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6 July 2016

The New Statesman Cover | The Brexit bunglers

A first look at this week's magazine.

By New Statesman

The Brexit bunglers
8 – 14 July issue 

The Brexit bunglers: A special issue on the aftershocks from the momentous Europe vote.

Stephen Bush and Helen Lewis on the Brexit cowards.

Simon Heffer on the battle inside the Tory party.

Brendan Simms on Britain’s future in a post-Europe era.

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Peter Wilby and Philip Collins debate whether it’s time for the left to forgive Tony Blair.

Jason Cowley on Gove the polite assassin, clubbable leaders and a fitting tribute to the carnage of the Somme.

George Eaton on the civil war between Corbyn and his MPs.

Will Self reflects on the crisis in Britain after Brexit.

Guest Column: John McDonnell on Corbyn haters and how George Osborne rushed to ditch his austerity agenda.

Jeremy Bowen writes this week’s Diary from Iraq.

Laurie Penny on the triumph of women in politics.

*PLUS: Record traffic for the NS website in June 2016*


The Brexit cowards.

In this week’s cover story, Stephen Bush and Helen Lewis consider how the Brexiteers have absolved themselves of all responsibility for the consequences of their victory.

You break it, you own it. That’s the rule at Pottery Barn, an American high-end furniture chain store that has yet to cross the Atlantic. As far as the Brexit brigade is concerned, the idea hasn’t yet made the journey either.

In the fortnight since Britain voted to leave the European Union, the pound has fallen to a record low. The resulting bounce in the FTSE 100, trumpeted by the Leave side, is largely reflective of companies that hold their assets in currencies other than sterling. More worryingly, output in the construction industry fell at the fastest rate since 2009. In private discussions, at both the Treasury and the Bank of England, the question is not if there will be a recession, but how severe it will be when it comes.

So, where are the Brexiteers? There is plenty of smashed crockery on the floor and there will surely be more – yet the main players are edging away from the scene, eyes to the floor, mumbling their way past the cashiers and hoping someone else will pay for it. This “best of luck with it all, chaps” attitude was epitomised by the Tory MEP Daniel Hannan, who tweeted on 25 June: “After campaigning solidly since December, I’m going to take a month off Twitter.” (He has since deleted the tweet, but returned to the social network six days later to suggest that the result was a victory for “the working classes against the smirking classes”.)

In the days since the vote for Brexit, two of the biggest beasts involved in the Leave campaigns, Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage, have also stepped back from front-line politics. They leave behind little clarity on a range of urgent questions, such as the status of EU nationals already living in the UK; the willingness of voters to accept freedom of movement as the price of access to the single market; and exactly when Article 50 will be triggered, if it will be triggered at all. It is unclear even who will conduct trade negotiations on the UK’s behalf, because, in four decades of EU membership, the country has had little need for such bureaucrats and so it has retained few. (We might have to recruit staff from New Zealand.)

Nor have those ultimately responsible for the situation Britain finds itself in – the pro-Remain Tories, led by David Cameron and George Osborne, who agreed to the referendum to appease their own backbenchers – been any keener to own the outcome. Osborne was ridiculed for not emerging to make a speech or statement until Monday, 27 June. It brought to mind his old nickname: the Submarine.


Brendan Simms: A new balance of power.

After Brexit, Brendan Simms, the author of Britain’s Europe: a Thousand Years of Conflict and Co-operation, asks if full political union of the eurozone is the only way to stop the disintegration of Europe:

The hope that the shock of Brexit will provoke profound reform in the European Union is based on a misunderstanding of the nature of national governments represented in the European Council and among Brussels elites. They need help but, like alcoholics, they also need to realise the utter wretchedness of their condition before they ask for it. Continental Europe, unfortunately, has much further to fall before it can rise again. At the moment, it is still in denial.

That should not stop Washington and London from trying to persuade the European Union, or at least the eurozone, to achieve a full political union on the model of Anglo-America. This could be an asymmetric union of “core Europe”, in which Germany took on the role played by England in the United Kingdom. Alternatively, it could be a more symmetric, larger union of the entire eurozone along American lines. Only by linking debt, defence and democracy as pioneered in the United States will Europe be able to stabilise the currency, deter Russia and address the democratic deficit against which electorates are rebelling. The alternative is either continued chaos, or a return to the nation state and the untethering of Germany from the continental order.

