In the Critics this week

Jonathan Wilson on football, T S Eliot's letters and James A Robinson on China.

In the Critics section of this week’s New Statesman, Jonathan Wilson laments the loss of tactical innovation in football: “For a time, World Cups were won by countries that best executed a new way of playing the game,” he writes. He cites England’s 6-3 defeat to Hungary at Wembley in 1953; British suspicion of ‘pseudo-intellectualism’ saw the home team stick to a 25-year-old formation, only to be blindsided by Hungary’s decision to move a centre-forward to midfield. “Tournaments used regularly to throw up such scenarios,” says Wilson, “but these days we know more. Even without internet streaming … it’s just not possible for a team to stun the world with an entirely new incarnation of football.” Club players study systematised routines, writes Wilson, but at international level time is limited, rendering the game “inherently – unavoidably – conservative.”

Adam Kirsch reviews The Letters of T S Eliot, Volume III: 1926-27, edited by Valerie Eliot and John Haffenden. Eliot published little poetry in 1926-27, explains Kirsch, devoting much time instead to his position as editor of the Criterion. “Readers who come to the letters for insights into Eliot the man or poet will surely be frustrated,” Kirsch writes; “about three-quarters of them are devoted to routine editorial business.” The volume displays Eliot’s progression from “iconoclastic American poet” to “devout English man of letters,” says Kirsch, but one must read around the letters for the most interesting story, “that of Eliot’s spiritual evolution, of which his professional and literary evolution was an index.” In “loving and unguarded moments”, writes Kirsch, such as the letter the poet wrote to his ill mother, Eliot emerges as both constrained and consoled by Christianity, “as the man he was disappears inside the man he chose to become.” 

In the Books interview, Jonathan Derbyshire talks to political scientist James A Robinson about his book Why Nations Fail, which argues that political institutions are vital to economic growth: “It’s the way that societies organise their economy and their policy that is crucial for how successful they are,” explains Robinson. It is not about leaders or geography, he says: “the idea that Sierra Leone, for example is poor because of malaria or because it’s in the tropics is absurd.” What “distinguishes east Asia from, say, sub-Saharan Africa, is the history of political centralisation,” he says. China will not sustain its current boom, he cautions: “The thing the Chinese Communist Party really cares about is staying in power”; in a “choice between allowing the institutional changes that will drive development or staying in power, it will choose staying in power.”

Also in Books: David Herman reviews Golden Harvest: Events at the periphery of the Holocaust by Jan Tomasz Gross; Maurice Walsh looks at the life of John Casement in his review of Mario Vargas Llosa’s The Dream of the Celt; Philippa Stockley reviews The London Square: Gardens in the Midst of Town by Todd Langstaffe-Gowan; plus novelist Francine Prose on the great writers who inspire her.

Elsewhere in the Critics: Leo Hollis on the changing look of the City; David Flusfeder on Radio 3; Ryan Gilbey on David Cronenberg’s Cosmopolis;  Will Self’s ‘Real Meals’; Rachel Cooke reviews The Men Who Made Us Fat; and Sophie Elmhirst on the perennial problem of noise.

From American iconoclast to devout Anglican: TS Eliot (Photo: Hulton Archive/Getty)
Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

Jeremy Corbyn sat down on train he claimed was full, Virgin says

The train company has pushed back against a viral video starring the Labour leader, in which he sat on the floor.

Seats were available on the train where Jeremy Corbyn was filmed sitting on the floor, Virgin Trains has said.

On 16 August, a freelance film-maker who has been following the Labour leader released a video which showed Corbyn talking about the problems of overcrowded trains.

“This is a problem that many passengers face every day, commuters and long-distance travellers. Today this train is completely ram-packed,” he said. Is it fair that I should upgrade my ticket whilst others who might not be able to afford such a luxury should have to sit on the floor? It’s their money I would be spending after all.”

Commentators quickly pointed out that he would not have been able to claim for a first-class upgrade, as expenses rules only permit standard-class travel. Also, campaign expenses cannot be claimed back from the taxpayer. 

Today, Virgin Trains released footage of the Labour leader walking past empty unreserved seats to film his video, which took half an hour, before walking back to take another unreserved seat.

"CCTV footage taken from the train on August 11 shows Mr Corbyn and his team walked past empty, unreserved seats in coach H before walking through the rest of the train to the far end, where his team sat on the floor and started filming.

"The same footage then shows Mr Corbyn returning to coach H and taking a seat there, with the help of the onboard crew, around 45 minutes into the journey and over two hours before the train reached Newcastle.

"Mr Corbyn’s team carried out their filming around 30 minutes into the journey. There were also additional empty seats on the train (the 11am departure from King’s Cross) which appear from CCTV to have been reserved but not taken, so they were also available for other passengers to sit on."

A Virgin spokesperson commented: “We have to take issue with the idea that Mr Corbyn wasn’t able to be seated on the service, as this clearly wasn’t the case.

A spokesman for the Corbyn campaign told BuzzFeed News that the footage was a “lie”, and that Corbyn had given up his seat for a woman to take his place, and that “other people” had also sat in the aisles.

Owen Smith, Corbyn's leadership rival, tried a joke:

But a passenger on the train supported Corbyn's version of events.

Both Virgin Trains and the Corbyn campaign have been contacted for further comment.

UPDATE 17:07

A spokesperson for the Jeremy for Labour campaign commented:

“When Jeremy boarded the train he was unable to find unreserved seats, so he sat with other passengers in the corridor who were also unable to find a seat. 

"Later in the journey, seats became available after a family were upgraded to first class, and Jeremy and the team he was travelling with were offered the seats by a very helpful member of staff.

"Passengers across Britain will have been in similar situations on overcrowded, expensive trains. That is why our policy to bring the trains back into public ownership, as part of a plan to rebuild and transform Britain, is so popular with passengers and rail workers.”

A few testimonies from passengers who had their photos taken with Corbyn on the floor can be found here