The Labour party Down Under, Boris's modest brother and the government video that tackles Greek myths
October 19, 2011
“And I serve the fairy queen,” above, is one of the photographs by Tom Hunter inspired by A Midsummer Night’s Dream, but set in Hackney and featuring local residents. They will be on show at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon from 4th November

The Sun on Sunday

The phone hacking scandal has been reignited by the Leveson inquiry into the practices and ethics of the press, established by David Cameron after the revelations about the News of the World and other papers caused public outrage. [See Geoffrey Robertson's article in this month's issue] Yet Prospect has learned from an executive near the top of News International that a Sunday edition of the Sun is still “definitely” planned for the new year. Millions of pounds are being invested in a new computer system for the company, the executive said.

Now that it has become fashionable to distance oneself from Murdoch in Westminster, what will politicians make of the plan? Over to Chris Bryant, the Labour MP who, with Tom Watson, has been campaigning against Murdoch for years. “If this goes ahead, the decision to sack the NOTW staff and close the paper will be exposed as a truly cynical gimmick. Most people will not look kindly on the same management crew that presided over the hacking of Milly Dowler’s phone.”

David Miliband: no going back

The notable omission from the newly-reshuffled shadow cabinet is the leader’s brother, David Miliband. Some of David’s allies, including former Labour spin doctor Alastair Campbell and pollster Philip Gould, have been urging the former foreign secretary, who has just begun a speaking tour of Britain’s universities promoting his “Movement for Change,” to get back into the front-bench fold. They will be disappointed. “I made the right decision [not to serve under Ed] last year and I am sticking to it,” he recently told a friend. “And you can use your antennae to read into that what you will.”

From Labour to Labor

The other side of the world is a long way to go to avoid the British Labour party. But that is where John McTernan, the former adviser to Tony Blair and New Labour outrider, is heading. The Scottish, soft-spoken friend of Alastair Campbell is to take up a post as head of communications for Julia Gillard, the embattled Australian Labor prime minister. He will join another ex-pat Brit, Tom Bentley, who was a wonk at the think tank Demos and is now a senior adviser to Gillard.

BoJo politics

Spotted escaping the annual Conservative party conference in Manchester early, on the eve of a major speech and string of media appearances by Boris Johnson: Jo Johnson, the FT journalist-turned-MP and Boris’s modest younger brother. In response to inevitable comparisons to the mayor, he says: “the world does not need a mini Boris.”

Tyrie votes with his feet

Two of David Cameron’s biggest headaches on his own side, Kenneth Clarke and Andrew Tyrie, are close political allies. When the justice secretary stood for the party’s leadership in 2001, Tyrie, the chairman of the treasury select committee who recently attacked the coalition’s growth strategy, ran his campaign behind the scenes. If Cameron ever dispatches Ken Clarke permanently from the cabinet, as many on the right are urging, then Clarke and Tyrie together again and on the back benches will be a force to be reckoned with.

Exploding Greek myths

The Hellenic fightback has begun online. A popular Greek website, GR2Day.com, has launched a film promoting the country, set to the twangs of authentic guitar music that ushers in images of retsina and broken plates. “The Greeks know all about myths,” says the text on top of footage of Greek landscapes. “Some myths are inspiring. But some myths are misleading.” It goes on to tackle the “myth” that “the Greeks are lazy” by showing OECD figures appearing to put Greece ahead of Germany as well as Spain and Portugal in terms of work rates.

However, an OECD official tells Prospect that the comparison “reflects the fact that a high proportion of workers in Greece are self-employed [and on low wages], meaning that a conventional approach using administrative data would only tell part of the story.”

A Goodhart start

Prospect’s founding editor, David Goodhart, appointed the new director of Demos, is somewhat coy about his plans for the think tank. But he does talk about taking it back to its roots as a centre for “big ideas” and one that floats above left and right. He wants to set up a finance/City of London unit at Demos. “We need an independent authority on what is arguably the most important single thing about Britain: the City of London,” says Goodhart, who will also remain Prospect’s editor at large.

Armenia’s chess star on the rise

The third London Chess Classic gathering, at the Kensington Olympia from 3rd-12th December, will see “the strongest tournament in the history of British chess” according to its website. Prospect is delighted that a new entry will be Levon Aronian, the Armenian star who was tipped for greatness in this magazine [“The Lion and the Tiger,” November 2009]. David Edmonds wrote that Aronian “might one day become world champion.” Aged only 29, he is currently world number three.

One to watch

Young comic Danilo Gentili may be Brazil’s answer to Jon Stewart. For the generation that came before him, living under military dictatorship, mocking politicians could be life-threatening. But now the country is a prospering global giant, and this law student-turned-comedian has pioneered a new brand of political stand-up. Along with his comedy contemporaries, like Rafinha Bastos (who David Leonhardt of the New York Times recently named the most influential person on Twitter), Gentili is helping Brazil match eco-nomic weight with cultural clout.

Having made his name on the weekly satire show Custe o Que Custar (“Whatever it takes”), the 32-year-old has become known for his controversial politician-baiting routines, even making jokes about President Dilma Rousseff’s torture by the country’s former security services.

Gentili’s rise to fame is a sign of Brazil’s increasing self-confidence, wealth and political pluralism. As recently as November 1998, the country was forced to take a $41bn emergency loan from the IMF; now Finance Minister Guido Mantega has been talk-ing about bailing out the western world and fighting “an international currency war.” And as the country relaxes into its stability and global stature, Brazilians appear increasingly comfortable being vocal—and funny—about their failings. With the launch of a new Comedy Central channel next year, it looks as if Brazil’s long run of economic growth has brought more than just greater affluence.