Hi Reg - sorry, I'm sure someone's put a lot of effort into this, but it's a distinct step backwards for me.
The site is now a generic and indistinct wall of words and even on desktop here, the new top layout feels like it's pushing content way below the visual fold. It feels visually like the top third of my browser space is being wasted.
I get the logic underpinning the decision to put the primary banner before the masthead, but it draws away from your 'tabloid newspaper' riffing, leaves redundant space on either side, and totally borks the flow for me. Above all else, this change is the most visually-unsettling for me.
I do like your new dropdowns, and the polished flat graphics are neater and a bit more pro - but readability-wise, I feel this is a retrograde step.
detritus, a pompous ex-graphic designer type :)