Whatever the solution in mainland Europe, the future attitude of the UK to the EU will determine the survival of this union, after Brexit even more than before it.

In this context, we urgently need to know the Brexit mainstream’s attitude to the European project. Farage, who resigned on 4 July as the leader of the UK Independence Party, may be containable but the full force of a new Brexit government will be a very different proposition. Theresa May hasn’t said much yet but, as a soft Remainer, she is unlikely to seek confrontation with the EU. In recent days, the once sulphurous Boris Johnson has been more conciliatory, even saying that the EU “was a noble idea for its time”, but he is no longer a candidate for the Tory leadership. Since the referendum result, Michael Gove has spoken of his hope that “we can build a new, stronger and more positive relationship with our European neighbours, based on free trade and friendly co-operation”. He has also, however, expressed a desire that Brexit should spark a “democratic liberation” of the continent. Gove now needs to explain what that means. If he has a Farage-style return to the national states and currencies in mind, the EU will resist him tooth and nail, and rightly so, as the European project is still the continent’s last, best hope on Earth. If, however, he means the establishment of a full parliamentary union of the eurozone to provide democratic legitimation for its decisions, then he is pointing the way out of the crisis. Of all people in British politics, Gove, a Scot who believes passionately in the UK, is perhaps best placed to make the argument for a multinational political union of the continent (without Britain). Yet he is unlikely to get the chance to do so, trailing as he is behind May and Andrea Leadsom, a hard Brexiteer, in the leadership contest.


Simon Heffer on the battle inside the Tory party.

The rupture between Tory Remainers and Leavers is visceral and will not heal easily, writes Simon Heffer:

The knifings, hysteria, hypocrisy, posturing and dishonesty of the Tory leadership campaign have exceeded even what the party regards as par for the course. As a training ground for our public life, the Oxford Union Society has much to answer for. Talk of a coronation for Theresa May angered supporters of her two main rivals, Michael Gove and Andrea Leadsom. Both went to the media to stress that May was a Remainer but the will of the people is that Britain leaves the European Union. These are early days but this reminds older Tories of the division between appeasers and re-armers in 1938-39. When R A Butler failed to persuade the party’s “magic circle” to anoint him in 1957 and in 1963, the taint of his having been an appeaser lingered still. The divisions between Remainers and Leavers are similarly visceral and will take more than a leadership election and a new prime minister to heal.

Most Tory Remainers avoid rhetoric about a second referendum, a legal challenge or hoping that Article 50 will never be invoked. But the behaviour of some in the referendum campaign has bred grudges, with the most outspoken Remainers – George Osborne, Anna Soubry and Amber Rudd are often cited – regarded as “unforgivable” and marked for their political lives. May was not so blatant in her support for Remain, which is now being held against her as proof that she lacks the courage of her convictions and therefore leadership qualities.

The latest antagonism is over Gove’s behaviour towards Boris Johnson. The glib reaction about Gove’s “treachery”, advanced by careerists disobliged by his rival’s withdrawal (Johnson’s team had been campaigning nakedly for support in a putative leadership contest for weeks), is only one side of the argument. Gove realised that Johnson, without the Vote Leave team behind him, was fundamentally shambolic: he appeared to be offering the same cabinet jobs to various potential supporters, compounding his reputation for duplicity. The reality check that Gove imposed on Johnson was undeniably good for politics, even if not for him. More MPs than were prepared to admit it were mightily relieved, and deserted, hence the evaporation of Johnson’s campaign.


Special report: Should Tony Blair be forgiven?

