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Tribune Set To Close After 75 Years Of Publication

Historic journal may have struggled with modernity, but is the Old Left now an ‘irrelevance’?

Tribune, the flagship left-wing journal whose editors have included the likes of Aneurin Bevan, Paul Anderson and Michael Foot, is fighting for it’s life as a recent “cash injection” has failed to increase circulation. Staff at the weekly title are preparing for it’s imminent closure unless last-minute financial backing can be found. The paper has reportedly struggled with the advent of online content and, unlike political magazines such as The Spectator and The New Statesman, has failed to attract a wealthy backer to keep its profile distinct over the last twenty years.

It seems rather sad in a way that a publication with such a long history, of whatever political leaning, is falling by the way-side at a time when a robust opposition should be forming on the Left in Britain. Perhaps though, despite a Centre-Right coalition in power and political gains from the SNP and BNP across the UK (indicative of a shift to the right in harsh economic times?), the old Social Democratic Left is becoming a shadow of an age past?

Tribune is perhaps most famous for George Orwell’s ‘As I Please’ column, (that is certainly where Alhimself first discovered it) when Orwell was Literary Editor there in 1943. The paper has been in circulation for some 75 years and was founded with a staunch anti-fascist bent. Some of Orwell’s finest essays, including Confessions of a Book Reviewer and Books vs Cigarettes first appeared in the paper.

Following the Second World War, with Bevan still involved, the paper become associated with the “Bevanite” branch of the Labour movement and regarded it as the flagship journal of the “soft left”. According to The Guardian, it was selling around 6,000 copies a week by the 1980s (historically not a time of rampant Leftism) and remained around that circulation for the next decade, but since then it has sold far, far less and in recent years has struggled. Yesterday’s Radio 4 Today programme shed some light on the reasons for the closure, where Lord Michael Dobbs argued that the Left was “irrelevant” these days. Whatever the case, it’s seems sad that a journal with Tribune’s publication history should fade into the twilight when online journalism is taking such strides in bringing political debate forward.

Tribune Publications is intending to establish and maintain a web-site which will run automatic feeds from other left-of-centre internet sites but the six full-time and part-time staff will lose their jobs. The company is currently owned by Kevin McGrath, a former Labour Party candidate for the European elections in 2009. He bought the paper a couple of years ago from a consortium of trade unions. According to the Press Gazette, the holding company filed for bankruptcy in December 2008 and it was McGrath who saved them from liquidation at that time. McGrath has stated that the staff are free to carry on with the publication, and that:

“If they wish to continue to run Tribune as a co-operative, [I am] prepared to transfer the company and the archive of 75 years editions to them free of any historical debt.”

It is believed the staff are now considering such an option but with a deadline set for today, October the 28th.

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