My apologies to Stanley Johnson

Fears I may have offended Pater Johnson, reports from inside China and Burma plus what's going on in

I fear I may have offended the amiable Stanley Johnson - father of London's new mayor. Stanley - a one-time Tory MEP and their enthusiastic if unsuccessful candidate for Teignbridge at the last general election - has expressed a desire to succeed his Bozza as MP for the über-safe Tory seat of Henley.

The news prompted me to fire off a rather cheeky email to Pa Johnson who occasionally contributes to newstatesman.com.

It read: "So Stanley, what's the plan? You going to run in Henley and if so how will you still rumours that you are merely keeping Boris's seat warm?"

Back came a very prompt reply:

"Hello, Ben,

If you look at Wisden you will see that there are plenty of night-watchmen who have gone on to score a century!

all best

Stanley"

And although I never want a Tory to win, I do hope they give him a chance because - let's face it - if Henley insists on voting Conservative (AND when things are going so badly for Lexus Dave, Oik and the crew!) we might as well have someone with a bit of wit and colour about them up the road in Westminster!

The lovable Kate Hoey and charismatic Frank Field excepted of course.

So apologies Stanley - no offence meant.

Anyway moving on.

Lindsey Hilsum - our woman in China - is going to be filing from Sichuan and the absolutely devastating earthquake which has taken the lives of thousands.

We're also getting regular reports from inside Burma and some of the few Western aid workers operating in the cyclone-hit country. We've already heard from Save The Children child protection advisor Katy Barnett. You can donate and find out more about Save the Children's work in Burma by clicking on their website or give by going to the Disaster Emergencies Committee.

More from Katy later.

We're also going to hear from Victor Hulbert, of the Adventist Development Relief Agency.

Other than that, this week we've had an article from India about the mistreatment of India's hajiras – the 200,000 or so male to female transsexuals who often are subject to appalling harassment.

Deepa, a 72 year old hijra living in Mumbai, said: “Nobody says, 'I’d love to be a hijra!' Not if they know what happens to us. But what else can we do? A hijra has a man’s body, but the soul is a woman.” In order to scratch a living many hijras end up in prostitution. Others perform as wedding dancers and, in one region, as tax collectors. Check out this extraordinary story and find out how things may be changing for these people.

Bryan Gould, ex-Labour leadership hopeful, writes on what Gordon Brown must do if he is wants to win the next election.

In blogs we've got Sian Berry already thinking of her next campaign, Scotland's foremost writer AL Kennedy, plus Paul Rodger's Science Decoded and much more.

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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To beat the Trump hype, we need a return to old-fashioned political virtues

If we want to resist the Trumpification of politics, what we need is restraint, duty and incorruptibility.

After the 1992 US presidential election, Alistair Cooke’s celebrated BBC radio series Letter from America struck a poignant note. Cooke described Bill Clinton’s worn jeans and checked wool shirt, contrasting them with George H W Bush’s buttoned-up Wasp manners and buttoned-down Ivy League shirts. Clinton’s style, Cooke argued, was a rebuke to a tired social and political establishment. His casualness was the new America.

Cooke, then 83, was honest enough to admit unease about this departure from the old, patrician modes and manners. “Along with the passing of George Bush,” he said, “we shall see, I fear, the passing of the blue blazer.” Cooke seemed right at the time. But don’t write off the blue blazer just yet. As ruling elites change, so does the appropriate counterpoint. To topple Bush’s stuffy golf club elites, Clinton picked up his saxophone, took off his tie and felt everyone’s pain. And now? The subtext of these turbulent months (the inevitable second question, prompted by “How do you beat Donald Trump?”) is: “What should ­tomorrow’s leaders, the leaders we crave, look and sound like?”

My conjecture is that, to beat Trump and his type – bling, shiny suits, dodgy deals – we should push towards centre stage an underestimated set of political virtues: restraint, duty and incorruptibility. If it weren’t for the gender associations, I would be tempted to call this quality gentlemanliness. Aside from personal virtue – signally lacking in the Clinton camp – how might decency inform public debate as it comes under attack from maverick showmen trained in the media circus? How can the middle ground regain its confidence?

First, level with the public. Maybe liberalism hasn’t failed so much as its messaging has failed. Instead of smashing the electorate over the head with the idea that everything is just great, make the case that not everything can be for the best in all possible worlds. As populists reach for empty slogans, a new space has opened up. Accept and exploit those asymmetries: more people are ready to hear uncomfortable truths than politicians imagine.

Kingsley Amis once argued that a writer’s voice should stay close to his speaking voice: not the same, but close. Adapting that idea, if politicians stayed closer in public debate to the truths that they articulate in casual conversation – some things are impossible; almost every policy creates a losing as well as a winning side; there really isn’t any money – they would be surprised how many people are ready to hear that not all problems can be evaporated into thin air. Stray too far from awkward truths and elections become about simple lies v tricksy lies.

Second, centrists do more harm than good when they rush to categorise dissenting opinion as not only wrong, but unacceptable. “Any suggestion that liberal values are not humanly universal,” as John Gray wrote in a recent NS essay, “will provoke spasms of righteous indignation.” Instead, we need to be more tolerant in our tolerance.

Third, stop pretending that everything desirable can be shoehorned into the “progressive” agenda. “I really care passionately about persevering with the common-sense middle ground and doing it quite well” is a problematic political sales pitch, but not for the reasons that are usually given. The gravest difficulty may come at the beginning, with the faux passion, rather than with the substance – public service and competence – underneath.

It is revealing that those closest to David Cameron expended so much energy trying to persuade us that he was not an updated version of Harold Macmillan. That is why the gay marriage reforms, though admirable, were accorded too much significance. Ah, Cameron was a natural crusader! But he paid a price for dressing up as a “radical” when greater challenges arrived. It weakened some of his strongest cards – calmness, perspective, proportion – just as politics was coarsening. Aren’t Tories supposed to understand the virtues of yesterday? In other words, as an electoral strategy to beat Trump (or Nigel Farage), I’d put up a Macmillan type over a Clinton type every time.

Fourth, cut ties with “messaging experts”. It’s a fraud. They teach that everything must be asserted with powerful conviction. Yet ideas unworthy of powerful conviction are best left shorn of them. The electorate has endured a communications version of crying wolf. As a result of the messaging game, when something genuinely important crops up, it sounds simply like the same old shtick.

Fifth, ditch the bogus quantification. Few things signal untrustworthiness more reliably than fake precision. Something shifted in me when George Osborne argued that Brexit would leave households £4,300 worse off. What, no decimal point? Voters understand uncertainty better than politicians imagine. Precise quantification used to sound professional. Now it sounds suspicious.

Finally, think about tone. Conventional wisdom holds that the mainstream must fight the Trumpian revolution on its own terms: a simple solution, memorably expressed, a guiding vision for the country or the world. If anyone has a good one to hand, I’m all for it. But what if – after decades of ­sophisticated argument and counterargument, as politics has solved the easy problems while parking the difficult or insoluble ones – we have reached a state of such evolved equilibrium that no such easy answer can exist?

Pretending otherwise is no longer a point of difference. It takes you towards the lowest common denominator. As Trump has shown, that is well-occupied territory. Perhaps wooing the angry mob is not the solution. Instead, the admirable and successful politician of the future will have to win back the support of moderate, sensible but disillusioned voters. 

Ed Smith is a journalist and author, most recently of Luck. He is a former professional cricketer and played for both Middlesex and England.

This article first appeared in the 01 December 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Age of outrage