View all newsletters
Sign up to our newsletters

Support 110 years of independent journalism.

  1. Ideas
12 April 2023updated 12 Oct 2023 11:37am

John Gray on 110 years of the New Statesman: “I regret I didn’t criticise Tony Blair more”

The philosopher on his time writing for the magazine as an essayist and critic, 1996-present.

By Gavin Jacobson

“The failures of the old parties,” John Gray wrote in the New Statesman in 1999, “create an opportunity for a new breed of populist.” A mix of scepticism, uncanny ­foresight and embattled political engagement, his essay on post-politics bore all the hallmarks of what would become a singular prospectus of writings on the ­history of the present.

Gray’s first encounter with the magazine was as an undergraduate at Oxford University in the late 1960s. “It was just one of those titles that everybody who was interested in politics read,” the philosopher says.

His writing since then is not only distinguished by the novelty and prescience of insight, or the lucidity with which it explains the principal traditions of Western political thought; it is also marked by its boundary-shattering range. “I’m an anti-genre man in a sense because I think it’s constricting to say that certain forms of writing – sci-fi, thrillers, detective and espionage fiction and so on – can’t be enriching or illuminating.”

Alongside time-proof essays on the crisis of liberalism and the delusions of its boosters, the decline of the West, and the perils of the radical imagination, his cultural criticism – on the novels of Len Deighton, the TV programme Better Call Saul, or the literary sagas of Lawrence Osborne – have marked Gray’s perpetual grappling with the human condition in these pages.

He admits that, over the years, he hasn’t always got it right. “I’ve always regretted that I didn’t criticise Tony Blair’s thoughtless constitutional reforms, and regret not seeing how damaging his attempts to Americanise domestic politics would be. I didn’t grasp the deep incoherence of his project. All of it has caught up with us now.”

Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via saturdayread.substack.com The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via morningcall.substack.com Our Thursday ideas newsletter, delving into philosophy, criticism, and intellectual history. The best way to sign up for The Salvo is via thesalvo.substack.com Stay up to date with NS events, subscription offers & updates. Weekly analysis of the shift to a new economy from the New Statesman's Spotlight on Policy team.
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
THANK YOU

Untethered from any fixed political coordinates, Gray has come to embody the ethos of the magazine as it has evolved in the past two decades, a title committed to the most salutary fruits of the European intellectual tradition: the ferment of doubt, a willingness to debate ideas, and a desire to critique both old orthodoxies and new dogmas.

“For me,” Gray says, “the New Statesman is an enclave in which the ruling presuppositions of progressive thought are questioned, often by the very people who themselves believe in them. Its pluralism and scepticism are exactly what we need right now.”

[See also: Mehdi Hasan on 110 years of the New Statesman]

Become a subscriber and support our truth-telling journalism from as little as £49 a year! Or get a free tote bag if you subscribe to our bundle plan. Visit newstatesman.com/110subscribe to explore our anniversary offers

Content from our partners
Labour's health reforms can put patients first
Data science can help developers design future-proof infrastructure
How to tackle the UK's plastic pollution problem – with Coca-Cola

Topics in this article : , , ,

This article appears in the 12 Apr 2023 issue of the New Statesman, The Anniversary Issue

Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via saturdayread.substack.com The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via morningcall.substack.com Our Thursday ideas newsletter, delving into philosophy, criticism, and intellectual history. The best way to sign up for The Salvo is via thesalvo.substack.com Stay up to date with NS events, subscription offers & updates. Weekly analysis of the shift to a new economy from the New Statesman's Spotlight on Policy team.
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
THANK YOU