At a time when the Labour government is being hung out to dry, less than two years from probably its biggest electoral hiding, it seems an odd time to be pleading the case for a paper inextricably tied to the party. Yet that's what former Tribune editor Paul Anderson did on the Guardian's Comment is Free pages this week (http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/sep/11/georgeorwell ).
Anderson, also a former deputy editor of the New Statesman & currently a lecturer in journalism at London's City University, concedes that Tribune's circulation is miniscule (4,000). However, he pleads the case for the paper, unsuccessfully, I suspect:
"But the magazine plays a vital role in the British labour movement -- as a source of news, as a forum for discussion and, most crucial of all, as the independent critical voice of the non-communist left. And the main reason for its tiny circulation is that it has been ridiculously undercapitalised for years. It would break even on a circulation of 5,000 -- but has had nothing to spend on promotions to would-be subscribers."
Any magazine or paper involved in politics which is seemingly happy to get by on just 5,000 sales is effectively talking to itself, its influence in direct proportion to its pathetically small circulation figure.
There is also the downward trend in political weeklies' sales figures to consider. The New Statesman has slipped in sales, yet again. However, it is not just confined to the left. The Spectator can't boast too much about its figures.
Throw in the Web factor, too, as Anderson fails to do, & you have the "perfect storm" for Tribune. The Huffington Post (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ ) shows the way forward, at least on the other side of the Atlantic.
The sad reality is that Tribune, though nominally independent of the Labour Party, is closely associated to it, & as the government sinks further into the mire, so, too, does the paper which, as Anderson is keen to remind us, once boasted George Orwell as one of its writers. I suspect that if Orwell were around today, he would advise the paper to go online.
*Anderson is also a blogger. His blog, "Gauche", (http://www.libsoc.blogspot.com/ ) is worth visiting.