Lord Michael Heseltine, British deputy prime minister from 1995 until the Conservative government was swept from power two years later, is still politicking - albeit this time on behalf of the nation's magazine publishing industry.

Heseltine, co-founder and chairman of business and technical magazine group Haymarket Publishing, is in full mace-swinging mode as he battles an attempt by the UK Office of Fair Trading to dismember the present monopoly on magazine distribution.

The OFT wants to introduce competition in the distribution of magazines - although not of newspapers. The reform would allow supermarkets to choose whichever distribution company they wanted to supply them with magazines. Currently, magazines and newspapers are distributed to supermarkets and smaller outlets by a single company company in each of the UK regions.

In an orchestrated fightback, Heseltine is leading a group of trade bodies representing magazine and newspaper publishers plus newsagents, all of whom argue that it is illogical for weekly newspapers to be treated differently from weekly magazines.

In a letter to the OFT's new chairman Philip Collins, the gung-ho peer deems it "inexcusable" that OFT officials have publicly "decried the industry's submissions as, among other things, 'scaremongering' and 'excitable sloganeering'".

The letter urges Collins to rethink the planned reforms. Meantime, publishers are encouraged that the OFT's ruling - due to have been published last week - has been held back for reasons unstated.

According to an OFT spokeswoman, it will not now appear "until next week at the earliest".

Data sourced from The Times Online (UK); additional content by WARC staff