Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, guest-edits the New Statesman

The magazine will contain contributions from Jonathan Sacks, Maurice Glasman, and Iain Duncan Smith,

This week's New Statesman magazine is guest-edited by Rowan Williams and features contributions by Philip Pullman, A S Byatt, Gordon Brown, Richard Curtis, Jonathan Sacks and other surprise guests.

For this 80-page edition of the magazine, Dr Williams has commissioned a wide range of essays, articles and reports, interviewed a senior cabinet minister and written the leading article.

The issue examines all the complexities of David Cameron's flagship policy idea of the "big society", with analysis and commentary from the Chief Rabbi, Jonathan Sacks, Maurice Glasman and Iain Duncan Smith, among others.

There are contributions from two vicars -- Rev Lucy Winkett recounts visiting a casino in a dog collar, and Rev Mary Bide relives the highs and lows of minding the church next to the tennis courts at Wimbledon -- as well as an actor who plays a vicar on television: Tom Hollander, star of the Bafta-winning sitcom Rev.

There are atheists and secularists in the mix, too. Among the other writers in this bespoke issue of the New Statesman are: Philip Pullman, who explains why he's a "Church of England atheist"; Terry Eagleton on secularism; the award-winning film director Richard Curtis, who writes about the scourge of malaria; and Victoria Coren, who addresses the vexed question of faith versus poker.

The Booker Prize-winning novelist A S Byatt contributes a new short story, "The Lucid Dreamer", written specially for the issue.

Jason Cowley, editor of the New Statesman, said: "I have long admired Rowan Williams as a thinker and public intellectual. His previous contributions to the magazine under my editorship have been both thoughtful and thought-provoking. We agreed that he would guest-edit the magazine over lunch at Lambeth Palace in January; we have been working on the issue ever since.

"Although the New Statesman is a secular magazine, we recognise Dr Williams's contribution to public and political debate, and this is an important intervention from him. I'm delighted with the issue."

Dr Rowan Williams said: "This is not a platform for the establishment to explain itself -- any more than the New Statesman ever is. The hope is that it may be possible to spark some livelier debate about where we are going, perhaps even to discover what the left's big idea currently is."

The issue, cover-dated 13 June, will go on sale in London on Thursday 9 June and in the rest of the country from Friday 10 June. International buyers can obtain copies through our website.

Getty Images,
Show Hide image

John McDonnell praises New Labour as he enters conciliatory mode

The shadow chancellor sought to build a bridge between the past and the present by crediting the 1997 government. 

Ever since Jeremy Corbyn became Labour leader, John McDonnell has been on a mission to reinvent himself as a kinder, gentler politician. He hasn’t always succeeded. In July, the shadow chancellor declared of rebel MPs: “As plotters they were fucking useless”.

But in his Labour conference speech, Corbyn’s closest ally was firmly in conciliatory mode. McDonnell thanked Owen Smith for his part in defeating the Personal Independence Payment cuts. He praised Caroline Flint, with whom he has clashed, for her amendment to the financial bill on corporate tax transparency. Jonathan Reynolds, who will soon return to the frontbench, was credited for the “patriots pay their taxes” campaign (the latter two not mentioned in the original text).

McDonnell’s ecunmenicism didn’t end here. The 1997 Labour government, against which he and Corbyn so often defined themselves, was praised for its introduction of the minimum wage (though McDonnell couldn’t quite bring himself to mention Tony Blair). Promising a “real Living Wage” of around £10 per hour, the shadow chancellor sought to build a bridge between the past and the present. Though he couldn’t resist adding some red water as he closed: “In this party you no longer have to whisper it, it's called socialism. Solidarity!”

As a rebuke to those who accuse him of seeking power in the party, not the country, McDonnell spoke relentlessly of what the next Labour “government” would do. He promised a £250bn National Investment Bank, a “Right to Own” for employees, the repeal of the Trade Union Act and declared himself “interested” in the potential of a Universal Basic Income. It was a decidedly wonkish speech, free of the attack lines and jokes that others serve up.

One of the more striking passages was on McDonnell’s personal story (a recurring feature of Labour speeches since Sadiq Khan’s mayoral victory). “I was born in the city [Liverpool], not far from here,” he recalled. “My dad was a Liverpool docker and my mum was a cleaner who then served behind the counter at British Homes Stores for 30 years. I was part of the 1960's generation.  We lived in what sociological studies have described as some of the worst housing conditions that exist within this country. We just called it home.”

In his peroration, he declared: “In the birthplace of John Lennon, it falls to us to inspire people to imagine.” Most Labour MPs believe that a government led by Corbyn and McDonnell will remain just that: imaginary. “You may say I'm a dreamer. But I'm not the only one,” the shadow chancellor could have countered. With his praise for New Labour, he began the work of forging his party’s own brotherhood of man.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.