Editor Rod Liddle? Not any more

Lebedev bows to the inevitable.

Well, that's a relief. Rod Liddle is out of the running to be editor of the Independent, according to the Guardian. A source told the paper that the "liberal howl-around" was so intense that Alexander Lebedev (who has yet to buy the Indy after all) has been forced to reconsider.

Lebedev's decision to court Liddle so publicly, in a manner grossly insulting to the present editor, Roger Alton, was always destined to end in farce.

I see that Tim Luckhurst is the latest person to run with the absurd line that those of us who opposed the idea of Liddle's appointment were attempting to "censor" the Sunday Times columnist. In fact, we merely suggested that a man who spends most of his time ridiculing greens, feminists and liberals perhaps wasn't best placed to edit a title read by all three of those groups.

The Independent may not be the force it once was, but in recent years it has featured some of the finest foreign affairs journalism on Fleet Street, notably Patrick Cockburn's exemplary reporting from Iraq and Afghanistan. It always deserved better than Liddle.

Where this leaves the paper now is unclear. The deadline for Lebedev to buy the title has been extended to next Friday and he is still likely to do so. But the fact he pursued Liddle for as long as he did has ensured that he will inherit a paper with a staff more demoralised than ever.

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George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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What Jeremy Corbyn gets right about the single market

Technically, you can be outside the EU but inside the single market. Philosophically, you're still in the EU. 

I’ve been trying to work out what bothers me about the response to Jeremy Corbyn’s interview on the Andrew Marr programme.

What bothers me about Corbyn’s interview is obvious: the use of the phrase “wholesale importation” to describe people coming from Eastern Europe to the United Kingdom makes them sound like boxes of sugar rather than people. Adding to that, by suggesting that this “importation” had “destroy[ed] conditions”, rather than laying the blame on Britain’s under-enforced and under-regulated labour market, his words were more appropriate to a politician who believes that immigrants are objects to be scapegoated, not people to be served. (Though perhaps that is appropriate for the leader of the Labour Party if recent history is any guide.)

But I’m bothered, too, by the reaction to another part of his interview, in which the Labour leader said that Britain must leave the single market as it leaves the European Union. The response to this, which is technically correct, has been to attack Corbyn as Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Norway and Iceland are members of the single market but not the European Union.

In my view, leaving the single market will make Britain poorer in the short and long term, will immediately render much of Labour’s 2017 manifesto moot and will, in the long run, be a far bigger victory for right-wing politics than any mere election. Corbyn’s view, that the benefits of freeing a British government from the rules of the single market will outweigh the costs, doesn’t seem very likely to me. So why do I feel so uneasy about the claim that you can be a member of the single market and not the European Union?

I think it’s because the difficult truth is that these countries are, de facto, in the European Union in any meaningful sense. By any estimation, the three pillars of Britain’s “Out” vote were, firstly, control over Britain’s borders, aka the end of the free movement of people, secondly, more money for the public realm aka £350m a week for the NHS, and thirdly control over Britain’s own laws. It’s hard to see how, if the United Kingdom continues to be subject to the free movement of people, continues to pay large sums towards the European Union, and continues to have its laws set elsewhere, we have “honoured the referendum result”.

None of which changes my view that leaving the single market would be a catastrophe for the United Kingdom. But retaining Britain’s single market membership starts with making the argument for single market membership, not hiding behind rhetorical tricks about whether or not single market membership was on the ballot last June, when it quite clearly was. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.