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28 May 2014updated 28 Jun 2021 4:45am

In this week’s New Statesman | The elites vs the people

A first look inside this week’s magazine. 

By New Statesman

30 MAY 2014 ISSUE


Rage against the machine: how Europe’s anti-politics mood is fuelling the hard right

Crash test doctors: Ian Leslie meets the pilot helping to save lives in the NHS

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Mehdi Hasan: fear and loathing of Muslims is the Islam-sized elephant in the room

George Eaton: Labour must paint itself blue to defeat the purple peril

Isabel Hilton: how the memory of Tiananmen haunts modern China 25 years on

Laurie Penny on Elliot Rodger’s twisted life and misogynist extremism

Mark Lawson cheers the new football film that scores a rare victory

The novelist and activist Arundhati Roy takes on India’s tycoon class

Helen Lewis: why Ukip is cock-a-hoop about female MEPs

The prize-winning novelist Eimear Mcbride’s centenary celebration of Joyce’s Dubliners

Philip Maughan on Gove’s plans to axe English Literature GCSE





Anti-establishment parties are sweeping Europe, writes Mark Leonard in this week’s cover story. Can mainstream politicians win back our trust?


The middle class stayed at home in last week’s European elections, he notes, allowing disgruntled voters to dominate:


Two groups of voters showed up at polling stations in disproportionate numbers: urban voters from former industrial heartlands, who are at the sharp end of immigration, and rural voters put off by the liberal social values being adopted by mainstream parties of the centre left and right. It was their votes that sent tremors through the political system.


Leonard argues that insurgent parties such as Ukip, France’s Front National and Italy’s Lega Nord are filling a void created by mainstream politicians:


They are recasting politics as a dispute between the elite and the people, and are rediscovering the forgotten roles of opposition and expression (rather than seeking to govern – in fact, some parties such as Syriza in Greece and the Dutch Party for Freedom have gone to great lengths to avoid going into government).


Mainstream politicians must try harder to appeal to the electorate, Leonard writes, though he acknowledges that “it is, by definition, hard for politicians to appeal to an anti-political mood”. Many in the old parties are hoping that anti-politics will be self-limiting:


Eventually, if they are successful in elections, insurgent parties are forced to grapple with the compromises of power. And even where they fail to take up power, their very success can drive the masses back to mainstream parties. Katwala has labelled this “the Farage paradox” – that the more support Nigel Farage gets for Ukip, the less support there is for its core idea of leaving the EU. As he explains: “Ukip is appealing intensely to those that are certain they want to get out of Europe, but it is putting the undecided off. Most people like complaining about Brussels but that doesn’t mean that they want to risk leaving the club, and certainly not on a ticket back to the 1950s.”


It will take time for the insurgent parties to become the new establishment – and thereby destroy their own legitimacy. That is time the mainstream parties simply do
not have.





In his Lines of Dissent column, Mehdi Hasan fears for his family’s future as hard-right Islamophobic parties triumph in the European elections:


On Sunday, as the European election results began to flood in, with far-right parties on the march from Scandinavia to the Club Med, I joked with my (American) wife that we might have to start packing our bags and head across the pond.


Hundreds of column inches have been devoted to explaining how austerity economics, democratic deficits and mass immigration have helped bolster the continent’s far-right fanatics and neo-Nazi nutters. Our politicians and pundits have been less keen, however, to discuss the Islam-sized elephant in the room: what unites Europe’s far-right parties perhaps more than any other issue is their fear and loathing of people such as my wife and me.


While anti-Semitism has become “taboo in mainstream political discourse”, Hasan writes, fear and loathing of Muslims is being expressed with increasing force:


Islamophobia has gone mainstream. So it is time to ask my fellow Britons: is there a future for my family and me on this continent? I’m a proud British citizen, born and raised here, not to mention an ardent Europhile; my seven-year-old daughter is counting down the days until she can watch England play in the World Cup.


Nevertheless, Muslims are bombarded with hostile headlines and subjected to verbal or physical attacks on a near-daily basis.





In the Politics Column, George Eaton asks what the UK Independence Party’s triumph in the May elections means for Labour:


This was supposed to be Ed Miliband’s great moment. Labour figures had long awaited the May elections as an event that would see him confirmed as a prime minister-in-waiting. But Nigel Farage disrupted the ceremony. After Ukip’s performance, it was he, rather than Miliband, who acquired that most valuable of political commodities: momentum.


Eaton attributes Labour’s poor performance to a “transactional”, policy-driven offer that lacks a compelling story for the electorate:


In recent months, Miliband has assembled a series of interventionist policies with potential appeal to this group: a higher minimum wage, more affordable housing, tougher labour-market regulation and cheaper energy bills. What he has lacked, figures from all wings of the party argue, is an overarching narrative that resonates with voters as powerfully as Farage’s story of national loss and abandonment. Labour’s offer, it is said, has become too “transactional”.


How Miliband responds to the setback is now critical, he argues:


Conscious of such criticisms, Miliband has begun to recalibrate his message. “Blue Ed is back,” one Labour MP told me after his Thurrock speech. With its references to “family”, “community” and “solidarity”, Miliband’s address paid intellectual homage to Blue Labour, the group of communitarian thinkers assembled by Lord (Maurice) Glasman [. . .] To defeat the Purple Peril, Labour must once again paint itself blue.


*Read the Politics Column in full below*





Ian Leslie meets Mark Bromiley, the soft-spoken airline pilot who is on a mission to change the way medicine is practised and to save countless lives from being lost through human error.


Errors abound in health care but we still find it hard to believe that the medical profession is as prone to mistakes as any other, Leslie writes:


There are other industries where mistakes carry grave consequences, but the mistakes of doctors carry a particular moral charge because their job is to make us better, and we place infinite trust in the expectation they will do so. When you think about it, it’s extraordinary we’re prepared to give a virtual stranger permission to cut us open with a knife and rearrange our insides as we sleep.


Perhaps because of the almost superstitious faith we need to place in surgeons, we hate to think of them as fallible; to think that they perform worse when they are tired, or that some are much better at the job than others, or that hands can slip because of nerves, or that bad decisions get taken because of overconfidence, or stress, or poor communication. But all of these things happen, because doctors are human.


Bromiley, who founded the Clinical Human Factors Group after his wife died as a result of human error during surgery, is transforming the NHS by applying safety standards developed in his own industry:


The most significant human factors innovation in health care in recent years is surprisingly prosaic: the checklist. Borrowed from the airline industry, the checklist is a standardised list of procedures to follow for every operation, and for every eventuality. Checklists compensate for the inbuilt tendency of human beings under stress to forget or ignore what is important, including the most basic things (the first item on one aviation checklist is FLY THE AIRPLANE).





Rafael Behr: Labour shouldn’t delight in the Lib Dems’ demise

Michael Prodger traces Piet Mondrian’s journey to universal colour at the Turner Contemporary gallery in Margate

John Garth on Tolkien’s Beowulf and the deep roots of Middle-earth

Alice Robb: why you shouldn’t tell a woman she lacks confidence

The NS Science columnist Michael Brooks shines a light on the essential nature of matter

Will Self on patrician beards and the imperial trolley at Simpson’s-in-the-Strand

Kevin Maguire’s Commons Confidential: why Max Clifford’s furniture is gracing Ukip’s HQ; and the lights go back on at Big Eric’s Brentwood manor

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