The first know-all

It has been the year of Lady Gaga, papal visits and a psychic octopus. Have you been keeping up with

Politics

1 Which Labour MP was stripped of his Oldham East and Saddleworth seat by an election court for making false statements about his Lib Dem opponent?
a Bob Ainsworth
b Elliot Morley
c Phil Woolas
d Liam Byrne

2 The Foreign Office issued a public apology after an official memo suggested Britain should mark the Pope's visit by launching a Benedict-branded range of which items?
a Condoms
b Chocolates
c Beer mugs
d Crucifixes

3 Saying she wanted to get rid of "skeletons" from her past before standing as a Labour councillor in Pimlico, Sally Bercow admitted she was which of the following in her twenties?
a "a bit of a goer"
b "slightly bisexual"
c "a fan of the marijuana"
d "a binge drinker"

4 Which Labour MP was secretly filmed likening himself to a “cab for hire" when lobbying former cabinet colleagues on behalf of business?
a Geoff Hoon
b Stephen Byers
c Jack McConnell
d Charles Clarke

5 Complete Labour MP Austin Mitchell's quote about the coalition government: "It's like marrying the Parachute Regiment with a Brownie pack -"
a "a disaster waiting to happen"
b "so mad it might just work"
c "bound to be messy"
d "wait, what's a Brownie pack?"

6 Ed Miliband beat his brother, David, by how many percentage points to become Labour leader?
a 0.8
b 1.3
c 2.6
d 3.1

7 David Laws resigned as Chief Secretary to the Treasury after spending how many days in the post?
a 11
b 17
c 24
d 29

8 Called "a bigoted woman" by Gordon Brown, Gillian Duffy was a lifelong supporter of which party?
a Liberal Democrats
b Conservatives
c Labour
d BNP

9 How did Ed Miliband describe his nickname "Red Ed" in a BBC interview in September?
a "tiresome rubbish"
b "banal and boring"
c "at least it rhymes"
d "makes me sound too angry"

10 George Osborne was reminded of an article he wrote for the Times in 2006 extolling which nation as "a shining example of the art of the possible in long-term economic policymaking"?
a Iceland
b China
c Ireland
d Greece

International affairs

1 What did Naomi Campbell call "a big inconvenience for me"?
a Turning 40 in May
b Organising "Fashion for Relief Haiti"
c Testifying at the Sierra Leone war crimes tribunal
d Dealing with allegations about slapping her chauffeur

2 Which foreign ruler was revealed as owning more of London than the Queen?
a Sultan of Brunei
b Sheikh Mohammed of Dubai
c King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia
d Emir of Qatar

3 Who ousted Bill Gates as the world's richest man in the 2010 Forbes Rich List?
a Lakshmi Mittal
b Lawrence Ellison
c Carlos Slim Helú
d Warren Buffett

4 Which senatorial hopeful for Delaware broadcast a campaign advert that told voters she wasn't a witch?
a Carly Fiorina
b Christine O'Donnell
c Sharron Angle
d Lisa Murkowski

5 In his memoir Decision Points, what did George W Bush claim was his worst moment in his eight years as US president?
a Seeing the first photos of US servicemen's coffins return from Iraq
b Realising how premature his "mission accomplished" speech was
c Hearing of the 9/11 attacks while in a school classroom
d Kanye West saying: "George Bush doesn't care about black people"

6 In October, the Chilean miners were rescued after how many days trapped underground?
a 44
b 53
c 69
d 82

7 The American comedian Jon Stewart held a "Rally to Restore" what?
a Sanity
b Peace
c Liberal Anger
d Dignity

8 During a February Q&A with activists, what did the notes on Sarah Palin's hand say?
a "energy, budget cuts, lift American spirits"
b "drill, baby, drill and drill again"
c "Blame Obama, Blame Obama, Blame Obama"
d "Tea Party good, Washington bad"

9 Who built a bacterial genome that constituted the creation of synthetic life for the first time?
a Craig Venter
b Sidney Altman
c Joseph G Gall
d George Schaller

10 In July, which country's lower house passed a bill, by 335 votes to one, banning Muslim women from wearing the full veil in public?
a Netherlands
b France
c Italy
d Sweden

Home affairs

1 Which celebrity chef sacked his father-in-law, Chris Hutcheson, from his job as chief executive of his restaurant empire?
a Jamie Oliver
b Marco Pierre White
c Gordon Ramsay
d Heston Blumenthal

2 Who or what are believed to be involved in 74,000 UK road accidents every year?
a Wild deer
b Cyclists
c Potholes
d Drivers using mobiles

