Escape the echo chamber...

Welcome to a new Prospect
December 9, 2021

Welcome to this New Year issue of Prospect. We’ve been musing in the office on how to describe this edition—the first I’ve edited. “New Prospect” feels too much like a re-branding exercise—perhaps with the expectation of a free red rose. “New look Prospect” is accurate—the magazine has been stylishly redesigned by Mark Porter—but risks confusion with a fashion retail chain. In the end we settled for “A new Prospect.” Indefinite article, lower case n.

Continuity first: the magazine will, we hope, carry on as a still, small (but growing) voice of calm at a time when so many people increasingly feel they have to shout to be heard. For 27 years, Prospect has been an oasis of ideas, good writing and thoughtful debate in a desert of information chaos. Fewer and fewer people know which voices to trust. Societies—and the media that reflect them—are becoming more polarised. Populist rhetoric is replacing reasoned discussion. Too many people have stopped listening. People mistrust the so-called gatekeepers of knowledge: but they distrust the anarchy of social media even more. 

So there’s definitely the need for a magazine such as this one. Prospect is independent: we have no political affiliation or agenda. We promise never to tell you what to think or how to vote. Our motive is not profit: we are, in fact, a not-for-profit organisation supported in part by a trust as well as through advertisers and subscribers. 

For those who like their taglines, Prospect has recently sailed under the elegant flag of “Think again. Think Prospect.” I’m not convinced a magazine needs such a descriptor, but we have, for the moment, settled on: “Escape the echo chamber.” 

Does this first issue live up to that ambition? Certainly if you’ve only been treated to one side of what passes for a debate about trans rights, it may come as a refreshing change to be able to read two sides of that argument—with both Kathleen Stock, a philosopher, and Robin White, a trans woman barrister, willing to share the same space to engage with the key questions. A subject that has, for some, seemed simply undiscussable is, in these exchanges, treated with nuance and respect.

If you assumed cancel culture was all about woke snowflakes, the differing viewpoints of Fintan O’Toole, Kate Clanchy, Priyamvada Gopal and Richard Dawkins may change your mind—and even move you. If Prospect had a social media status it would be: “It’s complicated.”

Maybe you have recently been treated to a series of one-sided tirades against the French? In which case Gérard Errera, former ambassador to these shores, may cause you to think again. Julian Glover steps away from the tit-for-tat sloganising about the National Trust and advances constructive suggestions for its future.

Fed up with Facebook? The American academic Ethan Zuckerman invites you to think more deeply about how social media could be reshaped and remade. Confused by the recent ructions at the Daily Mail? Jane Martinson has been trying to get to the bottom of some seismic changes that will affect politics as much as they captivate Fleet Street insiders.

Elsewhere you’ll find Bill McKibben arguing that finance, not politics, will provide the most potent answer to the climate crisis; Sarah Boseley on the lamentable failure to vaccinate the developing world; Deyan Sudjic on the extraordinary lack of co-ordinated planning that has led to London’s new jungle of skyscrapers; and a “Books and Culture” section rich in elegant writing and provocations.

We wanted a new Prospect to be about people as well as ideas. Each month the magazine will open with five figures in, or at the edges of, the news. And the back pages feature a chronicle of disparate lives by a new family of regular Prospect writers. They include the actor Sheila Hancock reflecting on a long life; the former England cricket captain (and psychoanalyst), Michael Brearley, on sporting life; and Rebecca Lawrence—a psychiatrist who is herself bipolar—writing about mindful life. Each month we will also hear from Tom Martin, a farmer; Alice Goodman, a vicar; Serena Smith, a Gen Zer; and Jason Thomas-Fournillier, an asylum seeker living off £5.66 a day. Each of our “Lives” authors has, incidentally, recorded their little essays: you can find the link at our webpage or through your regular podcast app. 

Finally, you—the readers. Do, please, enter the discussion in the comment section under most of the articles on our website. This is your area—and if any of you would like to volunteer to help moderate it, and keep it a civilised and congenial place of debate and conversation, I would love to hear from you at

If you like this magazine and don’t already subscribe, please do so. And look out for further events at our offices in Westminster. “A new Prospect” has an optimistic ring to it. The editorial team joins me in sending the very best wishes for the season—and hope you enjoy reading this New Year issue every bit as much as we enjoyed producing it.