Tom Daley is one of 200 public figures to support a "No" vote in Scotland. Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

Stephen Hawking, David Attenborough and Tom Daley among 200 famous faces calling for a Scotland No vote

Two hundred public figures have signed an open letter addressed to the people of Scotland, calling on them to vote "No" in the independence referendum.

There could now be a new breed of celebrity: the “No-list”. Because 200 public figures – including the Olympic diver Tom Daley, Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger, physicist Stephen Hawking, broadcaster David Attenborough, actor Judi Dench, classicist Mary Beard and the journalists Jemima Khan and Mehdi Hasan – have signed an open letter imploring the people of Scotland to stay in the union.

Other well-known names who have signed the letter include the actor Helena Bonham-Carter, musician Sting, authors William Boyd, William Dalrymple and Malorie Blackman, comedians Jo Brand, Robert Webb and Steve Coogan, and the artist Tracey Emin.

The wide range of signatories on the letter, from Nobel prize winners to Turner prize winners, is a big boost to the Better Together campaign as it fights the battle against independence in the last weeks leading up to the referendum on 18 September.

Here's the letter:

Dear Voters of Scotland,
 
The decision on whether to leave our shared country is, of course, absolutely yours alone. Nevertheless, that decision will have a huge effect on all of us, Scots and non-Scots, in the rest of the United Kingdom. We want to let you know how very much we value our bonds of citizenship with you, and to express our hope that you will vote to renew them. What unites us is much greater than what divides us. Let’s stay together.
 
Yours,

William Dalrymple
Eddie Izzard
Sir Patrick Stewart
Sir Bruce Forsyth
Sir Mick Jagger
Stephen Hawking
Jenny Agutter
Sir Ben Ainslie
Kriss Akabusi
Roger Allam
Kirstie Allsop
Alexander Armstrong
Sir David Attenborough
Steve Backley
Baroness Joan Bakewell
Frances Barber
Andy Barrow
John Barrowman
Mike Batt
Glen Baxter
David Aaronovitch
Helena Bonham-Carter
Stanley Baxter
Martin Bayfield
Mary Beard
Sarah Beeny
Anthony Beevor
Angelica Bell
Dickie Bird
Cilla Black
Graeme Black
Roger Black
Malorie Blackman
Ranjit Bolt
Alain de Botton
William Boyd
Tracey Brabin
Lord Melvyn Bragg
Jo Brand
Gyles Brandreth
Rob Brydon
Louisa Buck
Simon Callow
Will Carling
Paul Cartledge
Guy Chambers
Nick Cohen
Michelle Collins
Colonel Tim Collins
Olivia Colman
Charlie Condou
Susannah Constantine
Steve Coogan
Dominic Cooper
Ronnie Corbett
Simon Cowell
Jason Cowley
Sara Cox
Amanda Craig
Steve Cram
Richard Curtis
Tom Daley
Richard Dawkins
Dame Judi Dench
Jeremy Deller
Lord Michael Dobbs
Jimmy Doherty
Michael Douglas
Simon Easterby
Gareth Edwards
Jonathan Edwards
Tracey Emin
Sebastian Faulks
Bryan Ferry
Ranulph Fiennes
Ben Fogle
Amanda Foreman
Neil Fox
Emma Freud
Bernard Gallacher
Kirsty Gallacher
George Galloway
Sir John Eliot Gardiner
Bamber Gascoigne
David Gilmour
Harvey Goldsmith
David Goodhart
Lachlan Goudie
David Gower
AC Grayling
Will Greenwood
Tamsin Greig
Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson
Lord Charles Guthrie
Haydn Gwynne
Maggi Hambling
Mehdi Hasan
Sir Max Hastings
Peter Hennessy
James Holland
Tom Holland
Tom Hollander
Gloria Hunniford
Conn Iggledun
John Illsley
Brendan Ingle
Betty Jackson
Sir Mike Jackson
Howard Jacobson
Baroness PD James
Griff Rhys Jones
Terry Jones
Christopher Kane
Sir Anish Kapoor
Ross Kemp
Paul Kenny
Jemima Khan
India Knight
Martha Lane Fox
Baroness Doreen Lawrence
Tory Lawrence
Kathy Lette
Rod Liddle
Louise Linton
John Lloyd (journalist)
John Lloyd (producer)
Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber
Gabby Logan
Kenny Logan
Sarah Lucas
Dame Vera Lynn
James May
Margaret MacMillan
Stephen Mangan
Davina McCall
Sir Ian McGeechan
Heather McGregor
Andy McNab
John Michie
David Mitchell
Lord John Monks
Lewis Moody
Michael Morpurgo
Bill Morris
David Morrissey
Philip Mould
Al Murray
Neil Stuke
Sir Paul Nurse
Andy Nyman
Peter Oborne
Sir Michael Parkinson
Fiona Phillips
Andy Puddicombe
Lord David Puttnam
Anita Rani
Esther Rantzen
Sir Steve Redgrave
Derek Redmond
Pete Reed
Lord Martin Rees
Peter Reid
Baroness Ruth Rendell
Sir Cliff Richard
Hugo Rifkind
Sir Tony Robinson
David Rowntree
Ian Rush
Greg Rutherford
CJ Sansom
June Sarpong
Simon Schama
John Sessions
Sandie Shaw
Helen Skelton
Sir Tim Smit
Dan Snow
Peter Snow
Phil Spencer
David Starkey
Lord Jock Stirrup
Neil Stuke
Sting
Tallia Storm
David Suchet
Alan Sugar
Graeme Swann
Stella Tennant
Daley Thompson
Alan Titchmarsh
James Timpson
Kevin Toolis
Lynne Truss
Gavin Turk
Roger Uttley
David Walliams
Zoë Wanamaker
Robert Webb
Richard Wentworth
Sir Alan West
Dominic West
Kevin Whateley

 

Anoosh Chakelian is deputy web editor at the New Statesman.

