Announcing the New Statesman Centenary Issue

We celebrate 100 years with the largest single issue of the magazine in its history.

The New Statesman, founded in 1913, will mark its centenary with a 180-page souvenir issue, to be published on Thursday 11 April. It will be the largest single issue in the magazine’s history. The centenary edition will include contributions from leading writers and political figures, including Julian Barnes, A S Byatt, David Hare, Mark Mazower, Melvyn Bragg, Michael Gove, David Miliband and Robert Skidelsky. There will also be a number of yet-to-be-announced guest writers and reprints of classic articles by T S Eliot, Virginia Woolf, George Orwell and others.

Under the award-winning editorship of Jason Cowley, who joined at the end of 2008, the title has been revitalised, thanks to a stable of talented writers, a series of agenda-setting scoops and notable guest-edits by Jemima Khan, Richard Dawkins, Rowan Williams and the Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei.

Among the scoops that have helped to transform the profile of the New Statesman are: Hugh Grant’s hugely popular article “The bugger, bugged”, which turned the tables on a former News of the World journalist; the controversial attack on the austerity policies of the coalition government by the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, which led to a rift between Downing Street and Lambeth Palace; Vince Cable’s recent intervention on the government’s economic strategy; Jemima Khan’s denunciation of Julian Assange; and the discovery and publication of “Last Letter”, a poem by Ted Hughes about the night his then wife, Sylvia Plath, committed suicide.

Boosted by Kindle and digital subscriptions, the circulation of the magazine is approaching 30,000. Meanwhile, newstatesman.com has had a 300 per cent increase in traffic since 2009. It is now the country’s biggest politics website, with 1.4 million unique visitors and 3.6 million page views during this March alone – exceptional numbers for such a small team. The first episode of a weekly New Statesman podcast went out this week and a new iPad app for the magazine will go live in May.

“A great magazine with the status of a national treasure.”

– Richard Dawkins

 

“The New Statesman distinguishes itself not just by the quality of its writing and the thoughtfulness of its content but by the breadth of its editorial mind - something from which other publications of both left and right can learn much.”

- Simon Heffer, the Daily Mail

 

“A great magazine...grab hold of a copy.”

– Russell Brand

 

“Under its current editorial team, the New Statesman is the best it’s been in my lifetime . . . sharp and interesting and valid.”

– Daniel Finkelstein, the Times

 

“The NS has become a consistent home for important points of view ignored by other media - and therefore plays a crucial role in the moral and intellectual health of the nation.”

– Alain de Botton

 

“The new New Statesman is thoughtful and surprising. Britain needs fresh progressive thinking and debate, and the NS is generating it.”

- David Milliband

Jason Cowley said:

The New Statesman is no longer on life support and is returning to robust health. I’m confident that it is now the best written and most intellectually stimulating magazine in Britain. We have rethought it and relaunched the website. We have broadened our political range and collaborated with some interesting and unexpected people. We have drawn influence from our Fabian tradition but also from Keynesian Liberalism – it is often forgotten that in 1931 the New Statesman merged with the Nation, the old voice of Bloomsbury social liberalism. 

The centenary issue will be full of great journalism and cultural criticism in the best tradition of the magazine. We will be looking back but we’ll also be asking what the next 100 years might bring in politics, public life and culture. Whatever that is, we are now confident that the New Statesman will be here to engage with it, online and on paper.”

Centenary celebrations began on 4 April with a sold-out debate on the future of feminism, chaired by our web editor, Caroline Crampton, and featuring the New Statesman’s crack squad of feminist bloggers. On 18 April, editor Jason Cowley will chair a second debate with the motion “This house believes the left won the 20th century”, in which the Daily Mail’s Simon Heffer, the Huffington Post’s Mehdi Hasan and the New Statesman’s deputy editor, Helen Lewis, will be pitted against ConservativeHome’s Tim Montgomerie, the Independent columnist Owen Jones and Ruth Porter of the Institute of Economic Affairs.

The New Statesman Century, a 300-page special issue of the magazine showcasing the most incisive, influential and amusing articles from the New Statesman archive, will be published in the summer. A book will follow.

In this centenary year, the New Statesman will also be working with Jeremy Vine’s BBC Radio 2 programme on a series featuring some of the leading thinkers and writers of our time. From 29 April and continuing every week into the summer, Jonathan Sachs, Brian May, David Puttnam, Stephen Hawking, Mary Robinson, Susan Greenfield, Alain de Botton and others will attempt to answer the most fundamental question of all: “What makes us human?” Their essays will be read and discussed on Jeremy Vine’s radio show and published in the New Statesman.

The New Statesman was founded on the eve of the First World War by the social reformers and economists Beatrice and Sidney Webb, with support from George Bernard Shaw and other members of the Fabian Society. From defying Fascism under long-standing editor Kingsley Martin, to kicking off the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, as well as arguing for women’s, LGBT rights and constitutional reform, the magazine has backed many radical causes over the years, in spite of libel costs and funding difficulties which resulted in near bankruptcy in the 1990s.

