Editor's picks: Jason Cowley on the best pieces from 2013

The New Statesman editor selects some of his favourite reviews, essays and comment published in the magazine in 2013 - from John Gray on Edmund Burke to Will Self's tribute to pessimism.

One of the many pleasures of being editor of the New Statesman is the opportunity it allows to commission and publish writers I admire writing about subjects that interest me.

Let’s call it a higher form of self-indulgence. Anyway, here are 25 articles published in the New Statesman in 2013 which are worth reading if you missed them. If you didn’t, they are worth reading again.

John Gray - "What Machiavelli Knew" (July)

John Bew on Alex Ferguson - "The last great Briton" (December)

Hedley Twiddle - "The last days of Nelson Mandela" (October)

Jemima Khan on Julian Assange - "How the Wikileaks founder alienated his allies" (February)

Michael Barrett on the remarkable travels of David Livingstone - "Presumed innocent" (July)

Vince Cable on the Great Stagnation - "When the facts change, should I change my mind?" (March)

John Gray on Edmund Burke and the Tories - "History has no author" (May)

Brendan Simms on the German Problem - "Cracked heart of the old world" (March)

Robert Skidelsky - "Creative Destruction: Keynes, Hobson, Marx – and the crisis of capitalism" (May)

Will Self - "In praise of pessimism" (April)

Peter Wilby - "A Dissenting Tradition: the New Statesman and the left"

Simon Heffer - "Margaret Thatcher was not right-wing" (May)

Richard Mabey - Writing on nature

Ian Bremmer From G20 to G-Zero - "Why no one wants to take charge in the new global order" (June)

John Bew On the Geopolitics of the Syrian War - "Las Vegas rules don't apply in Syria" and "The west humiliated" (July and September)

Rachel Cusk - "On narcissim: the mirror and the self" (August)

Danny Dorling - "Why aren’t young people working?" (August)

Simon Kuper - "I am Zlatan Ibrahimovic: ghetto superstar" (September)

John Bew - "Clement Attlee: An unromantic hero" (September)

David Marquand on Britain and the EU - "First Brexit, then break-up" (October)

Steven Poole - "The pseudo-profundity of Malcolm Gladwell" (October)

David Pilling - "Shinzo Abe’s second coming" (October)

Russell Brand on revolution - “We no longer have the luxury of tradition” (October)

Rupert Everett - "Bring on the guillotine: Rupert Everett on the gay rights revolution" (October)

Bryan Appleyard - "Is this the death of Apple?" (November)

And here’s something by me – "Eton Eternal: How the old ruling class became the new ruling class" (May)

Jason Cowley is editor of the New Statesman. He has been the editor of Granta, a senior editor at the Observer and a staff writer at the Times.

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Ansbach puts Europe's bravest politician under pressure

Angela Merkel must respond to a series of tragedies and criticisms of her refugee policy. 

Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany, is supposed to be on holiday. Two separate attacks have put an end to that. The first, a mass shooting in Munich, was at first widely believed to be a terrorist attack, but later turned out to be the actions of a loner obsessed with US high school shootings. The second, where a man blew himself up in the town of Ansbach, caused less physical damage - three were seriously injured, but none killed. Nevertheless, this event may prove to affect even more people's lives. Because that man had come to Germany claiming to be a Syrian refugee. 

The attack came hours after a Syrian refugee murdered a pregnant Polish woman, a co-woker in a snack bar, in Reutlingen. All eyes will now be on Merkel who, more than any other European politician, is held responsible for Syrian refugees in Europe.

In 2015, when other European states were erecting barriers to keep out the million migrants and refugees marching north, Merkel kept Germany's borders open. The country has resettled 41,899 Syrians since 2013, according to the UNHCR, of which 20,067 came on humanitarian grounds and 21,832 through private sponsorship. That is twice as much as the UK has pledged to resettle by 2020. The actual number of Syrians in Germany is far higher - 90 per cent of the 102,400 Syrians applying for EU asylum in the first quarter of 2016 were registered there. 

Merkel is the bravest of Europe's politicians. Contrary to some assertions on the right, she did not invent the refugee crisis. Five years of brutal war in Syria did that. Merkel was simply the first of the continent's most prominent leaders to stop ignoring it. If Germany had not absorbed so many refugees, they would still be in central Europe and the Balkans, and we would be seeing even more pictures of starved children in informal camps than we do today. 

Equally, the problems facing Merkel now are not hers alone. These are the problems facing all of Europe's major states, whether or not they recognise them. 

Take the failed Syrian asylum seeker of Ansbach (his application was rejected but he could not be deported back to a warzone). In Germany, his application could at least be considered, and rejected. Europe as a whole has not invested in the processing centres required to determine who is a Syrian civilian, who might be a Syrian combatant and who is simply taking advantage of the black market in Syrian passports to masquerade as a refugee. 

Secondly, there is the subject of trauma. The Munich shooter appears to have had no links to Islamic State or Syria, but his act underlines the fact you do not need a grand political narrative to inflict hurt on others. Syrians who have experienced unspeakable violence either in their homeland or en route to Europe are left psychologically damaged. That is not to suggest they will turn to violence. But it is still safer to offer such people therapy than leave them to drift around Europe, unmonitored and unsupported, as other countries seem willing to do. 

Third, there is the question of lawlessness. Syrians have been blamed for everything from the Cologne attacks in January to creeping Islamist radicalisation. But apart from the fact that these reports can turn out to be overblown (two of the 58 men arrested over Cologne were Syrians), it is unclear what the alternative would be. Policies that force Syrians underground have already greatly empowered Europe's network of human traffickers and thugs.

So far, Merkel seems to be standing her ground. Her home affairs spokesman, Stephan Mayer, told the BBC that Germany had room to improve on its asylum policy, but stressed each attack was different. 

He said: "Horrible things take place in Syria. And it is the biggest humanitarian catastrophe, so it is completely wrong to blame Angela Merkel, or her refugee policies, for these incidents." Many will do, all the same.