Christopher Hitchens

Great Scot

Games with Shadows


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In early 1978, as the old New Statesman was trying to decide on a fresh occupant for its editorial chair, a telexed application for the post was received on the battered office machine. It had been handed in at some one-horse depot in the Shetlands, but it read as if newly printed and took the form of a long and closely-reasoned proposal. The magazine, said this prospectus, should become the voice of a Republican revolution, which broke with planning papers, party conference resolutions and the other suffocating staples of coverage and went after the embedded institutional character of ‘British’ conservatism. There wasn’t a word or comma out of place, and one stipulation about the presentation of the case still lodges in the decaying attic of my memory. ‘No ill-written articles’, said this disembodied manifesto from the North, ‘will appear in the New Statesman.’

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