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

Photo: Getty
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Jeremy Corbyn sat down on train he claimed was full, Virgin says

The train company has pushed back against a viral video starring the Labour leader, in which he sat on the floor.

Seats were available on the train where Jeremy Corbyn was filmed sitting on the floor, Virgin Trains has said.

On 16 August, a freelance film-maker who has been following the Labour leader released a video which showed Corbyn talking about the problems of overcrowded trains.

“This is a problem that many passengers face every day, commuters and long-distance travellers. Today this train is completely ram-packed,” he said. Is it fair that I should upgrade my ticket whilst others who might not be able to afford such a luxury should have to sit on the floor? It’s their money I would be spending after all.”

Commentators quickly pointed out that he would not have been able to claim for a first-class upgrade, as expenses rules only permit standard-class travel. Also, campaign expenses cannot be claimed back from the taxpayer. 

Today, Virgin Trains released footage of the Labour leader walking past empty unreserved seats to film his video, which took half an hour, before walking back to take another unreserved seat.

"CCTV footage taken from the train on August 11 shows Mr Corbyn and his team walked past empty, unreserved seats in coach H before walking through the rest of the train to the far end, where his team sat on the floor and started filming.

"The same footage then shows Mr Corbyn returning to coach H and taking a seat there, with the help of the onboard crew, around 45 minutes into the journey and over two hours before the train reached Newcastle.

"Mr Corbyn’s team carried out their filming around 30 minutes into the journey. There were also additional empty seats on the train (the 11am departure from King’s Cross) which appear from CCTV to have been reserved but not taken, so they were also available for other passengers to sit on."

A Virgin spokesperson commented: “We have to take issue with the idea that Mr Corbyn wasn’t able to be seated on the service, as this clearly wasn’t the case.

A spokesman for the Corbyn campaign told BuzzFeed News that the footage was a “lie”, and that Corbyn had given up his seat for a woman to take his place, and that “other people” had also sat in the aisles.

Owen Smith, Corbyn's leadership rival, tried a joke:

But a passenger on the train supported Corbyn's version of events.

Both Virgin Trains and the Corbyn campaign have been contacted for further comment.

UPDATE 17:07

A spokesperson for the Jeremy for Labour campaign commented:

“When Jeremy boarded the train he was unable to find unreserved seats, so he sat with other passengers in the corridor who were also unable to find a seat. 

"Later in the journey, seats became available after a family were upgraded to first class, and Jeremy and the team he was travelling with were offered the seats by a very helpful member of staff.

"Passengers across Britain will have been in similar situations on overcrowded, expensive trains. That is why our policy to bring the trains back into public ownership, as part of a plan to rebuild and transform Britain, is so popular with passengers and rail workers.”

A few testimonies from passengers who had their photos taken with Corbyn on the floor can be found here