Preview: Russell Brand on WikiLeaks

The comedian and actor on the “petty, snickering attitude” of those exposed.

In this week's Christmas Special of the New Statesman, the inimitable Russell Brand turns his attention to the WikiLeaks affair. It's good to see that Russell has already tweeted about the column to his many followers (1,667,864 at the last count).

Here, for your amusement, are some of the most colourful extracts:

Most unsettling of all . . . is the petty, snickering attitude of those exposed within. Ambassadors, ministers and spies the world over employ the conceited, insular vernacular of a bunch of oily prefects. Kim Jong-il is described as "flabby", the former president of Haiti is "an indispensable chameleon character" and Prince Andrew likes falconry. Kim Jong-il is flabby? That's a bit personal. I can see that for myself – I don't need a dose of international intrigue to confirm that.

He goes on:

The spectacle of implicated governments trying to stifle WikiLeaks is futile and undignified; like watching a duplicitous Victorian widow struggling to keep a fart beneath her petticoats. Alas, the stink is out and cannot be chased back into the burrow by any amount of protest, lavender scent or coy blushing.

Pick up the new issue or take out a subscription now to read the column in full.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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What will Labour's new awkward squad do next?

What does the future hold for the party's once-rising-stars?

For years, Jeremy Corbyn was John McDonnell’s only friend in Parliament. Now, Corbyn is the twice-elected Labour leader, and McDonnell his shadow chancellor. The crushing leadership election victory has confirmed Corbyn-supporting MPs as the new Labour elite. It has also created a new awkward squad.   

Some MPs – including some vocal critics of Corbyn – are queuing up to get back in the shadow cabinet (one, Sarah Champion, returned during the leadership contest). Chi Onwurah, who spoke out on Corbyn’s management style, never left. But others, most notably the challenger Owen Smith, are resigning themselves to life on the back benches. 

So what is a once-rising-star MP to do? The most obvious choice is to throw yourself into the issue the Corbyn leadership doesn’t want to talk about – Brexit. The most obvious platform to do so on is a select committee. Chuka Umunna has founded Vote Leave Watch, a campaign group, and is running to replace Keith Vaz on the Home Affairs elect committee. Emma Reynolds, a former shadow Europe minister, is running alongside Hilary Benn to sit on the newly-created Brexit committee. 

Then there is the written word - so long as what you write is controversial enough. Rachel Reeves caused a stir when she described control on freedom of movement as “a red line” in Brexit negotiations. Keir Starmer is still planning to publish his long-scheduled immigration report. Alison McGovern embarked on a similar tour of the country

Other MPs have thrown themselves into campaigns, most notably refugee rights. Stella Creasy is working with Alf Dubs on his amendment to protect child refugees. Yvette Cooper chairs Labour's refugee taskforce.

The debate about whether Labour MPs should split altogether is ongoing, but the warnings of history aside, some Corbyn critics believe this is exactly what the leadership would like them to do. Richard Angell, deputy director of Progress, a centrist group, said: “Parts of the Labour project get very frustrated that good people Labour activists are staying in the party.”

One reason to stay in Labour is the promise of a return of shadow cabinet elections, a decision currently languishing with the National Executive Committee. 

But anti-Corbyn MPs may still yet find their ability to influence policies blocked. Even if the decision goes ahead, the Corbyn leadership is understood to be planning a root and branch reform of party institutions, to be announced in the late autumn. If it is consistent with his previous rhetoric, it will hand more power to the pro-Corbyn grassroots members. The members of Labour's new awkward squad have seized on elections as a way to legitimise their voices. But with Corbyn in charge, they might get more democracy than they bargained for.