As the long-delayed Chilcot report is published, Peter Wilby and Philip Collins reassess the legacy of the former Labour prime minister. Wilby argues that Blair undermined his own party and does not deserve forgiveness:

Even Tony Blair’s most steadfast supporters now acknowledge that he was guilty of errors in taking Britain to war in Iraq in 2003, particularly in failing to plan – or perhaps failing to insist that the United States should plan – for the aftermath of a successful invasion. But, they plead, this was a leader who delivered three consecutive election victories for his party, all by substantial margins, and seemed for a time to have turned Labour into Britain’s natural governing party. His governments introduced a national minimum wage, hugely increased spending on health and education, devolved power to Scotland and Wales, brought peace to Northern Ireland, lifted 700,000 children out of poverty, introduced civil partnerships for gay people, more than doubled the overseas aid budget and put Freedom of Information on the statute book.

Does Blair not, therefore, deserve forgiveness for his mistakes over Iraq, mistakes that derived from a dedication to justice and freedom and an anxiety to take no risks with Britain’s security? Should he not be celebrated for his extraordinary achievements as Labour leader?

My answer is an emphatic “no”. Blair wasted Labour’s best chance in a generation to change the national mood and forge a new consensus. Far from making the 21st century an era of progress, as was supposedly his ambition, he created the conditions for another conservative, even a reactionary, century. He hollowed out the Labour Party, stripping it of purpose and self-belief. Not least through his behaviour after leaving office, he also hollowed out British politics, creating distrust and negativity. The political and social climate following the vote for Brexit – Labour facing electoral oblivion, the political stage dominated by shameless populists, racism and xenophobia once more becoming commonplace, the national mood sour and cynical – is his legacy.

Collins, a former speechwriter for Blair, argues that it is time for the left to make its peace with Iraq:

A party of a century’s vintage is on the threshold of collapse. The publication of the Chilcot report will be an occasion to replay the old argument. The only effect now is moral indignation. Being angry lets nobody off the hook. The point has been made and now, surely, it is time to let it lie.

To which I can hear the instant response of the irritable wit: the only person who lied was Tony Blair. Blair can help himself. He has another cause to speak about now: Europe. He should limit his public interventions to speak about how we negotiate our way through the mess into which a generation of ideological Conservative politicians has dropped us. There is 48 per cent of the country keen to hear someone frame those arguments cleverly. Blair always does: but the omertà on Iraq extends to him, too.

It extends to all of us – not, I repeat, because it does not matter, but because we have exhausted what we have to say on Iraq. The argument is self-harming. It is corroding Labour from the inside. Somehow people have to find the courage to quieten their convictions. To forget, if not to forgive, not for Blair’s sake, but for your own sake. The Labour Party has said too much about this topic. A period of silence on its part would now be appreciated. The rest, otherwise, really will be silence.


Editor’s Note: Jason Cowley.

Jason Cowley reflects on Michael Gove the “polite assassin” and the benefits of having unclubbable leaders, and describes a fitting tribute to the Somme:

Last year we published a long profile of Michael Gove, presciently headlined “The polite assassin”. Gove is renowned for his elaborate courtesy, his oratorical gifts and intelligence as well as his zeal for institutional reform. Yet perhaps his politeness matters little now compared to his ruthlessness and instinct for political assassination. First he destroyed his friend the Prime Minister and then, most spectacularly, his old mucker from Oxford Boris Johnson, having first agreed to run his leadership campaign. Few would doubt that the suicide bomber, as Gove is being called at Westminster, did us all a great service by destroying Johnson’s prime ministerial ambitions. We should be no less pleased that he also ended, inadvertently, the era of rule by the Notting Hill chumocracy, of which Gove and his wife, the Daily Mail columnist Sarah Vine, were such essential members.


May ice queen

Speak to Tory MPs about Theresa May and you are told that she is cold, unclubbable and remote – not such bad characteristics in a prime minister at a time of profound national crisis. Clement Attlee, after all, was hardly clubbable and had none of the charisma of some of his rivals.

May, it is said, has few close political friends at Westminster; there are no Mayites. She does not have her own think tank and is part of no clique. She seldom dines with newspaper editors or lunches with the lobby. Yet this daughter of a vicar is attracting support from all sides of the party because of her unshowy seriousness of purpose. She also commands extraordinary loyalty from those who have worked for her; one former aide told me May’s staff would “run through a brick wall” for her.

