This week's NS: The London issue

Summer double edition: essays, fiction, art and photography inspired by the capital.

Special double edition with contributions from Vivienne Westwood, Matthew Hollis, Maurice Glasman, Will Hutton, Ruth Padel and Evgeny Lebedev, an essay by Will Self, a new short story by Joe Dunthorne, an interview with David Bailey and a specially commissioned 12-page  photo essay on the world's greatest city

This week’s New Statesman is a 92-page special issue on London. The double issue of the magazine features a series of capsule essays, “Tales of a city”, in which artists, authors and public figures reflect on their relationship with the capital. The pieces include:

 

  • Vivienne Westwood on a life spent in art galleries

  • Bim Adewunmi on Hackney’s inevitable gentrification

  • Alex Preston urges bankers to look up at the buildings they built

  • Ruth Padel argues the case for London Zoo

  • David Lammy questions whether London can be a place for everyone

  • Matthew Hollis travels on a boat down the Thames

  • Stuart Maconie offers a northerner’s take on the capital

  • Dorian Lynskey celebrates the Rough Trade record shop

  • Sarah Sands insists that no other city can compete with London

  • Maurice Glasman recalls gloomy childhood Sundays in Palmers Green

  • Evgeny Lebedev is grateful to a city that welcomed him

 

Will Self: Streets of love and anarchy

For a special essay, Will Self takes a stroll through south London with his son. They encounter pirate DVD sellers, 1970s tower blocks and Battersea Power Station – and Self remembers how much he loves, and hates, the protean city. Ralph Steadman has created an original illustration for the New Statesman to accompany this London essay.

 

Reporter at Large: Edward Platt

Last summer, Edward Platt set out in the footsteps of J B Priestley, tracking Britain’s post-industrial decline and revival. In the last of his “English journeys”, he visits the Isle of Dogs and Southwark, and discovers that urban poverty coexists uneasily with high finance. With photographs of Canary Wharf and the Shard by Stephen McLaren and Mimi Mollica.

 

Also in the London issue

  • An extensive photo essay, specially commissioned by the New Statesman, opens with a reflection on foreign depictions of the city by Sukhdev Sandhu, the author of London Calling and Night Haunts: a Journey Through the London Night. Across six spreads of the magazine, vintage photographs from Tate Britain's exhibition “Another London” (opens on 27 July) sit next to reinterpretations in images by the contemporary photographers Daido Moriyama, Alex Webb, Aaron Schuman, Jan Stradtmann, Noemie Goudal, Gueorgui Pinkhassov, Mishka Henner and Richard Mosse.

  • David Bailey, whose iconic fashion and celebrity photos of the Sixties captured the essence of Swinging London, talks to Rebecca McClelland in the NS Interview.

  • We run a new short story by Joe Dunthorne, “The Cold War”, set in an east London park and with an illustration by Barry Falls.

 

Elsewhere in this week's NS

  • Jonathan Portes, director of the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, reflects on what can be done about Britain’s gloomy outlook in the Economics Column.

  • In the Politics Column, Rafael Behr reports that Boris Johnson “has told aides he intends to perform his mayoral duties on an unofficial part-time basis after the Olympics”. With seven deputy mayors left to run the capital, Johnson will be afforded “three years of idleness” – which for Downing Street “means endless scope for political devilry”.

  • In the Critics section, Richard Mabey writes the third in his series of “seasonal diaries” for the NS on the “floral phantasmagoriahe" we have our unusually wet summer to thank for.

  • Leo Hollis examines attempts to transform London from a Victorian capital to a futuristic metropolis using the latest digital technology.

  • The former editor of the Observer, Will Hutton, writes examines three books by leading economists who dissent from the “austerian” consensus on the best solution to the economic crisis, both domestically and globally. 

  • Also in The Critics, the NS's pick of the top ten London novels, films and songs.

 

This week's double issue of the New Statesman, cover dated 30 July - 12 August 2012, is on newsstands and available for purchase here

 

Alice Gribbin is a Teaching-Writing Fellow at the Iowa Writers' Workshop. She was formerly the editorial assistant at the New Statesman.

