Inside The Centenary Issue

An exclusive peak inside the New Statesman's biggest issue ever.


The New Statesman is proud to present a 180-page souvenir magazine, our largest ever single issue, in honour of our one-hundredth birthday. On news-stands today, this special centenary issue is packed with the finest essays, commentary, interviews, cultural criticism, photography, poetry, short fiction and cartoons. In addition to our stellar spread of original content, we republish key pieces from the Statesman’s venerable archive, from Virginia Woolf’s 1920 attack on misogyny to John Maynard Keynes powerful meditations on the Spanish Civil War, from 1937.


Special content includes:


Tony Blair: In his biggest intervention in domestic politics since leaving office, the former prime minister outlines the questions Labour needs to ask if the party is to win again.

In an exclusive guest column for the New Statesman, Tony Blair critiques Labour’s current strategy in opposition and warns his party that it must keep out of its “comfort zone”, urging Labour to remain on the “centre ground that is ultimately both more satisfying and more productive for party and country”.

Read this piece in full on our website now.

Read the Staggers editor George Eaton's analysis here.


Boris Johnson: A lively notebook piece from the Mayor of London and former Specator editor, on his “Staggers envy”, being rejected by Martin Amis, and why the Left hated Thatcher so much


Julian Barnes: In a rare interview, the novelist talks politics, euthanasia, his new book, and his time with Christopher Hitchens at the NS


Ed Miliband: The Politics Interview

A day on the campaign trail with the Labour leader takes a dramatic turn with the news of Margaret Thatcher’s death. Our politics editor Rafael Behr was with Ed Miliband on a train to Ipswich when the new of her death broke. He writes:

Two minutes have passed since word arrived that Margaret Thatcher has died. In roughly 15 minutes the train will reach its destination, where Miliband will have to broadcast his reaction. The mood is urgent but there is no panic. Miliband’s features barely flickered when an aide leaned across the table to deliver the news. He absorbed the data with a slow nod. “Oh. Right.”

Now, his face is a mask of solemn concen­tration. The task is clear enough.

“Thatcher’s passing has suspended ordinary politics,” continues Behr, but the two made time to discuss Maggie’s legacy, welfare and Labour’s challenges before the next election.

Read this interview on our website now.


Vince Cable: “Bitter intensity” and “tribal affiliations” – the historic split between the liberals and social democrats

The Business Secretary Vince Cable, who vocally criticised the government’s economic strategy in a recent essay for the New Statesman, writes a piece on the split between “those who regard themselves as both liberal and social democratic but are divided by party.” He recalls being a “politically impressionable” teenager faced with “two competing sources of intellectual inspiration.”

In this way, some of the descendants of [Anthony] Grimond and [Jo] Crosland eventually came together in the newly formed Liberal Democrats. But others remained divided, and still are. And having walked along both sides of the dividing line for half a century, I recognise the bitter intensity of these small differences and the strength of tribal affiliation.

Did the Left win the 20th Century? Michael Gove, David Miliband, Diane Abbott, Justin Webb, Lisa Nandy, Zac Goldsmith and many more join our debate

David Miliband: “The 20th century was a trauma for the left as much as a triumph... The left has done more than survive... A victory? I would call it a two-all draw...”

Michael Gove: “The cause of liberty was most reliably defended and extended by politicians such as Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan... and Tony Blair... all of whom secured the scorn of the left for their moral courage.”

Diane Abbott: “On a range of social issues, including race equality, women’s rights and equality for the LGBT community, the left has conclusively won the debate.”

Justin Webb: “Surely the answer is no and the reason is America.”

Robert Halfon: “The left’s victory has been one of message and of feeling... By contrast, the right is still struggling to explain the morality of capitalism and of hard-headed economics.”

Melvyn Bragg in conversation with David Hare

Distinguished broadcaster Melvyn Bragg, a long-time reader and former guest editor of the New Statesman, sits down with playwright David Hare to discuss the immense changes that have taken place in their lifetimes, and over the course of the “New Statesman Century”.

On whether the Left won the 20th century...

Melvyn Bragg: [Vice-Chancellor of UEA Edward Acton] says that the left won the 20th century. Look at the conditions of workers at the end of the 19th century and compare them with the conditions of workers at the end of the 20th century... The question is why people don’t believe it any more.

David Hare: It’s because people now feel themselves publicly helpless, don’t they? People feel they no longer exert either any individual or collective power over public life... There’s a wonderful phrase of Marx’s, in which he says that shame is a revolutionary emotion. He writes: “Shame is a kind of anger which is turned inward.” That’s what we feel about our public life today. We feel shame.

On cultural progress...

