In this week’s New Statesman: Assange, alone
Jemima Khan on how Julian Assange alienated his allies. PLUS: Who really runs Britain? We reveal the most powerful people you've never heard of.
Jemima Khan: How an Assange supporter became a sceptic
New Statesman associate editor Jemima Khan writes following the Sundance Film Festival premiere of We Steal Secrets, a WikiLeaks documentary she executive-produced and which “[Julian] Assange denounced before seeing”. She writes:
In many ways, the film’s narrative arc mirrors my own journey with Assange, from admiration to demoralisation.
Once an Assange admirer and committed supporter, Khan even stood bail for the WikiLeaks editor-in-chief in 2010. She reveals in this exclusive essay how he lost her, and others’, support.
The Shadow Power List: Who really runs Britain?
The new “establishment” of Britain do not reside in Whitehall. They are the directors and chief executives of the companies to which much of the government’s functions have been outsourced. They are unelected, often unaccountable and in charge of ever more of our public services – shaping our lives outside the spotlight. In a special report we profile eleven people “who hold the very British brand of inconspicuous power”.
Rafael Behr writes:
Power in Britain is not contained within boundaries easily definable as “government” . . .
Where we experience the humiliation of powerlessness, this is as likely to be at the hands of a private company as a state institution. When it is a state service, there is every chance its functions have been outsourced to a private provider. ..
[Power] resides on the boards of companies no one has heard of, in quangos, in hedge funds, in networks of friends and former ministerial advisers who work for charitable bodies with opaque remits.
Christopher Hyman, Chief executive, Serco
The National Nuclear Laboratory, the Docklands Light Railway, immigration detention centres, the London cycle hire scheme, NHS Suffolk, the National Border Targeting Centre, air-traffic control services, waste collection for local authorities, maintenance services for ballistic missiles, government websites, prisons and a young offender institution – there is almost no branch of government that has not been penetrated by Serco, the outsourcing behemoth. And few have benefited more from the growth of this shadow state than the company’s chief executive, Christopher Hyman.
Sam Laidlaw, Chief executive, Centrica
Sam Laidlaw, of the privatised utility company Centrica (formerly British Gas), has been described as the “aristocrat” of the energy industry – and his family history indicates how the British ruling class has adapted over the course of a century, from empire to social democracy and the free market. His grandfather Hugh was an executive of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company in India, a forerunner of BP; his father, Christophor, worked his way up through BP to become deputy chairman
Joanna Shields, Chief executive, Tech City
Joanna Shields, the new chief executive of the Tech City Investment Organisation, has internet pedigree, having worked with Google, Bebo, AOL and Facebook. She may have been unable to save Bebo, one of the social networks caught in the squeeze between the dwindling Myspace and nascent Facebook, but her reputation in the tech world remains strong. Her task now is to transform Tech City into Britain’s version of Silicon Valley.
Tony Mitchell, Director, Tesco, supply chain
Tony Mitchell is the model of a Tesco company man. He started on the shop floor in 1978 and worked his way up to store manager, then eventually to head office, and now Mitchell decides what £1 in every £7 in the UK is spent on. Getting on to the shelves at Tesco can make a young company, and getting thrown off them is likely to be the death knell.
Rafael Behr: If Tory MPs can’t decide what kind of party they want, they’ll have to work it out in opposition
In the Politics Column, Rafael Behr writes on the split within the Conservative party, more than half of whom refused “to accept the Prime Minister’s moral lead on gay marriage” in Tuesday’s free vote. This “expresses a more profound reluctance to be led” writes Behr. Many Tories feel they have lost “any sense of ownership” within the government programme:
But complaints that Cameron is inadequately Conservative are “absurd” considering his implementation of core Conservative ideas – in short “he is the ultimate valediction of 20th-century Conservatism.”
If his party thinks that is a monstrous creation, it faces an epic task working out what it wants to be instead. It is the kind of work can only be done in opposition.
Nicholas Wapshott: What David Cameron can learn from Abraham Lincoln
In the NS Essay, Nicholas Waptshop draws parallels between Lincoln’s fight to repair the union with Cameron’s modern woes over Scottish secession and the EU referendum. He goes on out outline the similarities and differences between the Prime Minister and the 16th US President.
There are poignant similarities between the conundrum that Lincoln encountered 150 years ago and the dilemma David Cameron faces today. They are both confronted with threats to the very existence of the nations they govern . . .
But while Lincoln was presented with the simple option of whether to take up arms to defend the Union or watch as his country split in two, Cameron has no such easy choice.
Laurie Penny: Ten years ago we marched against the Iraq war and I learned a lesson in betrayal
Ten years ago this month, millions of people all over the world marched against the war in Iraq- and were ignored. I was one of them...
Tony Blair’s decision to take Britain into the American’s war in Iraq was an immediate, material calamity for millions of people in the Middle East. I’m writing here, though, about the effect of that decision on the generation in the west who were children then and are adults now. For us, the sense of betrayal was life-changing.
In The Critics
Much of the Critics section of this week’s New Statesman is devoted to our annual history special. Featuring the historian David Cesarani on the changing face of Holocaust historiography, John Gray on the long and bloody history of political violence, and Britain’s former special representative in Afghanistan Sherard Cowper-Coles reviewing Return of a King: the Battle for Afghanistan by William Dalrymple and Games Without Rules: the Often Interrupted History of Afghanistan by Tamim Ansary.
- Jonathan Derbyshire interviews historian Norman Stone
- Ryan Gilbey reviews Pablo Larraín’s film No
- Kate Mossman reviews new albums by Anaïs Mitchell and Jackie Oates
- Thomas Calvocoressi visits “Light Show”, a new exhibition at the Hayward Gallery
- Will Self’s Madness of Crowds.
Purchase a copy of this week's New Statesman in newsstands today, or online at: subscribe.newstatesman.com