In this week’s New Statesman: Godless Britain

Rowan Williams interview | Raoul Moat: the real shame | Alain de Botton on atheism.


This week's New Statesman is a special issue devoted to secularism, atheism and belief. In an exclusive interview, Jonathan Derbyshire and James Macintyre talk to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, about morality, human nature and capitalism. Elsewhere, Bryan Appleyard asks what we would lose if we tried to ditch religion altogether. Also don't miss our interview with Ann Widdecombe, Mehdi Hasan's reflections on India and secularism, and Alain de Botton on Auguste Comte, the man who tried to establish a religon for atheists.

In this week's politics column, Mehdi Hasan says the Labour leadership candidates must move beyond telling us what they are opposed to and tell us what they are for. Elsewhere, Alice Miles says the most interesting thing about Raoul Moat was how unextraordinary he was, and David Blanchflower warns that the latest data suggests the economy is in even more trouble than we thought.

All this, plus Ryan Gilbey on a sad end to the Toy Story series, John Gray on the cult appeal of Ayn Rand, and Dominic Sandbrook on what would have happened if Che Guevara had survived.

Subscription offer: Get 12 issues for just £12 PLUS a free copy of "The Idea of Justice" by Amartya Sen.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Donald Trump's inauguration signals the start of a new and more unstable era

A century in which the world's hegemonic power was a rational actor is about to give way to a more terrifying reality. 

For close to a century, the United States of America has been the world’s paramount superpower, one motivated by, for good and for bad, a rational and predictable series of motivations around its interests and a commitment to a rules-based global order, albeit one caveated by an awareness of the limits of enforcing that against other world powers.

We are now entering a period in which the world’s paramount superpower is neither led by a rational or predictable actor, has no commitment to a rules-based order, and to an extent it has any guiding principle, they are those set forward in Donald Trump’s inaugural: “we will follow two simple rules: hire American and buy American”, “from this day forth, it’s going to be America first, only America first”.

That means that the jousting between Trump and China will only intensify now that he is in office.  The possibility not only of a trade war, but of a hot war, between the two should not be ruled out.

We also have another signal – if it were needed – that he intends to turn a blind eye to the actions of autocrats around the world.

What does that mean for Brexit? It confirms that those who greeted the news that an US-UK trade deal is a “priority” for the incoming administration, including Theresa May, who described Britain as “front of the queue” for a deal with Trump’s America, should prepare themselves for disappointment.

For Europe in general, it confirms what should already been apparent: the nations of Europe are going to have be much, much more self-reliant in terms of their own security. That increases Britain’s leverage as far as the Brexit talks are concerned, in that Britain’s outsized defence spending will allow it acquire goodwill and trade favours in exchange for its role protecting the European Union’s Eastern border.

That might allow May a better deal out of Brexit than she might have got under Hillary Clinton. But there’s a reason why Trump has increased Britain’s heft as far as security and defence are concerned: it’s because his presidency ushers in an era in which we are all much, much less secure. 

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