In this week's New Statesman: The last Tsar

Vladimir Putin's lust for power | Is it ever okay to write about your divorce? | Michael Rosen on ch

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This week's cover story profiles Vladimir Putin and his lust for power. Putin has stifled dissent throughout his political life, says Oliver Bullough. But as he prepares for another presidential term, Russia's disaffected middle class are no longer willing to stay silent. Also in the mix is Evgeny Lebedev, who writes this week's Diary, on Russia, the Guardian's struggles, and why he loves Blackpool. Elsewhere, Sophie Elmhirst interviews the Russian property magnate Sergei Polonsky.

The magazine also contains a profile of Rachel Cusk, whose new book Aftermath: on Marriage and Separation has caused a stir with its exposition of personal pain. In the Critics section, the book is reviewed by Jane Shilling. We pose the question: is it ever okay to write about your divorce? Meanwhile, Rob Brown discusses Scotland's Irish question. During the years of the Troubles, Catholics looked up to Labour as their protector. But all that has now changed, to the advantage of the SNP.

Elsewhere, Rafael Behr says that Ed Miliband needs to show us what he believes, Mehdi Hasan argues against western intervention, and Norman Lamont explains why the west's policy on Iran has failed. In the Critics lead, Michael Rosen asks why children's authors are rarely asked for their opinion on how to get children reading -- a serious oversight, since they know far more than politicians.

Samira Shackle is a freelance journalist, who tweets @samirashackle. She was formerly a staff writer for the New Statesman.

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Tom Watson rouses Labour's conference as he comes out fighting

The party's deputy leader exhilarated delegates with his paean to the Blair and Brown years. 

Tom Watson is down but not out. After Jeremy Corbyn's second landslide victory, and weeks of threats against his position, Labour's deputy leader could have played it safe. Instead, he came out fighting. 

With Corbyn seated directly behind him, he declared: "I don't know why we've been focusing on what was wrong with the Blair and Brown governments for the last six years. But trashing our record is not the way to enhance our brand. We won't win elections like that! And we need to win elections!" As Watson won a standing ovation from the hall and the platform, the Labour leader remained motionless. When a heckler interjected, Watson riposted: "Jeremy, I don't think she got the unity memo." Labour delegates, many of whom hail from the pre-Corbyn era, lapped it up.

Though he warned against another challenge to the leader ("we can't afford to keep doing this"), he offered a starkly different account of the party's past and its future. He reaffirmed Labour's commitment to Nato ("a socialist construct"), with Corbyn left isolated as the platform applauded. The only reference to the leader came when Watson recalled his recent PMQs victory over grammar schools. There were dissenting voices (Watson was heckled as he praised Sadiq Khan for winning an election: "Just like Jeremy Corbyn!"). But one would never have guessed that this was the party which had just re-elected Corbyn. 

There was much more to Watson's speech than this: a fine comic riff on "Saturday's result" (Ed Balls on Strictly), a spirited attack on Theresa May's "ducking and diving; humming and hahing" and a cerebral account of the automation revolution. But it was his paean to Labour history that roused the conference as no other speaker has. 

The party's deputy channelled the spirit of both Hugh Gaitskell ("fight, and fight, and fight again to save the party we love") and his mentor Gordon Brown (emulating his trademark rollcall of New Labour achivements). With his voice cracking, Watson recalled when "from the sunny uplands of increasing prosperity social democratic government started to feel normal to the people of Britain". For Labour, a party that has never been further from power in recent decades, that truly was another age. But for a brief moment, Watson's tubthumper allowed Corbyn's vanquished opponents to relive it. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.