In this week's New Statesman: European Crisis

Britain and Europe: Heading for the exit?

With the turmoil in the European Union, the emerging consensus in Westminster is that Britain will hold a referendum on its membership of the EU within a decade. In this week’s New Statesman cover story, Rafael Behr asks: will anyone dare make the pro-EU case?

Within the Tory party “pro-Europeanism is moribund” , Behr writes, even though David Cameron has in the past presented Conservative hatred of the EU “as a dangerous obsession”. The Prime Minister’s decision to veto a pan-European deal, thus leaving most EU members to press ahead without Britain, was a “watershed moment”: 

It showed that the opposition culture of righteous anger is stronger in the Conservative Party than the governing tradition of diplomatic pragmatism. That places Britain’s ruling party outside the European mainstream, which further diminishes Cameron’s ability to shape events. The sceptics’ prophecy is thus self-fulfilling: the tighter the Prime Minister’s hands are tied at home, the harder it is to exert influence abroad – and the likelier it becomes that the EU will evolve in a direction that really does look like a conspiracy against UK interests. And so on, towards the exit.

Mehdi Hasan: Where are the Labour leader's cheerleaders?

As the Labour Party enjoys a double-digit lead in the opinion polls and Ed Miliband finds he is less unpopular than the Prime Minister, Mehdi Hasan wonders where the Labour leader’s cheerleaders and loyalists are – in his party, in the press, and in parliament:

Aides of the Labour leader like to draw an analogy with Margaret Thatcher’s spell in opposition in the late 1970s: an inexperienced, underrated leader trying to smash the political and economic consensus and take her party back to government in the space of a single term.

But if Miliband wants to be Thatcher, where is his Keith Joseph? His Airey Neave? Which think tanks can he call on for ideological support? The Tory leader had Ralph Harris’s Institute of Economic Affairs, Madsen Pirie’s Adam Smith Institute and, most important of all, Alfred Sherman’s Centre for Policy Studies.

In his next big shadow cabinet reshuffle, Hasan argues, Miliband must consider bringing in more of the new, talented MPs because “politics works in cycles and he will come under sustained fire again soon enough”. It is not as if the Labour leader is unaware he is lacking his own version of the Thatcherites, Blairites or Cameroons, Hasan says:

Miliband has been heard wistfully telling friends: “I guess I am my own outrider.”

John McDonnell MP calls for inquiry into the policing of protest

In December 2010, two students were arrested and charged with violent disorder for apparently dragging a police officer from a horse during the tuition fee protests in London. The brothers Chris and Andrew Hilliard both faced five years in prison and an unlimited fine. The following day, the Prime Minister declared:

“When people see . . . police officers being dragged off police horses and beaten . . . I want to make sure that they feel the full force of the law.” 

Eighteen months later, however, the Hilliards were found not guilty. As Jane Fae writes in the New Statesman this week,

Under examination, their “victim”, PC Cowling, agreed that he had failed to tighten the strap that held the saddle on to his horse and that he had later pulled off the young men’s masks and pulled Christopher’s hair. The defence argued that the brothers were the ones subject to assault.

The Legal Defence and Monitoring Group has found that 11 of the 12 students who pleaded not guilty to charges arising from the main demonstration on 9 December have since been acquitted. This high rate of acquittals, writes Fae, suggests that violent disorder charges are brought against people to deter them from taking part in future protests.

The “demonisation of protest”, as Fae puts it, has led the Labour MP John McDonnell to call for an independent inquiry into the wider injustice. McDonnell says:

“Many have been appalled at the way young people like the Hilliard brothers have been dragged through the courts and had their futures put at risk simply to make an example of them to deter others from protest. We need an independent inquiry into what is being exposed as a clear abuse of our policing and judicial system.”

In the Critics

Jason Cowley reviews The Big Miss: My Years Coaching Tiger Woods by Hank Haney. Haney’s book, Cowley writes, is the “most devastating portrait yet of Woods by anyone who has worked closely with him”.

In the Books Interview, Jonathan Derbyshire talks to the French author Laurent Binet about his Prix Goncourt-winning debut novel, HHhH, which describes the assassination in 1942 of the Nazi leader Reinhard Heydrich. This week's Critic at Large is the novelist and academic Rebecca Stott, whose latest book follows Charles Darwin’s attempts to pay his respects to his intellectual forebears following the publication in 1859 of On the Origin of Species. 

