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In this week’s New Statesman | The last World Cup

A first look at this week’s magazine.

13 JUNE 2014 ISSUE

 

THE LAST GAME: JASON COWLEY ON FIFA AND THE WORLD CUP

“AFTER BRAZIL, THE WORLD SHOULD TURN AWAY IN DISGUST”

 

MINORITY MILIBAND OR MAJORITY MILIBAND?

LABOUR MUST CHANGE OR LOSE, ARGUES MARCUS ROBERTS

 

Plus

 

GEORGE EATON: DANNY ALEXANDER’S HUBRIS AND THE LIB DEMS’ TRIUMPH OF HOPE OVER EXPERIENCE

DONALD MACINTYRE REMEMBERS THE 1984-85 MINERS’ STRIKE 30 YEARS ON

MEHDI HASAN: ELIZABETH WARREN, “PROGRESSIVE SUPERSTAR”, SHOULD CHALLENGE HILLARY CLINTON FOR THE US PRESIDENCY

PETER WILBY ON THE “TROJAN HORSE” ACADEMIES AND MICHAEL GOVE’S “SHAMBOLIC” OVERSIGHT OF ENGLISH SCHOOLING

KIM JONG-IL’S POET LAUREATE JANG JIN-SUNG RECALLS A POTENT DICTATORSHIP OF THE MIND

MARK LAWSON: WHAT DENNIS POTTER CAN TEACH TODAY’S RISK-AVERSE TV EXECUTIVES

THE HURT LOCKER OPENED: ERICA WAGNER ON IRAQ WAR LITERATURE

ANGUS ROXBURGH MAKES THE CASE FOR A SCOTTISH SIX O’CLOCK NEWS

 

 

MARCUS ROBERTS: LABOUR MUST CHANGE OR LOSE

 

Marcus Roberts, deputy general secretary of the Fabian Society, issues a stark warning to the Labour leader in a report for this week’s issue. Roberts, who served as field director for Ed Miliband’s leadership campaign, insists that “beyond the M25, the party has a problem”. This is the critical moment when Labour must change or face losing in 2015, he argues:

 

Ed Miliband has a simple choice to make: the Labour leader can replay the 2010 general election and hope for a different result or he can change course and try for a majority. The numbers suggest that Labour’s present strategy of managing a declining poll lead must be altered. Equally, there is a moral case for reaching out to the blue-collar voters whom the party was originally founded to represent. Without change, Labour will be choosing to lose.

 

The ultimate choice, says Roberts, is between “Minority Miliband” and “Majority Miliband”:

 

Minority Miliband is an approach that aims for a narrow appeal to existing Labour voters and some former Lib Dems. It hopes to squeak over the finishing line and sneak Ed Miliband into No 10 through the back door of an electoral system that could translate the loss of the popular vote into a win for a minority government.


By contrast, Majority Miliband would shift from safety-first election campaigning and overcautious politics to recapture the public’s imagination. It would be a politics that listens to blue-collar concerns, takes action and roots itself in the community. A radical manifesto, a clearer stance on issues such as immigration and welfare and an embrace of movement politics will be key.

 

The choice is Ed’s.

 

 

GEORGE EATON: DANNY ALEXANDER’S HUBRIS AND THE LIB DEMS’ TRIUMPH OF HOPE OVER EXPERIENCE

 

In the Politics Column, George Eaton, the NS political editor, counts the cost to the Liberal Democrats of being the smaller party in a coalition as they regroup after devastating results in the May elections. Eaton notes that even though the party was “smashed” by the experience, a sense of optimism pervades the Lib Dems. At a parliamentary party away day, the senior Lib Dem Danny Alexander made a particularly bullish claim, he writes:

 

. . . one might expect there to be little optimism among the Lib Dems. But the shifting plates of British politics have given them hope. With both the Tories and Labour doubtful of winning a majority in 2015, many Lib Dems believe that they will once again act as kingmakers in a “balanced parliament” and extract significant concessions for doing so.

Some are even more sanguine. At a recent parliamentary party away day in Boston, Lincolnshire, Danny Alexander declared that the Lib Dems could become the largest party in British politics by 2025. “We were all rolling our eyes, even Clegg’s spads,” one of those present tells me. David Steel’s 1981 exhortation to Liberal activists to “go back to your constituencies and prepare for government” looks modest by comparison.

 

*Read the Politics Column in full below*

 

 

COVER STORY: THE LAST WORLD CUP?

 

The New Statesman editor, Jason Cowley – author of The Last Game: Love, Death and Football – recalls five weeks covering the 2006 World Cup in Germany, an event that had a “transformative effect” on that country and demonstrated football’s ability to unite people and foster “a sense of togetherness”. He remembers how the Italia ’90 World Cup was another moment when, after the hooliganism of the 1980s, people began to believe that the game “could be beautiful once more – something that appealed to all classes, to men and women, boys and girls”.

