David Miliband guest-edits the New Statesman

In this week's magazine: Age of crisis


The special issue includes contributions from Hillary Clinton, Richard Branson, Tony Blair, José Manuel BarrosoKevin Rudd, Ed Miliband, Jonathan Coe, Kwame Kwei-Armah, Jo Brand and many others, as well as Michael Semple’s interview with a Taliban leader and David Walliams’s interview with Russell Brand 

 

For this week’s 80-page issue of the New Statesman, David Miliband, Labour MP for South Shields and former foreign secretary, has commissioned a series of articles by leading international figures from politics, culture and business on the theme of shifts in world power. His issue follows last year’s acclaimed New Statesman guest-edits by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, in June, and Richard Dawkins, in December. 

The magazine is available on newsstands from Thursday 12 July. Single-issue copies can be purchased here

Click here to read David Miliband's leading article in full

Hillary Clinton: The great power shift

In the NS Essay, US secretary of state Hillary Clinton makes a major intervention on US foreign policy ahead of her government's bid for re-election this November. In an unusual and bold move, Clinton espouses her "smart power" doctrine by stating the US will place greater emphasis on financial operations - over military - in the name of US national security:

[We] recognise that countries such as China, India and Brazil are gaining influence less because of the size of their armies than because of the growth of their economies. And we have learned that our national security today depends on decisions made not just in diplomatic negotiations and on the battlefield, but also in the financial markets and on factory floors. So US has made it a priority to harness more effectively the tools of global economics to advance our strategic aims abroad. That might mean finding innovative financial levers to ratchet up pressure on Iran's nuclear programme, or forming new public-private partnerships that put corporate energy and expertise to work on such challenges as climate change and food security.

Clinton also states her government has made "expanding opportunities for women a cornerstone of America's foreign policy":

[E]mpowering women and girls around the world is crucial to seizing long-term opportunities for promoting peace, democracy and sustainable development . . . We've launched amibitous efforts to increase women's participation in the economy by opening access to credit and markets, to enhance the role of women in resolving conflicts and maintaining security, and to focus global health programmes on the needs of mothers, who are linchpins of entire communities.

José Manuel Barroso: “How is Britain so open to the world, but so closed to Europe?”

Outside Europe, Britain will be reduced to the role of a “Norway or Switzerland”, warns the president of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, in conversation with the NS guest editor.

Click here to read extracts from the wide-ranging discussion

Tony Blair on his friend Philip Gould

Writing in this special issue, Tony Blair reflects on his relationship with Philip Gould, the Labour Party consultant who died in November last year:

Philip was always a great writer. His notes to me during the 13 years I led the Labour Party were always so beautifully expressed that I used to say that they beguiled me, persuading me of the validity of the view just by the manner of telling it. 

As a strategist and pollster, Gould was a “genius”, Blair writes, in part for “his ability to step back from the data and surface noise”:

He often wrote in tactics; but he saved his best for strategy. In strategy he was the master: regularly challenging the conventional wisdom and always coming out with a solution to the problem, not just an analysis of it.

Gould’s book When I Die: Lessons from the Death Zone concludes with the words: “I am approaching the door marked death. What lies beyond it may be the worst of things. But I believe it will be the best of things.” Blair describes how those words by his friend affected him:

I knew Philip. But I felt as I read this that I was being introduced to someone new, someone different. This is a book that will give you pleasure and peace.

David Walliams interviews Russell Brand

Given the offer by David Miliband to interview whomever he wished for this issue of the New Statesman, the actor and author David Walliams chose Russell Brand, his “wildly famous” friend, a “cross between the Artful Dodger and Harry Flashman”. 

On Britishness and patriotism, Brand tells Walliams:

When I’m spending a lot of time in Los Angeles, I consider myself countercultural; I don’t think of myself as an establishment figure. But over here, if I see an image of Her Majesty the Queen, I wince with national pride.

