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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The government has admitted it can curb drugs without criminalising users

Under the Psychoactive Substances Act it will not be a criminal offence for someone to possess for their own consumption recreational drugs too dangerous to be legally sold to the public.

From Thursday, it may be illegal for churches to use incense. They should be safe from prosecution though, because, as the policing minister was forced to clarify, the mind-altering effects of holy smells aren’t the intended target of the Psychoactive Substances Act, which comes into force this week.

Incense-wafters aren’t the only ones wondering whether they will be criminalised by the Act. Its loose definition of psychoactive substances has been ridiculed for apparently banning, among other things, flowers, perfume and vaping.

Anyone writing about drugs can save time by creating a shortcut to insert the words “the government has ignored its advisors” and this Act was no exception. The advisory council repeatedly warned the government that its definition would both ban things that it didn’t mean to prohibit and could, at the same time, be unenforcable. You can guess how much difference these interventions made.

But, bad though the definition is – not a small problem when the entire law rests on it – the Act is actually much better than is usually admitted.

Under the law, it will not be a criminal offence for someone to possess, for their own consumption, recreational drugs that are considered too dangerous to be legally sold to the public.

That sounds like a mess, and it is. But it’s a mess that many reformers have long advocated for other drugs. Portugal decriminalised drug possession in 2001 while keeping supply illegal, and its approach is well-regarded by reformers, including the Liberal Democrats, who pledged to adopt this model in their last manifesto.

This fudge is the best option out of what was politically possible for dealing with what, until this week, were called legal highs.

Before the Act, high-street shops were free to display new drugs in their windows. With 335 head shops in the UK, the drugs were visible in everyday places – giving the impression that they couldn’t be that dangerous. As far as the data can be trusted, it’s likely that dozens of people are now dying each year after taking the drugs.

Since legal highs were being openly sold and people were thought to be dying from them, it was obvious that the government would have to act. Until it did, every death would be blamed on its inaction, even if the death rate for users of some newly banned drugs may be lower than it is for those who take part in still-legal activities like football. The only question was what the government would do.

The most exciting option would have been for it to incentivise manufacturers to come up with mind-altering drugs that are safe to take. New Zealand is allowing drug makers to run trials of psychoactive drugs, which could eventually – if proved safe enough – be sold legally. One day, this might change the world of drug-taking, but this kind of excitement was never going to appeal to Theresa May’s Home Office.

What was far more plausible was that the government would decide to treat new drugs like old ones. Just as anyone caught with cocaine or ecstasy faces a criminal record, so users of new drugs could have been hit with the same. This was how legal highs have been treated up until now when one was considered serious enough to require a ban.

But instead, the government has recognised that its aim – getting new drugs out of high-street shop windows so they don’t seem so normal – didn’t depend on criminalising users. A similar law in Ireland achieved precisely this. To its credit, the government realised it would be disproportionate to make it a criminal offence to possess the now-illegal highs.

The reality of the law will look chaotic. Users will still be able to buy new drugs online – which could open them to prosecution for import – and the law will do nothing to make drugs any safer. Some users might now be exposed to dealers who also want to sell them more dangerous other drugs. There will be few prosecutions and some head shop owners might try to pick holes in the law: the government seems to have recognised that it needed a better definition to have any chance of making the law stick.

But, most importantly for those of us who think the UK’s drug laws should be better at reducing the damage drugs cause, the government, for the first time, has decided that a class of recreational drugs are too dangerous to be sold but that it shouldn’t be a crime to possess them. The pressure on the government to act on legal highs has been relieved, without ordinary users being criminalised. For all the problems with the new law, it’s a step in the right direction.

Leo Barasi is a former Head of Communications at the UK Drug Policy Commission. He writes in a personal capacity