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The English revolt
22 - 28 July issue

Cover story: The English revolt.
Robert Tombs
on Brexit, nationalism and identity.

George Eaton on Theresa May’s first days in government.

Terror in France: Shiraz Maher and John Simpson on the aftermath of the Nice attack and the threat of lone-wolf terrorists.

Letter from America: Robert Crilly watches the Trump roadshow roll in to Cleveland, Ohio.

View from Istanbul: Laura Pitel on the aftermath of Turkey’s botched coup.

Simon Wren-Lewis on the new Brexit economics and the failures of George Osborne’s austerity.

Jonathan Agnew’s diary: Why Theresa May is welcome on Test Match Special.

Will Self on the militarisation of France, and the francophile Boris Johnson at the Foreign Office.

Helen Lewis: How Jeremy Corbyn won the battle on Facebook.

 

****

Cover story: The English revolt.

Robert Tombs argues in this week’s cover story that even though England is the exception in Europe so far in having voted to leave the European Union, it is not alone in the disaffection it feels for the EU:

Why this decision? Why in Britain? The simplest and perhaps the best answer is that we have had a referendum. If France, Greece, Italy and some other countries had been given the same choice, they might well have made the same decision. But of course they have not been and will not be given such a choice, barring severe political crisis. This is most obviously because countries that have adopted the euro – even those such as Greece, for which the IMF has predicted high unemployment at least until the 2040s – have no clear way out.

I make this obvious point to emphasise that the immediate explanation of what has happened lies not only and not mainly in different feelings about the EU in Britain, but in different political opportunities and levels of fear. The contrasting votes in Scotland and Northern Ireland have particular explanations. Scottish nationalists – like their counterparts in Catalonia – see the EU as an indispensable support for independence. Northern Ireland sees the matter primarily as one affecting its own, still tense domestic politics and its relations with the Republic. In a European perspective, Scotland and Northern Ireland are the outliers, not England and Wales. Indeed, Scotland’s vote makes it stand out as one of the most pro-EU countries in Europe. If ever there is another referendum to see whether Scots prefer the EU to the UK, it will show whether this level of support for the EU is solid.

If England is exceptional, it is not in its disaffection from the EU, nor in the political divisions the referendum vote has exposed (if France, for instance, had such a vote, one could expect blood in the streets). Rather, its exceptional characteristic is its long-standing and settled scepticism about the European project in principle, greater than in any other EU country. Every member has a specific history that shapes its attitude to the theoretical idea of European integration. As John Gillingham, one of the most perceptive historians of the EU, describes its beginnings: “to the French [supranationalism was] a flag of convenience, to the Italians it was preferable (by definition) to government by Rome, to the Germans a welcome escape route, and to the Benelux nations a better choice than being dominated by powerful neighbours”

Subsequently, for the eastern European states, it was a decisive step away from communist dictatorship, and for southern Europe a line drawn under a traumatic history of civil conflict. There is also a widespread belief, powerful though fanciful, that the EU prevents war between the European states. All these are important reasons why there remains considerable support forunification as an aspiration. But all these reasons are weaker, and some of them nonexistent, in Britain, and especially in England. The simple reason for this is that Britain’s experience of the 20th century was far less traumatic. Moreover, during that time loyalty to the nation was not tarnished withfascism, but was rather the buttress of freedom and democracy. Conversely, the vision of a European “superstate” is seen less as a guarantee of peace and freedom, and rather as the latest in a five-century succession of would-be continental hegemons.

 

George Eaton: Mrs May’s mission.

The NS political editor, George Eaton, argues in his column this week that the new Prime Minister’s programme is a corrective not to David Cameron’s legacy or New Labour’s, but that of Margaret Thatcher:

It was inevitable that Theresa May would be compared to Mrs Thatcher. Both were shaped by their Christian fathers (May’s an Anglican vicar, Thatcher’s a Methodist lay preacher) and both adopted a rigorous moral code.

May’s mission is to construct the society that her predecessor envisaged but did not achieve. An ally described her as “politically seared” by the 1980s and the failure of many to “behave with necessary responsibility, generosity and public spiritedness”. Her ambition is to forge a model of growth that is not dependent on high immigration, an outsize financial services sector and industry focused on short-term gains. This aspiration sets her apart from Cameron and New Labour, who reformed the superstructure of Thatcherism but never challenged its economic base. In her campaign speech, May spoke of “cutting out all the political platitudes about ‘stakeholder societies’ [a favoured Blairite motif] – and doing something radical.”