By contrast, David Cameron had too many friends, all just like him, high-born and expensively educated – one tired long ago of reading about who was close to whom among the Cameroons and which wives were godmothers to whose children and who was no longer speaking to whom because of some act of disloyalty or another. In truth, the whole scene stank of entitlement and smug self-regard. But Brexit has ended all of this, and so much else, and David Cameron will soon be remembered for little but his doomed European wager.


Outside the bubble

What kind of Tory is Theresa May? One friend describes her as being a classically Burkean conservative, one whose positions are informed by the past but who is “focused on the present and future”. She is no rigid ideologue and her decision-making, which civil servants report is first-rate, is evidence-based rather than being informed by mere political expedience. “She’s capable of doing politics differently because of her refusal to play the game as it’s played by most in the bubble,” I was told by one of her supporters. “That makes her exciting and means her premiership could be very different indeed.”


Boris’s brazenness

Certainly one yearns for a different approach. In recent days, Westminster has resembled nothing so much as an extension of the Oxford Union Society, with the great offices of state becoming mere bargaining chips in a peculiarly English game of thrones. On Monday, the London Evening Standard reported on “the plot that felled” that paper’s long-time hero. “There was a phone call between Boris and Gove,” a senior member of Johnson’s campaign team said. “Gove wanted to be chancellor, deputy prime minister and chief Brexit negotiator. Boris agreed only on chancellor.”

Pause to consider the arrogance. Johnson had not even submitted his nomination papers, and yet he was blithely appointing his cabinet, simultaneously offering the same position to several people, in his usual careless manner. Gove, who is famously innumerate, did not want one senior role: he wanted three! In the end, Gove had enough and he detonated his suicide belt, with satisfying consequences for all.


Stations of the lost

On Friday 1 July, as I came through the barriers at Liverpool Street Station, I nearly walked straight into a group of soldiers. Dressed in khaki First World War uniforms, some were standing, some were sitting, others moved slowly in a line as if being led towards some indeterminate destination. All were silent. The effect was mesmerising. It was as if the ghosts of the fallen of the Somme were among us: the living and the dead mingling on this subdued early summer morning.

I was reminded of a passage in Siegfried Sassoon’s Memoirs of a Fox-hunting Man, in which the author watches a division of men returning from the front. He describes an “army of ghosts” and how “. . . with an almost spectral appearance, the lurching brown figures flitted past with slung rifles and heads bent forward under basin-helmets”.

As Twitter soon revealed, these ghost soldiers were turning up at railway stations across London, as well as in Manchester, Newcastle, Glasgow and elsewhere in the country. They were not professionals but volunteers participating in a commemorative art project, conceived by the artist Jeremy Deller and Rufus Norris, artistic director of the National Theatre, and entitled We’re Here Because We’re Here. The aim, Norris said, was to create “a truly national piece of theatre” that offered “a powerful way to remember the men who went off to fight 100 years ago”.

After a short while, I approached one of the men, his face palely powdered, and asked if he was an actor or professional soldier. He remained silent but handed me what I took to be a standard business card, on which was written:

Private Frederick William Patience
1st/2nd Battalion London Regiment (Royal Fusiliers)
Died at the Somme on the 1st July 1916
Aged 23 years.

There was nothing more to be said.


George Eaton on the civil war between Corbyn and his MPs.

The NS political editor, George Eaton, writes that Jeremy Corbyn’s allies believe they will win any Labour leadership contest because their opponents haven’t learned from defeat:

Throughout the rebellion against Jeremy Corbyn, there was intermittent speculation that Labour leader wanted out. “JC was five minutes away from resigning,” I was told of the Labour leader’s mood after PMQs on 29 June. “But Seumas [Milne, his director of communications] torpedoed the discussions.” By the time the deputy leader, Tom Watson, eventually secured time alone with Corbyn for 20 minutes on 4 July, the latter said that he had no intention of departing.

In September 2006, it took just 17 Labour MPs to force Tony Blair to announce a date for his resignation. More than ten times that number have declared that they have no confidence in Corbyn. They have been joined by every living former Labour leader, Labour’s MEPs, 500 councillors and an increasing number of members (according to a YouGov poll). Blair endured the resignation of seven junior government members, including Watson. Corbyn has suffered 65 front-bench departures.

