In this week's New Statesman: The rise of the Muslim Brotherhood

Jonathan Sacks interview | Simon Heffer | A "lost" Wendy Cope poem | Hugh Grant and the paparazzi


In this week's New Statesman, ahead of the historic first round of Egypt's parliamentary elections on 28 November, LSE professor Fawaz Gerges profiles the Muslim Brotherhood -- the Islamist group feared and reviled by the west that aims to win 40 per cent of seats and reshape post-Mubarak Egypt.

Elsewhere in the magazine, Jon Bernstein speaks to Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks about anti-Zionism, the dangers of the internet and wealth inequality. In the NS Diary, Mail columnist Simon Heffer defends his use of the phrase Fourth Reich ("Thanks to Germany, we have just witnessed coups d'état in two European countries"), and following Hugh Grant's testimony to the Leveson inquiry, Helen Lewis-Hasteley wonders how much lower the paparazzi can go.

Also this week, economics editor David Blanchflower charts the growing crisis of youth joblessness, Rafael Behr argues that Osborne's excuses are wearing thin, and in the Letter from Washington, Ben Smith considers the two basic views of Mitt Romney: that he can't win and that he can't lose the GOP bid to take on Obama.

All this plus a love letter to Björk penned by Toby Litt, Stefan Collini pays tribute to the virtues of Lionel Trilling, Nina Caplan on our enduring fascination with coffee and the NS publishes for the first time a "lost" poem of Wendy Cope's from 1978.

Alice Gribbin is a Teaching-Writing Fellow at the Iowa Writers' Workshop. She was formerly the editorial assistant at the New Statesman.

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The Fire Brigades Union reaffiliates to Labour - what does it mean?

Any union rejoining Labour will be welcomed by most in the party - but the impact on the party's internal politics will be smaller than you think.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has voted to reaffiliate to the Labour party, in what is seen as a boost to Jeremy Corbyn. What does it mean for Labour’s internal politics?

Firstly, technically, the FBU has never affliated before as they are notionally part of the civil service - however, following the firefighters' strike in 2004, they decisively broke with Labour.

The main impact will be felt on the floor of Labour party conference. Although the FBU’s membership – at around 38,000 – is too small to have a material effect on the outcome of votes themselves, it will change the tenor of the motions put before party conference.

The FBU’s leadership is not only to the left of most unions in the Trades Union Congress (TUC), it is more inclined to bring motions relating to foreign affairs than other unions with similar politics (it is more internationalist in focus than, say, the PCS, another union that may affiliate due to Corbyn’s leadership). Motions on Israel/Palestine, the nuclear deterrent, and other issues, will find more support from FBU delegates than it has from other affiliated trade unions.

In terms of the balance of power between the affiliated unions themselves, the FBU’s re-entry into Labour politics is unlikely to be much of a gamechanger. Trade union positions, elected by trade union delegates at conference, are unlikely to be moved leftwards by the reaffiliation of the FBU. Unite, the GMB, Unison and Usdaw are all large enough to all-but-guarantee themselves a seat around the NEC. Community, a small centrist union, has already lost its place on the NEC in favour of the bakers’ union, which is more aligned to Tom Watson than Jeremy Corbyn.

Matt Wrack, the FBU’s General Secretary, will be a genuine ally to Corbyn and John McDonnell. Len McCluskey and Dave Prentis were both bounced into endorsing Corbyn by their executives and did so less than wholeheartedly. Tim Roache, the newly-elected General Secretary of the GMB, has publicly supported Corbyn but is seen as a more moderate voice at the TUC. Only Dave Ward of the Communication Workers’ Union, who lent staff and resources to both Corbyn’s campaign team and to the parliamentary staff of Corbyn and McDonnell, is truly on side.

The impact of reaffiliation may be felt more keenly in local parties. The FBU’s membership looks small in real terms compared Unite and Unison have memberships of over a million, while the GMB and Usdaw are around the half-a-million mark, but is much more impressive when you consider that there are just 48,000 firefighters in Britain. This may make them more likely to participate in internal elections than other affiliated trade unionists, just 60,000 of whom voted in the Labour leadership election in 2015. However, it is worth noting that it is statistically unlikely most firefighters are Corbynites - those that are will mostly have already joined themselves. The affiliation, while a morale boost for many in the Labour party, is unlikely to prove as significant to the direction of the party as the outcome of Unison’s general secretary election or the struggle for power at the top of Unite in 2018. 

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.