Death of a Liberal and other stories

Death of a Liberalman

David Mamet’s announcement that he has foresworn “brain-dead liberalism” for a more Hobbesian strain of conservatism (“I do not think that people are basically good at heart”) prompted page three coverage in the Independent and nearly 400 posts on the Village Voice blog, which carried the original article. Amidst the consolatory Chekov extracts and “Welcome home David” back-patting, Jennifer Matsui wrote: “Now that he pisses into the same golden urinals as Steven Spielberg and air kisses mogul trophy wives at charity events, he can reveal his true colors while posing as a brave and principled "contrarian" a la Christopher Hitchens.” But with all quiet on the Hitchens’ front, Mamet was rather short of defenders. At least Gawker.com only criticised him for the poor style of his polemic: “He jumps willy nilly from point to point, anecdote to anecdote, losing his way every time.” Gawker, mind, was a little more wary of Mamet’s motives: “Maybe you more politically savvy, high-minded types can parse it better than I, but to me it seems to be just a weird, regressive attempt to publicise his new-ish Broadway play November., which may be wise in light of the cool reception revivals such as Speed-the-Plow have received in recent years.

Slave trader Winehouse?

Another week, another accolade for Amy Winehouse – and this time it’s “poster girl of drug abuse”, ‘awarded’ to Amy by the UN drug office’s executive director, Antonio Maria Costa. According to a report by the International Narcotics Control Board, the singer, and other substance-abusing celebrities are partly responsible for the rise in European cocaine consumption, which Costa compared to the slave trade for its potential to devastate West Africa. As Hecklerspray pointed out, “those poor people have got problems enough as it is without feeling the need to stagger round their villages in just their bra shouting "My Blakey!" all the time as well.” But the Telegraph’s Neil McCormick was somewhat baffled as to why the UN had only just managed to draw the link between drug-takers and music-makers (pray, where did Costa spend the 1960s?) and irritated that the argument had been so over-simplified: “Pop culture doesn't tell one story about drugs, it tells all kinds of stories, reflecting society as much as shaping it.” And of course, even if Amy is to repent, could the New Statesman’s Rachel Cooke really handle another celebrity penitential on a par with Alex James’ recent Colombia Panorama special?

Recent arrivals: the New York City Ballet, complete with 85 dancers and its own orchestra for a 14-night stint at the Coliseum. It’s taken more than 25 years, and the combined efforts of Sadler’s Wells and the commercial organisations Askonas Holt and Raymond Gubbay to procure them, but will Balanchine’s dancers justify the wait and £95 top-ticket price? Early reviews from the Guardian and the Times suggest yes.

Just through customs: Mr Lonely, Harmony Korine’s new film, which opens in the UK today. A Marilyn Monroe impersonator takes a Michael Jackson-alike to a Highlands retreat for celebrity seconds. Worth the view? See Daniel Trilling’s feature and Ryan Gilbey.

Ready for departure: not Terry Pratchett, who despite being diagnosed with early-onset dementia, intends to “scream and harangue while there is time”. The writer donated $1 million (£495,000) to Alzheimer’s research this week presumably because he’s fond of screaming.

Nichi Hodgson is a writer and broadcaster specialising in sexual politics, censorship, and  human rights. Her first book, Bound To You, published by Hodder & Stoughton, is out now. She tweets @NichiHodgson.

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Recess confidential: Labour's liquid party

Sniffing out the best stories from Westminster, including Showsec, soames, and Smith-side splits.

If you are celebrating in a brewery, don’t ask Labour to provide the drinks. Because of the party’s continuing failure to secure a security contractor for its Liverpool conference, it is still uncertain whether the gathering will take place at all. Since boycotting G4S, the usual supplier, over its links with Israeli prisons, Labour has struggled to find an alternative. Of the five firms approached, only one – Showsec – offered its services. But the company’s non-union-recognition policy is inhibiting an agreement. The GMB, the firm’s antagonist, has threatened to picket the conference if Showsec is awarded the contract. In lieu of a breakthrough, sources suggest two alternatives: the police (at a cost of £59.65 per constable per hour), or the suspension of the G4S boycott. “We’ll soon find out which the Corbynites dislike the least,” an MP jested. Another feared that the Tories’ attack lines will write themselves: “How can Labour be trusted with national security if it can’t organise its own?”

Farewell, then, to Respect. The left-wing party founded in 2004 and joined by George Galloway after his expulsion from Labour has officially deregistered itself.

“We support Corbyn’s Labour Party,” the former MP explained, urging his 522,000 Facebook followers to sign up. “The Labour Party does not belong to one man,” replied Jess Phillips MP, who also pointed out in the same tweet that Respect had “massively failed”. Galloway, who won 1.4 per cent of the vote in this year’s London mayoral election, insists that he is not seeking to return to Labour. But he would surely be welcomed by Jeremy Corbyn’s director of communications, Seumas Milne, whom he once described as his “closest friend”. “We have spoken almost daily for 30 years,” Galloway boasted.

After Young Labour’s national committee voted to endorse Corbyn, its members were aggrieved to learn that they would not be permitted to promote his candidacy unless Owen Smith was given equal treatment. The leader’s supporters curse more “dirty tricks” from the Smith-sympathetic party machine.

Word reaches your mole of a Smith-side split between the ex-shadow cabinet ministers Lisa Nandy and Lucy Powell. The former is said to be encouraging the challenger’s left-wing platform, while the latter believes that he should make a more centrist pitch. If, as expected, Smith is beaten by Corbyn, it’s not only the divisions between the leader and his opponents that will be worth watching.

Nicholas Soames, the Tory grandee, has been slimming down – so much so, that he was congratulated by Tom Watson, Labour’s deputy leader, on his weight loss. “Soon I’ll be able to give you my old suits!” Soames told the similarly rotund Watson. 

Kevin Maguire is away

I'm a mole, innit.

This article first appeared in the 25 August 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Cameron: the legacy of a loser