Mandelson bites back at the Sun

A virtuoso performance but Labour should end its neurotic focus on the tabloid

Lord Mandelson gave a bravura performance on the Today programme this morning, railing against the "crude politicking" of the Sun. Is he right to claim there's a "contract" between the paper and the Conservatives? Essentially, yes. As I've noted before, David Cameron's plan to freeze the television licence fee and, even more, his pledge to abolish Ofcom are remarkably convenient for the Murdoch-owned Sky.

Mandelson said: "What the Sun can do for the Conservatives before and during the election is one part of that contract. And presumably what the Conservatives can do for News International if they are elected is the other side of that bargain." Spot on.

He was also right to argue that the Sun exculpates the Taliban when it focuses so relentlessly on equipment failures in Afghanistan."If you read the Sun, you would think that the enemy that our brave troops on the ground are fighting is the British government," he said. (Incidentally, this criticism also applies to Jacqui Janes, who spoke as if Gordon Brown, rather than the Taliban, was personally responsible for the death of her son.)

Much as I enjoy Mandelson's sharp turn of phrase, I think it's time for Labour to end its neurotic focus on the Sun. Ministers cannot claim that the tabloid has little or no influence on elections and then devote appearance after appearance to trashing its editorial stance.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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New Digital Editor: Serena Kutchinsky

The New Statesman appoints Serena Kutchinsky as Digital Editor.

Serena Kutchinsky is to join the New Statesman as digital editor in September. She will lead the expansion of the New Statesman across a variety of digital platforms.

Serena has over a decade of experience working in digital media and is currently the digital editor of Newsweek Europe. Since she joined the title, traffic to the website has increased by almost 250 per cent. Previously, Serena was the digital editor of Prospect magazine and also the assistant digital editor of the Sunday Times - part of the team which launched the Sunday Times website and tablet editions.

Jason Cowley, New Statesman editor, said: “Serena joins us at a great time for the New Statesman, and, building on the excellent work of recent years, she has just the skills and experience we need to help lead the next stage of our expansion as a print-digital hybrid.”

Serena Kutchinsky said: “I am delighted to be joining the New Statesman team and to have the opportunity to drive forward its digital strategy. The website is already established as the home of free-thinking journalism online in the UK and I look forward to leading our expansion and growing the global readership of this historic title.

In June, the New Statesman website recorded record traffic figures when more than four million unique users read more than 27 million pages. The circulation of the weekly magazine is growing steadily and now stands at 33,400, the highest it has been since the early 1980s.