In this week’s New Statesman: Melvyn Bragg guest-edit

Exclusive: Unseen Ted Hughes poem on Sylvia Plath’s death | Gore Vidal interview | New P D James sto

Emin

This week's New Statesman is a special issue guest-edited by our greatest polymath, Melvyn Bragg, who recruited Tracey Emin (interviewed inside) to design our front cover.

The issue includes a remarkable and previously unpublished poem by Ted Hughes, "Last letter", describing the days leading up to the suicide of his first wife, the poet Sylvia Plath. Its first line is: "What happened that night? Your final night." -- and the poem ends with the moment Hughes is informed of his wife's death.

Elsewhere, Melyvn speaks to that grand old man of American letters, Gore Vidal, who warns that his homeland is heading for dictatorship, and we feature an exclusive short story by P D James, "The Part-Time Job".

And there's more. David Puttnam argues that the Tories' decision to abolish the UK Film Council betrays their ignorance of history, we publish an exclusive new poem by the Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, and Marcus du Sautoy explains why maths holds the key to secets of the universe.

All this, plus Mehdi Hasan on why the cult of Cameron is fading, David Blanchflower on why it's too early for interest rates to rise and Alice Miles on why the coalition's child benefit cuts will create a less equal society.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Theresa May is paying the price for mismanaging Boris Johnson

The Foreign Secretary's bruised ego may end up destroying Theresa May. 

And to think that Theresa May scheduled her big speech for this Friday to make sure that Conservative party conference wouldn’t be dominated by the matter of Brexit. Now, thanks to Boris Johnson, it won’t just be her conference, but Labour’s, which is overshadowed by Brexit in general and Tory in-fighting in particular. (One imagines that the Labour leadership will find a way to cope somehow.)

May is paying the price for mismanaging Johnson during her period of political hegemony after she became leader. After he was betrayed by Michael Gove and lacking any particular faction in the parliamentary party, she brought him back from the brink of political death by making him Foreign Secretary, but also used her strength and his weakness to shrink his empire.

The Foreign Office had its responsibility for negotiating Brexit hived off to the newly-created Department for Exiting the European Union (Dexeu) and for navigating post-Brexit trade deals to the Department of International Trade. Johnson was given control of one of the great offices of state, but with no responsibility at all for the greatest foreign policy challenge since the Second World War.

Adding to his discomfort, the new Foreign Secretary was regularly the subject of jokes from the Prime Minister and cabinet colleagues. May likened him to a dog that had to be put down. Philip Hammond quipped about him during his joke-fuelled 2017 Budget. All of which gave Johnson’s allies the impression that Johnson-hunting was a licensed sport as far as Downing Street was concerned. He was then shut out of the election campaign and has continued to be a marginalised figure even as the disappointing election result forced May to involve the wider cabinet in policymaking.

His sense of exclusion from the discussions around May’s Florence speech only added to his sense of isolation. May forgot that if you aren’t going to kill, don’t wound: now, thanks to her lost majority, she can’t afford to put any of the Brexiteers out in the cold, and Johnson is once again where he wants to be: centre-stage. 

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.