Photo credits clockwise: FELICITY MCCABE, MATTHIAS SEIFARTH, DAVID LEVENE/THE GUARDIAN, CHARLIE FORGHAM-BAILEY, MILES COLE
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From outrageous rockers to political arsonists: the New Statesman year in interviews

Throughout 2017 the New Statesman sought out the most influential, interesting and exciting personalities to feature on its pages. Here are some of our highlights.

May's day

What a difference a year makes. When New Statesman editor Jason Cowley interviewed Prime Minister Theresa May in February her position appeared almost unassailable, and “strong and stable” still seemed like a perfectly plausible characterisation of her premiership. 

Her hope that “there are Labour voters out there who will now look at us afresh and say, ‘Labour hasn’t responded to our concerns, it hasn’t recognised what matters to us, but the Conservatives have seen that and are responding to it’” would be thoroughly dashed just a few months later when she lost her majority.

Gold digger

Matthew McConaughey may not have manged to use his trademark intensity to turn Gold into a big-screen hit, but it certainly made his interview with Anna Leszkiewicz an entertaining read.

Political poetry

From playing Che Guevara in The Motorcycle Diaries to a police investigator in this year’s Neruda, Gael García Bernal has spent much of his career performing in political roles. It’s little surprise then that he couldn’t contain his desire to tell Anoosh Chakelian exactly how he felt about Donald Trump, despite the disapproval of his PR people.

Capital ideas

Sadiq Khan’s election as The First Muslim Mayor of a Western Capital City shot him into the spotlight in 2016, and his global profile has barely diminished since due not least to his public spats with the US president. He talked to political editor George Eaton about his first year doing “the best job in the world”.

Black and white ball

Kiss are famed for their outrageous performances and outlandish two-tone outfits. When Kate Mossman joined them on tour in Moscow, she found they were no less eccentric underneath the makeup.  

Untainted Love

As Depeche Mode geared up for what would be a triumphant return to the stage this summer, Kate Mossman spoke to frontman Dave Gahan about adoring fans, getting the band back together, and how he nearly died three times.

Liberal bite

By early, July Vince Cable was already waltzing towards the Lib Dem leadership unopposed after the resignation of Tim Farron. However, it was what he told Anoosh Chakelian he thought of Theresa’s May’s “citizens of nowhere” line that raised the most eyebrows: “I thought that particular phrase was quite evil. It could’ve been taken out of Mein Kampf.”

Bang for your buck

While the powerful and famous provided excellent interview fodder throughout the year, some of the most intriguing people the New Statesman talked to in 2017 had no public profile. One such subject was Sidney Alford, an explosives expert who works with soldiers to teach them “dirty tricks so they don’t get caught out by them”.

Loves Labour found

James Graham has become the darling of political theatre, from his gripping account of the last days of the Callaghan government, This House, to his more recent examination of life as a Labour constituency officer, Labour of Love. He talked to Helen Lewis about how his working-class background influences his work, and why he worried people would think he was too nice about Rupert Murdoch.

Not being a dick

Not all interviews go to plan, but Alexandra Pollard’s chat with critically acclaimed musician St Vincent shows how a little bit of friction can still leave you with an insight into what makes someone tick.

Digging in

Traumatic stories are often the most revealing. Anoosh Chakelian’s interview with former soldier James Wharton about how he became trapped in a weekend world of drug and sex parties offers an affecting tale of fall and redemption.

A hesitant radical

At the forefront of the struggle by liberals in the US to understand why the country voted for Donald Trump has been New York Times columnist David Brooks. He explained to Jason Cowley why the America’s” crisis of ‘social solidarity’” is at the heart of its embrace of populism.

A new hope

As the Tories imploded over the summer, one politician was increasingly talked up as a solution to the party’s ills. Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson talked to the New Statesman’s contributing editor for Scotland Chris Deerin about bringing the party back from the brink north of the Border, and why she’s worried that Brexit will deliver a hit we won’t recover from.

Things can only get …. more complicated

Almost a decade after he left power, Tony Blair is a hero to some and a traitor to others. Since the vote to leave the EU he has begun speaking out more regularly, articulating the concerns of many Remainers but attracting derision from some segments of both left and right. He talked to Helen Lewis about the “void at the heart of Labour’s strategy” and why he hopes a cliff-edge exit from the EU can be avoided.

An act of arson

Nigel Farage has had to take a backseat after resigning as leader of Ukip but has kept up the inflammatory rhetoric while making forays into US politics. Jason Cowley grilled the “arsonist in exile” on his anti-immigrant message, the death of Jo Cox and why he hasn’t ruled out a return to frontline politics. 

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Will the Brexit Cabinet talks end in a “three baskets” approach?

The joy of the three baskets idea is that everyone gets to tell themselves that it will be their basket that ends up the fullest. 

It's decision day in the Brexit talks. Again.

The Brexit inner Cabinet will meet to hammer out not its final position, but the shape of its negotiating position. The expected result: an agreement on an end state in which the United Kingdom agrees it will follow EU regulations as it were still a member, for example on aviation; will agree to follow EU objectives but go about them in its own way, for example on recycling, where the British government wants to do more on plastic and less on glass; and finally, in some areas, it will go its way completely, for instance on financial services. Or as it has come to be known in Whitehall, the "three baskets" approach.

For all the lengthy run-up, this bit isn't expected to be difficult: the joy of the three baskets idea is that everyone gets to tell themselves that it will be their basket that ends up the fullest. There are two difficulties: the first is that the EU27 won't play ball, and the second is that MPs will kick off when it emerges that their preferred basket is essentially empty.

The objections of the EU27 are perhaps somewhat overwritten. The demands of keeping the Irish border open, maintaining Europol and EU-wide defence operations means that in a large number of areas, a very close regulatory and political relationship is in everyone's interests. But everyone knows that in order for the Conservative government to actually sign the thing, there is going to have to be some divergence somewhere.

The bigger problem is what happens here at home when it turns out that the third basket - that is to say, full regulatory autonomy - is confined to fishing and the "industries of the future". The European Research Group may have a few more letters left to send yet.

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman and the PSA's Journalist of the Year. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.