MB ...culture is... anti-Darwinian. Every time something new comes along, people have said, for instance, “Oh, the cinema is going to kill off the theatre” or whatever – but it didn’t.

On the BBC...

DH It’s completely out of control... I’ve never understood outsourcing. The BBC seemed to do it in order to follow a Thatcherite agenda and to suck up to No 10. The destruction of their own in-house production facilities seems catastrophic... Everything’s now at arm’s length. If you outsource things, you also outsource responsibility.

MB I think the arts coverage on the BBC is meagre. It’s punching well below its weight.


Stewart Lee: Why aren’t there any right-wing comedians?

Stand-up comedian Stewart Lee asks why it’s so hard to find a comedian who votes Tory.  The right are rich in “wits and humourists” but in the live arena it’s the lefties who dominate, relegating right-wing stand-ups to caricatures like Al Murray’s patriotic Pub Landlord (a BNP favourite) or Simon Evan’s “paternalistic Tory posh boy”.

In an art form that is essentially “clowning” (“and clowns are always tragic figures”), Stewart nails the problem:

Ultimately, the left will lose. Big business will pollute the planet, capitalist culture will kill off the arts and humanities, schools will all be privatised, libraries will all close, social mobility will cease, the gulf between rich and poor will grow and everything beautiful will die...

Chris Rock maintained that stand-up comedy should always be punching upwards. It’s a heroic little struggle. You can’t be a right-wing clown without some character caveat, some vulnerability, some obvious flaw. You’re on the right. You’ve already won. You have no tragedy. You’re punching down...

Who could be on a stage, crowing about their victory and ridiculing those less fortunate than them without any sense of irony, shame or self-knowledge? That’s not a stand-up comedian. That’s just a cunt.


Will Self: In praise of pessimism

In a personal essay, novelist and long-time New Statesman contributor Will Self makes both a personal and a political case for pessimism.

An optimist, of necessity, believes in a future typified by knowns, because if – in the rousing chorus of the Blair government’s accession anthem of 1997 – “things can only get better”, then this must be in comparison with what already obtains. The pessi­mist, by contrast, is fully attuned to Donald Rumsfeld’s unknown unknowns: the black swans that swoop down out of a clear blue sky to annihilate thousands of New York office workers. The pessimist does not sanction foreign wars on the basis that democracy can issue forth from the barrel of a gun...

Indeed, what are speculative bubbles if not the purest example of optimism run wild? The same sort of loony thinking that once invested in perpet­ual motion machines leads the contemporary credulous to believe that financial wizardry can conjure something out of nothing.

In the Critics:

In the Critics section of the centenary edition of the New Statesman, our “Critic at large” is the novelist A S Byatt. Byatt explores her longstanding admiration for the Discworld novels of Terry Pratchett.

“As a wartime child in the 1940s,” she recalls, “I was already puzzling over an image of a domed world poised on the backs of three elephants that stood on a monstrous turtle.”

In the latest in a series of essays on visual art for the NS, the poet, critic and novelist Craig Raine writes about Picasso’s realism. Picasso “could be beautiful,” Raine argues, “but mostly he chose to be realistic … part of Picasso’s greatness is bound up with the idea that equivalence is more effective than literal representation, dull mimesis.”


NS culture editor Jonathan Derbyshire looks back at his predecessors in the literary editor’s chair;

Jon Cruddas, MP and coordinator of Labour’s policy review, considers David Goodhart’s analysis of the costs and benefits of immigration in postwar Britain;

Will Hutton reviews Ben Bernanke’s brief history of the 2008 financial crisis and Anat Admati and Martin Hellwig’s manifesto for banking reform, The Bankers’ New Clothes;

Douglas Hurd on Six Moments of Crisis by Gill Bennett;

Poems from the NS archive by W B Yeats and Philip Larkin;

An exclusive new short story by Man Booker Prize-shortlisted author Ali Smith;

And much more.

Read our full "In the Critics" blog here.


To purchase the full 180-page magazine - with an incredible array of essays, commentary, reviews, fiction and poetry by the likes of Boris Johnson, Ali Smith, Stewart Lee, A S Byatt, Mehdi Hasan, John Gray, Will Self and more plus republished material from the New Statesman archive by T S Eliot, Angela Carter, George Orwell, Graham Greene and others - please visit our subscription page.


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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How to explain Brexit to your kids

It’s not hard. The Brexiteers’ tantrums are a parody of how children behave.

My parents never sat me down for “the politics talk”. I suspect they were too embarrassed. Like many children of my generation, I was left to develop my own ideas about what adults did in private.