Asked when he sees such an image of the monarch, Brand makes an intimate confession:

I’ve had her tattooed on my inner thigh. And I spend quite a lot of time staring at that.

The two comedians turn to politics; Brand revealing that he has never voted in his life (“It’s gestural politics”) and suggesting an alternative he thinks would be more representative of the electorate:

I’d like to see spirituality brought to the forefront of life. I think that socialism is the politicisation of spirituality. I think we have a cultural obligation to regard the whole as more significant than the individual.

Michael Semple interviews a senior member of the Taliban

The former diplomat and author Michael Semple has interviewed a veteran leader of the Afghan Taliban movement – “one of the most senior surviving Taliban commanders and a confidant of the movement’s leadership”. The identity of his interviewee is protected, to allow him to speak freely about the upper echelons of the movement, but Semple has verified his seniority and cross-checked his account.

Click here to read extracts from the widely-reported interview

Ed Miliband Diary

In the Diary column, the Labour leader Ed Miliband recounts a conversation he had on Wednesday last week at a summer drinks reception organised by the Spectator magazine:

I chat to Nick Robinson, the political editor of the BBC, about what has gone wrong with the banks and the response of politics. I find myself acknowledging that my father would probably have said this is about a conflict between democracy and capitalism.

Miliband’s Diary entry for Thursday:

I switch on the radio. Nick Robinson is on the Today programme saying he has been reliably informed how Ed Miliband sits in his Westminster office musing on how this is now a battle between democracy and capitalism.

Miliband isn’t perturbed:

Now there is a journalist with good sources.

Click here to read Ed Miliband's Diary in full

Elsewhere in the New Statesman

  • Richard Branson on tax, Bob Diamond and a European army
  • Kevin Rudd: The west isn't ready for the Chinese century
  • Jo Brand on the freedoms of punk
  • Jonathan Coe on our obsession with state-of-the-nation novels

New Statesman guest-edit exclusives

Melvyn Bragg’s guest-edit on 11 October 2010 featured “Last Letter”, a newly discovered, previously unpublished poem by Ted Hughes about the night that his wife Sylvia Plath committed suicide.

Jemima Khan’s guest-edit (11 April 2011) featured her agenda-setting interview with the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg – in which he declared “I’m not a punchbag” – as well as Hugh Grant’s undercover interview with a former News of the World executive, which became a worldwide media sensation.

Rowan Williams’s guest-edit on 13 June 2011 dominated the news agenda for several days in response to his bold leader article criticising the coalition. He wrote, “We are being committed to radical, long-term policies for which no one voted.”

Richard Dawkins’s guest-edit (19 December 2011) contained the last interview with the writer and polemicist Christopher Hitchens.

The magazine is available on newsstands from Thursday 12 July. Single-issue copies can be purchased here

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The World Cup you’ve never heard of, where the teams have no state

At the Conifa world cup – this year hosted by the Autonomous Republic of Abkhazia – ethnic groups, diaspora communities and disputed territories will battle for footballing glory.

Football's European Championship and the Olympics are set to dominate the back pages over the next few months. How will Team GB fare in Rio? Will the zika virus stop the tournament even going ahead? Will the WAGS prove to be a distraction for the Three Lions? And can Roy Hodgson guide England to a long-awaited trophy?

But before the sprinters are in their blocks or a ball has been kicked, there's a world cup taking place.

Only this world cup is, well, a bit different. There's no Brazil, no damaged metatarsals to speak of, and no Germany to break hearts in a penalty shootout.  There’s been no sign of football’s rotten underbelly rearing its head at this world cup either. No murmurs of the ugly corruption which has plagued Fifa in recent years. Nor any suggestion that handbags have been exchanged for hosting rights.

This biennial, unsung world cup is not being overseen by Fifa however, but rather by Conifa (Confederation of Independent Football Associations), the governing body for those nations discredited by Fifa. Among its member nations are ethnic groups, diaspora communities or disputed territories with varying degrees of autonomy. Due to their contested status, many of the nations are unable to gain recognition from Fifa. As a consequence they cannot compete in tournaments sanctioned by the best-known footballing governing body, and that’s where Conifa provides a raison d’être.