Her target is not Margaret Thatcher but her more doctrinaire followers. One of the most notable demotions was that of the libertarian Sajid Javid, replaced as business secretary by the more interventionist Greg Clark. In a ConservativeHome article in March, Nick Timothy, May’s influentialjoint chief of staff, rebuked those “who make it a mark of their ideological machismo that they quote Ayn Rand” (Javid’s intellectual hero). Although the new cabinet was labelled the most right-wing in recent history, the appointment of the veteran Tory wet Damian Green as Work and PensionsSecretary similarly showed a more complex balance.

 

Shiraz Maher and John Simpson on terror in France.

The radicalisation expert Shiraz Maher warns that we should brace ourselves for more attacks by lone actors such as the one in Nice on Bastille Day:

Is this the new normal? That’s the question many people are asking after yet another deadly terrorist attack in France, this one on 14 July, the tenth such incident since 2014. Eight-four people were killed and more than 300 injured when a Tunisian resident of France drove a 19-tonne truck into crowds attending Bastille Day celebrations along the Promenade des Anglais in Nice. The massacre came a month after a lone gunman killed 49 revellers in an attack on a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida.

Lone-actor terrorism has historically been far more limited in scope and effectiveness than plots that have direct connection to a terrorist movement. Examples of such attacks in the UK include the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby in May 2013, and the attempted murder of the Labour MP Stephen Timms in 2010. As gruesome as these events were, they were aimed at politically sensitive targets: a soldier and a member of parliament. In both cases, the general public was spared.

A new study by the Royal United Services Institute, Leiden University, Chatham House and the Institute for Strategic Dialogue has mapped the outcomes of 72 loneactor attacks over the past 15 years. On average, these attacks resulted in 1.22 fatalities and 2.13 injuries. Compared to some of the biggest plots directed by al-Qaeda in Europe over the same period – such as the 7/7 attacks and the Madrid bombings – those figures are remarkably low.

This is now changing. The lone-actor attacks in Orlando and Nice demonstrate how a determined individual can still achieve high death tolls. They can also appear impossible to stop. After all, really, what can be done about a man who wishes to use a truck to kill and maim as many people as possible?

Strikes by single perpetrators are particularly effective for groups such as Islamic State, whose primary arena of activity is in the Levant, because such actions allow them to claim attacks in the West as their own – even when they are not.

The BBC’s world affairs editor, John Simpson, arrived in Nice within hours of the street massacre. He found a country in danger of losing its fundamental values as calls mount for the state to produce a “pitiless response”:

Nicolas Sarkozy says that France is now at war. So does Le Figaro, which was calling on Saturday for a “pitiless response”. “Merah, Charlie, Bataclan, Magnanville and now Nice . . . How many savage murders and blind massacres before our leaders admit that Islamic fanaticism is engaged in a struggle to the death against our country and our civilisation?”

As Le Figaro’s editorial director whipped himself up into a frenzy of imprecision in his editorial, I was reminded of a television interview I once did with Margaret Thatcher at the height of the IRA’s terror campaign. I was never an admirer of hers but on this occasion I thought she was magnificent. “War?” she said as the camera turned over. “War? This isn’t a war. These are criminals, murdering and injuring decent people. We’ll find them and the courts will put them in prison, and there’s an end to it.”

It worked. A lot of other things had to be done, including addressing the serious grievances of the nationalist community in Northern Ireland and changing the whole basis of life and society there. Yet after its appalling early mistakes the British government stopped declaring war and demanding pitiless responses. On the contrary: life went on as close to normal as possible throughout the IRA’s bombing campaign. There’s no doubt that some shameful things happened in secret, but the basic principle – that a civilised society should remain true to its values even when it’s under attack, and perhaps especially when it’s under attack – was maintained; and the IRA was eventually beaten.

There are dangerous characters in any country and they require monitoring and infiltrating. The Bataclan attackers in Paris last November were a disciplined group with a clear plan. But some of the worst incidents in Europe have been the work of deranged loners. Le Figaro called Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel, the mass murderer of the Promenade des Anglais, “a soldier of the caliphate”. Bulls**t: he was just a sad, nasty little character with a propensity for violence against women, who had stopped taking his medication and wanted to validate his craziness. No doubt the Afghan teenager who was shot dead on the German train after going berserk with an axe was deranged, too, but that didn’t make him a soldier in anyone’s army. Attacking people in the street is a horrible, vicious fashion, just like storming on to a university campus in America and shooting people with an assault rifle, or stabbing children to death in Chinese schools. You have to take proper precautions and eventually, with luck, the fashion fades away.

