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About The Spectator

The Spectator is a weekly British magazine on politics, culture, and current affairs.[1] It was first published in July 1828,[2] thus making it the oldest weekly magazine in the world.[3]

It is owned by David and Frederick Barclay, who also own The Daily Telegraph newspaper, via Press Holdings. Its principal subject areas are politics and culture. Its editorial outlook is generally supportive of the Conservative Party, although regular contributors include some outside that fold, such as Frank FieldRod Liddle and Slavoj Žižek. Alongside columns and features on current and not-so-current affairs, the magazine also contains arts pages on books, music, opera, and film and TV reviews.

Editorship of The Spectator has often been a step on the ladder to high office in the Conservative Party in the United Kingdom. Past editors include Boris Johnson (1999–2005) and other former cabinet members Ian Gilmour (1954–1959), Iain Macleod (1963–1965), and Nigel Lawson (1966–1970).

In late 2008, the weekly Spectator Australia was launched. This offers 12 pages of "Unique Australian Content" (including a separate editorial page) in addition to the full UK contents. In early 2018, Spectator USA was launched as a website. A monthly US print version debuted in October 2019.In 2020, The Spectator became both the longest-lived current affairs magazine in history and the first magazine ever to publish 10,000 issues.

The Spectator was established in 1828, and is the best-written and most influential weekly in the English language. Our writers have no party line; their only allegiance is to clarity of thought, elegance of expression and independence of opinion. Our writers' opinions range from left to right, their circumstances from high life to low life. None make any pretence at being impartial: our motto is "firm, but unfair".

We are a member of IPSO, the independent press regulator, and abide by the Editor's Code. We also uphold strict standards of accuracy. Any comments or complaints can be sent to [email protected].


The Spectator's founder, Scottish reformer Robert Stephen Rintoul, former editor of the Dundee Advertiser and the London-based Atlas, launched the paper on 6 July 1828. Rintoul consciously revived the title from the celebrated, if short-lived, daily publication by Addison & Steele. As he had long been determined "to edit a perfect newspaper", Rintoul initially insisted on "absolute power"[11] over content, commencing a long-lasting tradition of the paper's editor and proprietor being one and the same person. Although he wrote little himself, "every line and word passed through the alembic of his brain."

The Spectator's political outlook in its first thirty years reflected Rintoul's liberal-radical agenda.Despite its political stance it was widely regarded and respected for its non-partisanship, in both its political and cultural criticism.

Rintoul initially advertised his new title as a "family paper", the euphemistic term for a journal free from strong political rhetoric. However, events soon compelled him to confess that it was no longer possible to be "a mere Spectator". Two years into its existence, The Spectator came out strongly for wide-reaching parliamentary reform: it produced supplements detailing vested interests in the Commons and Lords, coined the well-known phrase "The Bill, the whole Bill and nothing but the Bill", and helped drive through the Great Reform Act of 1832. Virulently anti-Tory in its politics, The Spectator strongly objected to the appointment of the Duke of Wellington as Prime Minister, condemning him as "a Field Marshal whose political career proves him to be utterly destitute of political principle – whose military career affords ample evidence of his stern and remorseless temperament.".

Ironically, the paper spent its first century at premises on Wellington Street (now Lancaster Place). However, despite its robust criticism of the Conservative leader Robert Peel for several years, The Spectator rallied behind him when he split the Tory party by successfully repealing the Corn Laws. Rintoul's fundamental principles were freedom of the individual, freedom of the press and freedom of trade, of religious tolerance and freedom from blind political adherence.

The magazine was vocal in its opposition to the First Opium War (1839–1842), commenting: "all the alleged aims of the expedition against China are vague, illimitable, and incapable of explanation, save only that of making the Chinese pay the opium-smugglers." and "There does not appear to be much glory gained in a contest so unequal that hundreds are killed on one side and none on the other. What honour is there in going to shoot men, certain that they cannot hurt you? The cause of the war, be it remembered, is as disreputable as the strength of the parties is unequal. The war is undertaken in support of a co-partnery of opium-smugglers, in which the Anglo-Indian Government may be considered as the principal partner."