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Why the Liberal Democrats by-election surge is not all it seems

The Lib Dems chalked up impressive results in Stoke and Copeland. But just how much of a fight back is it?

By the now conventional post-Brexit logic, Stoke and Copeland ought to have been uniquely inhospitable for the Lib Dems. 

The party lost its deposit in both seats in 2015, and has no representation on either council. So too were the referendum odds stacked against it: in Stoke, the so-called Brexit capital of Britain, 70 per cent of voters backed Leave last June, as did 62 per cent in Copeland. And, as Stephen has written before, the Lib Dems’ mini-revival has so far been most pronounced in affluent, Conservative-leaning areas which swung for remain. 

So what explains the modest – but impressive – surges in their vote share in yesterday’s contests? In Stoke, where they finished fifth in 2015, the party won 9.8 per cent of the vote, up 5.7 percentage points. They also more than doubled their vote share in Copeland, where they beat Ukip for third with 7.3 per cent share of the vote.

The Brexit explanation is a tempting and not entirely invalid one. Each seat’s not insignificant pro-EU minority was more or less ignored by most of the national media, for whom the existence of remainers in what we’re now obliged to call “left-behind Britain” is often a nuance too far. With the Prime Minister Theresa May pushing for a hard Brexit and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn waving it through, Lib Dem leader Tim Farron has made the pro-EU narrative his own. As was the case for Charles Kennedy in the Iraq War years, this confers upon the Lib Dems a status and platform they were denied as the junior partners in coalition. 

While their stance on Europe is slowly but surely helping the Lib Dems rebuild their pre-2015 demographic core - students, graduates and middle-class professionals employed in the public sector – last night’s results, particularly in Stoke, also give them reason for mild disappointment. 

In Stoke, campaign staffers privately predicted they might manage to beat Ukip for second or third place. The party ran a full campaign for the first time in several years, and canvassing returns suggested significant numbers of Labour voters, mainly public sector workers disenchanted with Corbyn’s stance on Europe, were set to vote Lib Dem. Nor were they intimidated by the Brexit factor: recent council by-elections in Sunderland and Rotheram, which both voted decisively to leave, saw the Lib Dems win seats for the first time on massive swings. 

So it could well be argued that their candidate, local cardiologist Zulfiqar Ali, ought to have done better. Staffordshire University’s campus, which Tim Farron visited as part of a voter registration drive, falls within the seat’s boundaries. Ali, unlike his Labour competitor Gareth Snell and Ukip leader Paul Nuttall, didn’t have his campaign derailed or disrupted by negative media attention. Unlike the Tory candidate Jack Brereton, he had the benefit of being older than 25. And, like 15 per cent of the electorate, he is of Kashmiri origin.  

In public and in private, Lib Dems say the fact that Stoke was a two-horse race between Labour and Ukip ultimately worked to their disadvantage. The prospect of Nuttall as their MP may well have been enough to convince a good number of the Labour waverers mentioned earlier to back Snell. 

With his party hovering at around 10 per cent in national polls, last night’s results give Farron cause for optimism – especially after their near-wipeout in 2015. But it’s easy to forget the bigger picture in all of this. The party have chalked up a string of impressive parliamentary by-election results – second in Witney, a spectacular win in Richmond Park, third in Sleaford and Copeland, and a strong fourth in Stoke. 

However, most of these results represent a reversion to, or indeed an underperformance compared to, the party’s pre-2015 norm. With the notable exception of Richmond’s Sarah Olney, who only joined the Lib Dems after the last general election, these candidates haven’t - or the Lib Dem vote - come from nowhere. Zulfiqar Ali previously sat on the council in Stoke and had fought the seat before, and Witney’s Liz Leffman and Sleaford’s Ross Pepper are both popular local councillors. And for all the excited commentary about Richmond, it was, of course, held by the Lib Dems for 13 years before Zac Goldsmith won it for the Tories in 2010. 

The EU referendum may have given the Lib Dems a new lease of life, but, as their #LibDemFightback trope suggests, they’re best understood as a revanchist, and not insurgent, force. Much has been said about Brexit realigning our politics, but, for now at least, the party’s new normal is looking quite a lot like the old one.