In this week’s New Statesman: The myth of Mandela

South Africa special | Pilger on Israel | Nadine Gordimer interview.

Mandela

With just eight days to go until the World Cup kicks off, this week's New Statesman is a special issue devoted to South Africa. In the cover story, Andrew Feinstein, a former ANC MP, warns that while the World Cup will create a feel-good factor, the same urgent problems will remain in the world's most unequal country. Elsewhere, in a moving essay, Gary Younge reflects on race, nation and football, and explains how he finally learned to cheer for England.

Also don't miss Samira Shackle's interview with the Noble Prize-winning novelist Nadine Gordimer and Tim Adams's cerebral guide to Fabio Capello.

Israel's assault on the Gaza aid flotilla has dominated the news agenda this week and, in his column, John Pilger describes the "master illusion" that allowed the Netanyahu government to mislead the media.

In British politics, Mehdi Hasan sees the first cracks in the coalition, Alan Duncan explains why he knows what David Laws is going through, and Alice Miles says that Labour needs Diane Abbott's name on the ballot paper.

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

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Tom Watson rouses Labour's conference as he comes out fighting

The party's deputy leader exhilarated delegates with his paean to the Blair and Brown years. 

Tom Watson is down but not out. After Jeremy Corbyn's second landslide victory, and weeks of threats against his position, Labour's deputy leader could have played it safe. Instead, he came out fighting. 

With Corbyn seated directly behind him, he declared: "I don't know why we've been focusing on what was wrong with the Blair and Brown governments for the last six years. But trashing our record is not the way to enhance our brand. We won't win elections like that! And we need to win elections!" As Watson won a standing ovation from the hall and the platform, the Labour leader remained motionless. When a heckler interjected, Watson riposted: "Jeremy, I don't think she got the unity memo." Labour delegates, many of whom hail from the pre-Corbyn era, lapped it up.

Though he warned against another challenge to the leader ("we can't afford to keep doing this"), he offered a starkly different account of the party's past and its future. He reaffirmed Labour's commitment to Nato ("a socialist construct"), with Corbyn left isolated as the platform applauded. The only reference to the leader came when Watson recalled his recent PMQs victory over grammar schools. There were dissenting voices (Watson was heckled as he praised Sadiq Khan for winning an election: "Just like Jeremy Corbyn!"). But one would never have guessed that this was the party which had just re-elected Corbyn. 

There was much more to Watson's speech than this: a fine comic riff on "Saturday's result" (Ed Balls on Strictly), a spirited attack on Theresa May's "ducking and diving; humming and hahing" and a cerebral account of the automation revolution. But it was his paean to Labour history that roused the conference as no other speaker has. 

The party's deputy channelled the spirit of both Hugh Gaitskell ("fight, and fight, and fight again to save the party we love") and his mentor Gordon Brown (emulating his trademark rollcall of New Labour achivements). With his voice cracking, Watson recalled when "from the sunny uplands of increasing prosperity social democratic government started to feel normal to the people of Britain". For Labour, a party that has never been further from power in recent decades, that truly was another age. But for a brief moment, Watson's tubthumper allowed Corbyn's vanquished opponents to relive it. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.