House, 30-34 Kingsway, London WC2B 6EX.