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George Eaton appointed New Statesman political editor

Editor of The Staggers blog replaces Rafael Behr, who joins the Guardian as a political columnist. 

George Eaton is to succeed Rafael Behr as political editor of the New Statesman. Behr will be leaving the NS next month to join the Guardian as a political columnist. 

 

Eaton, the award-winning editor of the magazine’s rolling politics blog, The Staggers, joined the New Statesman in March 2009 as a graduate trainee, having previously worked at PoliticsHome. He has contributed hugely to the successful transformation of newstatesman.com and to the revitalisation of the magazine. He has had a series of impressive scoops over the past year, with agenda-setting stories and interviews with Len McCluskey of Unite, Ed Balls, Andy Burnham and others. Under Eaton’s editorship, The Staggers won the Editorial Intelligence Best Online Comment Site award in 2013.

 

The New Statesman editor, Jason Cowley, said: “George, who has been with me almost from the start of my editorship, is one of the outstanding journalistic talents of his generation and is one of the most gifted people I have ever worked with. He is both an incisive political commentator and a tenacious and instinctive story-getter.”

 

Eaton assumes his new role as the New Statesman celebrates its strongest growth in decades. In 2013, its centenary year, magazine subscriptions grew by 20 per cent and news-stand sales by 14 per cent; record online traffic made newstatesman.com the biggest political website in Britain. As circulation continues to rise and the magazine moves into profit, the editorial team is entering an exciting phase of expansion and development. The launch of a series of high-profile digital projects will be announced shortly.

 

Eaton said: “It is a privilege to take on this position at the most exciting and unpredictable moment in British politics for a generation. I look forward to maintaining and enhancing the New Statesman’s reputation for intellectual rigour, breaking news and political insight.”

 

Rafael Behr joined the New Statesman in June 2011 from the Observer, where he was chief leader writer. Commenting on his departure, Cowley said: “I knew Rafael from my time on the Observer. I knew, too, that the elegance of his writing, as well as his shrewd and nuanced political insights, would make the New Statesman’s weekly Westminster column a compelling read. Three years on, Rafael has established a reputation as one of Britain’s most authoritative political commentators and played an important part in transforming the fortunes of this great magazine. We shall miss him and he leaves with my best wishes.”

 

Behr said: “The New Statesman occupies a very special place in British politics, media, history and culture. It has been a privilege to work with the immensely talented team that has made it, without doubt, the liveliest, smartest and most creative weekly magazine covering politics in Britain today.”

 

For more information, please contact Anya Matthews on 07815 634 396 or anya.matthews@newstatesman.co.uk

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Is there such a thing as responsible betting?

Punters are encouraged to bet responsibly. What a laugh that is. It’s like encouraging drunks to get drunk responsibly, to crash our cars responsibly, murder each other responsibly.

I try not to watch the commercials between matches, or the studio discussions, or anything really, before or after, except for the match itself. And yet there is one person I never manage to escape properly – Ray Winstone. His cracked face, his mesmerising voice, his endlessly repeated spiel follow me across the room as I escape for the lav, the kitchen, the drinks cupboard.

I’m not sure which betting company he is shouting about, there are just so many of them, offering incredible odds and supposedly free bets. In the past six years, since the laws changed, TV betting adverts have increased by 600 per cent, all offering amazingly simple ways to lose money with just one tap on a smartphone.

The one I hate is the ad for BetVictor. The man who has been fronting it, appearing at windows or on roofs, who I assume is Victor, is just so slimy and horrible.

Betting firms are the ultimate football parasites, second in wealth only to kit manufacturers. They have perfected the capitalist’s art of using OPM (Other People’s Money). They’re not directly involved in football – say, in training or managing – yet they make millions off the back of its popularity. Many of the firms are based offshore in Gibraltar.

Football betting is not new. In the Fifties, my job every week at five o’clock was to sit beside my father’s bed, where he lay paralysed with MS, and write down the football results as they were read out on Sports Report. I had not to breathe, make silly remarks or guess the score. By the inflection in the announcer’s voice you could tell if it was an away win.

Earlier in the week I had filled in his Treble Chance on the Littlewoods pools. The “treble” part was because you had three chances: three points if the game you picked was a score draw, two for a goalless draw and one point for a home or away win. You chose eight games and had to reach 24 points, or as near as possible, then you were in the money.

“Not a damn sausage,” my father would say every week, once I’d marked and handed him back his predictions. He never did win a sausage.

Football pools began in the 1920s, the main ones being Littlewoods and Vernons, both based in Liverpool. They gave employment to thousands of bright young women who checked the results and sang in company choirs in their spare time. Each firm spent millions on advertising. In 1935, Littlewoods flew an aeroplane over London with a banner saying: Littlewoods Above All!

Postwar, they blossomed again, taking in £50m a year. The nation stopped at five on a Saturday to hear the scores, whether they were interested in football or not, hoping to get rich. BBC Sports Report began in 1948 with John Webster reading the results. James Alexander Gordon took over in 1974 – a voice soon familiar throughout the land.

These past few decades, football pools have been left behind, old-fashioned, low-tech, replaced by online betting using smartphones. The betting industry has totally rebooted itself. You can bet while the match is still on, trying to predict who will get the next goal, the next corner, the next throw-in. I made the last one up, but in theory you can bet instantly, on anything, at any time.

The soft sell is interesting. With the old football pools, we knew it was a remote flutter, hoping to make some money. Today the ads imply that betting on football somehow enhances the experience, adds to the enjoyment, involves you in the game itself, hence they show lads all together, drinking and laughing and putting on bets.

At the same time, punters are encouraged to do it responsibly. What a laugh that is. It’s like encouraging drunks to get drunk responsibly, to crash our cars responsibly, murder each other responsibly. Responsibly and respect are now two of the most meaningless words in the football language. People have been gambling, in some form, since the beginning, watching two raindrops drip down inside the cave, lying around in Roman bathhouses playing games. All they’ve done is to change the technology. You have to respect that.

Hunter Davies is a journalist, broadcaster and profilic author perhaps best known for writing about the Beatles. He is an ardent Tottenham fan and writes a regular column on football for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 05 February 2015 issue of the New Statesman, Putin's war