However, the security authorities have to get their act together. This is where the French system has fallen down. According to the right-wing president of the Nice regional council, there were only 45 policemen on duty at the 14 July celebrations. No significant roadblocks had been set up, and it was pathetically easy for [Mohamed] Lahouaiej-Bouhlel to steer his lorry round the concrete barriers and get on to the boulevard. The previous week a government commission under a centre-right politician, Georges Fenech, reported that France simply wasn’t very good at defending itself against terrorism. The commission recommended the establishment of a single national counterterrorism agency, in place of the six competing and, by all accounts, mutually hostile intelligence organisations.

 

Letter from Cleveland: Trump’s coronation.

Robert Crilly joins the GOP jamboree in Ohio to watch Donald Trump’s coronation as the Republican presidential candidate:

For a member of what Donald Trump calls his silent majority, Jim Morrison, a haulier from California, talks a lot. “He is touching on things I feel – that millions of Americans feel – but I don’t have the microphone and can’t take on Washington,” Morrison said. The words tumbled from his mouth as he stood beside the blood-red cab of his lorry, which carried him from his home state to Cleveland, Ohio, on a seven-day journey in a “Truckers for Trump” convoy.

Trump had promised an unconventional Republican National Convention and Morrison was typical of the new breed of political activists attending their first Grand Old Party summer jamboree. The start of the four-day convention also offered both a taste of what a Trump administration might look like and a summary of the factors that helped a bombastic billionaire and political novice secure the presidential nomination for the Republican Party.

The answers lay not just in the cavernous interior of the Quicken Loans Arena, where the delegates assembled, but also among the lawn-fringed public squares heaving with supporters and protesters vying to fly the most outrageous banners. Above all, they lay in the wide boulevards where heavy concrete barricades had been laid to prevent terrorist attacks, and in the flags flying at half-mast overhead, marking America’s latest mass shooting.

The convention began just a day after three police officers were shot dead by a gunman in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. “It’s pathetic that our society has got to the point where they are doing this to our cops,” said Morrison, the trucker, firing gobbets of tobacco-coloured spit on to the pavement.

If one theme sums up the issues at stake in this election – from jobs to terrorism – it is insecurity. The terrorist attack in Nice merely stoked fears that had grown during the past year as Americans dealt with Islamic State-inspired attacks on home soil, the murder of police officers and a gaping racial divide.

In Cleveland, all this manifested in the city ordering an extra 10,000 sets of handcuffs, deploying 5,500 law-enforcement officers and buying 300 bicycles for officers tasked with crowd control. Some of the measures were farcical – such as banning anyone carrying tennis balls from the convention environs – in a state where citizens are allowed to carry assault rifles openly.

This is the backdrop against which Trump delivers his hardline message, warning that terrorists could arrive among Syrian refugees and that the country needs a wall on its southern border. Indeed, Monday’s theme was “Make America safe again”, and outside the centre vendors hawked T-shirts portraying Trump as Captain America or Iron Man. “He’s a man to get things done, even if that might upset the PC crowd,” is how one delegate put it as she queued to get into the arena.

 

View from Istanbul: Laura Pitel.

Reporting from Turkey, Laura Pitel asks if democracy can survive the failed coup d’état of 15 July:

The climate of retribution in the aftermath of the failed coup could threaten Turkey’s minorities. In four towns in the south-east, offices of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) were attacked, even though the party had come out against the coup. There were reports of attacks on Syrian-owned properties in Ankara. In these turbulent times, an aggressive nationalism laced with intolerance and xenophobia is sometimes finding outlets.

Erdogan has hailed the foiling of the coup as a triumph for democracy. His opponents fear that he will use the failed plot as cover to crack down hard on his critics and push on with divisive plans to concentrate more powers in the hands of the presidency. They argue that the speed with which thousands in the military, police and legal system have been accused raises concern about due process.

It is far from clear how things will play out. But with war raging against Kurdish militants in the south-east, growing unhappiness at the presence of 2.7 million Syrian refugees, and suicide bombings at a rate of almost one a month, Turkey is highly flammable. It feels like the beginning of a deeply uncertain chapter in this country’s history.

 

Essay: The new Brexit economics.

The Oxford economist Simon Wren-Lewis argues that George Osborne’s austerity plan – now abandoned by the Tories – was the most costly macroeconomic policy mistake since the 1930s.

