The Fraser Nelson strategy: How to help the far right while sounding 'just' right...

It's also known as the Tom Newton-Dunn gambit...

I’ve met Fraser Nelson a few times. We crossed paths when I was a low-level drone in The Daily Telegraph’s comment mines, a token left-ish presence on the now-defunct Telegraph Blogs section, and he was a star columnist, already long ensconced in the editor’s chair at the Spectator. I was a joke: A kid in white Chelsea boots and skinny black jeans; barely tolerated in a newsroom of establishment people who like to pretend they’re radicals but spill the soup when someone actually challenges anything. But Fraser Nelson, with his bizarre accent and even more bizarre political beliefs, well, Fraser Nelson was and is respectable.

What does respectable actually mean in British journalism? It means someone who would turn up to your dinner party and have a polite conversation with whoever you sat them next to, be it Adolph Hitler or just a bin bag full of the bile that they have to drain from Nick Ferrari on a daily basis to prevent him from exploding in a hail of viscera and Ginster’s Cornish Pasty fragments.

So… Fraser Nelson is respectable and that gets him BBC Radio 4 documentary presenting gigs — even as his publication continues to advocate for ‘reform’ of the BBC that would cut its knackers off and turn it into a eunuch corporation, beholden to the whims of a market that will asset strip it and leave it naked on the side of an A-road with £5 in its pocket and one hell of a headache.

Fraser Nelson is respectable. It means he’s always on TV and radio providing his analysis of British politics. It means he’s able to play the polite ‘centrist’ even as he edits a magazine and website where Rod Liddle spews virulent crap and Toby Young peddles lies and half-truths like he’s a hawker tossing out packets of peanuts at a baseball game. He edits a magazine where Taki, a man whose racist views are so well-known people have been calling for his column to be removed since Nelson was just a preternaturally odd teenager. Nelson is so respectable that he can get away with running a media brand that published outright race hate by Gavin McInnes, a man who is what would happen if a depressed wizard turned an overflowing toilet bowl into a human man.

Nelson is so respectable that he is allowed to traffic hard-right views while pretending to be so reasonable and calm and kind. He is nothing of the sort. He’s an outrider for the Tories in the same way that conservatives accuse people like Owen Jones of being in the pocket for Labour. The difference is that, while Jones admits that he is both activist and journalist, Nelson pretends to be a journalist alone. It’s transparently a lie.

Fraser Nelson often pretends he just edits the Liddles, Youngs, and Takis in his sick Spectator stable, but that’s far from the truth — he absolutely revels in the things they say and, if he weren’t up to his pseudo-centrist act, he’d say things as crudely as they do. Instead, to maintain his easy access to broadcast platforms and the illusion that he is a reasonable and respectable man, he cannot be honest. He has to frame his every opinion as ‘something people are saying’. People are saying it but those people are always Nelson’s far-right buddies and more specifically the right-wing money men who keep Fraser Nelson in good suits and good restaurants. It’s a game and Nelson plays it effectively while pretending he doesn’t even know the rules.

A young Fraser Nelson being groomed by a sinister old man (Andrew Neil)… to be a future Spectator editor.