“We give a voice to the unheard”, says Conifa’s General Secretary, Sascha Düerkop, whose world cup kicks off in the Autonomous Republic of Abkhazia at the end of this week.

“We are proud to give our members a forum where they can put themselves on the map.

“From that we hope to give back in the long run and invest in the football infrastructure in our member nations to help them grow.”

The two week footballing celebration starts with an opening ceremony before Kurdistan and Székely Land kick off the tournament. It follows on from 2014’s maiden competition which saw The County of Nice avenging a group stage defeat to Ellan Vannin from the Isle of Man, to take the spoils in the final via a penalty shoot-out.  There were some blowout scores of note however, with South Ossetia smashing Darfur 20-0 and Kurdistan beating the Tamils 9-0 at the event which took place in Östersund, Sweden. Neither of the finalists will be returning to the tournament – throwing down the gauntlet to another twelve teams. 

This, the second Conifa world cup, is testament to the ever-expanding global footprint of the tournament. Abkhazia will welcome sides from four continents – including Western Armenia, the Chagos Islands, United Koreans in Japan and Somaliland.

Despite the “minor” status of the countries taking part, a smattering of professional talent lends credibility to the event. Panjab can call on the experience of ex-Accrington Stanley man Rikki Bains at the heart of their defence, and the coaching savoir-faire of former Tranmere star Reuben Hazell from the dugout. Morten Gamst Pedersen, who turned out for Blackburn Rovers over 300 times and was once a Norwegian international, will lead the Sapmi people. The hosts complete the list of teams to aiming to get their hands on silverware along with Padania, Northern Cyprus, and Raetia.

A quick glance down said list, and it’s hard to ignore the fact that most of the nations competing have strong political associations – be that through war, genocide, displacement or discrimination. The Chagos Islands is one such example. An archipelago in the Indian Ocean, Chagos’ indigenous population was uprooted by the British government in the 1960s to make way for one of the United States' most strategically important military bases – Diego Garcia.

Ever since, they've been campaigning for the right to return. Their side, based in Crawley, has crowdfunded the trip to the tournament. Yet most of its members have never stepped foot on the islands they call home, and which they will now represent. Kurdistan’s efforts to establish an independent state have been well-highlighted, even more so given the last few years of conflict in the Middle East. The hosts too, broke away from Georgia in the 1990s and depend on the financial clout of Russia to prop up their government.

Despite that, Düerkop insists that the event is one which focuses on action on the pitch rather than off it. 

“Many of the nations are politically interested, but we are non-political,” he says. 

“Some of our members are less well-known in the modern world. They have been forgotten, excluded from the global community or simply are ‘unpopular’ for their political positions.

“We are humanitarians and the sides play football to show their existence – nothing more, nothing less.”

The unknown and almost novel status of the tournament flatters to deceive as Conifa’s world cup boasts a broadcast deal, two large stadiums and a plush opening ceremony. Its aim in the long run, however, is to develop into a global competition, and one which is content to sit below Fifa.

“We are happy to be the second biggest football organisation,” admits Düerkop.

“In the future we hope to have women’s and youth tournaments as well as futsal and beach soccer.”

“Our aim is to advertise the beauty and uniqueness of each nation.”

“But the most important purpose is to give those nations that are not members of the global football community a home.”

George Weah, the first African winner of Fifa World Player of the Year award remarked how “football gives a suffering people joy”.

And after speaking to Düerkop there’s certainly a feeling that for those on the game’s periphery, Conifa’s world cup has an allure which offers a shared sense of belonging.

It certainly seems light years away from the glitz and glamour of WAGs and corruption scandals. And that's because it is.

But maybe in a small way, this little-known tournament might restore some of beauty lost by the once “beautiful game”.