Gillard to get media makeover from a whip-cracking spinner. Julia Gillard’s latest Blair government appointee may just be the man to help her better cope with the relentless 24/7 news cycle, given his extensive experience under difficult circumstances.

Seen Malcolm Tucker on the British political satire The Thick of It? The character may have been at least a little bit inspired not only by Alastair Campbell, but also the real-life John McTernan, a Scot known as the “enforcer” in the Blair government and the man set to spin Julia Gillard’s new media strategy. Recently McTernan had a thing or two to say to British Prime Minister David Cameron, and urged him to bring in some “leg-breakers” in order to toughen up Downing Street. — Angela Priestley (read the full story here)

Howes and comrades launch new think tank. Could the creation of yet another left-leaning think tank be the answer to Labor’s identity crisis? Outspoken union boss Paul Howes certainly hopes so. A bevy of Labor luminaries will gather in Sydney today to launch The McKell Institute — a progressive think tank that aims to counter the influence of the right-wing Institute of Public Affairs and the Centre for Independent Studies.

Howes will sit on the institute’s board alongside former NSW deputy premier John Watkins, ex-Labor Council secretary Michael Easson and long-time ALP spin meister Bruce Hawker. Howes took a thinly veiled swipe at existing progressive think tanks such as The Australia Institute, Per Capita, the Australian Fabians and the Centre for Policy Development over the weekend. — Matthew Knott (read the full story here)

Form guide to the pokies lobbying effort. Roll up, roll up! Impending pokies legislation has sparked a race to get the Australian public onside. So who’ll take out the big one? Place your bets with The Power Index’s guide to the key contenders in the Poker Machines Pre-Commitment Plate.

Andrew Wilkie (Independent Member for Denison): Hard-working Tasmanian grey whose switch from the Liberal stable has given him an extra life. Loves this distance and will press the leaders all the way. Has the blinkers on again and just won’t go away. Hard to dismiss.

Eddie McGuire (President, Collingwood Football Club): Once a major force, hasn’t been seen at this level since bone chips injury saw him spelled after the Nine Television Handicap. Often has the punters divided, but loves the limelight and will give backers a good sight. — Tom Cowie (read the full story here)