George Osborne is no longer chancellor, sacked by the post-Brexit Prime Minister, Theresa May. Philip Hammond, the new Chancellor, has yet to announce detailed plans but he has indicated that the real economy rather than the deficit is his priority. The senior Conservatives Sajid Javid and Stephen Crabb have advocated substantial increases in public-sector infrastructure investment, noting how cheap it is for the government to borrow. The argument that Osborne and the Conservatives had been making since 2010 – that the priority for macroeconomic policy had to be to reduce the government’s budget deficit – seems to have been brushed aside.

Is there a good economic reason why Brexit in particular should require abandoning austerity economics? I would argue that the Tory obsession with the budget deficit has had very little to do with economics for the past four or five years. Instead, it has been a political ruse with two intentions: to help win elections and to reduce the size of the state. That Britain’s macroeconomic policy was dictated by politics rather than economics was a precursor for the Brexit vote. However, austerity had already begun to reach its political sell-by date, and Brexit marks its end.

Elsewhere in the issue, Felix Martin suggests that Brexit may trigger a comeback for the eurozone:

. . . the wheel of fortune may turn. The UK will be past the peak of its housing and business cycles; the eurozone will at last be on the up. Eurozone investors who snapped up UK property in 2011 will revisit the valuation of real estate across the continent and ask themselves why they shouldn’t sell their flat in London and buy two in Rome instead. The tide of capital will reverse – and the tide of people, too.

The UK faces a changed environment after the Brexit vote yet it is how the cards fall in the eurozone, not in the UK, which will probably make the biggest difference. However things turn out, it is likely to be the end of Britain’s post-crisis economic model. That might be no bad thing.

 

Jonathan Agnew’s diary.

The Test Match Special presenter Jonathan Agnew notes that Theresa May is one in a long line of senior politicians with a passion for cricket. Can the new Prime Minister be lured to the commentary box during her premiership, he wonders:

Theresa May’s succession as Prime Minister continues the healthy connection between politicians and cricket. So far I have interviewed three presidents (Mandela, Mbeki and Musharraf), four prime ministers (Major, Cameron, John Howard of Australia and Gaston Browne of Antigua) and many other senior political figures. I am hopeful we can entice Mrs May, who watches her cricket at the Oval, to visit us next summer.

If my gentle persuasion is not enough, we can surely rely on Geoffrey Boycott’s less subtle approach. Mrs May has already surprised a few by revealing herself to be a fan of the greatest living Yorkshireman, and even delivered a cake to him when she visited Headingley last summer.

Be my guest
A Lord’s Test match is a wonderful social event, which gives me the chance to interview a wide variety of well-known personalities on Test Match Special. Last week’s victims ranged from Harry Potter’s Weasley twins to Britain’s most jubilant mum, the effervescent Judy Murray. Then Michael Parkinson turned the tables on me with an ambushed interview to celebrate my 25 years as BBC cricket correspondent. Wonderful memories.

The rock star Alice Cooper must rate as my most unlikely Lord’s guest (Boycott shook Mrs Cooper’s hand in the honest belief that she must have been Alice), while John Stevens of Scotland Yard gave me my best scoop. After meticulously sidestepping everything John Humphrys could throw at him that morning, Sir John arrived at Lord’s for his lunchtime date with me.

Fuelled by a glass of champagne and with the band of the Grenadier Guards playing on the hallowed turf, he carefully considered my question, identical to the one he had faced on the Today programme that morning, about the number of terrorist threats on London that had been thwarted by the Met. “Eight,” he replied. And then, as every mobile phone in the media centre instantly burst into life, he quietly slipped away on holiday.

Bowled over
I remain in contact with many of our guests and could not avoid a chuckle when, within seconds of each other, texts arrived from Nigel Farage and Ed Miliband. It probably will not be appreciated by either of them, but they are in fact united, albeit through cricket. Farage was wearing a Primary Club tie as he celebrated his victory in a private box in the Mound Stand. Supporting cricket for the blind and partially sighted, the Primary Club is open to all those who have been dismissed first ball in any form of cricket, and the tie is adorned with shattered stumps and flying bails.

Clean bowled! The referendum claimed more than its share of those.

 

Will Self: Lines of dissent.

