Inside The Centenary Issue

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

TONY BLAIR ED MILIBAND BORIS JOHNSON VINCE CABLE MICHAEL GOVE DAVID MILIBAND JULIAN BARNES WILL SELF A S BYATT DAVID HARE STEWART LEEALI SMITH IAN STEWART CRAIG BROWN JASON COWLEY ALEXANDER McCALL SMITH ROBERT SKIDELSKY LAURIE PENNY WILL HUTTON MARK MAZOWERJON CRUDDAS NATASHA WALTER MELVYN BRAGG CRAIG RAINE MEHDI HASAN HELEN LEWIS WENDY COPE RALPH STEADMAN CLAIRE TOMALIN DOUGLAS HURD SUSAN CALMAN PETER WILBY SOPHIE ELMHIRST JOHN BURNSIDE JOHN GRAY NORMAN STONE ED SMITH TOM WATSON JONATHAN DERBYSHIRE NORMAN MACKENZIE CINDY SHERMAN GRAHAM GREENE T S ELIOT VIRGINIA WOOLF GEORGE ORWELL ANGELA CARTER KINGLSEY MARTIN

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.”

PLUS

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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Leader: History is not written in stone

Statues have not been politicised by protest; they were always political.

When a mishmash of neo-Nazis, white supremacists, Trump supporters and private militias gathered in Charlottesville, Virginia on 12 August – a rally that ended in the death of a counter-protester – the ostensible reason was the city’s proposal to remove a statue of a man named Robert E Lee.

Lee was a Confederate general who surrendered to Ulysses S Grant at the Appomattox Court House in 1865, in one of the last battles of the American Civil War – a war fought to ensure that Southern whites could continue to benefit from the forced, unpaid labour of black bodies. He died five years later. It might therefore seem surprising that the contested statue of him in Virginia was not commissioned until 1917.

That knowledge, however, is vital to understanding the current debate over such statues. When the “alt-right” – many of whom have been revealed as merely old-fashioned white supremacists – talk about rewriting history, they speak as if history were an objective record arising from an organic process. However, as the American journalist Vann R Newkirk II wrote on 22 August, “obelisks don’t grow from the soil, and stone men and iron horses are never built without purpose”. The Southern Poverty Law Center found that few Confederate statues were commissioned immediately after the end of the war; instead, they arose in reaction to advances such as the foundation of the NAACP in 1909 and the desegregation of schools in the 1950s and 1960s. These monuments represent not history but backlash.

That means these statues have not been politicised by protest; they were always political. They were designed to promote the “Lost Cause” version of the Civil War, in which the conflict was driven by states’ rights rather than slavery. A similar rhetorical sleight of hand can be seen in the modern desire to keep them in place. The alt-right is unwilling to say that it wishes to retain monuments to white supremacy; instead, it claims to object to “history being rewritten”.

It seems trite to say: that is inevitable. Our understanding of the past is perpetually evolving and the hero of one era becomes a pariah in the next. Feminism, anti-colonialism, “people’s history” – all of these movements have questioned who we celebrate and whose stories we tell.

Across the world, statues have become the focus for this debate because they are visible, accessible and shape our experience of public space. There are currently 11 statues in Parliament Square – all of them male. (The suffragist Millicent Fawcett will join them soon, after a campaign led by Caroline Criado-Perez.) When a carving of a disabled artist, Alison Lapper, appeared on the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square, its sculptor, Marc Quinn, acknowledged its significance. “This square celebrates the courage of men in battle,” he said. “Alison’s life is a struggle to overcome much greater difficulties than many of the men we celebrate and commemorate here.”

There are valid reasons to keep statues to figures we would now rather forget. But we should acknowledge this is not a neutral choice. Tearing down our history, looking it in the face, trying to ignore it or render it unexceptional – all of these are political acts. 

The Brexit delusion

After the UK triggered Article 50 in March, the Brexiteers liked to boast that leaving the European Union would prove a simple task. The International Trade Secretary, Liam Fox, claimed that a new trade deal with the EU would be “one of the easiest in human history” to negotiate and could be agreed before the UK’s scheduled departure on 29 March 2019.

However, after the opening of the negotiations, and the loss of the Conservatives’ parliamentary majority, reality has reasserted itself. All cabinet ministers, including Mr Fox, now acknowledge that it will be impossible to achieve a new trade deal before Brexit. As such, we are told that a “transitional period” is essential.

Yet the government has merely replaced one delusion with another. As its recent position papers show, it hopes to leave institutions such as the customs union in 2019 but to preserve their benefits. An increasingly exasperated EU, unsurprisingly, retorts that is not an option. For Britain, “taking back control” will come at a cost. Only when the Brexiteers acknowledge this truth will the UK have the debate it so desperately needs. 

This article first appeared in the 24 August 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Sunni vs Shia