Tories sail into stormy waters

What's going on on newstatesman.com plus devastating news of a Tory split. Or is it just a big Camer

This week on newstatesman.com the Ukrainian novelist Andrey Kurkov writes exclusively on Alexandr Solzhenitsyn, who related the terrible truth about Soviet totalitarianism in his Gulag Archipelago.

Kurkov observes: "Alexander Isaevich outlived his era and never truly accepted the new ‘post-soviet’ epoch.

"Having sincerely dedicated his life to a desperate struggle against communism, in 1991 Solzhenitsyn suddenly found himself without a battle to fight."

We hear from the great AL Kennedy who has been collecting the Austrian State Prize for European Literature...

"The Austrian Minister for Culture is charming and actually cares about culture and the Austrian prime minister gave me cake – while I tried to assure him my own prime minister would have taken my cake and told me it would be given to the destitute and cake-needy before sneaking it into the cake trough of a cake-spattered man in a mink cake-eating suit. Poor Gordon, though - perhaps soon to be replaced by one or another Miliband. They’re twins, after all. What happens if we get the evil twin? I’ve watched more than enough Hammer horror films to know this is surely a risk."

Only time will tell.

By the way you can see AL Kennedy in person at the Edinburgh Fringe.

Oh and don't miss Hugh O'Shaughnessy having fun with the Colombian statisticians who have elevated their country's president to similar popularity ratings as former Albanian dictator Enva Hoxha.

And check out our series on what Labour needs to do to put itself back on the path to popularity. We've already had contributions from Home Secretary Jacqui Smith, plus ex-ministers Denis MacShane and Barbara Roche.

Coming up Nick Raynsford, Iain Gibson and more.

Moving on to a Tory split...

It's being widely reported that the beautiful relationship between Lexus Dave Cameron and George 'Oik' Osborne has sailed into stormy waters over the thorny issue of marriage.

The Tory leader favours tax breaks for married couples, the shadow chancellor does not. The Times - and others - report a substantial disagreement.

Let's just examine this for a minute. Dave Cameron voiced his support for tax breaks for the legally bound (through marriage and civil partnerships) in a nod to tradition in his first speech as Tory leader. He's keen on research that indicates half of those who simply shack up split up before their child's fifth birthday. That's compared to one in 12 married people.

George Osborne reportedly takes the line it's not the state's job to tell people how to live their lives and that all parents should be supported regardless of family structure.

Of course the state (unless the Tories are planning some really sinister changes) wouldn't be telling people how to live their lives but merely encouraging them in a particular direction. But wouldn't it have to be a pretty fantastic tax break to get otherwise unwilling people to tie the knot?

Call me cynical but I smell a bit of a Tory PR cook-up here. Lexus Dave - much photographed family man and hero of traditional values. Oik Osborne - all that is fresh and libertarian about the Conservatives (really, all) but ultimately not in charge. And a policy proposal which is ultimately more gimmick than anything else. They publicise a stand-off. Oik in the end caves in. The leader and tradition prevail.

Is Dave Cameron is hugging the family values husky?

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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The Telegraph’s bizarre list of 100 reasons to be happy about Brexit

“Old-fashioned light bulbs”, “crooked cucumbers”, and “new vocabulary”.

As the economy teeters on the verge of oblivion, and the Prime Minister grapples with steering the UK around a black hole of political turmoil, the Telegraph is making the best of a bad situation.

The paper has posted a video labelled “100 reasons to embrace Brexit”. Obviously the precise number is “zero”, but that didn’t stop it filling the blanks with some rather bizarre reasons, floating before the viewer to an inevitable Jerusalem soundtrack:

Cheap tennis balls

At last. Tennis balls are no longer reserved for the gilded eurocrat elite.

Keep paper licences

I can’t trust it unless I can get it wet so it disintegrates, or I can throw it in the bin by mistake, or lose it when I’m clearing out my filing cabinet. It’s only authentic that way.

New hangover cures

What?

Stronger vacuums

An end to the miserable years of desperately trying to hoover up dust by inhaling close to the carpet.

Old-fashioned light bulbs

I like my electricals filled with mercury and coated in lead paint, ideally.

No more EU elections

Because the democratic aspect of the European Union was something we never obsessed over in the run-up to the referendum.

End working time directive

At last, I don’t even have to go to the trouble of opting out of over-working! I will automatically be exploited!

Drop green targets

Most people don’t have time to worry about the future of our planet. Some don’t even know where their next tennis ball will come from.

No more wind farms

Renewable energy sources, infrastructure and investment – what a bore.

Blue passports

I like my personal identification how I like my rinse.

UK passport lane

Oh good, an unadulterated queue of British tourists. Just mind the vomit, beer spillage and flakes of sunburnt skin while you wait.

No fridge red tape

Free the fridge!

Pounds and ounces

Units of measurement are definitely top of voters’ priorities. Way above the economy, health service, and even a smidgen higher than equality of tennis ball access.

Straight bananas

Wait, what kind of bananas do Brexiteers want? Didn’t they want to protect bendy ones? Either way, this is as persistent a myth as the slapstick banana skin trope.

Crooked cucumbers

I don’t understand.

Small kiwi fruits

Fair enough. They were getting a bit above their station, weren’t they.

No EU flags in UK

They are a disgusting colour and design. An eyesore everywhere you look…in the uh zero places that fly them here.

Kent champagne

To celebrate Ukip cleaning up the east coast, right?

No olive oil bans

Finally, we can put our reliable, Mediterranean weather and multiple olive groves to proper use.

No clinical trials red tape

What is there to regulate?

No Turkey EU worries

True, we don’t have to worry. Because there is NO WAY AND NEVER WAS.

No kettle restrictions

Free the kettle! All kitchen appliances’ lives matter!

Less EU X-factor

What is this?

Ditto with BGT

I really don’t get this.

New vocabulary

Mainly racist slurs, right?

Keep our UN seat

Until that in/out UN referendum, of course.

No EU human rights laws

Yeah, got a bit fed up with my human rights tbh.

Herbal remedy boost

At last, a chance to be treated with medicine that doesn’t work.

Others will follow [picture of dominos]

Hooray! The economic collapse of countries surrounding us upon whose trade and labour we rely, one by one!

Better English team

Ah, because we can replace them with more qualified players under an Australian-style points-based system, you mean?

High-powered hairdryers

An end to the miserable years of desperately trying to dry my hair by yawning on it.

She would’ve wanted it [picture of Margaret Thatcher]

Well, I’m convinced.

I'm a mole, innit.