In this week’s New Statesman: Scotland unchained

A rare interview with SNP leader Alex Salmond. PLUS: Caitlin Moran – what makes us human?

Cover Story: “This is the phoney war. This is not the campaign”

In a rare print interview with NS editor Jason Cowley this week, First Minister of Scotland Alex Salmond declares "the real game hasn’t even started" and reveals that a written Scottish constitution would guarantee every young person the right to a job or training.

The SNP leader says he aspired to introduce a written constitution for “every 16- and 19-year-old to have a training place or an opportunity of a job if they are not already in an apprenticeship or a job or full-time education . . . we should aspire to establish certain rights – the right to a free education, the right to youth employment”.

Elsewhere, Salmond insists his party will win the independence referendum, sets out a vision for an independent Scotland within the EU, rubbishes the “Better Together” campaign and declares the bedroom tax a political insanity.

Read exclusive extracts here.

 

ELSEWHERE IN THE MAGAZINE

 

The Politics Column: Why both Labour and the Tories secretly think the 2015 election might be a good one to lose

“When an election looks hard to win, MPs sometimes seek solace in the myth that it might not, after all, be so bad to lose” writes Rafael Behr in the Politics Column this week. It’s a “virus” that infected the Labour ranks before the 2010 election. Now, the same malady has taken hold on the Conservative benches. Behr continues:

This attitude is not quite the same as defeatism, which is the fatalistic anticipation of loss. It is defeatophilia – a sadomasochistic faith in the purgative benefits of electoral spanking. The obvious rebuttal is that unity around a sharpened doctrine won’t be much use in opposition but the Tory defeatophiles have an answer. Labour’s inability to govern in austere times, they say, must be exposed. Let Ed Miliband flounder before the challenge of cutting budgets with his trade union paymasters in uproar. Only after a catastrophic single term of unstable Labour (or Lib-Lab) rule will the national appetite be whetted for authentic Conservatism; bring on another winter of discontent to augur the second coming of Thatcherism.

Read the Politics Column in full here.

 

Caitlin Moran: “What makes us human? Joy”

The Times columnist and author of How to Be a Woman, Caitlin Moran, writes the eighth piece in our “What Makes Us Human?” series, published in association with BBC Radio 2’s Jeremy Vine show.

“The ways in which we are – and no offence to any other animals reading – totally superior to the beasts are manifold,” she writes. “It’s not like I don’t respect the fauna. I really do. But we are the species that invented a machine that vends crisps to drunken, hungry, heartbroken people at deserted coach stations at two in the morning . . .”

What makes us uniquely human is “joy, and the joy we take in our joy”, says Moran, taking in everything from Friday nights (“one of mankind’s greatest inventions, up there with the pyramids and the moon shot . . . You can hear hiss of the fizzy wine calling”) to hot baths (“Consider the nearest that animals get to this kind of day-to-day euphoric experience: wallowing in a puddle that’s had a double-glazing flyer dropped in it”) to the Beatles (“You know how some people have religion. . . ? Brought up by atheist hippies, I have the Beatles”).

 

Daniel Trilling: A letter from Greece

Daniel Trilling visits the remote village of Ierissos, Thessaloniki, the site of a “bitter dispute” between inhabitants and an invasive gold mining/extraction company. Despite local opposition, the government says the project must move forward – “Greece’s profound economic crisis allows no alternative.” Trilling continues:

As politicians try to sell the new Greece, the social crisis continues to deepen. Hospitals are so underfunded that they run short of basic medical supplies. What’s more, public anger shows no signs of abating. A group of enraged villagers who don’t want their mountain turned into an open-cast mine could severely damage the perception that Greece is a safe place for global capital.

PLUS

Kate Mossman goes to a Rihanna gig

Mark Damazer reviews Modernity Britain by David Kynaston

Marcus Mill and Robert Skidelsky deplore the despair caused by austerity

Laurie Penny on life lessons learned from Doctor Who

Will Self bemoans the pointless innovation of 3D cinema

Sarah Churchwell on the dark reality of the 1920s New York jazz scene

Alex Hern on Neil Gaiman

 

Purchase a copy of this week's New Statesman in newsstands today, or online at: subscribe.newstatesman.com

This article first appeared in the 24 June 2013 issue of the New Statesman, Mr Scotland

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Germany's political stability could be threatened by automation

The country's resistance to populism may be tested by changes to its manufacturing industry.

Germans head to the polls this Sunday 24 September. With Merkel set to win a fourth term as Chancellor, it has been dubbed a "sleepy" election – particularly compared to the Dutch and French campaigns a few months ago. Populism, while present, has not taken off to the same extent as in Germany’s neighbouring countries.

In a new Legatum Institute report co-authored with Matthew Elliott, we explore in detail why this is the case, evaluating the historical and economic circumstances as well as social, cultural and political attitudes. In short, support for both the populist Left Party (Die Linke/DL) and for the populist right Alternative for Germany (AfD) has so far been concentrated in former East Germany. At the national level, it has therefore been hard for either party to win more than around 10 per cent of the vote.

However, a longer term trend that might disrupt German politics in future election cycles is automation. With manufacturing making up a large proportion of the German economy, a significant amount of jobs are set to shift between occupational groups. According to the OECD, the portion of jobs at high risk of automation in Germany – 12 per cent – is one of the highest among countries measured.

While the elimination of some jobs and occupations does not necessarily mean net job losses – on the contrary, BCG estimates a net increase of 350,000 jobs by 2025 – it does mean upheaval, both in the job market and in the political sphere.

On the job market front, Germany has a shrinking pool of skilled labour. The Association of German Chambers of Commerce and Industry (DIHK) consider this poses the biggest risk to their businesses. The government is acutely aware of the issue – its August 2017 progress report projects 700,000 fewer skilled workers in 2030 than in 2014. Moreover, with an ageing population, the demographics are currently not in Germany’s favour.

Resolving this issue will require big and difficult political changes. On the one hand, it means that more immigration, particularly of young skilled workers, will likely be necessary. Given the backlash to Merkel’s "welcome" policy at the height of the refugee crisis, an anti-immigration sentiment was stirred which was dormant before.

On the other hand, while new jobs will be available, this does not necessarily mean that from one day to another that those working, for example, in manufacturing, will be keen to move into the service industry or another occupation altogether. Nor does it mean they will want to, or even perhaps be capable of, reskilling to carry out new digital roles.

In the UK and the US, we recently witnessed how these labour market changes were one of the big factors associated with support for the protectionist and anti-immigration rhetoric of the Leave campaign for Brexit and Donald Trump for president.

In Germany, the regions most exposed to the effects of automation are in the industrial south and west – parts of the country so far spared from the worst of populism. The potential for populist support to expand at the national level should therefore worry observers. To its credit, the current government has already been thinking about it, as evidenced in the Work 4.0 White Paper.

However, policy choices in the next few years will be crucial for mitigating the future labour market and political shockwaves of automation. If politicians choose to merkeln (do nothing) on the issue, the populist backlash might hit Germany, too.

Claudia Chwalisz is a consultant at Populus and a fellow at the Crick Centre, University of Sheffield. She is the author of The People’s Verdict: Adding Informed Citizen Voices to Public Decision-making (2017) and The Populist Signal: Why Politics and Democracy Need to Change (2015). Her guide to the German election authored with Matthew Elliott can be downloaded here