Show Hide image

The Week so Far

1. Europe

The Eurosceptic True Finns party made its largest parliamentary gains in Finland on 18 April. Its share of the vote leapt from 4 to 19 per cent after a backlash against the EU bailouts of Greece, Ireland and Portugal.

2. Asia

Armenia has made chess a mandatory subject in primary schools in an attempt to produce a new generation of champions. The government is spending $1.43m on the scheme, which it hopes will "foster schoolchildren's intellectual development".

3. Africa

Allegations of vote-rigging marred presidential elections in Nigeria on 16 April. Riots erupted in the northern states when the incumbent, Goodluck Jonathan, received overwhelming majorities in his native south - including 99.6 per cent of the vote in his home state, Bayelsa.

4. Latin America

The Cuban president, Raúl Castro, launched a raft of constitutional changes on 17 April at Cuba's first Communist Party congress in 14 years. The changes included limiting presidents - including himself - to two five-year terms and allowing Cubans to buy and sell their cars and homes for the first time. Castro's brother, Fidel, praised the moves.

5. Middle East

Two Palestinian teenagers have confessed to murdering five members of an Israeli family in the settlement of Itamar in March. Amjad Awad, 19, and Hakim Awad, 18, admitted killing Ehud and Ruth Fogel, as well as their three children.

6. North America

Tornadoes swept the south-eastern United States, killing more than 45 over three days. Some 241 tornadoes were spotted from North Carolina to Texas.

7. Technology

The Ministry of Defence accidentally published UK nuclear submarine secrets on the internet. Blacked-out parts of a report became visible when copied and pasted into another document. The supposedly redacted parts of the MoD report revealed what could cause a core meltdown on British nuclear submarines.

8. Business

The long-term deposit ratings of Irish Life and Permanent, Allied Irish Banks and the Bank of Ireland were downgraded to junk status by the rating agency Moody's on 18 April - meaning investors are unlikely to get a return. The move came a week after Ireland's sovereign debt was downgraded to one notch above junk by the rating agency.

9. Entertainment

The pop singer George Michael has covered Stevie Wonder's "You and I (We Can Conquer the World)" as an early wedding present for Prince William and Kate Middleton. He will not, however, be attending the wedding: "They should be surrounded by people they love, not dodgy ex-con pop stars."

10. People

John Cleese has revealed that he turned down the chance to be a Lib Dem peer in 1999 because living in England through winter was "too much of a price to pay". The former Python was offered the peerage by Paddy Ashdown after donating generously to the Lib Dems. Cleese says he also turned down a CBE in 1996 because he thought it was "silly".

This article first appeared in the 25 April 2011 issue of the New Statesman, Easter special

Getty
Show Hide image

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