In this week’s New Statesman: The G-Zero world

Why no one wants to take charge in the new world order. PLUS: Turkey in turmoil.

Ian Bremmer: G20 to G-Zero

This is the era of “G-Zero”, a more volatile world order with a “global leadership vacuum” – and Britain is among those countries that stand to lose the most, writes Eurasia Group founder Ian Bremmer in our cover story this week.

Writing in advance of the G8 Summit on 17 and 18 June, Bremmer argues that modern bargaining forums such as the G20 have “not produced much of value” and suffer “a lack of global leadership”, arising from a “growing numbers of transnational problems” – namely Middle Eastern turmoil, power shifts in Asia, climate change, poor cross-border financial regulation and the redesign of Europe.

Our most pressing challenge now is how to reconcile a group of world powers “that does not share a common set of assumptions about the proper role of the state in an economy, or about the value of the rule of law, transparency and freedoms of speech, press and assembly. Competing values create competing interests.”

In the face of these trends, Bremmer argues, the solutions will be “diversification” and “strategic alliances” – solutions that some countries are better positioned to take advantage of than others. Bremmer says Britain will be among those countries that will be worst off in the new order, particularly if we abandon the European Union:

For some countries, making new friends, even in a G-Zero environment, is not so easy. There are three big unfolding stories in international politics and the global economy: China’s rise, Middle East turmoil and the redesign of Europe. The three countries with most to lose from these trends are, respectively, Japan, Israel and Britain . . .

If the UK eventually lands outside the EU, it will pay a heavier price than many Britons now realise. Shedding many of Europe’s rules and regulations and its Common Agricultural Policy would pay early dividends, but waving goodbye to a club whose members buy half of Britain’s exports would damage the country’s core economic strength, and dozens of bilateral trade deals would have to be renegotiated. Outside Europe, Britain would lose much of its international political clout.

 

ELSEWHERE IN THE MAGAZINE

 

Ece Temelkuran: The “generation without ideology” wakes up

The Turkish author and political commentator Ece Temelkuran writes from the heart of the Istanbul protests. She comments on the 30 May sit-in that spurred a national rebellion against the “growing authoritarianism” of Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government, and how a younger, apolitical “generation without ideology” is coming to life:

It was never just about trees, but the accumulation of many incidents. With the world’s highest number of imprisoned journalists and thousands of political prisoners (trade unionists, politicians, activists, students, lawyers), Turkey had already been turned into an open-air prison . . .

Throughout [Erdogan’s] tenure, his rhetoric has been no different. Even some of his closest colleagues accept that Erdogan “no longer listens to anyone” . . .

Two years ago, I followed the Egyptian and Tunisian uprisings. Arab people overcame their fear and I saw how it transformed them from silent crowds to people who believed in themselves. This is what has been happening in the past week in Turkey . . .

One more important point: the generation that has taken to the streets was born after the 1980 military coup that fiercely depoliticised the Turkish public. The general who led the 1980 coup once said: “We will create a generation without ideology.” And so this generation was – until the startling events of recent days.

 

Helena Drysdale: Turkey’s Greek Orthodox minority is in a “struggle for survival” bound up with the Erdogan government’s shift away from secularism

The writer and journalist Helena Drysdale retraces the footsteps of her great-grandfather to a small island in Turkey (known to the Greeks as Halki; in Turkish “Heybeliada”), where the Greek Orthodox seminary, a Christian institution, sits at the symbolic centre of a “struggle for survival” by Turkey’s dwindling ethnic Greek population. The seminary, closed by the Turkish government in the 1970s, “remains a festering sore in relations not only between Turkey and its Rum minority, but between Turkey and the European Union and the United States”, writes Drysdale:

Turkey’s ethnic Greek population, known as the Rum, has plummeted from 1.8 million in 1912 to roughly 2,500 today. Greeks have lived here since founding the colony of Byzantium in the 7th century BC. Now, according to a 2009 report for the European Commission on Human Rights, “urgent action is needed if [the Rum community] is to survive”.

Halki Seminary, at the centre of political wrangling for four decades, symbolises that struggle for survival. It was founded in 1844 by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople in the Eastern Orthodox Church and its alumni include some of the world’s leading churchmen. However, in 1971 the secular Turkish government shut the seminary down. Priests of the patriarchate, who by law must be Turkish citizens, now have nowhere to train. Without priests, the survival of the Orthodox Church here is threatened.

 

Laurie Penny on internet porn

In May, Mark Bridger was convicted of murdering five-year-old April Jones. The press, keen to impose an overarching narrative on his senseless crime, chose to blame internet pornography. “It’s the latest development in a handy alliance between social conservatives, anti-porn feminists and those who seek to restrict access to technology for more sinister reasons.”

We’ve been here before. While the internet is the current culprit, the arguments against explicit material are exactly the same as they were in the feminist porn wars of the 1980s. “But to say that dirty pictures are the problem in themselves, rather than a structure of violent misogyny and sexual control, is to confuse the medium with the message.”

I do not want to live in a world where the government and a select few conservative feminists get to decide what we may and may not masturbate to, and use the bodies of murdered women and children as emotional pawns in that debate.

