Kirst when it comes to TV talent

A nomination, a load of new content and the perils of indulging in nepotism

Such a long time has elapsed since I wrote my last blog that I scarcely know where to begin. So let's start with some blatant self-congratulations.

A few days back we were told newstatesman.com is up for an award at the British Society of Magazine Editors annual bash in November.

We're up against the websites of the Radio Times, GQ, Now and various others. All very gratifying and a recognition of how much our very small team has achieved in the space of little more than a year.

Meanwhile we're not resting on our laurels - there's been something of a commissioning frenzy here at Terminal House, home of the NS.

In the past week alone we've published articles from SDP founder turned Lib Dem peer Bill Rodgers. He warned his party not to become a pressure group. We've had debate going on about the Turkish genocide of Armenians. It began with the Armenian ambassador saying there was one. Someone from the Turkish embassy then replied saying there wasn't. Either way it provoked a lot of responses from our readers.

Brian Coleman, meanwhile, has been at it again. This time he's been upsetting the Turkish Cypriot population of North London after writing a blog in wholehearted support of the Greek perspective on the divided island.

It's been quite a week for the Nobel Laureates what with Doris Lessing's remarks about the Twin Towers and James Watson comments on race and genetics.

We asked Open University and UCL academic and genetics expert Steven Rose to dismantle Watson's assertions.

Heard of Arigona Zogaj? She's a 15-year-old Albanian Kosovan who went into hiding when her father and siblings were deported from Austria. Her case had the most extraordinary effect with media across the political spectrum condemning her treatment. At the heart of the campaign was Austrian Green Party chairman Alexander Van der Bellen.

Alexander kindly wrote us an article about Arigona and what her experience demonstrates about the way we approach immigration policy in Europe.

We’ve also had articles about the Swiss elections, class, the Chagos Islands and more.

Next week we're joining up with the Fabians for their Not the general election night - we've done a ring around asking a range of people what they think Gordon Brown should put in his manifesto so have a look out for that.

Anyway I was watching a bit of a TV the other night. It was a programme to find out the worst place to live in Britain.

It was live and presenters Phil and Kirsty fluffed their lines throughout and then - just when you thought it couldn't get any worse - we were whisked off to Middlesbrough to meet Kirsty's sister.

It turned out the north eastern town was the worst place to live. However, it was unclear how much things would improve once Kirst II finished patronising the locals and headed back to Fulham.

I wrote in an earlier blog about how, with so many actors out of work at any given time, it was amazing they managed to find the desert of talent that makes up the Eastenders cast. Talk about deja vu!

Ben Davies trained as a journalist after taking most of the 1990s off. Prior to joining the New Statesman he spent five years working as a politics reporter for the BBC News website. He lives in North London.
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Want to send a positive Brexit message to Europe? Back Arsene Wenger for England manager

Boris Johnson could make a gesture of goodwill. 

It is hard not to feel some sympathy for Sam Allardyce, who coveted the England job for so many years, before losing it after playing just a single match. Yet Allardyce has only himself to blame and the Football Association were right to move quickly to end his tenure.

There are many candidates for the job. The experience of Alan Pardew and the potential of Eddie Howe make them strong contenders. The FA's reported interest in Ralf Rangner sent most of us scurrying to Google to find out who the little known Leipzig manager is. But the standout contender is Arsenal's French boss Arsene Wenger, 

Would England fans accept a foreign manager? The experience of Sven Goran-Eriksson suggests so, especially when the results are good. Nobody complained about having a Swede in charge the night that England won 5-1 in Munich, though Sven's sides never won the glittering prizes, the Swede proving perhaps too rigidly English in his commitment to the 4-4-2 formation.

Fabio Capello's brief stint was less successful. He never seemed happy in the English game, preferring to give interviews in Italian. That perhaps contributed to his abrupt departure, falling out with his FA bosses after he seemed unable to understand why allegations of racial abuse by the England captain had to be taken seriously by the governing body.

Arsene Wenger could not be more different. Almost unknown when he arrived to "Arsene Who?" headlines two decades ago, he became as much part of North London folklore as all-time great Arsenal and Spurs bosses, Herbert Chapman or Bill Nicholson, his own Invicibles once dominating the premier league without losing a game all season. There has been more frustration since the move from Highbury to the Emirates, but Wenger's track record means he ranks among the greatest managers of the last hundred years - and he could surely do a job for England.

Arsene is a European Anglophile. While the media debate whether or not the FA Cup has lost its place in our hearts, Wenger has no doubt that its magic still matters, which may be why his Arsenal sides have kept on winning it so often. Wenger manages a multinational team but England's football traditions have certainly got under his skin. The Arsenal boss has changed his mind about emulating the continental innovation of a winter break. "I would cry if you changed that", he has said, citing his love of Boxing Day football as part of the popular tradition of English football.

Obviously, the FA must make this decision on football grounds. It is an important one to get right. Fifty years of hurt still haven't stopped us dreaming, but losing to Iceland this summer while watching Wales march to the semi-finals certainly tested any lingering optimism. Wenger was as gutted as anybody. "This is my second country. I was absolutely on my knees when we lost to Iceland. I couldn't believe it" he said.

The man to turn things around must clearly be chosen on merit. But I wonder if our new Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson - albeit more of a rugger man himself - might be tempted to quietly  suggest in the corridors of footballing power that the appointment could play an unlikely role in helping to get the mood music in place which would help to secure the best Brexit deal for Britain, and for Europe too.

Johnson does have one serious bit of unfinished business from the referendum campaign: to persuade his new boss Theresa May that the commitments made to European nationals in Britain must be honoured in full.  The government should speed up its response and put that guarantee in place. 

Nor should that commitment to 3m of our neighbours and friends be made grudgingly.

So Boris should also come out and back Arsene for the England job, as a very good symbolic way to show that we will continue to celebrate the Europeans here who contribute so much to our society.

British negotiators will be watching the twists and turns of the battle for the Elysee Palace, to see whether Alain Juppe, Nicolas Sarkozy end up as President. It is a reminder that other countries face domestic pressures over the negotiations to come too. So the political negotiations will be tough - but we should make sure our social and cultural relations with Europe remain warm.

More than half of Britons voted to leave the political structures of the European Union in June. Most voters on both sides of the referendum had little love of the Brussels institutions, or indeed any understanding of what they do.

But how can we ensure that our European neighbours and friends understand and hear that this was no rejection of them - and that so many of the ways that we engage with our fellow Europeans rom family ties to foreign holidays, the European contributions to making our society that bit better - the baguettes and cappuccinos, cultural links and sporting heroes remain as much loved as ever.

We will see that this weekend when nobody in the golf clubs will be asking who voted Remain and who voted Leave as we cheer on our European team - seven Brits playing in the twelve-strong side, alongside their Spanish, Belgian, German, Irish and Swedish team-mates.

And now another important opportunity to get that message across suddenly presents itself.

Wenger for England. What better post-Brexit commitment to a new Entente Cordiale could we possibly make?

Sunder Katwala is director of British Future and former general secretary of the Fabian Society.