Preview: NS Interview with Gore Vidal

On David Cameron, Barack Obama and why he thinks America is heading for dictatorship.

On David Cameron, Barack Obama and why he thinks America is heading for dictatorship.

Melvyn Bragg has interviewed the American author Gore Vidal many times over the years – including for three separate South Bank Show films.

For his guest-edit of this week's New Statesman, Bragg called Vidal at his home in Los Angeles, where Vidal claimed to be working on perfecting "the telephone essay".

The resulting interview is a wide-ranging conversation, replete with Vidal's usual wit, that covers his life and career. But perhaps – as always – his political views are the most striking.

Here is what he had to say about the Republican Party:

These are the small-town enemies of everybody. They just dislike everyone. They couldn't come out and say: "We don't want a black president" – we've finally got past that roadblock. So what they did was set out to slaughter the opposition party, the Democrats.

Vidal's contention is that Obama's opponents, motivated by racism, have set out to discredit him:

Repetition. They keep saying he's really a terrorist and they even deny he's black. He's obviously brown in some way – a vicious way – because we know what they are like; those are terrorists.

This febrile political atmosphere, combined with economic turmoil, is a recipe for disaster:

I should not in the least be surprised if there were a kind of dictatorship at the end of the road, which seems to be coming more and more quickly as we lose more and more wars.

Vidal also gave his verdict on Britain's current Prime Minister:

Have you any opinion on our new Downing Street tenant, Mr Cameron?
You do like to adjust to types. You've got all the right types you should have for government in this adorable Tory. He's everything we thought Bertie Wooster was – and God knows we worship Bertie Wooster, in the form of Hugh Laurie.

And there is a warning for Britain, too, over the direction of its foreign policy:

Anybody who tries to hang on to America's coat-tails is going to find himself up to his eyeballs in, well, deceit and corruption. This is the crookedest place on earth – and I never thought I would go that far, having been to many other countries at least south of our borders.

You can read the full interview in this week's magazine.

Daniel Trilling is the Editor of New Humanist magazine. He was formerly an Assistant Editor at the New Statesman.

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Jeremy Corbyn has galvanised the Labour party - now let's win a general election

We need to harness the enthusiasm behind the Jeremy for Labour campaign. 

It is significant and important that more people joined the party this year than all of the Tory membership combined. 

Labour's members and supporters have proven that Labour is the most relevant party after a long leadership campaign, where both candidates have had the chance to address some of the key issues facing us in austerity Britain.

Now, nothing is more important for the Labour party than coming together to oppose the Tories and move forward on a road to winning the next general election.

We need to speak not only to the converted, but to those whose trust we lost before the general election. 

To do this, Labour needs to not only oppose Tory ideologically-driven cuts, but also to set out an attractive alternative to improve people’s standards of living. 

As the reality of Brexit sinks in, we need to set the terms, lead the debate. We have to look outwards and not inwards. 

It is for this reason that we must continue to be both a firmly anti-austerity and pro-investment party. 

Now more than ever, Labour needs to fight to protect our public services and stand up for the majority of people in the face of the Conservatives’ offensive against ordinary people.

Austerity continues to decimate our vulnerable communities, with the worst effects of cuts to public services and reforms to welfare still to come for many. 

An economy that delivers for everyone needs to be more than a soundbite. We’re the party for the many, not the few. We need to stand up for those who vote Labour, but also those who don’t. 

In the last year, we have started to outline a credible and coherent alternative to austerity, based on investment not more ideologically-driven cuts.

We have put back on the political agenda that Britain needs a proper industrial strategy which invests in the industries and technologies of the future. 

This could address our infrastructure needs, for more housing, better rail links, and world class digital infrastructure, and provide quality public services, including the renationalised, properly funded health service the people of Britain deserve. 

The public trust Jeremy Corbyn. That’s why he can win a general election. Both because his policies are what the economy and the majority of the country needs, and because people know he will deliver his promises.

Our party has over 550,000 members - giving us the potential to be a movement for change in every area and community across Britain. 

The Jeremy for Labour campaign saw tens of thousands of people involved in a grassroots campaign with:

  • a Facebook presence reaching 6m people per week at its peak;
  • the signing up of 40,000 volunteers who made over 110,000 calls to Labour members and supporters, on top of 300,000 calls from phonebanks;
  • the raising of over £300,000 in donations from over 19,000 people with an average donation of just £16;
  • 59 major campaign events, including hustings, policy launches and rallies. Two rallies were attended by over 10,000 people, with 80,000 people attending events in total.

We need to harness this enthusiasm going forward, utilising the talents and resources of our members to win on the doorstep, and win the argument that there is an alternative to austerity. 

Crucially, now we need to unite and build the momentum for victory in a general election. 

By taking the fight to the Tories in this way, and outlining the pathway out of austerity that has been proposed this summer, we can win the next general election and transform Britain into a fairer, more equal society.

Diane Abbott is Labour MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington, and shadow secretary of state for health.