John Cleese Twitter row: Spectator editor hits back

Fraser Nelson.
Fraser Nelson.
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The editor of the Spectator has responded to John Cleese branding him a ‘half-educated tenement Scot’ by revealing that the Monty Python star had been sacked after one column because his writing wasn’t up to scratch.

Former Scotsman political editor Fraser Nelson wrote in the Telegraph today that he was proud of his upbringing in Nairn, going to a comprehensive school and then ‘squeezing’ a 2:1 at Glasgow University.

Cleese sparked the row on Twitter. Picture: Getty

Cleese sparked the row on Twitter. Picture: Getty

Cleese made the controversial comments on Twitter on Sunday in response to Nelson’s column defending press freedom. He tweeted “Why do we let half-educated tenement Scots run our English press? Because their craving for social status makes them obedient retainers?”

Nelson responded today: “Mr Cleese was part of the phalanx of celebrities advocating state regulation of newspapers, so he disagreed with my argument. Fair enough. But he seemed to explain it as the whinging of a lowborn Jock seeking to ingratiate himself. He shared his verdict with his five million Twitter followers, some of whom virulently objected and the spat ended up on the news pages. I didn’t join in, but there was much I was tempted to say.

“Set aside the non-existence of the “English press” (the people of these islands are cut from the same cloth, which is why so much of our media is national). Did he know that The Spectator was created in 1828 by Robert Rintoul, a Perthshire printers’ apprentice? Or that the chairman is Andrew Neil, another tenement Scot? Are we all intruders into his little England?”

He said his upbringing in the Highlands - where “there aren’t very many tenements” - may fall “short of the high standards that Mr Cleese expects from a Spectator editor”.

“But, then again, his writing fell short of the standards expected of a Spectator contributor – which is why his status as a contributing editor did not last longer than his first article.

An expensive education, you see, can’t buy you everything.”