Yet unlike Blair, who capitulated after two days, the Labour leader has not yielded. Corbyn is characterised as a hostage held in place by the triumvirate of his shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, Milne and Karie Murphy, the director of the leader’s office and a confidante of Unite’s general secretary, Len McCluskey.

For a man who did not originally want the job (“Now we need to make sure I don’t win,” he told a supporter after he made the ballot in 2015), Corbyn has shown remarkable resilience. Allies say he is sustained by a feeling of obligation to the activists who voted for him as well as his deep political conviction. A shadow cabinet member speaks of a “wall of support . . . and McDonnell’s hand” preventing a retreat.

Should Corbyn face a leadership challenge, his advocates are confident that he will win again. “Though it will be close,” a senior ally added.

The same YouGov poll which found that 54 per cent of Labour members wanted Corbyn to resign before the next general election (and to do so immediately, in the case of 44 per cent) also showed him beating the putative challenger Angela Eagle by 50-40. When registered supporters are added, his position could be further strengthened. Momentum, the activist group, claims to have doubled its membership to 12,000 and received £11,000 per day in donations.

“What you’ve seen is a reinvigoration of the movement that grew last summer,” James Schneider, Momentum’s national organiser, told me. Rather than an ideological split, the divide is characterised as one between the “old politics” of Westminster and the “new politics” of activism. “A corridor coup, trying to prevent a vote, not being able to agree a candidate . . . It clarifies things for a lot of people,” Schneider said. “If your coup hasn’t succeeded in 48 hours, you’d better sue for peace pretty quickly.”

Yet afterwards, Corbyn’s opponents are hopeful that they can prevail. They speak of harnessing the energy of “the 48 per cent” who voted for the UK to remain in the EU and have been politicised by defeat. An unpublished poll by GQR found that 10 per cent of the public would pay £3 to participate in a leadership election. A plurality of this group oppose Corbyn. They consist of three segments: liberal cosmopolitans, “old right” Labour and “pure democrats” who want “a strong opposition”. Rather than being disheartened by polls showing Corbyn ahead, the rebels were cheered that opinion seemed to be shifting even before a contest had begun. They will seek to overcome activists’ traditional loyalty to the leader by counterposing loyalty to the party. The contest will be framed as a referendum on Labour’s very survival.


Guest Column: John McDonnell.

The shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, deplores former Labour leaders’ lack of comradeliness as they tour the TV studios attacking Jeremy Corbyn:

Two weeks after the vote to leave the EU and the Tories are in a full-blown leadership contest. Some Labour MPs are despondent at the outcome of the vote, while others are seeing it as an opportunity to achieve their personal ambitions.

I will fight tooth and nail to make sure our party never splits. Yet it is not a fight any Labour politician or member can do alone. We are a democratic socialist party and we cannot have one without the other. Those who wish to ignore one or both are the ones who wish to divide our party and movement.

I have really felt for Jeremy Corbyn over this period, as he is the first Labour leader to have former leaders touring the TV studios openly attacking him and calling for him to go. Although I or Jeremy would be happy to meet and discuss any views that those such as Neil Kinnock or his son have on how we dislodge a Tory government, we both think that such things should be done in a comradely way and not in the media.

The truth is that nine months after Jeremy became leader of the Labour Party on the back of an overwhelming mandate from party members, there are some members of the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) who have not been able to accept this outcome and never will be; some who were open and others who held their tongue but never their opinions. And there are those who are still not happy with the changes to the way we select a leader that equalised the rights of MPs with those of our membership.

Yet a quarter of a million members cannot be ignored. It is they who knock on the doors and deliver leaflets that help Labour MPs get elected. Those who feel they have a mandate from the electorate at a general election have to realise that it is a mandate that was won on a Labour platform and with the help of many members of the Labour Party, whose voice now needs to be recognised.

There are some Labour MPs who are intransigent to the leadership of Jeremy regardless. However, there are others who may not support Jeremy but respect democracy and want to see the Labour Party, regardless of who its leader is, take on the government. It is those MPs who understand that for our party to succeed it must be a comradely coalition.

