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

 

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

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I dined behind the Houses of Parliament in my sexually connected foursome

My wife and I would sometimes dine out with another couple. We did not always check the significance of the date. 

I am self-employed and find that working from home, setting your own schedule, the days generally blur into each other, with weekends holding no significance, and public holidays, when those who are employed in factories, offices or shops get time off, meaning nothing. I am often surprised to go out and find the streets empty of traffic because it is some national day of observance, such as Christmas, that I wasn’t aware of. I find myself puzzled as to why the shops are suddenly full of Easter eggs or pancake batter.

Growing up in a Communist household, we had a distinct dislike for this kind of manufactured marketing opportunity anyway. I remember the time my mother tried to make me feel guilty because I’d done nothing for her on Mother’s Day and I pointed out that it was she who had told me that Mother’s Day was a cynical creation of the greetings card monopolies and the floral industrial complex.

Valentine’s Day is one of those I never see coming. It’s the one day of the year when even the worst restaurants are completely booked out by couples attempting to enjoy a romantic evening. Even those old-fashioned cafés you’ll find still lurking behind railway stations and serving spaghetti with bread and butter will tell you there’s a waiting list if you leave it late to reserve a table.

In the late 1980s my wife and I would sometimes dine out with another couple, he a writer and she a TV producer. One particular place we liked was a restaurant attached to a 1930s block of flats, near the Houses of Parliament, where the endless corridors were lined with blank doors, behind which you sensed awful things happened. The steel dining room dotted with potted palm trees overlooked a swimming pool, and this seemed terribly sophisticated to us even if it meant all your overpriced food had a vague taste of chlorine.

The four of us booked to eat there on 14 February, not realising the significance of the date. We found at every other table there was a single couple, either staring adoringly into each other’s eyes or squabbling.

As we sat down I noticed we were getting strange looks from our fellow diners. Some were sort of knowing, prompting smiles and winks; others seemed more outraged. The staff, too, were either simpering or frosty. After a while we realised what was going on: it was Valentine’s Day! All the other customers had assumed that we were a sexually connected foursome who had decided to celebrate our innovative relationship by having dinner together on this special date.

For the four of us, the smirking attention set up a strange dynamic: after that night it always felt like we were saying something seedy to each other. “Do you want to get together on Sunday?” I’d say to one of them on the phone, and then find myself blushing. “I’ll see if we can fit it in,” they’d reply, and we would both giggle nervously.

Things became increasingly awkward between us, until in the end we stopped seeing them completely. 

This article first appeared in the 25 May 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Why Islamic State targets Britain

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