newstatesman.com commended at award ceremony

How newstatesman.com was runner up at a prestigious awards ceremony plus a far from quiet American i

A few weeks ago I may have modestly mentioned being nominated for the British Society of Magazine Editor's web editor of the year award.

Well this week my wife, self, magazine deputy editor Sue Matthias and our web developer Dan Coppock trooped along to the Park Lane Hilton to see the gongs doled out.

As it happens we were pipped at the post by the editor of Empire's website but were specially commended which I suppose means we were the runners up.

That's not bad when you think how much dosh all our rivals for the award have to run their websites. We saw the result as a recognition of all the work our small team has put in.

Now in a couple of week's time it will be the first anniversary of our website launch.

You will notice a few changes taking place in the coming months – proof we've no intention of standing still despite our successes.

In the meantime we will continue to publish the usual raft of online content. Next week look out for articles on Chavez, house prices and America's new breed of student radicals plus the usual mix of blogs and news.

Why the irritating burst of energy? Well perhaps because this time last week I'd just got back from a week in Umbria where the sun shone, the temperature hovered around 18 degrees celsius and the olive harvest was getting underway.

It's a beautiful part of the world with a liberal scattering of medieval hilltop towns, fantastic food and great wine.

The Italians can be incredibly hospitable and – clutching a small baby – we were lavished with attention and kindness almost everywhere we went.

Our only error was a day trip to Florence. Even in November it was overrun with the sort of tourist that has to be shepherded everywhere and is only really interested in Michelangelo's David to the extent of being photographed by a famous sculpture.

With that kind of tourist you always get the hustlers. We witnessed the same silly game of cat and mouse between the police and the hawkers of counterfeit goods that I'd seen on my last visit in 1989.

In a restaurant for lunch we met a woman from Virginia who believed Italy and France weren't separate countries, thought Nottingham was in London and whispered – on discovering we were British – 'oh you have those Muslims there'.

Curiously she was very preoccupied with the image Americans have abroad. She felt an injustice had been meted out when her fellow countrymen had been branded loud. "You should hear the Italians talking."

We couldn't, she was drowning them out.

What was intriguing about the conversation was the extent to which she projected her own ignorance on to others.

At one point she started telling us how artists in America struggle to get by. I made some remark about how the Federal government used to pay sculptors and painters under FDR's New Deal.

She replied: "Oh we don't have that anymore."

Well I never.

It was relief to get back to our tiny Umbrian hamlet and watch Midsomer Murders dubbed into Italian. Now do you understand my pain?

Ben Davies trained as a journalist after taking most of the 1990s off. Prior to joining the New Statesman he spent five years working as a politics reporter for the BBC News website. He lives in North London.
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What Jeremy Corbyn gets right about the single market

Technically, you can be outside the EU but inside the single market. Philosophically, you're still in the EU. 

I’ve been trying to work out what bothers me about the response to Jeremy Corbyn’s interview on the Andrew Marr programme.

What bothers me about Corbyn’s interview is obvious: the use of the phrase “wholesale importation” to describe people coming from Eastern Europe to the United Kingdom makes them sound like boxes of sugar rather than people. Adding to that, by suggesting that this “importation” had “destroy[ed] conditions”, rather than laying the blame on Britain’s under-enforced and under-regulated labour market, his words were more appropriate to a politician who believes that immigrants are objects to be scapegoated, not people to be served. (Though perhaps that is appropriate for the leader of the Labour Party if recent history is any guide.)

But I’m bothered, too, by the reaction to another part of his interview, in which the Labour leader said that Britain must leave the single market as it leaves the European Union. The response to this, which is technically correct, has been to attack Corbyn as Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Norway and Iceland are members of the single market but not the European Union.

In my view, leaving the single market will make Britain poorer in the short and long term, will immediately render much of Labour’s 2017 manifesto moot and will, in the long run, be a far bigger victory for right-wing politics than any mere election. Corbyn’s view, that the benefits of freeing a British government from the rules of the single market will outweigh the costs, doesn’t seem very likely to me. So why do I feel so uneasy about the claim that you can be a member of the single market and not the European Union?

I think it’s because the difficult truth is that these countries are, de facto, in the European Union in any meaningful sense. By any estimation, the three pillars of Britain’s “Out” vote were, firstly, control over Britain’s borders, aka the end of the free movement of people, secondly, more money for the public realm aka £350m a week for the NHS, and thirdly control over Britain’s own laws. It’s hard to see how, if the United Kingdom continues to be subject to the free movement of people, continues to pay large sums towards the European Union, and continues to have its laws set elsewhere, we have “honoured the referendum result”.

None of which changes my view that leaving the single market would be a catastrophe for the United Kingdom. But retaining Britain’s single market membership starts with making the argument for single market membership, not hiding behind rhetorical tricks about whether or not single market membership was on the ballot last June, when it quite clearly was. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.