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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What David Hockney has to tell us about football

Why the sudden glut of blond footballers? A conversation I had with the artist back in 1966 gave me a clue. . .

In 1966, I went to interview David Hockney at a rather run-down flat in Bayswater, central London. He was 28 and had just won a gold medal at the Royal College of Art.

In his lavatory, I noticed a cut-out photograph from a newspaper of Denis Law scoring a goal. I asked if he was a football fan. He said no, he just liked Denis Law’s thighs.

The sub-editors cut that remark out of the story, to save any gossip or legal problems. In 1966 homosexual activity could still be an offence.

Hockney and a friend had recently been in the United States and had been watching an advert on TV that said “Blondes have more fun”. At two o’clock in the morning, slightly drunk, they both went out, bought some hair dye and became blond. Hockney decided to remain blond from then on, though he has naturally dark hair.

Is it true that blonds have more fun? Lionel Messi presumably thinks so, otherwise why has he greeted this brand-new season with that weird blond hair? We look at his face, his figure, his posture and we know it’s him – then we blink, thinking what the heck, does he realise some joker has been pouring stuff on his head?

He has always been such a staid, old-fashioned-looking lad, never messing around with his hair till now. Neymar, beside him, has gone even blonder, but somehow we expect it of him. He had foony hair even before he left Brazil.

Over here, blonds are popping up all over the shop. Most teams now have a born-again blondie. It must take a fortune for Marouane Fellaini of Man United to brighten up his hair, as he has so much. But it’s already fading. Cheapskate.

Mesut Özil of Arsenal held back, not going the full head, just bits of it, which I suspect is a clue to his wavering, hesitant personality. His colleague Aaron Ramsey has almost the full blond monty. Paul Pogba of Man United has a sort of blond streak, more like a marker pen than a makeover. His colleague Phil Jones has appeared blond, but he seems to have disappeared from the team sheet. Samir Nasri of Man City went startlingly blond, but is on loan to Seville, so we’re not able to enjoy his locks. And Didier Ndong of Sunderland is a striking blond, thanks to gallons of bleach.

Remember the Romanians in the 1998 World Cup? They suddenly appeared blond, every one of them. God, that was brilliant. One of my all-time best World Cup moments, and I was at Wembley in 1966.

So, why do they do it? Well, Hockney was right, in a sense. Not to have more fun – meaning more sex – because top footballers are more than well supplied, but because their normal working lives are on the whole devoid of fun.

They can’t stuff their faces with fast food, drink themselves stupid, stay up all night, take a few silly pills – which is what many of our healthy 25-year-old lads consider a reasonably fun evening. Nor can they spend all their millions on fun hols, such as skiing in the winter, a safari in the spring, or hang-gliding at the weekend. Prem players have to be so boringly sensible these days, or their foreign managers will be screaming at them in their funny foreign accents.

While not on the pitch, or training, which takes up only a few hours a day, the boredom is appalling, endlessly on planes or coaches or in some hotel that could be anywhere.

The only bright spot in the long days is to look in the mirror and think: “Hmm, I wonder what highlights would look like? I’ve done the beard and the tattoos. Now let’s go for blond. Wow, gorgeous.”

They influence each other, being simple souls, so when one dyes his hair, depending on where he is in the macho pecking order, others follow. They put in the day by looking at themselves. Harmless fun. Bless ’em.

But I expect all the faux blonds to have gone by Christmas. Along with Mourinho. I said that to myself the moment he arrived in Manchester, smirking away. Pep will see him off. OK then, let’s say Easter at the latest . . . 

Hunter Davies is a journalist, broadcaster and profilic author perhaps best known for writing about the Beatles. He is an ardent Tottenham fan and writes a regular column on football for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 22 September 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The New Times