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.

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David Davis interview: The next Conservative leader will be someone nobody expects

The man David Cameron beat on why we should bet on a surprise candidate and what the PM needs to do after the referendum. 

“I’m tired,” says David Davis when I greet him. The former Conservative leadership candidate is running on three hours’ sleep after a Question Time appearance the night before. He is cheered, however, by the coverage of his exchange with Ed Miliband. “Which country would it be be like?” the former Labour leader asked of a post-EU UK. “The country we’re going to be like is Great Britain,” the pro-Brexit Davis retorted

The 67-year-old Haltemprice and Howden MP is at Hull University to debate constituency neighbour Alan Johnson, the head of the Labour In campaign. “As far as you can tell, it’s near to a dead heat,” Davis said of the referendum. “I think the run of events will favour Brexit but if I had to bet your salary, I wouldn’t bet mine, I’d place it on a very narrow victory for Brexit.”

Most economists differ only on how much harm a Leave vote would do. Does Davis believe withdrawal is justified even if it reduces growth? “Well, I think that’s a hypothetical question based on something that’s not going to happen ... One of the arguments for Brexit is that it will actually improve our longer-run economic position. In the short-run, I think Stuart Rose, the head of Remain, had a point when he said there would be very small challenges. In a few years probably nothing.

“The most immediate thing would likely be wage increases at the bottom end, which is very important. The people in my view who suffer from the immigration issue are those at the bottom of society, the working poor, which is why I bridle when people ‘oh, it’s a racist issue’. It’s not, it’s about people’s lives.”

More than a decade has passed since David Cameron defeated Davis by 68-32 in the 2005 Conservative leadership contest. The referendum has pitted the two men against each other once more. I asked Davis whether he agreed with the prime minister’s former strategist, Steve Hilton, that Cameron would be a Brexiter were he not in No.10.

“I think it might be true, I think it might be. When you are in that position you’re surrounded by lot of people: there’s the political establishment, the Whitehall establishment, the business establishment, most of who, in economic parlance, have a ‘sunk cost’ in the current set-up. If changes they stand to lose things rather than gain things, or that’s how they see it.

“Take big business. Big business typically gets markets on the continent, maybe distribution networks, supply networks. They’re going to think they’re all at risk and they’re not going to see the big opportunities that exist in terms of new markets in Brazil, new markets in China and so on, they’re naturally very small-C Conservative. Whitehall the same but for different reasons. If you’re a fast-track civil servant probably part of your career will be through the Commission or maybe the end of your career. Certainly in the Foreign Office. When I ran the European Union department in the Foreign Office, everybody wanted a job on the continent somewhere. They were all slanted that way. If all your advice comes from people like that, that’s what happens.”

Davis told me that he did not believe a vote to Leave would force Cameron’s resignation. “If it’s Brexit and he is sensible and appoints somebody who is clearly not in his little group but who is well-equipped to run the Brexit negotiations and has basically got a free hand, there’s an argument to say stability at home is an important part of making it work.”

He added: “I think in some senses the narrow Remain is more difficult for him than the narrow Brexit. You may get resentment. It’s hard to make a call about people’s emotional judgements under those circumstances.”

As a former leadership frontrunner, Davis avoids easy predictions about the coming contest. Indeed, he believes the victor will be a candidate few expect. “If it’s in a couple of years that’s quite a long time. The half life of people’s memories in this business ... The truth of the matter is, we almost certainly don’t know who the next Tory leader is. The old story I tell is nobody saw Thatcher coming a year in advance, nobody saw Major coming a year in advance, nobody saw Hague coming a year in advance, nobody saw Cameron coming a year in advance.

“Why should we know two years in advance who it’s going to be? The odds are that it’ll be a Brexiter but it’s not impossible the other way.”

Does Davis, like many of his colleagues, believe that Boris Johnson is having a bad war? “The polls say no, the polls say his standing has gone up. That being said, he’s had few scrapes but then Boris always has scrapes. One of the natures of Boris is that he’s a little bit teflon.”

He added: “One thing about Boris is that he attracts the cameras and he attracts the crowds ... What he says when the crowd gets there almost doesn’t matter.”

Of Johnson’s comparison of the EU to Hitler, he said: “Well, if you read it it’s not quite as stern as the headline. It’s always a hazardous thing to do in politics. I think the point he was trying to make is that there’s a long-running set of serial attempts to try and unify Europe not always by what you might term civilised methods. It would be perfectly possible for a German audience to turn that argument on its head and say isn’t it better whether we do it this way.”

