In this week's New Statesman: The death spiral

Is it too late to avert a British Depression? | Mehdi Hasan on Al Jazeera | Mark Mazower: Greeks vs


David Blanchflower: Is it too late to avert a British Depression?

In this week's New Statesman, former Bank of England MPC member and the NS's economics editor David Blanchflower considers whether it is possible for Chancellor George Osborne to change his course of austerity before it is too late for the British economy, or whether we are already in the "death spiral" of another recession:

The Office of Budget Responsibility members Robert Chote, Stephen Nickell and Graham Parker foolishly accepted Osborne's claim that the economy would benefit from 'expansionary fiscal contraction' - in other words, that public spending cuts and austerity would lead to a resurgence in the private sector. It hasn't happened.

He states there is "zero chance of a default", yet, fearing whether the Chancellor has the courage or ability to change course, Blanchflower argues that the government policy "should move from deficit reduction to one of attempting to avoid the death spiral of decline - of falling growth, deflation, increased unemployment, falling living standards and ever-rising business failures."

Mark Mazower: Germany v Greece

In the NS Essay "Grappling with Ghosts", leading historian Mark Mazower, professor at Columbia University and author of the award winning Inside Hitler's Greece, describes the anti-German feelings running high in Greece, where "it is not only protesters who reach back to the era of the Nazi occupation for analogues with the present".

The austerity measures decided on by Angela Merkel "may indeed be reducing Greece to penury," writes Mazower, though the outrage felt by Germans at the invocations of the war is, in fact, "because they feel they are trying to act exactly as the Nazis did not". Yet - Mazower recognises - these are different times:

The absence of armies in the entirely unfolding euro-saga is so obvious to us that we ignore its historical meaning . . . Our troubles [today] are caused by an addiction to cheap credit . . . enabled by the greed of bankers and the deliberate liberalisation of financial flows.

Mehdi Hasan vists Al Jazeera

In "Voice of the Arab spring", Mehdi Hasan travels to Doha, Qatar, to visit the headquarters of Al Jazeera, the TV and internet news network owned by an absolute monarch yet hailed as an independent voice in the Middle East. Hasan asks the managing director of Al Jazeera English and former ITN journalist Al Anstey how often he is rung up by members of the ruling family: "Never."

Anstey doesn't budge:

We are not a mouthpiece [for Qatar]; we are not a tool of public diplomacy. We have come here as journalists to carry out the profession of journalism.

Elsewhere in the New Statesman

In the NS Interview, Brian Cox and Jeff Forshaw, physicists and co-authors of the new book The Quantum Universe, tell Helen Lewis-Hasteley why Britain is the most efficient scientific nation in the world, how the scientific method is unarguable (". . . because we're not in fucking caves!") and why the best way to teach quantum physics is to think like children.

All this plus Mark Serwotka, leader of the Public and Commercial Services Union, defends the largest strike in a generation; Helen Lewis-Hasteley is disturbed and astonished by the testimonies delivered to the Leveson inquiry; Rafael Behr argues that, following George Osborne's gray-washed Black Tuesday, Ed Miliband must step up to prove the coalition wrong; nature writer Richard Mabey offers the first in an occasional series of "seasonal diaries", and Owen Sheers shares a new poem, "The Carriage Horses: Manhattan".

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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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Just you wait – soon fake news will come to football

No point putting out a story saying that Chelsea got stuffed 19-1 by Spurs. Who would believe it, even if Donald Trump tweeted it?

So it is all settled: Cristiano Ronaldo will be arriving at Carlisle United at the end of the month, just before deadline day. It all makes sense. He has fallen in love with a Herdwick sheep, just as Beatrix Potter did, and like her, he is putting his money and energy into helping Cumbria, the land of the Herdwick.

He fell out with his lover in Morocco, despite having a private plane to take him straight from every Real Madrid game to their weekly assignation, the moment this particular Herdwick came into his life. His mother will be coming with him, as well as his son, Cristiano Ronaldo, Jr. They want to bring the boy
up communing with nature, able to roam free, walking among the lakes and fells.

Behind the scenes, his agent has bought up CUFC and half of Cumbria on his behalf, including Sellafield, so it is a wise investment. Clearly CUFC will be promoted this year – just look where they are in the table – then zoom-zoom, up they go, back in the top league, at which point his agent hopes they will be offered megabucks by some half-witted Chinese/Russian/Arab moneybags.

Do you believe all that? It is what we now call in the trade fake news, or post-truth – or, to keep it simple, a total lie, or, to be vulgar, complete bollocks. (I made it up, although a pundit on French TV hinted that he thought the bit about Ronaldo’s friend in Morocco might not be too far-fetched. The stuff about Beatrix Potter loving Herdwicks is kosher.)

Fake news is already the number-one topic in 2017. Just think about all those round robins you got with Christmas cards, filled with fake news, such as grandchildren doing brilliantly at school, Dad’s dahlias winning prizes, while we have just bought a gem in Broadstairs for peanuts.

Fake news is everywhere in the world of politics and economics, business and celebrity gossip, because all the people who really care about such topics are sitting all day on Facebook making it up. And if they can’t be arsed to make it up, they pass on rubbish they know is made up.

Fake news has long been with us. Instead of dropping stuff on the internet, they used to drop it from the skies. I have a copy of a leaflet that the German propaganda machine dropped over our brave lads on the front line during the war. It shows what was happening back in Blighty – handsome US soldiers in bed with the wives and girlfriends of our Tommies stuck at the front.

So does it happen in football? At this time of the year, the tabloids and Sky are obsessed by transfer rumours, or rumours of transfer rumours, working themselves into a frenzy of self-perpetuating excitement, until the final minute of deadline day, when the climax comes at last, uh hum – all over the studio, what a mess.

In Reality, which is where I live, just off the North Circular – no, down a bit, move left, got it – there is no such thing as fake news in football. We are immune from fantasy facts. OK, there is gossip about the main players – will they move or will they not, will they be sued/prosecuted/dropped?

Football is concerned with facts. You have to get more goals than the other team, then you win the game. Fact. Because all the Prem games are live on telly, we millions of supplicant fans can see with our eyes who won. No point putting out a story saying that Chelsea got stuffed 19-1 by Spurs. Who would believe it, even if Donald Trump tweeted it?

I suppose the Russkis could hack into the Sky transmissions, making the ball bounce back out of the goal again, or manipulating the replay so goals get scored from impossible angles, or fiddling the electronic scoreboards.

Hmm, now I think about it, all facts can be fiddled, in this electronic age. The Premier League table could be total fiction. Bring back pigeons. You could trust them for the latest news. Oh, one has just arrived. Ronaldo’s romance  with the Herdwick is off! And so am I. Off to Barbados and Bequia
for two weeks.

Hunter Davies’s latest book is “The Biscuit Girls” (Ebury Press, £6.99)

Hunter Davies is a journalist, broadcaster and profilic author perhaps best known for writing about the Beatles. He is an ardent Tottenham fan and writes a regular column on football for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 12 January 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Putin's revenge