Deep in the English Countryside next to a thirteenth century church lies the UK headquarters of Country Squire Magazine (CSM), the publishing phenomenon which has taken the British Countryside by storm over the last few years.
An online magazine that seeks “to reflect the vision, the dreams and the narrative of those who have already chosen green fields over high rises and narrow lanes over the fast lane”. A magazine that has proven influential in the latest UK General Election by relentlessly attacking the Labour Party and its links to extremism, Country Squire has also remorselessly collected the scalps of Remainers with its unerring support for Brexit.
A mix of countryside articles, hard-hitting political pieces mixed with a curious blend of punk and humour have seen Country Squire leap from nowhere in late 2016 when it was first published to a countryside army of over 300,000 users a month by the turn of the decade.
I knock on the door of an old rectory near the ancient church and am greeted by the magazine’s Editor and Commander in Chief, Dominic Wightman. Expecting a tweed suit or at least a pair of red trousers, Dom’s dressed in jeans and a blazer and holding back a collection of dogs who want to jump on me. We enter the house and settle down in Dom’s office with a cup of tea beside a roaring log burner to conduct our interview.
CB: Are you happy with the election result?
DW: Delighted, although I’ll be much happier when the Hard Left who have hijacked the Labour Party are driven off the face of the political map of Britain.
CB: I have read some of the CSM articles related to Labour during the election run-up. CSM was pretty hard on the Corbynites, no? The exposing of extremist and antisemitic links scared the living daylights out of them?
DW: Antisemitism and Communism are not British traits and never will be. These people merited full exposure. It is the conservative’s duty to shine a light on the truth – as Edmund Burke made clear, conservatives have an ability to perceive truth, argue for justice and combine a disposition to preserve with an ability to improve. CSM is essentially a conservative publication and we were simply doing our duty, effectively.
CB: Labour would call you Far Right? Mind you, that’s what they call everyone under Corbyn?
DW: Ken Clarke is far right according to Labour loons! I personally detest the far right as much as I detest the far left. Labour went so far to the left and so lost its bearings, you get accused of being far right as the most centrist of centrists. CSM is conservative but centrist – we welcome writers of all respectable political hues and viewpoints to use the CSM platform for right to reply of course and get their views out there – but we despise those promoting the extremes.
CB: How did Country Squire Magazine materialise?
DW: In 2016 I moved out of the city to the countryside and a pal of mine and I – Jamie Foster, who was then a Director of the Countryside Alliance – had a pint in a Devon pub. We both concluded that existing countryside publications were failing us. The countryside lacked a siren political voice. The problem for actual countryside dwellers was that existing countryside publications tended to be looking at the countryside from suburbia or the city. They were failing to see the world from the actual countryside perspective and were not speaking for rural folk, especially with regards to Brexit. We decided we were going to puncture a massive hole in the Remain movement as well as sticking up for farmers and country people who tend to be forgotten in Westminster – not dissing the great work the Countryside Alliance does.
CB: So where does the punk element to Country Squire come from?
DW: I am not sure we are punk at all. Perhaps some in the Establishment see a few of our writers and a few of my editorial decisions as punk! Excellent writers like Sam White, Jamie, our co-founder Jon Alexander and other great talents like Frank Haviland and James Bembridge have a way with words and we tend to be punchy and concise in how we deliver points to our audience.
CB: Well, you have seriously annoyed certain groups of people!
DW: When you hover over the target you expect some flak. We take delight when publications like The Guardian refer to us as a “remote publication” – we know we’ve hit our target. Watching the Hard Left light up like a Christmas tree when we drop an article or investigation on them is valuable. I must confess it’s also highly entertaining.
CB: Will Labour ever recover from its election drubbing?
DW: No. Ask yourself why would sensible people – we have the soundest electorate on the planet – ever re-employ a nanny caught openly abusing some of their children? Labour Antisemitism will never be forgotten – it has exposed the Left’s innate need to blame others and the hypocrisy of their so-called do-gooding stances.
CB: And what lies in store for Country Squire?
DW: We never expected the magazine to be such a success or to build up such a following. It started as a hobby for the founders and it’s still a hobby for us. We’re still in shock, frankly. Nonetheless we’ve recently hired a sub editor and a social media marketer to help out and we will be producing a physical quarterly copy from late 2020, as well as boosting our podcast and media content. We’ve also teamed up with an events company so we’re organising some social events for our wonderful and loyal readers.
CB: You get many American readers?
DW: The US readership makes up a quarter of our readers. We tend not to publish too many Trump articles but we do focus on some of the culture war issues which are just as relevant both sides of the pond.
CB: I hear you got into a spat with the Irish Ambassador?
DW: Yes, the first summer after we started the magazine I was away on holiday and one of our writers wrote a piece about the Republic of Ireland which created a Twitter storm. It was a tongue-in-cheek piece which many Irish readers told us they enjoyed. Being August and a dead month for news, the story caused a hoo-ha in Dublin and the Irish Ambassador demanded we take the article down. I was fishing at the time and was asked for an interview by RTE, the Irish National Broadcaster. Things rather escalated.
CB: Did you do the interview?
DW: No, I was annoyed by the hoo-ha as my fishing trip got interrupted. I was rather curt with RTE. I told them I “don’t do local radio” and that wound them up even more. Our inbox was filling with all manner of abuse and in the end, I decided we’d pull the article just to shut the Twitter storm down. I regret that – I should have allowed the article to remain in place but hey-ho, at least my fishing holiday could resume in peace. We have plenty of Irish readers and have no problem with Ireland or the Irish – some of the original Irish complainants are CSM fans now.
CB: What do you predict for the next decade in the UK politically?
DW: After a few years of adjustment – obviously the Coronavirus has rather delayed the start of it – I’d expect a golden era. We Brits are pirates at heart, and we’ve got buccaneering in our blood. We’ll be sailing the seas again and bringing home business from all corners. I think that once the Remain crowd – the remnant of that which still exists I believe call themselves Rejoiners now – will swing round behind Brexit eventually when they see the benefits and we should see a more unified Britain. The future looks very bleak for the Hard Left, who have been so exposed now that they have no place to hide – they will continue to take a shellacking. Boris will be around for ten years, during which he’d better listen to the countryside or else! And then eventually the Tories will run out of steam and a new opposition will come to power, backed by the people, who are the wisest on planet earth and have no time for socialists.
CB: And will you continue as CSM Editor forever?
DW: I was planning to step down after Brexit had been won but I’ll hang around for a while yet. Our sub editor wants to take the reins, but he still needs a year or two of – for want of a better word – grooming. Let’s see – nothing in life is certain. It certainly keeps the grey cells active.
CB: Thanks for your time, Dom.
DW: Thanks to You. My pleasure.
Oriel’s Chris Brown interviewed Dominic Wightman