3 In April, the science writer Simon Singh won the right to rely on the defence of fair comment in a libel case brought by which body?
a British Osteopathic Association
b British Homeopathic Association
c British Naturopathic Association
d British Chiropractic Association

4 Which university has accredited a foundation degree with fast-food giant McDonald's?
a London South Bank
b Liverpool John Moores
c Manchester Metropolitan
d Nottingham Trent

5 What was the name of the cat that Mary Bale was filmed dropping in a wheelie bin?
a Lola
b Mina
c Charly
d Holly

Online

1 What did the Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg say was the only thing that the makers of The Social Network got right about his portrayal in the film?
a His student wardrobe
b His good looks
c His business acumen
d His friendship skills

2 Claiming he did it in jest, Paul Chambers was convicted of sending menacing electronic communication after tweeting: "You've got a week and a bit to get your shit together, otherwise I'm blowing the airport sky high!" Which airport?

a Robin Hood, Doncaster
b Birmingham
c Stansted
d Luton

3 The Minneapolis IT workers Pete and Alisha Arnold set up a website inviting the public to vote on what?
a Whether they should have an open relationship
b Whether they should convert to Islam
c Whether they should emigrate to Canada
d Whether Alisha should have an abortion

4 Which country did voters in a poll suggest teenage pop star Justin Bieber should tour next?
a Iraq
b North Korea
c Afghanistan
d Somalia

5 Threatening to leave Twitter yet again, who tweeted: "So some f**king paper misquotes a humorous interview I gave, which itself misquoted and now I'm the Antichrist. I give up", adding later, "Bye bye"?
a Ashton Kutcher
b Jonathan Ross
c Stephen Fry
d Jimmy Carr

Arts

1 What was the British Museum's 100th and final exhibit in the BBC Radio 4 series A History of the World in 100 Objects?
a A credit card
b A stone-chopping tool from Tanzania's Olduvai Gorge
c The Rosetta Stone
d A solar-powered lamp and charger

2 Which band took "strong insult" at the US Air Force Reserve using a re-recording of their song "Fell in Love with a Girl" in a Super Bowl ad
because it encouraged recruitment for a war "we do not support"?
a Kings of Leon
b My Chemical Romance
c The White Stripes
d The Strokes

3 In February, a bronze sculpture by which artist became the most expensive piece of art to sell at auction after it was bought for more than £65m?
a Alberto Giacometti
b David Smith
c Henry Moore
d Constantin Brancusi

4 Two previously unknown violin sonatas by which Italian composer were uncovered after 270 years?
a Antonio Vivaldi
b Giuseppe Tartini
c Niccolò Paganini
d Giovanni Battista Pergolesi

5 Lady Gaga wore a dress made out of which material to the MTV Video Music Awards in September?
a Bubblewrap
b Glass
c Gold leaf
d Raw meat

Television

1 The X Factor contestant Gamu Nhengu claimed that she feared being killed by firing squad if she was deported back to which country?
a Sudan
b Zimbabwe
c Angola
d Rwanda

2 Alan Sugar engaged in a Twitter war with which woman, calling her the worst Celebrity Apprentice contestant and saying "she really needs to think about a diet"?
a Clare Balding
b Ruby Wax
c Jo Brand
d Kirstie Allsopp

3 In May, Channel 4 drew 350 complaints after showing the UK's first television advert for what?
a An Islamic charity
b Scientology
c Advice on abortion services
d Penis enlargement

4 Which TV news presenter mistook the Ash Wednesday cross on the forehead of the Catholic US vice-president, Joe Biden, for a bruise?
a Kay Burley
b Julie Etchingham
c Natasha Kaplinsky
d Anna Botting

5 Which selection of nine letters resulted in a rude word, and a round of Countdown being cut from the show?
a SFCKUFCAE
b DTCEIASHF
c CKDIHEDAS
d HLESOASER

Media

1 In April, which newspaper published the front-page headline "Clegg in Nazi slur on Britain"?
a Daily Mail
b Sun
c Daily Express
d Daily Star

2 Zac Goldsmith called which man a "charlatan" after an angry television clash concerning his election spending?
a Jon Snow
b Jeremy Paxman
c Andrew Neil
d Nick Robinson

3 What amount of money did Sarah Ferguson tell an undercover reporter from the News of the World could "open doors" and gain access to her ex-husband, Prince Andrew?
a £50,000
b £100,000
c £250,000
d £500,000

4 President Obama sacked his top commander in Afghanistan - General Stanley McChrystal - after a candid interview criticising the US administration was published in which magazine?
a Rolling Stone
b Vanity Fair
c New Yorker
d Harper's Magazine

