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10 April 2014updated 28 Jun 2021 4:45am

George Osborne’s jobs, magazine messiahs, Tina Brown’s losses and why Giles Clarke should walk

Peter Wilby's First Thoughts.

By Peter Wilby

In an attempt to banish the ghost of Norman Lamont – who, as John Major’s chancellor, said that unemployment was a price “well worth paying” to get inflation down – George Osborne announces that his aim is to have a higher proportion of our population in employment than any other G7 country. But what does he mean by “employment”? Under the coalition, increasing numbers work on zero-hours contracts, on hourly pay barely above the minimum, or on such short hours that they can’t afford adequate food and fuel. They and others have few training opportunities and minimal workplace rights. If Osborne’s “full employment” means more work like that, it isn’t worth having.

Newsweek’s second coming

As newspapers and magazines decline, they end up with ever stranger proprietors. The Daily Express, once the strait-laced voice of Middle England, is owned by Richard Desmond, also the owner of Red Hot TV, the Independent by the son of a Russian oligarch. Punch magazine, closed in 1992, was briefly revived by the Harrods owner Mohamed Al Fayed.

Now the US magazine Newsweek is owned by IBT Media, which has relaunched the print edition. According to US press reports, IBT Media, though ostensibly owned by an economist and an engineering graduate, has links to a sect under David Jang, a Korean preacher, some of whose followers see him as “the Second Coming Christ” with a mission to build God’s kingdom on earth. The left-wing US magazine Mother Jones reports that, in Jang’s view, humanity faces a second great flood, this time of information, not water. Newsweek is presumably an ark to carry righteous information.

In which case, it has made a poor start by apparently misidentifying a bemused Japanese-Californian engineer as the founder of the online currency Bitcoin. But at least it has appointed a former Anglican monk (and former Express editor), Richard Addis, as its European editor.

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Not-so-prudent Brown

The last Newsweek editor before the IBT takeover was Tina Brown (married to the former Sunday Times editor Sir Harold Evans), supposedly the most brilliant editor of her generation. Wisely, Jang didn’t invite her on board his ark.

Brown persuaded Barry Diller, who finan­ced her online publication the Daily Beast, to buy Newsweek and let her edit it. Diller, after he’d sold it, said the purchase was a mistake. Does he think the same of the Beast, which Brown left in January? The media commentator Michael Wolff, in the March issue of GQ, reckoned that, in five years, Brown lost $100m (£60m) on the Beast, which probably earned less than $3m (£1.8m) in revenue a year. “This is not just an unsuccessful business,” wrote Wolff. “Not even a really messed-up one. It’s a kind of disproportion that may have no equivalent.”

Wolff didn’t mention losses the brilliant Brown made elsewhere. But in a Telegraph blog, Toby Young totted up the costs of her nine years editing Vanity Fair, six years editing the New Yorker, three years editing the freshly launched Talk magazine, plus what she lost at the Beast. The total comes to between $260m (£156m) and $380m (£228m). This magazine also had a high-spending editor who went on to spend freely elsewhere, but Brown must be the record-holder.

Flannelled fiascos

As there are 6,500 cricketers in the Netherlands against 266,000 in England, a Dutch victory over the English is the equivalent of England’s footballers losing to San Marino, which even they have never managed. Yet our cricketers have lost twice, latterly by 45 runs at the World Twenty20 in Bangladesh. That completes a winter in which they lost 20 out of 25 matches in all forms of cricket.

My theory is that coaches and players now rely so heavily on “scientific” analysis of opponents that, confronted with the unanalysed, unvideoed or unexpected – a team from a second-tier cricket nation, an Australian suddenly bowling fast and accurately, a 19-year-old in his first international – they can’t cope. Responsibility for this misplaced faith in analysis surely lies at the top, with those who appoint managers and coaches and set the strategy. Yet in the search for scapegoats nobody mentions Giles Clarke, the chairman of the England and Wales Cricket Board. Clarke (Rugby and Oriel College, Oxford) survived the decision to accept sponsorship from the Texan financier Allen Stanford, now serving a US prison sentence for fraud. He also survived when Kevin Pietersen, then captain, and Peter Moores, then coach, were both sacked because they fell out with each other.

Clarke should not survive a third fiasco – particularly as, with Moores now favourite to return as coach, past fiascos could start repeating themselves.

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