We didn’t have the internet and our arms were too short to open most newspapers (scientists were still working on the tabloid-broadsheet hybrid). Hence we picked up news randomly, either by overhearing snippets on the radio while buying sweets in the newsagent’s or by accidentally watching the start of the six o’clock news following the end of Charles In Charge.

By the time I was nine, the same age my eldest child is now, I had unrealistic expectations of politicians and the democratic process. Due to the fact that I had no idea what anyone was talking about, I assumed everyone in the House of Commons was having serious, informed thoughts about the most important issues of the day.

I now know that the real reason I couldn’t understand what anyone was saying was because what had sounded like “roargh roargh [insult] <braying laughter>” really had been “roargh roargh [insult] <braying laughter>” all along. I’d assumed it was a language I had yet to learn, one of the more specialised dialects of Adult-ese. I’d already wasted one vote by the time I realised that Prime Minister’s Questions was basically Jeremy Kyle with posher accents and minus the lie detector tests.

I don’t want my children to make the same mistakes as me. Thankfully, it turns out Brexit Britain is the ideal place to teach your kids how politics really works. Never has there been a time when those stalking the corridors of power were more in tune with the average tantruming toddler. There’s no point in rational argument; you just have to hope that those in power burn themselves out before too much damage is done.

This particular tantrum has of course been building for some time. The dominant rhetoric of the Leave campaign – like that of the Tory party itself – always offered a spoilt child’s view of the world, one in which you are the centre of the universe, depending on no one else for your survival.

When others point out that this isn’t the case – that perhaps you wouldn’t have a home and food on the table if it wasn’t for Mummy or Daddy, or perhaps the UK would not have a strong economy were it not a member of the EU – you simply tell them they’re being mean. You’ll show them! They’re not the boss of you! So you pack your bags and leave.

If you are six, you might get to the corner of your road, realise with disappointment that no one is following you and turn back, hoping no one noticed you were gone. If you are the UK, you hang around for a while, maybe hiding in some bushes, thinking “any minute now they’ll come looking for me.”

But they don’t, so eventually you think “sod ‘em, I’ll go to my mates’. Unfortunately, you cannot get there without Mummy to drive you. This is a problem. But at least you can tell yourself that you were doubly right to leave, since everything that is happening now is Mummy’s fault.

Never in British politics has the panicked outrage of those who know they are making a terrible mistake been so palpable. It reminds me of the time when I was teaching my eldest son to drink from a beaker. He kept spilling small amounts, which caused him so much distress he’d end up pouring the rest of the juice onto the carpet to make it look deliberate. Whenever I tried to stop him, I’d only make him more panicked, thus even more likely to get juice everywhere.

I have since asked him if he remembers why he did this. He says he does not, but I have told him this is what the British government is doing with Brexit. The referendum was the initial spillage; we now have to sit and watch, biting our tongues, in the hope that the “well, anyhow, I totally meant to do that!” response can be averted.

There is little chance of that, though. When my middle son told his older brother he could fly, he quickly backed down on being asked to demonstrate this by jumping from an upstairs window. Liam Fox would have thrown himself headlong, then blamed Project Fear for his broken neck. Or rather, he’d have thrown someone else – one of the millions of people whose lives really will be ruined by Brexit – then tried to argue that the exceptionally bendy necks of UK citizens could be used as one of the “main cards” in negotiations.

The behaviour is beyond childlike; it is a parody of how children behave. When I asked one of my sons to clean his teeth this morning, he called me a “poo head” and said his teeth wouldn’t get decay. He still brushed them, though.

He did not conclude I was some sinister sore loser out to trick him because his teeth are young and white and mine are old and stained. He still has some basic sense that people who ask you to do things you don’t want to do might yet have your best interests at heart, regardless of who is right or wrong. He did not call me a sneering member of the elite trying to override the will of all toothpaste-rejecting British children (to be fair, I think “poo head” may have been meant to capture that, but at least he only called me it once).

Then again, the teeth in my son’s head are his alone. The consequences of neglect would be his to endure. Those stage-managing the Brexit tantrum are insulated from its most devastating consequences. Thus they can hurl insults, stick their fingers in their ears and take more than a little pleasure in the sheer recklessness of it all. It is not just an extended childhood; it is childhood without having to come to terms with the consequences of your own behaviour, because others will suffer them for you.

I want my own children to understand that what they see now is not what politics should be. That there is not some deep, meaningful logic underpinning what the adults in charge are doing. What looks like bitterness, point-scoring and sheer lack of self-control is, more often than not, just that. We have indulged these people too long. Let’s raise a generation with higher expectations of those who will claim to speak on their behalf.

Glosswitch is a feminist mother of three who works in publishing.