5 Talking about celebrities launching lawsuits against the News of the World, the lawyer Mark Lewis said: "Getting a letter from Scotland Yard that your phone has been hacked is rather like . . ."?
a "the taxman notifying you of a huge rebate"
b "finding out a relative has left you thousands in their will"
c "receiving winning Lotto numbers in the post"
d "getting a Willy Wonka golden ticket"

Books

1 What ransom was demanded for Jonathan Franzen's glasses after they were stolen at the Serpentine Gallery launch of his novel Freedom?
a £1
b £100
c £10,000
d £100,000

2 Which writer founded the Democratic Front for People's Federation party to fight corruption in his native Nigeria?
a Chinua Achebe
b Wole Soyinka
c Ben Okri
d Ken Wiwa

3 Which novelist compared becoming a grandfather to "getting a telegram from the mortuary"?
a Ian McEwan
b Martin Amis
c Philip Pullman
d William Boyd

4 Which of these novelists was the first to pass away this year?
a Beryl Bainbridge
b José Saramago
c Dick Francis
d J D Salinger

5 Who accidentally coined the neologism "refudiate" - the New Oxford American Dictionary's "Word of the Year"?
a Sarah Palin
b Barack Obama
c Rush Limbaugh
d John Boehner

Sport

1 What was the score in the fifth set of the first-round Wimbledon singles match played by the American John Isner and Frenchman Nicolas Mahut?
a 48-46
b 55-53
c 62-60
d 70-68

2 David Cameron described which sports TV commentator's work as "just epic"?
a Sid Waddell
b John Motson
c Murray Walker
d Richie Benaud

3 Which World Cup result-predicting "psychic" octopus passed away on 26 October?
a John
b Paul
c George
d Peter

4 Which Australian bowler took a hat trick on the first day of the 2010 Ashes series?
a Shane Watson
b Peter Siddle
c Mitchell Johnson
d Ben Hilfenhaus

5 The skeleton bob champion Amy Williams won Britain its first Winter Olympic individual gold since which year?
a 1972
b 1980
c 1992
d 2002

Quotes

1 Silvio Berlusconi said: “It is better to be passionate about beautiful girls than" what?
a "be gay"
b "be a thief"
c "anything else
in the world"
d "climate change"

2 What did Elaine Paige say of her fellow singer Susan Boyle's phenomenal success?
a "A lovely breath of
fresh air"
b "She's my new heroine"
c "A virus that swept
the world"
d "Unbelievable in every sense of the word"

3 What did the US vice-president, Joe Biden, say was "a big fucking deal"?
a Being the US
vice-president
b Passing of health-care reform
c The loss of the House
of Representatives
d Reaction to his "say something nice" gaffe

4 Who said: "I'm delighted with my new role as the Lipton Ice Tea ambassador . . . its values match those that are important in my life"?
a Nicole Kidman
b Daniel Craig
c Keira Knightley
d Hugh Jackman

5 The former BP chief executive, Tony Hayward, said the environmental impact of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill was "likely to be" what?
a "rather messy"
b "negligible"
c "very, very modest"
d "worse than you can possibly imagine"

This article first appeared in the 20 December 2010 issue of the New Statesman, Christmas Special

Show Hide image

Why Jeremy Corbyn is a new leader for the New Times

In an inspired election campaign, he confounded his detractors and showed that he was – more than any other leader – in tune with the times.

There have been two great political turning points in postwar Britain. The first was in 1945 with the election of the Attlee government. Driven by a popular wave of determination that peacetime Britain would look very different from the mass unemployment of the 1930s, and built on the foundations of the solidaristic spirit of the war, the Labour government ushered in full employment, the welfare state (including the NHS) and nationalisation of the basic industries, notably coal and the railways. It was a reforming government the like of which Britain had not previously experienced in the first half of the 20th century. The popular support enjoyed by the reforms was such that the ensuing social-democratic consensus was to last until the end of the 1970s, with Tory as well as Labour governments broadly operating within its framework.

During the 1970s, however, opposition to the social-democratic consensus grew steadily, led by the rise of the radical right, which culminated in 1979 in the election of Margaret Thatcher’s first government. In the process, the Thatcherites redefined the political debate, broadening it beyond the rather institutionalised and truncated forms that it had previously taken: they conducted a highly populist campaign that was for individualism and against collectivism; for the market and against the state; for liberty and against trade unionism; for law and order and against crime.

