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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 Randian Republican who could rein in Trump isn’t a coward – he’s much worse

Paul Ryan's refusal to condemn Trump is not caused by terror or fear; rather, it is a cynical, self-serving tactic.

Poor ol’ Paul Ryan. For a few brief hours on 27 January, a week after the inauguration of Donald Trump, the Wikipedia entry for “invertebrates” – which defines them as “animals that neither possess nor develop a vertebral column (commonly known as a backbone or spine)” – was amended to include a smiling picture of the Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives.

The online prank reflected a growing consensus among critics of Ryan: confronted by a boorish and authoritarian president plagued by multiple conflicts of interest, the House Speaker has behaved in a craven and spineless manner. Ryan, goes the conventional wisdom, is a coward.

Yet as is so often the case, the conventional wisdom is wrong. Ryan’s deafening silence over Trump’s egregious excesses has little to do with pusillanimity. It’s much worse than that. The House Speaker is not a coward; he is a shameless opportunist. His refusal to condemn Trump is not caused by terror or fear; rather, it is a cynical, self-serving tactic.

Long before Trump arrived on the scene with his wacky “birther” conspiracies, Ryan was the undisputed star of the GOP; the earnest, number-crunching wunderkind of the right. He was elected to Congress in 1998, aged 28; by 2011, he was head of the House budget committee; by 2012, he was Mitt Romney’s running mate; by 2015, he was Speaker of the House – and third in line for the presidency – at the grand old age of 45.

The Wisconsin congressman has been hailed in the conservative media as the “man with a plan”, the “intellectual leader of the Republican Party”, the “conscience” of the GOP. Yet, again and again, in recent years, he has been singularly unsuccessful in enacting his legislative agenda.

And what kind of agenda might that be? Why, an Ayn Rand-inspired agenda, of course. You know Rand, right? The hero of modern-day libertarians, self-described “radical for capitalism” and author of the dystopian novel Atlas Shrugged. As one of her acolytes wrote to her: “You have the courage to tell the masses what no politician told them: you are inferior and all the improvements in your condition which you simply take for granted you owe to the effort of men who are better than you.”

Ryan is an ideologue who insists on giving copies of Atlas Shrugged to interns in his congressional office. In 2005 he told a gathering of Rand fans, called the Atlas Society, that “the reason I got involved in public service, by and large, if I had to credit one thinker, one person, it would be Ayn Rand”.

Rolling back the evil state while balancing the budget on the backs of the feckless poor, in true Randian fashion, has always been Ryan’s primary goal. Even Newt Gingrich, who served as Republican House Speaker for five years in the 1990s, once decried Ryan’s proposals to privatise Medicare ­– the popular federal health insurance programme that covers people over the age of 65 – as “right-wing social engineering”.

These days, Ryan has a useful idiot in the White House to help him pull off the right-wing social engineering that he couldn’t pull off on his own. Trump, who doesn’t do detail or policy, is content, perhaps even keen, to outsource his domestic agenda to the policy wonk from Wisconsin.

The Speaker has made his deal with the devil: a reckless and racist demagogue, possibly in cahoots with Russia, can trample over the law, erode US democratic norms and embarrass the country, and the party, at home and abroad. And in return? Ryan gets top-rate tax cuts. To hell with the constitution.

Trump, lest we forget, ran as an insurgent against the Republican establishment during the primaries, loudly breaking with hard-right GOP orthodoxy on issues such as infrastructure spending (Trump promised more), health-care reform (Trump promised coverage for all) and Medicaid (Trump promised no cuts). It was all a charade, a con. And Ryan knew it. The Speaker may have been slow to endorse Trump but when he did so, last June, he made it clear that “on the issues that make up our agenda, we have more common ground than disagreement”.

A year later, Ryan has been vindicated: free trade deals aside, Trump is governing as a pretty conventional, hard-right conservative. Consider the first important budget proposal from the Trump administration, published on 23 May. For Ryan, it’s a Randian dream come true: $800bn slashed from Medicaid, which provides health care to low-income Americans, plus swingeing cuts to Snap (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programme, aka food stamps), Chip (the Children’s Health Insurance Programme) and SSDI (disability insurance).

In Trump, Ryan and his fellow anti-government hardliners in Congress have found the perfect frontman to enact their reverse-Robin Hood economic agenda: a self-declared, rhetorical champion of white, working-class voters whose actual Ryan-esque policies – on tax cuts, health care, Wall Street regulation and the rest – bolster only the billionaire class at their expense.

Don’t be distracted by all the scandals: the president has been busy using his tiny hands to sign a wide array of bills, executive orders and judicial appointments that have warmed the cold hearts of the Republican hard right.

Impeachment, therefore, remains a liberal fantasy – despite everything we’re discovering about Russia, Michael Flynn, James Comey and the rest. Does anyone seriously expect this Republican-dominated House of Representatives to bring articles of impeachment against Trump? With Paul Ryan in charge of it? Don’t. Be. Silly.

Mehdi Hasan is a broadcaster and New Statesman contributing editor. He is based in Washington, DC

Mehdi Hasan is a contributing writer for the New Statesman and the co-author of Ed: The Milibands and the Making of a Labour Leader. He was the New Statesman's senior editor (politics) from 2009-12.

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

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