Throughout its colourful history, the New Statesman has remained committed to publishing the best writers and journalists. The roll call of great political and cultural writers who have contributed to the magazine includes H G Wells, John Maynard Keynes, Bertrand Russell, Paul Johnson, Julian Barnes, Virginia Woolf, Christopher Hitchens, Will Self and John Gray. More recently, the magazine has been a platform for a new generation of talented journalists such as Laurie Penny, Mehdi Hasan and Helen Lewis.

The New Statesman Centenary Issue will be availble for purchase on newsstands and on our website from next Thursday, 11th April 2013.

Charlotte Simmonds is a writer and blogger living in London. She was formerly an editorial assistant at the New Statesman. You can follow her on Twitter @thesmallgalleon.

GARY WATERS
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In defence of expertise: it’s time to take the heart out of “passionate” politics

What we need is cool logic.

We are living through a bonfire of the experts. During the EU referendum campaign, Michael Gove explained that people had had enough of them. A few weeks later, his fellow Tory MPs took him at his word and chose a relative ingénue to run against Theresa May.

After declaring for Andrea Leadsom in the Tory leadership race, Michael Howard was asked whether it might be a problem that she had never held a position higher than junior minister. Howard, whose long career includes stints as home secretary and opposition leader, demurred: “I don’t think experience is hugely important.”

Even in this jaw-dropping season, that comment caused significant mandibular dislocation. I thought: the next Tory leader will become prime minister at a time of national crisis, faced with some of the UK’s most complex problems since the Second World War. If experience doesn’t matter now, it never does. What does that imply about the job?

Leadsom’s supporters contended that her 25 years in the City were just as valuable as years spent at Westminster. Let’s leave aside the disputed question of whether Leadsom was ever a senior decision-maker (rather than a glorified marketing manager) and ask if success in one field makes it more likely that a person will succeed in another.

Consider Ben Carson, who, despite never having held elected office, contested the Republican presidential nomination. He declared that Obamacare was the worst thing to happen to the United States since slavery and that Hitler may have been stopped if the German public had been armed. Yet Carson is not stupid. He is an admired neurosurgeon who pioneered a method of separating conjoined twins.

Carson is a lesson in the first rule of expertise: it does not transfer from one field to another. This is why, outside their domain, the most brilliant people can be complete dolts. Nevertheless, we – and they – often assume otherwise. People are all too ready to believe that successful generals or entrepreneurs will be good at governing, even though, more often than not, they turn out to be painfully inept.

The psychologist Ellen Langer had her subjects play a betting game. Cards were drawn at random and the players had to bet on whose card was higher. Each played against a well-dressed, self-assured “dapper” and a shabby, awkward “schnook”. The participants knew that it was a game of chance but they took more risks against the schnook. High confidence in one area (“I’m more socially adept than the schnook”) irrationally spilled over into another (“I’ll draw better cards”).

The experiment points us to another reason why we make poor judgements about competence. We place too much faith in social cues – in what we can see. As voters, we assume that because someone is good at giving a speech or taking part in a debate, they will be good at governing. But public performance is an unreliable indicator of how they would cope with running meetings, reading policy briefs and taking decisions in private. Call it the Boris principle.

This overrating of the visible extends beyond politics. Decades of evidence show that the job interview is a poor predictor of how someone will do in the job. Organisations make better decisions when they rely on objective data such as qualifications, track record and test scores. Interviewers are often swayed by qualities that can be performed.

MPs on the Commons education select committee rejected Amanda Spielman, the government’s choice for the next head of Ofsted, after her appearance before them. The committee didn’t reject her because she was deficient in accomplishments or her grasp of education policy, but because she lacked “passion”. Her answers to the committee were thoughtful and evidence-based. Yet a Labour MP told her she wasn’t sufficiently “evangelical” about school improvement; a Tory asked her to stop using the word “data” so often. Apparently, there is little point in being an expert if you cannot emote.

England’s football team is perennially berated in the media for not being passionate enough. But what it lacks is technique. Shortly before Wales played England in the European Championship, the Welsh striker Gareth Bale suggested that England’s players lacked passion. He knew exactly what he was doing. In the tunnel before kick-off, TV cameras caught the English goalkeeper Joe Hart in a vessel-busting frenzy. On the pitch, Hart allowed Bale to score from an absurdly long range because he was incapable of thinking straight.

I wish there were less passion in politics and more cool logic; less evangelism and more data. Unthinking passion has brought the Labour Party to its knees and threatens to do the same to the country. I find myself hungering for dry analyses and thirsting for bloodless lucidity. I admire, more than ever, those with obscure technical knowledge and the hard-won skills needed to make progress, rather than merely promise it.

Political leadership is not brain surgery but it is a rich and deep domain. An effective political leader needs to be an expert in policy, diplomacy, legislative process and how not to screw up an interview. That is why it’s so hard to do the job well when you have spent most of your time in boardrooms or at anti-war rallies.

If democratic politicians display contempt for expertise, including their own, they can hardly complain if those they aspire to govern decide to do without the lot of them. 

Ian Leslie is a writer, author of CURIOUS: The Desire to Know and Why Your Future Depends On It, and writer/presenter of BBC R4's Before They Were Famous.

This article first appeared in the 21 July 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The English Revolt