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16 February 2007

We’re independent, are you?

Bright responds to Guido Fawkes

By Martin Bright

The right-wing blogger Paul Staines has today alleged on his “Guido Fawkes” website that the independence of the New Statesman is under question. Once again he has not allowed accuracy to get in the way of a piece of mischief.

He suggests the editorial decision not to write about the charity commission investigation into the Smith Institute think tank, which is housed next door to the magazine, is in some way politically motivated. More generally, he suggests the magazine is uncritical of Gordon Brown Both claims are nonsense.
We have not written about the Smith Institute because we didn’t think anybody outside the blogosphere would be interested. It’s as simple as that.

As for the idea that we are soft on Brown, perhaps he might care to look at any of the many political columns, features and editorials of the past year or more in the magazine that are strongly critical of him. I commend readers to my column this week, which is critical of Brown’s circle and by implication the Chancellor himself. If anything, some politicians and journalists charge us with over-compensating for the supposed relationship between Brown and the NS by being over-critical.

As for the present interest in the Smith Institute, it is right and proper that the charity commission should investigate its charitable status and I hope it will do the same with other thinktanks on the left and right. Perhaps it should initiate an inquiry into the charitable status of think tanks as a whole or perhaps that would be better done by a parliamentary committee. It is clearly something that should be kept under constant scrutiny by MPs, the charity commission and journalists.

The Smith Institute is not the New Statesman, and so I won’t presume to speak for it. No-one from the Smith Institute has ever tried to influence what I write or even persuade me of the wisdom of the Brownite worldview. It is perfectly legitimate for right-wing newspapers and bloggers to use it as a stick with which to beat Brown, but it is neither fair nor accurate to suggest that the independence of the NS is compromised in any way as a result.

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