These ideas were dismissed by the left as just an extreme version of the same old Toryism, entirely failing to recognise their novelty and therefore the kind of threat they posed. The 1979 election, followed by Ronald Reagan’s US victory in 1980, began the neoliberal era, which remained hegemonic in Britain, and more widely in the West, for three decades. Tory and Labour governments alike operated within the terms and by the logic of neoliberalism. The only thing new about New Labour was its acquiescence in neoliberalism; even in this sense, it was not new but derivative of Thatcherism.

The financial crisis of 2007-2008 marked the beginning of the end of neoliberalism. Unlike the social-democratic consensus, which was undermined by the ideological challenge posed by Thatcherism, neoliberalism was brought to its knees not by any ideological alternative – such was the hegemonic sway of neoliberalism – but by the biggest financial crisis since 1931. This was the consequence of the fragility of a financial sector left to its own devices as a result of sweeping deregulation, and the corrupt and extreme practices that this encouraged.

The origin of the crisis lay not in the Labour government – complicit though it was in the neoliberal indulgence of the financial sector – but in the deregulation of the banking sector on both sides of the Atlantic in the 1980s. Neoliberalism limped on in the period after 2007-2008 but as real wages stagnated, recovery proved a mirage, and, with the behaviour of the bankers exposed, a deep disillusionment spread across society. During 2015-16, a populist wave of opposition to the establishment engulfed much of Europe and the United States.

Except at the extremes – Greece perhaps being the most notable example – the left was not a beneficiary: on the contrary it, too, was punished by the people in the same manner as the parties of the mainstream right were. The reason was straightforward enough. The left was tarnished with the same brush as the right: almost everywhere social-democratic parties, albeit to varying degrees, had pursued neoliberal policies. Bill Clinton and Tony Blair became – and presented themselves as – leaders of neoliberalism and as enthusiastic advocates of a strategy of hyper-globalisation, which resulted in growing inequality. In this fundamental respect these parties were more or less ­indistinguishable from the right.

***

The first signs of open revolt against New Labour – the representatives and evangelists of neoliberal ideas in the Labour Party – came in the aftermath of the 2015 ­election and the entirely unpredicted and overwhelming victory of Jeremy Corbyn in the leadership election. Something was happening. Yet much of the left, along with the media, summarily dismissed it as a revival of far-left entryism; that these were for the most part no more than a bunch of Trots. There is a powerful, often overwhelming, tendency to see new phenomena in terms of the past. The new and unfamiliar is much more difficult to understand than the old and familiar: it requires serious intellectual effort and an open and inquiring mind. The left is not alone in this syndrome. The right condemned the 2017 Labour Party manifesto as a replica of Labour’s 1983 manifesto. They couldn’t have been more wrong.

That Corbyn had been a veteran of the far left for so long lent credence to the idea that he was merely a retread of a failed past: there was nothing new about him. In a brilliant election campaign, Corbyn not only gave the lie to this but also demonstrated that he, far more than any of the other party leaders, was in tune with the times, the candidate of modernity.

Crises, great turning points, new conjunctures, new forms of consciousness are by definition incubators of the new. That is one of the great sources of their fascination. We can now see the line of linkage between the thousands of young people who gave Corbyn his overwhelming victory in the leadership election in 2015 and the millions of young people who were enthused by his general election campaign in 2017. It is no accident that it was the young rather than the middle-aged or the seniors who were in the vanguard: the young are the bearers and products of the new, they are the lightning conductors of change. Their elders, by contrast, are steeped in old ways of thinking and doing, having lived through and internalised the values and norms of neoliberalism for more than 30 years.

Yet there is another, rather more important aspect to how we identify the new, namely the way we see politics and how politics is conceived. Electoral politics is a highly institutionalised and tribal activity. There have been, as I argued earlier, two great turning points in postwar politics: the social-democratic era ushered in by the 1945 Labour government and the neoliberal era launched by the Tory government in 1979.

The average Tory MP or activist, no doubt, would interpret history primarily in terms of Tory and Labour governments; Labour MPs and activists would do similarly. But this is a superficial reading of politics based on party labels which ignores the deeper forces that shape different eras, generate crises and result in new paradigms.

Alas, most political journalists and columnists are afflicted with the same inability to distinguish the wood (an understanding of the deeper historical forces at work) from the trees (the day-to-day manoeuvring of parties and politicians). In normal times, this may not be so important, because life continues for the most part as before, but at moments of great paradigmatic change it is absolutely critical.

If the political journalists, and indeed the PLP, had understood the deeper forces and profound changes now at work, they would never have failed en masse to rise above the banal and predictable in their assessment of Corbyn. Something deep, indeed, is happening. A historical era – namely, that of neoliberalism – is in its death throes. All the old assumptions can no longer be assumed. We are in new territory: we haven’t been here before. The smart suits long preferred by New Labour wannabes are no longer a symbol of success and ambition but of alienation from, and rejection of, those who have been left behind; who, from being ignored and dismissed, are in the process of moving to the centre of the political stage.