 

A lifelong football fan, Cowley describes with regret how “the moneymen sensed the zeitgeist and seized their opportunity”. In the hands of Sepp Blatter’s Fifa, the World Cup is now merely a “well-oiled engine of cash generation”, he writes. For Cowley, Fifa’s decision to award the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and “the repressive pseudo-state of Qatar” represents the depressing end of an era in the beautiful game:

 

On 14 June, England play their opening group game of the World Cup against Italy in Manaus, capital city of the state of Amazonas in northern Brazil. Many millions of us in this country will be watching on television . . . For a while at least, we shall forget, or try to forget, all about how football is administered and sold around the world and allow ourselves to become absorbed by what is happening on the field of play, by the drama or otherwise of the game itself.

 

But this time, for me at least, it feels different. It feels like the end of something. It feels like the end of an era. After Brazil 2014, unless there is urgent and fundamental reform of a kind that would seem unlikely, the tournament is finished. In Vladimir Putin and the secretive autocrats of Qatar, Fifa has the partners it deserves – and the world should turn away in disgust.

 

 

THE LONG ROAD TO DEFEAT: DONALD MACINTYRE ON THE 1984-85 MINERS’ STRIKE

 

Donald Macintyre recalls the miners’ strike of 1984-85 in a special report for this week’s issue. “Thirty years later,” Macintyre writes, “two questions still haunt many of those who took part. Could the outcome have been different? And what were its long-term consequences?” In his attempt to answer the first question, he meets a former miner, Alan Gascoyne, at the site of the old Shirebrook Colliery in Derbyshire:

 

Gascoyne, a forceful 59-year-old ex-faceworker who swears a lot, was the branch secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers throughout the strike of 1984-85 and until the pit closed. The son of a communist miner, he has kept its memory alive at the Shirebrook Miners’ Welfare Social Club, founded in 1920. The bar and the hire of its large hall help to finance the local Alzheimer’s group, OAP dance classes, a disco for the disabled and Outward Bound courses for the primary school. The bar and adjoining rooms are heavily decorated with mementos, including a rare photograph of a shirtsleeved A J Cook, the miners’ leader in the great lockout of 1926, inscribed in copperplate with lines from Idris Davies’s poetic chronicle of that heroic defeat, “The Angry Summer”.

 

Macintyre argues that the defeat of the miners by Thatcher’s government had a far-reaching and damaging effect on British society and politics:

 

Much of Margaret Thatcher’s new neoliberal settlement, replacing the old social-democratic one, survived and indeed helped to shape New Labour. As she saw it, the defeat of the miners’ strike of 1984-85 cut the brake on the application of largely unrestrained market forces, not only in energy but in the wider ordering of society. At a time, post-2008 crash, when it is no longer so taboo to question the efficacy of unregulated markets, that is something to mourn.

 

 

MEHDI HASAN: IN PRAISE OF SENATOR ELIZABETH WARREN

 

In his Lines of Dissent column, Mehdi Hasan shares his admiration for Elizabeth Warren, the “unashamedly left-wing US politician” who has become a “progressive superstar” and a “darling of the Democratic Party base”. Hasan expresses the hope Warren will run against the more centrist Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination in the next US presidential race:

 

She repeatedly tells reporters that she is “not running” for president, but hasn’t ruled it out. She is 64. If Clinton runs, wins and serves two terms, there won’t be a White House vacancy until 2024, when the Massachusetts senator will be 75.

It’s 2016 or never. Can she win? Junior senators with a single term on Capitol Hill, a lack of foreign-policy experience and an opponent called Clinton can’t win, right? I mean, er, just ask Obama.

 

Hasan notes that Ed Miliband is a great admirer of Warren but “hasn’t yet been able to emulate her style, passion or rhetoric”:

 

There is still time. On paper, Warren, lest we forget, is as wonkish as Miliband, if not more so. The Labour leader may sound professorial; Warren was a professor. There is no reason why the Labour leader, if he eschews the triangulating tendencies of some of his aides, stops giving dense speeches and takes a much stronger stance against Big Finance, can’t rediscover his own inner populist . . . Forget the hapless Hollande or the opportunistic Obama: Elizabeth Warren’s way should be Ed Miliband’s way. You never know – he may even end up paying her a visit at the White House.

 

 

Plus

 

Will Self on location: true adventurers should head for the housing estate

Josh Spero talks to Twitter’s former frontman Biz Stone

Samira Shackle: a chronic state of fear grips Karachi

The NS Science writer, Michael Brooks, sniffs out a nasal spray that could cut deaths from snakebites

Philip Maughan on the student who suffered total amnesia after taking antimalarials

Hedley Twidle on two striking literary portraits of Lagos and Johannesburg

Lucy Fisher fears the coaches who turn bumbling MPs into artful spin doctors

Felicity Cloake on men, meat and the primal pull of the barbecue

Simon Kuper: what golf can teach us about China

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The top 10 reasons Brexit isn't working, according to Brexiteers

We'd have got away with it, if it weren't for that pesky Mark Carney. 

