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Under The Radar – 21 May

This week, we discuss:

  1. Sadiq Khan kicking off his regional tour

  2. How a conservative majority in the U.S Supreme Court could reshape abortion rights

  3. The high profile departures as Condé Nast’s digital-first strategy takes shape

Sadiq Khan’s Regional Tour

What happened?

On Thursday, Sadiq Khan kicked off a regional tour with a visit to North Yorkshire. The tour will – supposedly – be undertaken to look at levelling up and how London can work with other regions.

What does it mean?

On the face of it, Sadiq Khan finds himself in calm political waters. He eventually won a second term as Mayor comfortably, remains popular in London and continues to impressively navigate the political cesspit that is the Labour Party. But when one digs a little deeper, the picture changes.

A failure to manage expectations – with many Labour-inclined voters simply not showing up under the assumption that Khan would easily win – meant the Mayoral election went to a second round, after less than 5% separated Khan and the Tory candidate. For someone who has made no effort to hide his grander political ambitions – much like the Mayor before him – an unemphatic result was not the plan.

In the context of those ambitions and the coalescence of support around the levelling up agenda, it is of little surprise that a shrewd operator like Sadiq Khan is now undertaking his own regional tour. And, considering his infamously opportunistic penchant for self-promotion, the only surprise is that he hasn’t done it sooner.

Keir Starmer may be a dead man walking, but Andy Burnham’s reincarnation as a man of the people and his early jostling for the leadership means a Khan coronation is further away than ever before.

Roe v Wade’s viability 

What happened?

On Monday, the Supreme Court agreed to hear a Mississippi law which outlaws abortions after fifteen weeks of gestation. This is the first abortion case to come before the Supreme Court since Amy Coney Barrett was appointed and established a 6-3 conservative majority.

What does it mean?

In 1973, Roe v Wade established that women have the right to terminate their pregnancy up until foetal viability – i.e. when the foetus would be able to survive outside the womb. This is believed to occur at around twenty-four weeks – significantly later than the fifteen-week limit proposed by the Mississippi law.

Of course, as the phrase “believed to occur at around” signifies, foetal viability is a very murky boundary around which to inscribe law. After all, premature babies born at twenty-four weeks once had no chance of survival, whereas two thirds now survive to go home. Foetal viability is sure to shift alongside scientific and technological advancements.

It’s this type of arbitrariness in abortion legislation that has always made Roe v Wade subject to disagreement. Ever since it was passed almost fifty years ago, pro-life advocates across the country have been tirelessly trying to repeal it.

Up until now, those who hold pro-choice views could feel secure in the knowledge that the Supreme Court would always rule in favour of the 1973 precedent, but for the first time ever, conservatives now have the votes to overturn it. And the fact that the court has taken the case is an indication that it intends to do just that.

The Condé Nast Cull

What happened?

British GQ editor Dylan Jones is leaving the magazine after twenty-two years at the helm. The high-profile departure comes as Condé Nast merges its editorial teams in the US and the rest of the world under a new global digital-first content strategy.

What does it mean?

Condé Nast is streamlining its vast global business. The publishing house has suffered heavy losses for a number of years after CEO Roger Lynch, a tech leader with no prior experience in publishing, joined the company to implement a global digital-first content strategy. The pandemic and its devastating initial impact on print sales has only expedited the overhaul.

Lynch wants to steer the ship in a new direction and has set an ambitious target of double-digit revenue growth this year. To meet a drastic change in media consumption, Condé Nast is increasing investment in content, including video products, by 25% over the next four years.

But by prioritising digital, the axe is falling on editorial and commercial staff at Vogue, Condé Nast Traveller and GQ. Dylan Jones is just the latest editor to leave the company, after the editors of Vogue China, Germany, Spain, India and Japan all announced their departures.

Dame Anna Wintour, who has been the leading figure for Vogue and luxury fashion for thirty-three years, is unlikely to be going anywhere. Whether Condé Nast’s cost cutting measures extend to her multi-million dollar salary and perks, which includes a $200,000 shopping allowance and a Hotel Ritz Paris suite for fashion week, remains to be seen.

This Week’s Must Reads

  1. ‘Wirecard’s reluctant whistleblower tells his story’ by Dan McCrum, Stefania Palma & Olaf Storbeck for the Financial Times

  2. ‘How Marbella became a magnet for gangsters’ by Nacho Carretero & Arturo Lezcano for The Guardian

  3. ‘How viral TikToks, eight Palestinian families and one of Islam’s holiest sites brought Israel to the brink of war’ by Alan Brown for The Telegraph

  4. ‘The fragile story of the Olympic Refugee Team’ by Tom Kershaw for The Independent


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