Getty
Show Hide image

The struggles of Huma Abedin

On the behind-the-scenes story of Hillary Clinton’s closest aide.

In a dreary campaign, it was a moment that shone: Hillary Clinton, on the road to the caucus in Iowa, stopping at a Mexican fast-food restaurant to eat and somehow passing unrecognised. Americans of all political persuasions gleefully speculated over what her order – a chicken burrito bowl with guacamole – revealed about her frame of mind, while supporters gloated that the grainy security-camera footage seemed to show Clinton with her wallet out, paying for her own lunch. Here was not the former first lady, senator and secretary of state, known to people all over the world. This was someone’s unassuming grandmother, getting some food with her colleagues.

It might be unheard of for Clinton to go unrecognised but, for the woman next to her at the till, blending into the background is part of the job. Huma Abedin, often referred to as Clinton’s “shadow” by the US media, is now the vice-chair of her presidential campaign. She was Clinton’s deputy chief of staff at the state department and has been a personal aide since the late 1990s.

Abedin first met Clinton in 1996 when she was 19 and an intern at the White House, assigned to the first lady’s office. She was born in Michigan in 1976 to an Indian father and a Pakistani mother. When Abedin was two, they moved from the US to Saudi Arabia. She returned when she was 18 to study at George Washington University in Washington, DC. Her father was an Islamic scholar who specialised in interfaith reconciliation – he died when she was 17 – and her mother is a professor of sociology.

While the role of “political body woman” may once have been a kind of modern maid, there to provide a close physical presence and to juggle the luggage and logistics, this is no longer the case. During almost 20 years at Clinton’s side, Abedin has advised her boss on everything from how to set up a fax machine – “Just pick up the phone and hang it up. And leave it hung up” – to policy on the Middle East. When thousands of Clinton’s emails were made public (because she had used a private, rather than a government, server for official communication), we glimpsed just how close they are. In an email from 2009, Clinton tells her aide: “Just knock on the door to the bedroom if it’s closed.”

Abedin shares something else with Clinton, outside of their professional ties. They are both political wives who have weathered their husbands’ scandals. In what felt like a Lewinsky affair for the digital age, in 2011, Abedin’s congressman husband, Anthony Weiner, resigned from office after it emerged that he had shared pictures of his genitals with strangers on social media. A second similar scandal then destroyed his attempt to be elected mayor of New York in 2013. In an ironic twist, it was Bill Clinton who officiated at Abedin’s and Weiner’s wedding in 2010. At the time, Hillary is reported to have said: “I have one daughter. But if I had a second daughter, it would [be] Huma.” Like her boss, Abedin stood by her husband and now Weiner is a house husband, caring for their four-year-old son, Jordan, while his wife is on the road.

Ellie Foreman-Peck

A documentary filmed during Weiner’s abortive mayoral campaign has just been released in the US. Weiner shows Abedin at her husband’s side, curtailing his more chaotic tendencies, always flawless with her red lipstick in place. Speaking to the New York Observer in 2007, three years before their marriage, Weiner said of his future wife: “This notion that Senator Clinton is a cool customer – I mean, I don’t dispute it, but the coolest customer in that whole operation is Huma . . . In fact, I think there’s some dispute as to whether Huma’s actually human.” In the film, watching her preternatural calm under extraordinary pressure, you can see what he means.

In recent months, Abedin’s role has changed. She is still to be found at Clinton’s side – as the burrito photo showed – but she is gradually taking a more visible role in the organisation overall, as they pivot away from the primaries to focus on the national race. She meets with potential donors and endorsers on Clinton’s behalf and sets strategy. When a running mate is chosen, you can be sure that Abedin will have had her say on who it is. There’s a grim symmetry to the way politics looks in the US now: on one side, the Republican candidate Donald Trump is calling for a ban on Muslims entering the country; on the other, the presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton relies ever more on her long-time Muslim-American staffer.

Years before Trump, notable Republicans were trying to make unpleasant capital out of Abedin’s background. In 2012, Tea Party supporters alleged that she was linked to the Muslim Brotherhood and its attempt to gain access “to top Obama officials”. In her rare interviews, Abedin has spoken of how hurtful these baseless statements were to her family – her mother still lives in Saudi Arabia. Later, the senator and former Republican presidential candidate John McCain spoke up for her, saying that Abedin represented “what is best about America”.

Whether senior figures in his party would do the same now remains to be seen.

Caroline Crampton is web editor of the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 26 May 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The Brexit odd squad