Over the next few years, it is likely that the economy will shrink, that the entire government will be consumed by trade negotiations at the expense of every other priority, and that EU leaders will use their considerable negotiation advantages to theatrically screw us. As this unpretty story unfolds, those who argued confidently for Brexit, in parliament and in the press, will feel compelled to maintain that they were right, and that if it hadn’t been for some other impossible-to-foresee factor everything would be going splendidly. What follows is an attempt to anticipate the most predictable post-rationalisations; I’m sure there will be more creative efforts.

1. WHITEHALL SABOTAGE. If we’re making no progress in trade negotiations, that’s because the civil service is doing its best to scupper a successful Brexit. That power-crazed madman Jeremy Heywood will stop at nothing to ensure he is bossed by Brussels, and the snooty bastards at the Treasury are working to subvert the national will out of spite. Even as our finest ministers strive manfully to cut Britannia free of its enslaving chains, all they hear from functionaries is “It’s a bit more complicated than that”. It’s only complicated because they want it to be.
 

2. REMAINERS TALKING DOWN THE COUNTRY. God knows we tried to reach out to them, with our gently teasing admonitions for being elitist snobs who just needed to get over it. But did they concede that a glorious future is at hand, if only we all wish for it? No, my friends, they did not. Instead, they sulkily point out how the things they predicted would happen are in fact happening, as if this somehow proves they were right. And since, inexplicably, the world agrees them, the whiners’ prophecy is being fulfilled.
 

3. THE GLOBAL ECONOMY. It appears the UK economy has sunk into a recession. Now, the whiners will tell you that this has got something to do with the vast uncertainty created by taking a fundamental decision about the nation’s future without a clue about how to implement it. In reality, of course, the recession has been caused by the same global economic headwinds that had absolutely nothing to do with the 2008 financial crisis, which was all Gordon Brown's fault.
 

4. ECONOMISTS. Since they nearly all said that Britain would be worse off if it voted Out, they now feel compelled to tell us that things are indeed worse. OK, maybe they are worse. But think about it: if we hadn’t voted Out, the economy might be even more calamitously buggered than it is now. This is logically unassailable. But do economists ever point it out? Do they Brussels. Yet sadly, global businesses, investors, consumers, and lots of other people who frankly lack gumption or vision, take these so-called experts seriously.
 

5. MARK CARNEY. Let’s get this straight: the Canadian governor of the Bank of England doesn’t want Britain to succeed, because then we’d be a direct competitor to his motherland. But with his honeyed voice and perpendicular jaw and incessant references to “data”, this man has gone a long way to convincing much of the public that he is some kind of disinterested authority on Britain’s economy. In reality, of course, he is out to destroy it, and seems to be making a pretty good fist of doing so.
 

6. EU BUREAUCRATS. You know those people we spent years attacking for being interfering, self-enriching, incompetent fools? Turns out they are now keen to make our lives as difficult as possible. The way to deal with this, of course, is to mount a national campaign of vilification. Another one. Before long they will be begging for mercy.
 

7. THERESA MAY. Look, we all wanted her to succeed. We knew she wasn’t one of us, but she wasn’t exactly one of them either, so we gave her a chance. Yet perhaps it is time to admit the possibility that the Prime Minister isn’t making this work because, when it comes down to it, she just doesn’t share our blood-pumping, sap-extruding belief in Britain unbound. In short, she’s just too damn reasonable. It’s time to embrace the unreasonable man. What’s Boris doing these days?
 

8. THOSE OTHER BREXITEERS (i). Not only can we not get the Remainers to present a united front to Brussels, it seems that we can’t even rely on our fellow Brexiteers. Most of us are on the same page: take back control of our borders, blue passports, compulsory blazers, onwards and upwards to the sunlit uplands. But there are some among our own ranks who frankly don’t get it. These latte-sipping media types simper on endlessly about the importance of retaining access to the single market and seem awfully keen on Norway. Why don’t they just go and join Remain?
 

9. THOSE OTHER BREXITEERS (ii). Hey guys, the problem is this: Brexit got hijacked by the roast beef and two veg brigade, OK? For us it was always about unleashing the entrepreneurial spirit, shaking off the dead hand of Eurocrat regulation, being more human, that kind of thing. We had to go along with all that anti-immigration stuff but believe me we were biting our tongues and crossing our fingers. Some of our best friends are Turkish.
 

10. NONSENSE, IT IS WORKING.

Ian Leslie is a writer, author of CURIOUS: The Desire to Know and Why Your Future Depends On It, and writer/presenter of BBC R4's Before They Were Famous.