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The Week So Far

1. North America

The US government narrowly avoided shutdown after Congress passed a new budget on 9 April, following a stand-off between Republicans and Democrats over proposed spending cuts. Both sides claimed victory, after agreeing to $38bn net reductions.

2. Africa

Laurent Gbagbo, ex-leader of Côte d'Ivoire, was arrested by forces loyal to his presidential rival, Alassane Ouattara, on 11 April, ending a four-month power struggle. The arrest followed UN and French air strikes.

3. Central America

Mexican authorities announced the discovery of 116 bodies in mass graves in the northern state of Tamaulipas on 12 April. They are thought to belong to victims of the country's drugs war, which has killed more than 35,000 people since 2006.

4. Europe

Legislation banning Islamic veils in all public places in France came into force on 11 April. Two women were arrested for flouting the ban on its first day and 61 people were arrested at a protest outside Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris two days earlier. Anyone wearing a niqab or burqa in France faces a fine of €150 or lessons in citizenship.

5. Middle East

An Egyptian blogger was sentenced to three years in jail on 11 April after criticising the country's interim military regime for carrying on the policies of the ousted president Hosni Mubarak. Maikel Nabil, 25, had accused the government of corruption and anti-democratic practices.

6. Asia

The Japanese nuclear regulatory agency has increased the "nuclear crisis" level at Fukushima to seven, the maximum level. This places it on a par with the Chernobyl disaster, although the amount of radiation released by Fukushima is just 10 per cent of that given off in the 1986 disaster.

7. Technology

The twins who sued the Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg, after claiming he stole their idea have lost their appeal over the level of compensation they received in 2008. A court ruled that Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss must accept the $65m settlement.

8. Business

UK inflation fell unexpectedly to 4 per cent in March from 4.4 per cent the previous month. The decline - the first since July 2010 - was largely due to cheaper food and drink, which offset increases in housing and energy costs. The drop is likely to delay any future interest-rate increases.

9. Education

Southampton, Sheffield and the School of Oriental and African Studies are the latest universities to announce that they will charge £9,000 in tuition fees from 2012. At the time of writing, 35 out of 46 universities had declared that they will charge the maximum.

10. Health

Ian Anderson, founder of Jethro Tull, took part in an extraterrestrial gig with Catherine Coleman, US astronaut, on 12 April. They performed Jethro Tull's "Bourée" via video-link as Coleman orbited the earth in the International Space Station and Anderson played in Perm, Russia. A previous space gig involving the composer Jean Michel Jarre and the astronaut Ron McNair did not go ahead after McNair's shuttle, Challenger, exploded after take-off in 1986.

This article first appeared in the 18 April 2011 issue of the New Statesman, GOD Special

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The New Times: Brexit, globalisation, the crisis in Labour and the future of the left

With essays by David Miliband, Paul Mason, John Harris, Lisa Nandy, Vince Cable and more.

Once again the “new times” are associated with the ascendancy of the right. The financial crash of 2007-2008 – and the Great Recession and sovereign debt crises that were a consequence of it – were meant to have marked the end of an era of runaway “turbocapitalism”. It never came close to happening. The crash was a crisis of capitalism but not the crisis of capitalism. As Lenin observed, there is “no such thing as an absolutely hopeless situation” for capitalism, and so we discovered again. Instead, the greatest burden of the period of fiscal retrenchment that followed the crash was carried by the poorest in society, those most directly affected by austerity, and this in turn has contributed to a deepening distrust of elites and a wider crisis of governance.

Where are we now and in which direction are we heading?

Some of the contributors to this special issue believe that we have reached the end of the “neoliberal” era. I am more sceptical. In any event, the end of neoliberalism, however you define it, will not lead to a social-democratic revival: it looks as if, in many Western countries, we are entering an age in which centre-left parties cannot form ruling majorities, having leaked support to nationalists, populists and more radical alternatives.

Certainly the British Labour Party, riven by a war between its parliamentary representatives and much of its membership, is in a critical condition. At the same time, Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership has inspired a remarkable re-engagement with left-wing politics, even as his party slumps in the polls. His own views may seem frozen in time, but hundreds of thousands of people, many of them young graduates, have responded to his anti-austerity rhetoric, his candour and his shambolic, unspun style.

The EU referendum, in which as much as one-third of Labour supporters voted for Brexit, exposed another chasm in Labour – this time between educated metropolitan liberals and the more socially conservative white working class on whose loyalty the party has long depended. This no longer looks like a viable election-winning coalition, especially after the collapse of Labour in Scotland and the concomitant rise of nationalism in England.

In Marxism Today’s “New Times” issue of October 1988, Stuart Hall wrote: “The left seems not just displaced by Thatcherism, but disabled, flattened, becalmed by the very prospect of change; afraid of rooting itself in ‘the new’ and unable to make the leap of imagination required to engage the future.” Something similar could be said of the left today as it confronts Brexit, the disunities within the United Kingdom, and, in Theresa May, a prime minister who has indicated that she might be prepared to break with the orthodoxies of the past three decades.

The Labour leadership contest between Corbyn and Owen Smith was largely an exercise in nostalgia, both candidates seeking to revive policies that defined an era of mass production and working-class solidarity when Labour was strong. On matters such as immigration, digital disruption, the new gig economy or the power of networks, they had little to say. They proposed a politics of opposition – against austerity, against grammar schools. But what were they for? Neither man seemed capable of embracing the “leading edge of change” or of making the imaginative leap necessary to engage the future.

So is there a politics of the left that will allow us to ride with the currents of these turbulent “new times” and thus shape rather than be flattened by them? Over the next 34 pages 18 writers, offering many perspectives, attempt to answer this and related questions as they analyse the forces shaping a world in which power is shifting to the East, wars rage unchecked in the Middle East, refugees drown en masse in the Mediterranean, technology is outstripping our capacity to understand it, and globalisation begins to fragment.

— Jason Cowley, Editor 

Tom Kibasi on what the left fails to see

Philip Collins on why it's time for Labour to end its crisis

John Harris on why Labour is losing its heartland

Lisa Nandy on how Labour has been halted and hollowed out

David Runciman on networks and the digital revolution

John Gray on why the right, not the left, has grasped the new times

Mariana Mazzucato on why it's time for progressives to rethink capitalism

Robert Ford on why the left must reckon with the anger of those left behind

Ros Wynne-Jones on the people who need a Labour government most

Gary Gerstle on Corbyn, Sanders and the populist surge

Nick Pearce on why the left is haunted by the ghosts of the 1930s

Paul Mason on why the left must be ready to cause a commotion

Neal Lawson on what the new, 21st-century left needs now

Charles Leadbeater explains why we are all existentialists now

John Bew mourns the lost left

Marc Stears on why democracy is a long, hard, slow business

Vince Cable on how a financial crisis empowered the right

David Miliband on why the left needs to move forward, not back

This article first appeared in the 22 September 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The New Times