That is why Jeremy in his calm and dignified way has proposed a period of consultation and dialogue to identify the views of those members of the NEC, trade unions and sections of the PLP on the best way forward. This is the way to take the heat out of the situation and bring people together, not just to oppose the Tories but also to shape the future of the country.


Rules to live by

After the vote to leave, George Osborne went to ground for several days. When he re-emerged, it became clear why. The Chancellor had promised an austerity Budget if Leave won the referendum, in a transparent attempt to blackmail the population. Yet “Project Fear” failed spectacularly; voters don’t like being bullied or threatened.

Instead, Osborne has signalled the reverse: tax giveaways and a suspension of the government’s discredited fiscal charter, which, despite Labour opposition, has been falling apart since it was pushed through parliament last year. We warned at the time that the Chancellor’s inflexible approach – putting restraints on capital expenditure as well as day-to-day spending – would fail miserably, and so it has turned out.

In the March Budget, thanks to the downgrading of the UK’s economic outlook, the first two tests of the fiscal charter were failed: the welfare cap breached for three years and government debt rising rather than falling. It was only thanks to some creative accountancy that the Chancellor avoided missing his third target: to be on course for a budget surplus in 2019/20. This went down the tubes, along with what was left of his career, after the Leave vote, which he inadvertently did much to bring about.

Labour has long argued that the right approach was one based on investment, fiscal policy working hand in hand with monetary policy. While it seems that George Osborne has finally accepted some of our arguments, it’s disappointing that yet again he has reached for corporate tax cuts as a response, pushing the UK further towards tax haven status.


Will Self: Lines of Dissent.

For his new fortnightly column, Will Self reflects on the crisis in Britain after Brexit:

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Since the EU referendum there’s been considerable soul-searching on the left – the trouble is, it isn’t our souls we’re searching, but rather those of the lumpenproletariat wot won it for Brexit. They may be deracinated “tribal Labour” – they could be altogether non-partisan; but they’ve emerged from the cracks and crannies of run-down northern estates to inflict this terrible wound on the British body politic. How could they have done it? We reach in our grab bag of hoary old epithets (the one we got “lumpenproletariat” from), and come up with “false consciousness”. Yes! That’s it – they must be suffering from a confusion about where their true interest lies, or else they couldn’t, in their millions, have made their exterminatory marks.

What about us? Our consciousness, I think, has been far more deceptive: it has prevented us from acknowledging the truth about all sorts of Terrible Things, such as our complete failure to push for a serious geopolitical realignment post-Iraq. In the run-up to 23 June, rather than espouse the positive case for a united Europe as a counterweight to the existing Great Powers, we, along with the political class we so poisonously resent, remained blinkered, with our heads still firmly rammed up the hegemon’s back passage. The late Willie Donaldson, in his alter ego as Henry Root, used often to opine, satirising the left-liberal position: “We’re all to blame”. And indeed, we are all to blame for this impasse; yet for as long as the possibility of holding someone else to account for Iraq remains, we can neither think clearly, nor act decisively.


Diary: Jeremy Bowen.

In the week of the publication of the Chilcot report, the BBC’s Middle East editor, Jeremy Bowen, writes a diary from Baghdad, the capital of a country scarred by bombs and jihadists and which has not known a day of proper peace since the 2003 invasion:

Here in Iraq, the week has not been dominated by the Chilcot report. Most Iraqis don’t know and don’t care that, 13 years after the invasion, Britain has finally got around to publishing an official account of what happened. Instead, they have been preoccupied with the agonies of daily life in a country that has not had a day of real peace since 2003. Late on Saturday 2 July, an Islamic State (IS) jihadist detonated a huge truck bomb and killed more than 200 civilians. The attack was extreme even by the grotesque standards that Iraqis have been forced to endure.

