SATIRICAL news magazine Private Eye celebrates its 60th anniversary this month, and what originally started out as a public school-type journal has long since become a national institution renowned as much for its bad taste jokes as its often brilliant journalism.

With its circulation standing at 200,000-plus, the fortnightly-published Private Eye is the best-selling news magazine in the UK.


WITH Shrewsbury School where the student magazine The Salopian involved Christopher Booker, Willie Rushton, Richard Ingrams and Paul Foot.

They decided to go forward with a publication that was called Private Eye as suggested by Andrew Osmond who also provided funding for the fledgling magazine. Booker, who died in 2019, was the first editor, follow by Ingrams.

Peter Cook weighed in with funding to enable Private Eye to become a professional publication and with writers like Auberon Waugh, Claud Cockburn, John Betjeman and Christopher Logue plus cartoonists like Rushton and Gerald Scarfe, and as well as freelance investigative journalists, Private Eye soon had its winning formula of spoofs and scoops.

Practically from the beginning it had its famous covers with speech bubbles satirising the leading figure of the day. Some like Robert Maxwell and Sir James Goldsmith did not see the joke – the latter spent years and millions trying to put the Eye out of business.

The Eye also lampoons the British press, particularly in the Street of Shame section, and we’re delighted to report that they have even had a pop or two at The National, which gives us a badge of honour.


THE jokes were always there, such as nicknaming HM the Queen as Brenda, while the purported thoughts of Prince Charles – Brian – are a regular feature.

Their name calling has been a regular petty feature – Andrew Neil as Brillo, Piers Morgan as Piers Moron and Richard Branson as Beardie spring to mind. The letters pages are always full of people cancelling their subscriptions at some slight or other, with just as many readers then renewing their subscriptions.

Arguably the best regular column was the Dear Bill letters penned by John Wells in the persona of Denis Thatcher – they were even made into a stage play.

Their serious work has often been ground-breaking. Private Eye began covering the City of London at the very end of the 60s with “Slicker”, aka Michael Gillard. Over the decades it has covered the Jeremy Thorpe scandal, Robert Maxwell’s dirty dealings – he sued them and won prompting Hislop to say “I’ve just given a fat cheque to a fat Czech” - and the misdoings of politicians in the Thatcher era.

The Lockerbie bombing, the contaminated blood scandal and the deaths of young soldiers at Deepcut Barracks were among their finest investigations, while they were the first magazine to look into the paedophile activities of certain politicians – they didn’t get that nailed down but at least aired the suspicions.

There was huge outrage over the magazine’s coverage of the death of Princess Diana, which saw copies pulled off the shelves.

Adam Macqueen of the Eye told the Press Gazette: “I can remember the postman literally hauling in sacks of letters of people protesting about all of the Princess Diana coverage, and equally big sacks of letters of people saying ‘no, you’ve got it just right, carry on’.

They were one of the first publications to tackle dodgy PFI deals, and they have consistently highlighted tax evasion. Having been sued so often, they delight in highlighting gross libel cases while the Leveson Inquiry was a particular target. More recently they have scrutinised Brexit and their coverage of the coronavirus pandemic has been exceptional – MD’s columns as penned by Dr Philip Hammond have been nothing short of brilliant.

Regular features include the Nooks and Crannies column on architecture and Rotten Boroughs on local government corruption.

Only criticism is that they don’t delve deeply into Scottish affairs – but which London publication does?


AS long as Ian Hislop continues to do the job of editor, there’s little chance of Private Eye changing, never mind closing. And why change a winning formula?

Hislop was just 26 when he was named editor of Private Eye in 1986, taking over from Ingrams. He’s only the third editor since its launch and is the longest-serving editor of any major title in UK journalism.

Hislop told the Press Gazette: “I inherited a very good template from my predecessors and what I’ve tried to do is just expand it and keep it interesting

“I realise I’ve been doing the same job for a very long time. That is partly because I can’t think of any job that’s more fun. It may well be that I’ve been offered no other jobs. It’s been terrific. And reading the journalism again ... it’s just extraordinary.”