Ken: “The world is run by monsters”
Boris: “I’ll tell you what makes me angry — lefty crap”
On Friday 3 February, the New Statesman‘s associate editor, Jemima Khan, sat down with both of the leading contenders for the 2012 London mayoral election – the incumbent, Boris Johnson, and the inaugural mayor, Ken Livingstone, who served from 2000-2008.
Over breakfast, Khan found the Labour challenger spoiling for a fight and offering opinions freely on everything from the “clinically insane” Maggie Thatcher to the “moral imbecile” who runs the BBC. But her lunch partner, the notorious “maverick” Boris, seemed “maddeningly cautious and unforthcoming . . . less fun than I had anticipated”.
The Syria dilemma: Jonathan Powell and Mehdi Hasan
The crisis in Syria poses a stark dilemma for the west – intervene, or stand by while thousands are massacred. In this week’s NS Essay, Jonathan Powell, Tony Blair’s chief of staff from 1994 to 2007, makes the case that “we would be foolish” to rule out military intervention in Syria:
If such a civil war spreads across the whole arc of Middle East where Sunni and Shia communities rub up against each other, from Lebanon and Iraq to Iran, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, the consequences for all of us will be profound.
Accusations of double standards by the west – “of turning a blind eye to Middle Eastern governments that did not share our values, because they were strategic allies or because of the dependence of our societies on the hydrocarbons their countries produced” – should not lead us to be neutral about what is happening in Syria, Powell writes:
Evil regimes are a threat to, not defenders of, long-term stability and prosperity – and they are best overturned.
Elsewhere in the issue, Mehdi Hasan argues that intervention in the country will not stop the violence and “could prove a moral and political catastrophe”:
Syrians . . . should decide their own future. Yes, some are calling for foreign military intervention. But others don’t want a rerun of Libya – or, dare I say it, Iraq.
There is no simple solution, Hasan writes, but he outlines the diplomatic alternatives to an attack from the air:
. . . options include exerting further pressure on the Chinese and (especially) the Russians to back a Security Council resolution isolating and condemning the Syrian regime; threatening Assad and his cronies with International Criminal Court indictments; and widening the range of targeted, multilateral sanctions on the regime.
Also in the New Statesman
In Observations, Laurie Penny delivers a scathing response to Andrew Marr’s BBC1 series for the royal jubilee, The Diamond Queen:
The BBC’s impartiality seems to have been suspended for this hour-long propaganda roll. Given that a substaintial proportion of us still think of the monarchy as an embarrassment at best and at worst, to quote [John] Cooke, “dangerous to the liberty, safety and public interest of the people”, you’d think there would be some acknowledgement that not everyone is happy to be a subject . . . “We don’t live in a Tory country or a coalition nation; governments are merely lodgers,” says Marr, obsequiously describing the point of all this panting and groaning — the desperate notion that royal pomp and circumstance can bring together a country that is, in reality, only growing more divided. Whether or not the Queen is a lovely old lady with a fantastic array of hats is beside the point. This is not history. This is masturbation. Britain is in too much trouble right now to sit around playing with itself.
Elsewhere, Rafael Behr considers Nick Clegg’s prospects for survival in Westminster; Helen Lewis profiles Facebook’s $1.6bn woman, Sheryl K Sandberg; Rebecca McClelland travels to Devon to meet the award-winning journalist-photographer Don McCullin; the Third Reich Trilogy historian, Richard J Evans, warns against comparing Germany today with what it was in 1933; Alastair Sooke rhapsodises about the early work of Lucian Freud on display in a major exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in London, and we publish a new poem by the Austrlian writer, John Kinsella.