Davis rejected the view that George Osborne’s leadership hopes were over (“it’s never all over”) but added: “Under modern turbulent conditions, with pressure for austerity and so on, the simple truth is being a chancellor is quite a chancy business ... The kindest thing for Dave to do to George would be to move him on and give him a bit of time away from the dangerous front.”

He suggested that it was wrong to assume the leadership contest would be viewed through the prism of the EU. “In two years’ time this may all be wholly irrelevant - and probably will be. We’ll be on to some other big subject. It’’ll be terrorism or foreign wars or a world financial crash, which I think is on the cards.”

One of those spoken of as a dark horse candidate is Dominic Raab, the pro-Brexit justice minister and Davis’s former chief of staff. “You know what, if I want to kill somebody’s chances the thing I would do is talk them up right now, so forgive me if I pass on that question,” Davis diplomatically replied. “The reason people come out at the last minute in these battles is that if you come out early you acquire enemies and rivals. Talking someone up today is not a friendly thing to do.” But Davis went on to note: “They’re a few out there: you’ve got Priti [Patel], you’ve got Andrea [Leadsom]”.

Since resigning as shadow home secretary in 2008 in order to fight a by-election over the issue of 42-day detention, Davis has earned renown as one of parliament’s most redoubtable defenders of civil liberties. He was also, as he proudly reminded me, one of just two Tory MPs to originally vote against tax credit cuts (a record of rebellion that also includes tuition fees, capital gains tax, child benefit cuts, House of Lords reform, boundary changes and Syria).

Davis warned that that any attempt to withdraw the UK from the European Convention on Human Rights would be defeated by himself and “a dozen” other Conservatives (a group known as the “Runnymede Tories” after the meadow where Magna Carta was sealed).

“They’ve promised to consult on it [a British Bill of Rights], rather than bring it back. The reason they did that is because it’s incredibly difficult. They’ve got a conundrum: if they make it non-compliant with the ECHR, it won’t last and some of us will vote against it.

“If they make it compliant with the ECHR it is in essence a rebranding exercise, it’s not really a change. I’d go along with that ... But the idea of a significant change is very difficult to pull off. Dominic Raab, who is working on this, is a very clever man. I would say that, wouldn’t I? But I think even his brain will be tested by finding the eye of the needle to go through.”

Davis is hopeful of winning a case before the European Court of Justice challenging the legality of the bulk retention of communications data. “It’s a court case, court cases have a random element to them. But I think we’ve got a very strong case. It was quite funny theatre when the ECJ met in Luxembourg, an individual vs. 15 governments, very symbolic. But I didn’t think any of the governments made good arguments. I’m lucky I had a very good QC. Our argument was pretty simple: if you have bulk data collected universally you’ve absolutely got to have an incredibly independent and tough authority confirming this. I would be surprised if the ECJ doesn’t find in my favour and that will have big implications for the IP [Investigatory Powers] bill.”

Davis launched the legal challenge in collaboration with Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson. He has also campaigned alongside Jeremy Corbyn, last year travelling to Washington D.C. with him to campaign successfully for the release of Shaker Aamer, the final Briton to be held in Guantanamo Bay.

“I like Jeremy,” Davis told me, “but the long and the short of it is that not having been on the frontbench at all shows. I’m not even sure that Jeremy wanted to win the thing. He’s never been at the Despatch Box. He’s up against a PM who’s pretty good at it and who’s been there for quite a long time. He’s playing out of his division at the moment. Now, he may get better. But he’s also got an incredibly schismatic party behind him, nearly all of his own MPs didn’t vote for him. We had a situation a bit like that with Iain Duncan Smith. Because we’re a party given to regicide he didn’t survive it. Because the Labour Party’s not so given to regicide and because he’d be re-elected under the system he can survive it.”

At the close of our conversation, I returned to the subject of the EU, asking Davis what Cameron needed to do to pacify his opponents in the event of a narrow Remain vote.

“He probably needs to open the government up a bit, bring in more people. He can’t take a vengeful attitude, it’s got to be a heal and mend process and that may involve bringing in some of the Brexiters into the system and perhaps recognising that, if it’s a very narrow outcome, half of the population are worried about our status. If I was his policy adviser I’d say it’s time to go back and have another go at reform.”

Davis believes that the UK should demand a “permanent opt-out” from EU laws “both because occasionally we’ll use it but also because it will make the [European] Commission more sensitive to the interests of individual member states. That’s the fundamental constitutional issue that I would go for.”

He ended with some rare praise for the man who denied him the crown.

“The thing about David Cameron, one of the great virtues of his premiership, is that he faces up to problems and deals with them. Sometimes he gets teased for doing too many U-turns - but that does at least indicate that he’s listening.”

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.