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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The Home Office made Theresa May. But it could still destroy her

Even politicians who leave the Home Office a success may find themselves dogged by it. 

Good morning. When Theresa May left the Home Office for the last time, she told civil servants that there would always be a little bit of the Home Office inside her.

She meant in terms of its enduring effect on her, but today is a reminder of its enduring ability to do damage on her reputation in the present day.

The case of Jamal al-Harith, released from Guantanamo Bay under David Blunkett but handed a £1m compensation payout under Theresa May, who last week died in a suicide bomb attack on Iraqi forces in Mosul, where he was fighting on behalf of Isis. 

For all Blunkett left in the wake of a scandal, his handling of the department was seen to be effective and his reputation was enhanced, rather than diminished, by his tenure. May's reputation as a "safe pair of hands" in the country, as "one of us" on immigration as far as the Conservative right is concerned and her credibility as not just another headbanger on stop and search all come from her long tenure at the Home Office. 

The event was the cue for the Mail to engage in its preferred sport of Blair-bashing. It’s all his fault for the payout – which in addition to buying al-Harith a house may also have fattened the pockets of IS – and the release. Not so fast, replied Blair in a punchy statement: didn’t you campaign for him to be released, and wasn’t the payout approved by your old pal Theresa May? (I paraphrase slightly.)

That resulted in a difficult Q&A for Downing Street’s spokesman yesterday, which HuffPo’s Paul Waugh has posted in full here. As it was May’s old department which has the job of keeping tabs on domestic terror threats the row rebounds onto her. 

Blair is right to say that every government has to “balance proper concern for civil liberties with desire to protect our security”. And it would be an act of spectacular revisionism to declare that Blair’s government was overly concerned with civil liberty rather than internal security.

Whether al-Harith should never have been freed or, as his family believe, was picked up by mistake before being radicalised in prison is an open question. Certainly the journey from wrongly-incarcerated fellow traveller to hardened terrorist is one that we’ve seen before in Northern Ireland and may have occurred here.

Regardless, the presumption of innocence is an important one but it means that occasionally, that means that someone goes on to commit crimes again. (The case of Ian Stewart, convicted of murdering the author Helen Bailey yesterday, and who may have murdered his first wife Diane Stewart as well, is another example of this.)

Nonetheless, May won’t have got that right every time. Her tenure at the Home Office, so crucial to her reputation as a “safe pair of hands”, may yet be weaponised by a clever rival, whether from inside or outside the Conservative Party. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.