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6 August 2008

Tories sail into stormy waters

What's going on on newstatesman.com plus devastating news of a Tory split. Or is it just a big Camer

By Ben Davies

This week on newstatesman.com the Ukrainian novelist Andrey Kurkov writes exclusively on Alexandr Solzhenitsyn, who related the terrible truth about Soviet totalitarianism in his Gulag Archipelago.

Kurkov observes: “Alexander Isaevich outlived his era and never truly accepted the new ‘post-soviet’ epoch.

“Having sincerely dedicated his life to a desperate struggle against communism, in 1991 Solzhenitsyn suddenly found himself without a battle to fight.”

We hear from the great AL Kennedy who has been collecting the Austrian State Prize for European Literature…

“The Austrian Minister for Culture is charming and actually cares about culture and the Austrian prime minister gave me cake – while I tried to assure him my own prime minister would have taken my cake and told me it would be given to the destitute and cake-needy before sneaking it into the cake trough of a cake-spattered man in a mink cake-eating suit. Poor Gordon, though – perhaps soon to be replaced by one or another Miliband. They’re twins, after all. What happens if we get the evil twin? I’ve watched more than enough Hammer horror films to know this is surely a risk.”

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Only time will tell.

By the way you can see AL Kennedy in person at the Edinburgh Fringe.

Oh and don’t miss Hugh O’Shaughnessy having fun with the Colombian statisticians who have elevated their country’s president to similar popularity ratings as former Albanian dictator Enva Hoxha.

And check out our series on what Labour needs to do to put itself back on the path to popularity. We’ve already had contributions from Home Secretary Jacqui Smith, plus ex-ministers Denis MacShane and Barbara Roche.

Coming up Nick Raynsford, Iain Gibson and more.

Moving on to a Tory split…

It’s being widely reported that the beautiful relationship between Lexus Dave Cameron and George ‘Oik’ Osborne has sailed into stormy waters over the thorny issue of marriage.

The Tory leader favours tax breaks for married couples, the shadow chancellor does not. The Times – and others – report a substantial disagreement.

Let’s just examine this for a minute. Dave Cameron voiced his support for tax breaks for the legally bound (through marriage and civil partnerships) in a nod to tradition in his first speech as Tory leader. He’s keen on research that indicates half of those who simply shack up split up before their child’s fifth birthday. That’s compared to one in 12 married people.

George Osborne reportedly takes the line it’s not the state’s job to tell people how to live their lives and that all parents should be supported regardless of family structure.

Of course the state (unless the Tories are planning some really sinister changes) wouldn’t be telling people how to live their lives but merely encouraging them in a particular direction. But wouldn’t it have to be a pretty fantastic tax break to get otherwise unwilling people to tie the knot?

Call me cynical but I smell a bit of a Tory PR cook-up here. Lexus Dave – much photographed family man and hero of traditional values. Oik Osborne – all that is fresh and libertarian about the Conservatives (really, all) but ultimately not in charge. And a policy proposal which is ultimately more gimmick than anything else. They publicise a stand-off. Oik in the end caves in. The leader and tradition prevail.

Is Dave Cameron is hugging the family values husky?