In this week’s New Statesman: the God issue

Sam Harris interview | The rise of Hinduism | Alice Miles: why I admire Rupert Murdoch.

A

This week's New Statesman is a special issue devoted to faith, science and what we believe today.

The highlights include an interview with the atheist thinker Sam Harris, who argues that science can never be reconciled with religion, Garry Wills on why Saint Augustine's Confessions is best read as a "drama of sin and salvation", and Cherie Blair, Peter Hitchens and Jeremy Vine on why they believe in God.

Also this week, Mehdi Hasan argues that we should vote Yes to AV even if it is a "miserable little compromise", the NS editor, Jason Cowley, discusses Jemima Khan, Julian Assange and our failing concentration, Alice Miles confides her unfashionable admiration for Rupert Murdoch, and David Blanchflower explains why we shouldn't worry about inflation.

All this, plus Geoffrey Robertson on why the coalition's libel reforms won't help free speech, Will Self on urban myths, and an American writing special, including Jonathan Derbyshire on David Foster Wallace's last novel and interviews with Dave Eggers and Joshua Foer.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Getty Images.
Show Hide image

Who really controls the Labour Party now?

Jeremy Corbyn's allies will struggle to achieve their ambition to remove general secretary Iain McNicol.

Jeremy Corbyn's advance at the general election confirmed his place as Labour leader. Past opponents recognise not only that Corbyn could not be defeated but that he should not be.

They set him the test of winning more seats – and he passed. From a position of strength, Corbyn was able to reward loyalists, rather than critics, in his shadow cabinet reshuffle. 

But what of his wider control over the party? Corbyn allies have restated their long-held ambition to remove Labour general secretary Iain McNicol, and to undermine Tom Watson by creating a new post of female deputy leader (Watson lost the honorific title of "party chair" in the reshuffle, which was awarded to Corbyn ally Ian Lavery).

The departure of McNicol, who was accused of seeking to keep Corbyn off the ballot during the 2016 leadership challenge, would pave the way for the removal of other senior staff at Labour HQ (which has long had an acrimonious relationship with the leader's office). 

These ambitions are likely to remain just that. But Labour figures emphasise that McNicol will remain general secretary as long he retains the support of the GMB union (of which he is a former political officer) and that no staff members can be removed without his approval.

On the party's ruling National Executive Committee, non-Corbynites retain a majority of two, which will grow to three when Unite loses a seat to Unison (now Labour's biggest affiliate). As before, this will continue to act as a barrier to potential rule changes.

The so-called "McDonnell amendment", which would reduce the threshold for Labour leadership nominations from 15 per cent of MPs to 5 per cent, is still due to be tabled at this year's party conference, but is not expected to pass. After the election result, however, Corbyn allies are confident that a left successor would be able to make the ballot under the existing rules. 

But Labour's gains (which surprised even those close to the leader) have reduced the urgency to identify an heir. The instability of Theresa May's government means that the party is on a permanent campaign footing (Corbyn himself expects another election this year). For now, Tory disunity will act as a force for Labour unity. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

0800 7318496