Corbyn, you may recall, was instantly rejected and ridiculed for his sartorial style, and yet we can now see that, with a little smartening, it conveys an authenticity and affinity with the times that made his style of dress more or less immune from criticism during the general election campaign. Yet fashion is only a way to illustrate a much deeper point.

The end of neoliberalism, once so hegemonic, so commanding, is turning Britain on its head. That is why – extraordinary when you think about it – all the attempts by the right to dismiss Corbyn as a far-left extremist failed miserably, even proved counterproductive, because that was not how people saw him, not how they heard him. He was speaking a language and voicing concerns that a broad cross-section of the public could understand and identify with.

***

The reason a large majority of the PLP was opposed to Corbyn, desperate to be rid of him, was because they were still living in the neoliberal era, still slaves to its ideology, still in thrall to its logic. They knew no other way of thinking or political being. They accused Corbyn of being out of time when in fact it was most of the PLP – not to mention the likes of Mandelson and Blair – who were still imprisoned in an earlier historical era. The end of neoliberalism marks the death of New Labour. In contrast, Corbyn is aligned with the world as it is rather than as it was. What a wonderful irony.

Corbyn’s success in the general election requires us to revisit some of the assumptions that have underpinned much political commentary over the past several years. The turmoil in Labour ranks and the ridiculing of Corbyn persuaded many, including on the left, that Labour stood on the edge of the abyss and that the Tories would continue to dominate for long into the future. With Corbyn having seized the political initiative, the Tories are now cast in a new light. With Labour in the process of burying its New Labour legacy and addressing a very new conjuncture, then the end of neoliberalism poses a much more serious challenge to the Tories than it does the Labour Party.

The Cameron/Osborne leadership was still very much of a neoliberal frame of mind, not least in their emphasis on austerity. It would appear that, in the light of the new popular mood, the government will now be forced to abandon austerity. Theresa May, on taking office, talked about a return to One Nation Toryism and the need to help the worst-off, but that has never moved beyond rhetoric: now she is dead in the water.

Meanwhile, the Tories are in fast retreat over Brexit. They held a referendum over the EU for narrowly party reasons which, from a national point of view, was entirely unnecessary. As a result of the Brexit vote, the Cameron leadership was forced to resign and the Brexiteers took de facto command. But now, after the election, the Tories are in headlong retreat from anything like a “hard Brexit”. In short, they have utterly lost control of the political agenda and are being driven by events. Above all, they are frightened of another election from which Corbyn is likely to emerge as leader with a political agenda that will owe nothing to neoliberalism.

Apart from Corbyn’s extraordinary emergence as a leader who understands – and is entirely comfortable with – the imperatives of the new conjuncture and the need for a new political paradigm, the key to Labour’s transformed position in the eyes of the public was its 2017 manifesto, arguably its best and most important since 1945. You may recall that for three decades the dominant themes were marketisation, privatisation, trickle-down economics, the wastefulness and inefficiencies of the state, the incontrovertible case for hyper-globalisation, and bankers and financiers as the New Gods.

Labour’s manifesto offered a very different vision: a fairer society, bearing down on inequality, a more redistributive tax system, the centrality of the social, proper funding of public services, nationalisation of the railways and water industry, and people as the priority rather than business and the City. The title captured the spirit – For the Many Not the Few. Or, to put in another way, After Neoliberalism. The vision is not yet the answer to the latter question, but it represents the beginnings of an answer.

Ever since the late 1970s, Labour has been on the defensive, struggling to deal with a world where the right has been hegemonic. We can now begin to glimpse a different possibility, one in which the left can begin to take ownership – at least in some degree – of a new, post-neoliberal political settlement. But we should not underestimate the enormous problems that lie in wait. The relative economic prospects for the country are far worse than they have been at any time since 1945. As we saw in the Brexit vote, the forces of conservatism, nativism, racism and imperial nostalgia remain hugely powerful. Not only has the country rejected continued membership of the European Union, but, along with the rest of the West, it is far from reconciled with the new world that is in the process of being created before our very eyes, in which the developing world will be paramount and in which China will be the global leader.

Nonetheless, to be able to entertain a sense of optimism about our own country is a novel experience after 30 years of being out in the cold. No wonder so many are feeling energised again.

This article first appeared in the 15 June 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Corbyn: revenge of the rebel

Martin Jacques is the former editor of Marxism Today. 

This article first appeared in the 15 June 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Corbyn: revenge of the rebel

0800 7318496