 

Simon Kuper: The statistical revolution is coming to football

Almost exactly a decade ago, the American writer Michael Lewis published a book called Moneyball. It told the story of Billy Beane, the general manager of an unfashionable baseball team, the Oakland As, who was using new statistics to evaluate players and strategies. From this unpromising material, Lewis crafted a bestseller. Ken Mehlman, the Republican campaign manager in the US presidential election of 2004, instructed his staff to read it because he realised that it wasn’t just a sports book. Now, according to a new book – The Numbers Game, by a former semi-professional football player-turned-Cornell professor and a former baseball pitcher-turned-behavioural economist: “The datafication of life has started to infiltrate football.”

The process has already begun in the UK:

The most powerful figure in English football remains the manager and the statistical revolution has progressed fastest at clubs where the manager believes in data. Probably the leaders in this field in England today are Arsenal’s Arsène Wenger (an economics graduate and gifted mathematician), West Ham’s Sam Allardyce (not a gifted mathematician) and Manchester United’s incoming manager, David Moyes.

In March, I visited Moyes’s then club, Everton, and one of his data analysts told me, “In terms of managers, he is probably as into it [data] as any.” Moyes would often march into the analysts’ offices firing out questions: how efficient were Everton’s next opponents at scoring from crosses? What types of passes did their midfielders make? In which areas of the field did Tottenham’s superstar Gareth Bale usually receive the ball?

For managers such as Moyes, data isn’t everything. It is one tool among many. It gives you an edge and, since you could employ perhaps 30 statisticians for the £1.5m that the average player in the Premier League earns, it’s an edge you can afford. Still, as Anderson and Sally caution: “The data cannot do the manager’s job.” Interpreting data is an art more than a science.

 

Hywel Davies: Unravelling the mystery of Benjamin Britten’s death

The leading British consultant cardiologist Hywel Davies unravels the mystery of Benjamin Britten’s death. Paul Kildea’s recent biography, Benjamin Britten: a Life in the 20th Century, claims that Britten died from the long-term effects of syphilis.

At the time of publication there were, writes Davies, “very public denials of this, some of them by people who could not possibly know one way or the other”. Davies was a friend and colleague of the surgeon, Donald Ross, who operated on Britten’s heart in 1973. He has also examined medical records recently placed in the Britten-Pears library, and reveals that “during an ordinary conversation in his house in the late 1980s, Ross chose to tell me that Britten’s heart was syphilitic . . . I took him at his word, knowing that his opinion was that of a seasoned professional at the peak of his power in his field of expertise.”

In conclusion, Davies argues that “syphilis was and still is a major diagnostic possibility” and that Kildea is largely correct in his claim. “I have taken a position in this matter largely because I find that the strongest evidence we have is that of the surgeons and I do not believe their conclusions should be cast aside lightly.”

PLUS

 

Mary Robinson urges empathy with the victims of climate change

The Politics Column: Cameron has already picked his message for the next election – and cleaning up politics isn’t it, says Rafael Behr

Will Self: I refuse to join the absurd cult of Clare Balding

Kirsty Gunn: In praise of James Salter

Sherard Cowper-Coles: Our Afghan adventure was reckless folly

 

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Scotland's vast deficit remains an obstacle to independence

Though the country's financial position has improved, independence would still risk severe austerity. 

For the SNP, the annual Scottish public spending figures bring good and bad news. The good news, such as it is, is that Scotland's deficit fell by £1.3bn in 2016/17. The bad news is that it remains £13.3bn or 8.3 per cent of GDP – three times the UK figure of 2.4 per cent (£46.2bn) and vastly higher than the white paper's worst case scenario of £5.5bn. 

These figures, it's important to note, include Scotland's geographic share of North Sea oil and gas revenue. The "oil bonus" that the SNP once boasted of has withered since the collapse in commodity prices. Though revenue rose from £56m the previous year to £208m, this remains a fraction of the £8bn recorded in 2011/12. Total public sector revenue was £312 per person below the UK average, while expenditure was £1,437 higher. Though the SNP is playing down the figures as "a snapshot", the white paper unambiguously stated: "GERS [Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland] is the authoritative publication on Scotland’s public finances". 

As before, Nicola Sturgeon has warned of the threat posed by Brexit to the Scottish economy. But the country's black hole means the risks of independence remain immense. As a new state, Scotland would be forced to pay a premium on its debt, resulting in an even greater fiscal gap. Were it to use the pound without permission, with no independent central bank and no lender of last resort, borrowing costs would rise still further. To offset a Greek-style crisis, Scotland would be forced to impose dramatic austerity. 

Sturgeon is undoubtedly right to warn of the risks of Brexit (particularly of the "hard" variety). But for a large number of Scots, this is merely cause to avoid the added turmoil of independence. Though eventual EU membership would benefit Scotland, its UK trade is worth four times as much as that with Europe. 

Of course, for a true nationalist, economics is irrelevant. Independence is a good in itself and sovereignty always trumps prosperity (a point on which Scottish nationalists align with English Brexiteers). But if Scotland is to ever depart the UK, the SNP will need to win over pragmatists, too. In that quest, Scotland's deficit remains a vast obstacle. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.