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18 November 2019

Evening Call: Why won’t it all just go away?

Turns out, this time around, most of us really are Brenda “not another election” from Bristol.

By Jasper jackson

Not everyone in the UK can be quite as excited by the election as Jonn (who, as he mentioned last week, has actually abandoned the New Statesman team in the middle of the election that he is so excited about).

In fact, the response from our politics team following their constituency visits is that it feels like much of the public are less enthusiastic about exercising their democratic rights than they’ve been for quite some time. Turns out, this time around, most of us really are Brenda “not another election” from Bristol.

While last week’s Labour broadband announcement seems to have had some cut-through (with a little help from a BBC News alert) most of the pronouncements and announcements from the parties seem to be having little impact.

Today’s promise from Boris Johnson that he will cancel a planned cut in corporation tax to fund public services seems unlikely to significantly shift public perception of the Tories when it comes to the NHS.

Could all that change? Tomorrow we have the first of the planned head-to-head debates between Jeremy Corbyn and Johnson, which may well produce the kind of fireworks required to ignite the campaign. And on Thursday there’s the Labour Party manifesto launch that will provide something solid for the party to pitch to voters.

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As Stephen pointed out this morning in the New Statesman office, this is the week in which the polls need to start moving in Labour’s direction if the party is to have any hope of halting a Tory majority without the intervention of Conservative incompetence or unexpected events.

Then again, it’s not difficult to understand why we are all feeling a little unmotivated. We’ve had unending Brexit arguments, elections every two years, the prorogation of parliament and two prospective Prime Ministers who, for most voters, are a choice between bad and worse.

That on top of the fact that this is the first December election since 1923 means it’s not unreasonable to start wondering if the UK’s most momentous election in generations could be decided by whichever side’s voters are least bored by the whole thing.

Good day for

Sheep, or at least sheep that don’t like being used as props in nude calendars. A nude calendar featuring students from the Royal Veterinary College included an image of seven male final-year students holding the sheep in a “standard handling mechanism” that nevertheless had the advantage of hiding their genitals from view.

An outcry from vegan organisations has led the college to delay publication so the image can be removed and will presumably dissuade future students (and everybody else) from using sheep as modesty-protecting props in future.

Bad day for

The Oxford Union, which is under fire after a video of a blind black student was dragged out of an event “by his ankles”. Twenty-five-year-old PHD student Ebenezer Azamati had reportedly attempted to reserve a seat as he was concerned about provisions for those with disabilities. When he returned and tried to take his seat he was forcibly ejected.

As was pointed out by Patrick French on Twitter, Oxford University’s insistence that its famous society is an “independent” organisation over which it has “no control” is unlikely to cut it with a furious student body.

Quote of the day

“On the day Boris Johnson addressed the CBI, it’s great to get a firmer idea of what he meant when he said ‘fuck business’.”

It’s probably cheating to use a quote from Guardian commentator Marina Hyde in this slot, but, to be frank, this opener to her piece on the latest developments in the Jennifer Arcuri story (hers was the second big interview to generate headlines this weekend)  had enough of the New Statesman’s web desk chuckling to make it a no brainer.

Everybody’s talking about…

That Newsnight interview with Prince Andrew. And you can see why. As Royal Central website editor Charlie Proctor tweeted: “I expected a train wreck. That was a plane crashing into an oil tanker, causing a tsunami, triggering a nuclear explosion level bad.”

As Roger Mosey wrote for us today, if Andrew wanted to calm the scandal, he couldn’t have picked a worse programme to be interviewed on than Newsnight, or a worse interviewer to be interviewed by than Emily Maitlis, who tore him apart.

If you haven’t watched the interview, it’s a gripping piece of TV… or you could just scroll through Twitter for the incredulous response to Andrew’s cack-handed attempt to clear his name.

Everybody should be talking about…

The highly unusual leak of emails from the top of the Chinese Communist Party, detailing its policies towards ethnic Uighurs and other Muslims in Xinjiang.  The documents show how the country spins the mass detentions for the public, and in particular students returning home to find their loved ones, in some cases whole families, have been locked up for re-education.

Read the whole damning story here.


As promised, this week a selection of New Statesman staffers will be filling in for Jonn while he’s off drinking mulled wine and spending slightly less time tweeting about maps.

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