France is changing, writes Will Self: the army stalks the streets and Boris Johnson wanders the Tuileries:

I often go to Paris for work, and so have been able to register the incremental militarisation of its streets since President Hollande first declared a state of emergency after last November’s terrorist attacks. In general the French seem more comfortable about this prêt-à-porter khaki than we’d probably be; the army-nation concept is, after all, encrypted deep in their collective psyche. The army was constituted as a revolutionary instrument. France was the first modern nation to introduce universal male conscription – and it continued in one form or another right up until the mid-1990s.

Even so, it was surprising to witness the sang-froid with which Parisians regarded the camouflaged phantoms wandering among them: a patrol numbering eight infantrymen and women moved up the roadway, scoping out doorways, nosing into passages – but when one peered into Le Fantôme, his assault rifle levelled, none of the boozing gamers paid the least attention. I witnessed this scene the Saturday after Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel ran amok on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice – it was a little preview of the new state of emergency.

On Monday 18 July the French premier, Manuel Valls, was booed at a memorial service for the victims of the Nice attacks – while Marine Le Pen has been making all the populist running, whipping up anxieties about the enemy within. For many French, the events of the past week – including the failed Turkish coup – are steps along the way limned by Michel Houellebecq in his bestselling novel Submission; a via dolorosa that ends with La Marianne wearing the hijab and France itself annexed by a new caliphate.

Into this febrile drama comes a new player: Boris Johnson, the British Foreign Secretary. What can we expect from this freshly minted statesman when it comes to our relations with our closest neighbour? There is no doubt that Johnson is a Francophile – I’ve run into him and his family at the Tuileries, and he made much of his own francophone status during the referendum campaign. In Paris last winter to launch the French edition of his Churchill biography, Johnson wowed a publication dinner by speaking French for the entire evening. He was sufficiently fluent to bumble, waffle and generally avoid saying anything serious at all.

 

Helen Lewis: How Jeremy Corbyn won the online battle.

In her column this week, Helen Lewis explains that “Facebook bubbles” are changing the political landscape:

Whatever troubles Jeremy Corbyn might have elsewhere, there is one place where he is unambiguously winning: Facebook. His personal page has more than 760,000 “Likes” and even more users will see its content shared by friends, or suggested underneath other articles. In a space where attention is currency, this is a huge achievement. In the week that Theresa May became Prime Minister, Corbyn’s Facebook page reached a third of all UK internet users, according to a source inside Labour’s digital team.

The amplifying – and so potentially distorting – effect of Facebook on public discourse is poorly understood, but it cannot be ignored. The social networking site’s influence, size and revenue are unmatched: while Twitter has 310 million monthly active users, Facebook has 1.65 billion. Twothirds of Britons use it every month.

The media are waking up to the reality that Facebook is both a conduit for their stories and a rival for their money. Politicians face a similar challenge but their trade-off is this: they get a direct connection to activists and supporters but with the risk of creating insular, self-reinforcing communities. (On the Jeremy Corbyn Facebook page, no one can hear you scream “unelectable”.)

We talk about the “Westminster bubble” but we should talk about the “Facebook bubble”, too. Most of us make friends who are like us in background and political leanings. Facebook’s algorithms give us more of what we have already shown we like. This creates increasingly polarised communities without us even noticing. Unlike when you walk into a petrol station and see the Sun next to the Guardian, on the internet it’s easy to forget that other opinions are possible.

 

Plus

Laurie Penny: How the Olympics show that your sex is not binary.

Provocation: Ian Leslie in defence of cool logic and reasoned expertise.

Newsmaker: Tim Wigmore on the unlikely renaissance of
Misbah-ul-Haq, Pakistan’s cricket captain.

Kate Mossman talks rivalries, revelations and athletic stagewear with the guitar legend Jeff Beck.

Andrew Glazzard looks at why the bomb is a leading character
in so many Cold War thrillers.

Gavin Jacobson considers the great philosopher’s plan for society as revealed in Nietzsche’s Great Politics by Hugo Drochon.

Jane Shilling on A S Byatt’s Peacock & Vine, an entwined meditation on the designers William Morris and Mariano Fortuny.

Joanna Walsh on a story of horses, race and redemption –
The Mare by Mary Gaitskill.

Film: Ryan Gilbey watches Mark Rylance shine through the
special effects in The BFG.

Television: Rachel Cooke watches BBC2’s The Secret Agent and BBC3’s Fleabag, “the UK’s answer to Girls”.

Radio: Antonia Quirke follows the remaking of Swallows and Amazons on Radio Cumbria.

          For more press information, please contact Anya Matthews: anya.matthews@newstatesman.co.uk / 020 7936 4029 / 07815 634 396.