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Bite-sized briefing: world

The UN climate change conference opened in Copenhagen on 7 December. A leaked draft of a Danish document pointed to a divide between developed and developing countries on a future deal. But commentators noted the paper dated from November and was likely to be out of date.

Greenhouse gases threaten human health, acknowledged the US. This may mean the American Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) can order cuts in emissions without the approval of Congress.

South Africa will reduce carbon emissions by 34 per cent by 2020, it pledged at the conference. It said it would need financial aid from developed countries to do so.

Five car bombs in Baghdad killed at least 127 people and wounded 448 on 8 December. The blasts were near government buildings. Officials blamed al-Qaeda trying to destabilise the country before February's elections.

The past decade was the warmest on record, according to the World Meteorological Organisation. This year is poised to be the fifth-warmest in 160 years.

Afghanistan's security forces need international funding for the next 15 years, President Hamid Karzai said. The US defence secretary, Robert Gates, said the US would not abandon the state.

Hundreds of Somalis protested in Mogadishu against al-Shahab, the militant group that controls large parts of the country. The group is held responsible for a suicide attack last week, which it denies.

In Pakistan, two bombs killed 48 people and injured more than 100. The attacks took place in Lahore and Peshawar. No one has yet claimed responsibility.

Japan has agreed a stimulus plan of ¥7.2trn (£48bn). The return of deflation has sparked fears in the country that growth could stall.

Barack Obama announced plans to boost US employment, including winding up the $700bn (£425bn) bank bailout and using remaining money to lend to small businesses. US unemployment stands at 10 per cent.

In Chile, six people were charged over the death of the ex-president Eduardo Frei Montalva (right) in 1982. The judge said there was now evidence that Frei, a vocal critic of Augusto Pinochet, had been poisoned in hospital.

The Philippines government resumed peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, a separatist group from the south of the country. Previous talks collapsed 16 months ago.

Drug trafficking in Africa is turning it into a major crime hub, the head of the UN drugs agency warned. Fifty to 60 tonnes of cocaine are trafficked across West Africa every year, he said.

Egypt's head of antiquities requested that the Rosetta Stone be loaned to Egypt by the British Museum. A 1970 UN agreement states that artefacts belong to their country of origin. The museum says it will consider the request.

Iceland's recession deepened in the third quarter of 2009; output plunged at the fastest pace on record. The economy is expected to continue shrinking next year.

A hunger-striking West Saharan activist is refusing medical care. Aminatou Haidar campaigns for the independence of the disputed region. She was expelled to the Canary Islands in mid-November and has not eaten since.

Jerusalem should be the capital of both Israeli and Palestinian states, EU ministers said. Palestinians welcomed the statement but Israel, which currently claims sovereignty over the city, said it contained "nothing new".

Russian internet censorship claims have spread across the blogosphere after a provider, Yota, admitted blocking access to sites.

Romania's opposition party, the Social Democrats, contested the presidential election result. Polls had predicted a victory for the party's Mircea Geoana, but Traian Basescu won by under 1 per cent.

This article first appeared in the 14 December 2009 issue of the New Statesman, The Muslim Jesus

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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