Elsewhere in the New Statesman

In an NS Essay on the rise of the “Evil Genius”, Charles Leadbeater asks how cold, brilliant and seemingly amoral figures – from Simon Cowell to José Mourinho – took over our culture.

In Observations, Rhiannon and Holly, editors of the Vagenda and the new NS blog the V Spot, question the pernicious “vagenda” of bestselling women’s magazines; Sophie McBain reports from Libya on the plight of migrants as post-revolutionary euphoria in the country subsides; and from Rochdale, the local MP, Simon Danczuk, and Myriam Francois-Cerrah offer two perspectives on whether race was a factor in the recent case of underage girls groomed for sex.

The Sierra Leone-based Reuters correspondent Simon Akam reports from Senegal on the elections held there recently and the battle against dictatorship.

Rem Koolhaas, the Dutch architect and founding partner of OMA – the practice responsible for the CCTV building in Beijing and the new Rothschild headquarters in the City of London – talks to Samira Shackle in the NS Interview.

In the Nature column, the poet Alice Oswald celebrates bees in spring.


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

This article first appeared in the 12 September 2011 issue of the New Statesman, Cameron vs the shires

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Our union backed Brexit, but that doesn't mean scrapping freedom of movement

We can only improve the lives of our members, like those planning stike action at McDonalds, through solidarity.

The campaign to defend and extend free movement – highlighted by the launch of the Labour Campaign for Free Movement this month – is being seen in some circles as a back door strategy to re-run the EU referendum. If that was truly the case, then I don't think Unions like mine (the BFAWU) would be involved, especially as we campaigned to leave the EU ourselves.

In stark contrast to the rhetoric used by many sections of the Leave campaign, our argument wasn’t driven by fear and paranoia about migrant workers. A good number of the BFAWU’s membership is made up of workers not just from the EU, but from all corners of the world. They make a positive contribution to the industry that we represent. These people make a far larger and important contribution to our society and our communities than the wealthy Brexiteers, who sought to do nothing other than de-humanise them, cheered along by a rabid, right-wing press. 

Those who are calling for end to freedom of movement fail to realise that it’s people, rather than land and borders that makes the world we live in. Division works only in the interest of those that want to hold power, control, influence and wealth. Unfortunately, despite a rich history in terms of where division leads us, a good chunk of the UK population still falls for it. We believe that those who live and work here or in other countries should have their skills recognised and enjoy the same rights as those born in that country, including the democratic right to vote. 

Workers born outside of the UK contribute more than £328 million to the UK economy every day. Our NHS depends on their labour in order to keep it running; the leisure and hospitality industries depend on them in order to function; the food industry (including farming to a degree) is often propped up by their work.

The real architects of our misery and hardship reside in Westminster. It is they who introduced legislation designed to allow bosses to act with impunity and pay poverty wages. The only way we can really improve our lives is not as some would have you believe, by blaming other poor workers from other countries, it is through standing together in solidarity. By organising and combining that we become stronger as our fabulous members are showing through their decision to ballot for strike action in McDonalds.

Our members in McDonalds are both born in the UK and outside the UK, and where the bosses have separated groups of workers by pitting certain nationalities against each other, the workers organised have stood together and fought to win change for all, even organising themed social events to welcome each other in the face of the bosses ‘attempts to create divisions in the workplace.

Our union has held the long term view that we should have a planned economy with an ability to own and control the means of production. Our members saw the EU as a gravy train, working in the interests of wealthy elites and industrial scale tax avoidance. They felt that leaving the EU would give the UK the best opportunity to renationalise our key industries and begin a programme of manufacturing on a scale that would allow us to be self-sufficient and independent while enjoying solid trading relationships with other countries. Obviously, a key component in terms of facilitating this is continued freedom of movement.

Many of our members come from communities that voted to leave the EU. They are a reflection of real life that the movers and shakers in both the Leave and Remain campaigns took for granted. We weren’t surprised by the outcome of the EU referendum; after decades of politicians heaping blame on the EU for everything from the shape of fruit to personal hardship, what else could we possibly expect? However, we cannot allow migrant labour to remain as a political football to give succour to the prejudices of the uninformed. Given the same rights and freedoms as UK citizens, foreign workers have the ability to ensure that the UK actually makes a success of Brexit, one that benefits the many, rather than the few.

Ian Hodon is President of the Bakers and Allied Food Workers Union and founding signatory of the Labour Campaign for Free Movement.