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Bite-sized briefing: world

Pakistani aircraft bombed militants in the South Waziristan region on the Afghan border, after at least 120 people were killed in terrorist attacks over eight days. Government forces are preparing for a ground offensive against the al-Qaeda and Taliban stronghold.

The US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton (right), said Washington would not press for new nuclear sanctions against Iran following talks in Moscow with her Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov. Lavrov reaffirmed Moscow's view that further sanctions would be counterproductive.

Sri Lanka's presidential and parliamentary elections will be held before April 2010, more than a year early, state news sources announced. The government hopes to gain from strong public support after its defeat of the Tamil Tiger rebels in May. Up to 7,000 civilians were killed during the offensive.

South African police fired rubber bullets and tear gas at protesters demanding better sanitation and housing. Thousands of residents of two communities near Johannesburg had barricaded roads and marched on public offices. There have been sporadic protests over infrastructure since April's elections.

A further 13,000 support troops, including engineers and medical personnel, will be deployed to Afghanistan in a move that was not publicly announced by the US. This is in addition to 21,000 combat troops deployed in March.

Romania's government fell after losing a vote of no confidence, the first such measure since the end of Communist rule in 1989. Parliament voted 254-176 to oust Prime Minister Emil Boc's government, which lost its majority when coalition allies pulled out on 1 October. An interim government will rule until elections on 22 November.

Japan will end its support of the war in Afghanistan when its current mandate expires in January. It had provided fuel and logistical support for US forces in the Indian Ocean, but during the August elections the winning opposition party pledged a foreign policy with greater independence from the US.

Jean Sarkozy, 23-year-old son of the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, announced his intention to become head of Epad, a powerful public agency that manages La Défence, France's main business district. Amid cries of nepotism, more than 40,000 people signed an online petition calling for Sarkozy Jr to pull out.

UN peacekeepers were criticised for supporting a government military offensive in the Democratic Republic of Congo. A report by international aid agencies said the mission had caused widespread killings and rape.

The death toll in the Philippines is rising. Floods and landslides triggered by heavy rain have killed at least 225 people, following two typhoons that left at least 650 people dead and thousands stranded. A UN appeal for funds has raised $19m, a quarter of the amount sought.

Workers in several Mexican cities staged protests at a government decision to dissolve the state-run energy distribution firm, Luz y Fuerza del Centro. The powerful Electrical Workers' Union declared a state of emergency.

Radovan Karadzic has lost his appeal for war crimes charges against him to be dropped. His trial is due to start on 26 October.

Guinea's military rulers have agreed a huge mining and oil deal with China, the BBC reported. A Chinese firm is expected to invest more than £4.5bn. The leader of West Africa's main economic bloc, Ecowas, warned that the country was in danger of slipping into another dictatorship.

The US health-care reform bill was passed by the Senate finance committee. One Republican, Olympia Snowe, backed the proposal. The bill must now be combined with a bill by the health committee before a full Senate vote

This article first appeared in the 19 October 2009 issue of the New Statesman, The Strange Death of Labour England

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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