Observer lives to fight another day

Paper will continue to be published but at what cost?

As I anticipated on Wednesday, Guardian News & Media confirmed a few minutes ago that it would continue to publish the Observer -- ending weeks of speculation over the title's future. But the paper's staff will immediately ask: "At what cost?"

The Guardian announcement promises "further editorial integration" between the two titles, something that could spell the end of the Observer's popular monthly supplements and its stand-alone business section. The title's journalists are unlikely to be content with a vastly slimmed-down version of the paper that leaves it unable to compete with its Sunday rivals.

Guardian Media Group (GMG) had considered closing the Observer in an attempt to stem losses that stood at nearly £90m this year.

For now the title's future is safe, but unless the Guardian finds a way to monetise its vast online presence the proposal is likely to be revisited.

The Scott Trust, which owns GMG, is mandated to "to secure the financial and editorial independence of the Guardian in perpetuity" but that duty does not extend to the Observer.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Lord Sainsbury pulls funding from Progress and other political causes

The longstanding Labour donor will no longer fund party political causes. 

Centrist Labour MPs face a funding gap for their ideas after the longstanding Labour donor Lord Sainsbury announced he will stop financing party political causes.

Sainsbury, who served as a New Labour minister and also donated to the Liberal Democrats, is instead concentrating on charitable causes. 

Lord Sainsbury funded the centrist organisation Progress, dubbed the “original Blairite pressure group”, which was founded in mid Nineties and provided the intellectual underpinnings of New Labour.

The former supermarket boss is understood to still fund Policy Network, an international thinktank headed by New Labour veteran Peter Mandelson.

He has also funded the Remain campaign group Britain Stronger in Europe. The latter reinvented itself as Open Britain after the Leave vote, and has campaigned for a softer Brexit. Its supporters include former Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg and Labour's Chuka Umunna, and it now relies on grassroots funding.

Sainsbury said he wished to “hand the baton on to a new generation of donors” who supported progressive politics. 

Progress director Richard Angell said: “Progress is extremely grateful to Lord Sainsbury for the funding he has provided for over two decades. We always knew it would not last forever.”

The organisation has raised a third of its funding target from other donors, but is now appealing for financial support from Labour supporters. Its aims include “stopping a hard-left take over” of the Labour party and “renewing the ideas of the centre-left”. 

Julia Rampen is the digital news editor of the New Statesman (previously editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog). She has also been deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines. 

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