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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There are risks as well as opportunities ahead for George Osborne

The Chancellor is in a tight spot, but expect his political wiles to be on full display, says Spencer Thompson.

The most significant fiscal event of this parliament will take place in late November, when the Chancellor presents the spending review setting out his plans for funding government departments over the next four years. This week, across Whitehall and up and down the country, ministers, lobbyists, advocacy groups and town halls are busily finalising their pitches ahead of Friday’s deadline for submissions to the review

It is difficult to overstate the challenge faced by the Chancellor. Under his current spending forecast and planned protections for the NHS, schools, defence and international aid spending, other areas of government will need to be cut by 16.4 per cent in real terms between 2015/16 and 2019/20. Focusing on services spending outside of protected areas, the cumulative cut will reach 26.5 per cent. Despite this, the Chancellor nonetheless has significant room for manoeuvre.

Firstly, under plans unveiled at the budget, the government intends to expand capital investment significantly in both 2018-19 and 2019-20. Over the last parliament capital spending was cut by around a quarter, but between now and 2019-20 it will grow by almost 20 per cent. How this growth in spending should be distributed across departments and between investment projects should be at the heart of the spending review.

In a paper published on Monday, we highlighted three urgent priorities for any additional capital spending: re-balancing transport investment away from London and the greater South East towards the North of England, a £2bn per year boost in public spending on housebuilding, and £1bn of extra investment per year in energy efficiency improvements for fuel-poor households.

Secondly, despite the tough fiscal environment, the Chancellor has the scope to fund a range of areas of policy in dire need of extra resources. These include social care, where rising costs at a time of falling resources are set to generate a severe funding squeeze for local government, 16-19 education, where many 6th-form and FE colleges are at risk of great financial difficulty, and funding a guaranteed paid job for young people in long-term unemployment. Our paper suggests a range of options for how to put these and other areas of policy on a sustainable funding footing.

There is a political angle to this as well. The Conservatives are keen to be seen as a party representing all working people, as shown by the "blue-collar Conservatism" agenda. In addition, the spending review offers the Conservative party the opportunity to return to ‘Compassionate Conservatism’ as a going concern.  If they are truly serious about being seen in this light, this should be reflected in a social investment agenda pursued through the spending review that promotes employment and secures a future for public services outside the NHS and schools.

This will come at a cost, however. In our paper, we show how the Chancellor could fund our package of proposed policies without increasing the pain on other areas of government, while remaining consistent with the government’s fiscal rules that require him to reach a surplus on overall government borrowing by 2019-20. We do not agree that the Government needs to reach a surplus in that year. But given this target wont be scrapped ahead of the spending review, we suggest that he should target a slightly lower surplus in 2019/20 of £7bn, with the deficit the year before being £2bn higher. In addition, we propose several revenue-raising measures in line with recent government tax policy that together would unlock an additional £5bn of resource for government departments.

Make no mistake, this will be a tough settlement for government departments and for public services. But the Chancellor does have a range of options open as he plans the upcoming spending review. Expect his reputation as a highly political Chancellor to be on full display.

Spencer Thompson is economic analyst at IPPR