In this week's New Statesman: Why we need a hung parliament

Beware President Cheney | Armando Iannucci interview | Mehdi Hasan: Why I could never hate America.

untitled

This week's New Statesman features an exclusive essay by Anthony Barnett, co-founder of Charter 88, on the future of the left and the possibility of a hung parliament. In a fierce polemic, Barnett argues that the liberal left has a duty to remove New Labour from power but also to prevent David Cameron winning a majority. He suggests we need a hung parliament in order to renew our politics.

But, in the first of a series of replies to the piece, David Marquand rejects Barnett's argument and accuses him of preferring a minority Cameron government to any sort of Labour administration.

Elsewhere, our political correspondent, James Macintyre, reports from inside the Lib Dem camp and looks at which way the party would turn in the event of a hung parliament.

In the columns, Andrew Stephen warns that we must prepare for President Cheney; David Blanchflower says there's no need to worry about inflation; and Mehdi Hasan explains why he could never hate America.

In The Critics, Tim Adams explores our obsession with all things Tudor; John Gray reviews a history of the early anarchist movement; Ryan Gilbey is impressed by a new film on Cuban boxing; and Leo Robson gives his verdict on Ian McEwan's latest novel, Solar.

The issue is on sale now, or you can subscribe through the website.

Sign up now to CommentPlus for the pick of the day's opinion, comment and analysis in your inbox at 8am.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

Who will win the Copeland by-election?

Labour face a tricky task in holding onto the seat. 

What’s the Copeland by-election about? That’s the question that will decide who wins it.

The Conservatives want it to be about the nuclear industry, which is the seat’s biggest employer, and Jeremy Corbyn’s long history of opposition to nuclear power.

Labour want it to be about the difficulties of the NHS in Cumbria in general and the future of West Cumberland Hospital in particular.

Who’s winning? Neither party is confident of victory but both sides think it will be close. That Theresa May has visited is a sign of the confidence in Conservative headquarters that, win or lose, Labour will not increase its majority from the six-point lead it held over the Conservatives in May 2015. (It’s always more instructive to talk about vote share rather than raw numbers, in by-elections in particular.)

But her visit may have been counterproductive. Yes, she is the most popular politician in Britain according to all the polls, but in visiting she has added fuel to the fire of Labour’s message that the Conservatives are keeping an anxious eye on the outcome.

Labour strategists feared that “the oxygen” would come out of the campaign if May used her visit to offer a guarantee about West Cumberland Hospital. Instead, she refused to answer, merely hyping up the issue further.

The party is nervous that opposition to Corbyn is going to supress turnout among their voters, but on the Conservative side, there is considerable irritation that May’s visit has made their task harder, too.

Voters know the difference between a by-election and a general election and my hunch is that people will get they can have a free hit on the health question without risking the future of the nuclear factory. That Corbyn has U-Turned on nuclear power only helps.

I said last week that if I knew what the local paper would look like between now and then I would be able to call the outcome. Today the West Cumbria News & Star leads with Downing Street’s refusal to answer questions about West Cumberland Hospital. All the signs favour Labour. 

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