When the prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, visited the site in Karrada – usually one of the most bustling parts of Baghdad – a furious crowd stoned his car. IS is so malevolent, especially for Shias (who were the targets of the bomb), that its malice is never in doubt. Yet the government is supposed to look after the people and keep them safe, and its failure to do so makes it the focus of discontent. Iraqis are fed up with the ineptitude and corruption of the political class. More big demonstrations against the government are likely.

A policeman in Karrada looked at the damage with horror a few hours after the bomb exploded. No trace was left of some of the victims. In terms of lives lost, it was one of the worst single attacks in the past ten years. A map of bomb attacks in Baghdad has been published, each one marked with a red dot. The whole city is covered with them. On some streets, red dots stand in lines, a queue of ghosts.


Aerial policing

As I flew in to Baghdad Airport a couple of weeks ago, I looked at the rapidly approaching terrain below and a few words came into my head. Poor Iraq. Poor Iraqis. This was the place where civilisation emerged. It has water, from mountains in the north that are topped by snow in the winter, as well as from the Tigris and the Euphrates, two of the world’s great rivers. Iraq has enough oil and gas to make it as rich as Norway. Imperialism, Iraq’s blood-drenched politics and foreign invasion got in the way.

In the 1920s, the RAF dealt with tribal revolts in what was then still referred to as Mesopotamia by developing a doctrine of strategic bombing, known euphemistically as “aerial policing”. The Hashemite king Faisal II, much of his family and their servants were slaughtered during the coup that brought in the republic in 1958. The bodies of the king and the crown prince were strung up on lamp-posts. The Ba’athists who seized power in the 1960s were ruthless and the worst of all was Saddam Hussein, who seized absolute power in 1979.


Record traffic for the NS website in June 2016.

The New Statesman website registered record web traffic in June, thanks to its intelligent, informative and passionate coverage of the EU referendum and the aftermath. In a single month, there were five million visits to the site and four million unique users read more than 27 million pages. In a single day – 25 June – more than a million users visited the site.
The volume of traffic to the site reflects the quality of its content, with regular essays and cultural criticism from such world-class writers and thinkers as John Gray, Rowan Williams, Andrew Marr and Brendan Simms.
Jason Cowley, editor of the New Statesman, said: “In these momentous times there is real desire for honest, intelligent reporting and authoritative comment and analysis. Last month’s record online traffic figures – boosted by the EU referendum and subsequent fallout – follow very strong online growth since our site relaunched in August last year. Our print magazine sales continue to grow and the New Statesman has not been in better shape for four decades.”
Helen Lewis, deputy editor, added: “From social media to supermarket tills, the vote to leave the EU has driven millions of conversations about politics. The New Statesman website has responded by offering intelligent, informative critiques of our options for Brexit, extensive coverage of the fast-moving developments in the Tory leadership race and Labour’s shadow cabinet revolt, and passionate polemic about what happens next. The NS now has more than 125,000 fans on both Facebook and Twitter, sharing our stories with their friends and family.”
The team has been boosted by the arrival of Julia Rampen as editor of the Westminster-focused Staggers blog. She joins the NS politics editor, George Eaton, special correspondent Stephen Bush and deputy web editor Anoosh Chakelian in reporting on politics inside and outside Westminster.
The New Statesman was the first British periodical to launch an online edition (in 1995) and currently publishes all its magazine content online, free to view, a week after print publication. There are also PDF, Kindle and iPad editions of the magazine, published every Thursday. More than 40 per cent of the New Statesman’s web traffic is generated by online readers sharing content on social media.



Letter from Istanbul: Laura Pitel on how President Erdogan is making peace abroad while cracking down on dissent in Turkey.

Charles Leadbeater: How the left can woo back working-class
voters who chose Leave.

Helen Lewis on the former banker and Brexiteer Andrea Leadsom, who wants to be prime minister.

Kate Mossman talks gender-bending and the joys of drag with
Héloïse Letissier of Christine and the Queens.

Film: Ryan Gilbey considers the lustrous legacy of Absolutely Fabulous.

Television: Rachel Cooke gets light relief from Brexit Britain with Brief Encounters, ITV’s new serial about Eighties knicker parties.

Radio: Antonia Quirke learns about Roald Dahl, bone collector
and chocolate enthusiast, in Archive on 4.

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