8th – 14th April issue
The Tories at war
Cover story: The Tory wars.
Simon Heffer on the uncivil strife gripping the Tory party.
David Marquand on the English Question: Why does a nation of 54 million people have no parliament of its own?
Politics: Stephen Bush on what the steel crisis says about Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.
Helen Lewis on the Panama Papers, a Bahamas-based investment fund and the origins of David Cameron’s family finances.
Andrew Harrison tracks down The Word’s Terry Christian – the Manchester street kid who became the most hated man on TV.
Diary: Lucy Worsley on “Game of Gnomes” at Hampton Court Palace and a day at the WI.
A Tale of Two Titans: Salman Rushdie on Cervantes and Shakespeare.
Simon Heffer on the Tory wars: How David Cameron lost control of his party.
In this week’s cover story, Simon Heffer explores the fierce war in the Conservative Party triggered by the coming EU referendum – and talks to insiders about fears that ill-feeling will fester long after the vote on 23 June:
The current division [in the party] is open and is breeding hostility, luxuries afforded by one of the Tories’ few unifying beliefs: that Labour poses no threat at the moment, and they can have a quarrel that may even verge on civil war without fearing electoral consequences. Whatever the outcome, the present quarrel allows the opportunity for a major realignment of the party without it having to go out of office. A minister who is (just, and after much soul-searching) committed to our staying in the European Union told me frankly last week that the Tory party was “a mess” and that, whatever happened on 23 June, the referendum would be the beginning and not the end of a painful process for the Conservatives.
Such is the paranoia about what will happen to the party post-23 June that “no one sensible” in the Remain camp will speak to Heffer on the record about how things might turn out after the referendum:
“If we vote to leave, then we leave,” a Remain minister tells me. “That’s the end of it, and it’s the end of Cameron, too [. . .] But the nightmare scenario is that we vote narrowly to stay in. That’s when things turn really ugly.”
The “nightmare” is what occupies the thoughts of an increasing number of Tories. The mood among the Remainers is already so bitter – especially, it seems, among those around Osborne, rather than those around the Prime Minister, for they see their man’s promotion prospects as hanging entirely on the outcome of the vote – that calls for magnanimity in victory may not be heeded. Given the profoundly anti-EU temper of the Tory party, such an attitude would be dangerous for its unity and health even if the victory were on the scale of that in 1975. If, as is more likely, the difference is of a few percentage points, the consequences of such an atmosphere of recrimination could be devastating.
[. . .] Many more dogs are likely to be unleashed. Things promise to become far nastier, dirtier and ever more internecine for the Tories, not just before 23 June but for a long time afterwards: and with the party in power for at least four more years, one can only guess what that means for the governance of Britain.
David Marquand on the English Question and the reawakening of an ancient nation.
In this week’s NS Essay, David Marquand argues that the EU referendum has created an “English Question” similar to the Irish and Scottish Questions that have previously preoccupied the British political class.
England and the English now face the primordial questions that face all self-conscious political communities: “Who are we?”, “Who do we want to be?” At bottom, these questions are philosophical, in a profound sense moral, not economic or institutional. They have to do with the intangibles of culture and sentiment, not the outward forms that clothe them. In stable and settled political communities they are rarely discussed. They don’t need to be. But the political community that is England is neither stable nor settled. Fuelled in part by resentment of the alleged unfairness of the devolution process and in part by the psychic wound left by the end of the Anglo-British empire, an inchoate, grouchy English nationalism is now a force to be reckoned with. St George’s flags flying on 23 April; the extraordinary rise of Ukip; David Cameron’s panic-stricken attempt to “renegotiate” Britain’s role in the European Union – all tell the same story: the “secret people of England”, as
G K Chesterton called them, are secret no longer.
Politics: Stephen Bush on what the steel crisis has revealed about Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.
The editor of the Staggers blog, Stephen Bush, explains that Jeremy Corbyn’s response to the steel crisis is both highly characteristic of his leadership style and a reminder of how powerless a leader of the opposition is:
[Corbyn’s] decision to cut short his holiday to visit the steelworks in Port Talbot, which is under threat following Tata Steel’s decision to sell off its British operations, was entirely in keeping with the Labour leader’s style of politics. It came from the heart and left his office scrambling to keep up – and it also left David Cameron, who opted to remain in Lanzarote, looking callous.
The forces that threaten to destroy Port Talbot’s steelworks could have been scripted in the Labour leader’s office, so perfectly do they illustrate the core preoccupations of the Corbyn project. A linchpin of the local economy – and a strategic national asset – is owned not by Britain but by an Indian conglomerate, which is powerless to maintain the value of its business against heavily subsidised steel production by the government of China. (An autocratic state that, lest we forget, George Osborne wants to let control other key infrastructure, such as nuclear power stations.)
Imagine for a moment that the crisis had occurred not in 2016 but in 2013, while Ed Miliband was leading Labour. His aides would have talked about “winning the big arguments”, doubtless excitedly passing among themselves a piece from whichever right-wing columnist was prepared to concede that the free-market model had a few small flaws. Miliband would have posed for photographs outside the steelworks, making Cameron – who would have opted to remain in Lanzarote – look callous.
But then, inevitably, it would have fallen apart. Miliband would have attempted a balancing act: offering on the one hand a strident criticism of global capitalism and all its works and, on the other, attempting to reassure big business that free enterprise would be safe under Labour. The result, as so often under Miliband, would have been to leave no one with a clear idea of what, exactly, the party would do differently.
Helen Lewis on the Panama Papers and the Prime Minister.
Although the Panama Papers were leaked, no ethical dilemmas attended their publication, Helen Lewis notes. Cross-party outrage did, however:
Unlike the disclosures of WikiLeaks and Edward Snowden, there is no question here of national security being breached; unlike the Sony hack, there is no celebrity tittle-tattle being passed off as news. The only questions that should have troubled reporters are: a) “Are these documents real?” and b) “Can I protect the source?” Whoever leaked the 2.4 terabytes of data is very brave; he or she is now in the sights of every corrupt politician, state-sanctioned gangster and kleptocrat between here and the Río Chagres.
Reading the Papers gave me a huge rush of anger and I was glad to see left and right united in condemnation. But we have to be realistic about the likely impact: it is notoriously hard to embarrass the super-rich and they will now have ample confirmation that “everyone is at it”. So far we haven’t even been able to extract an answer from David Cameron over his father’s Blairmore fund, established when David was 16. Were his Eton fees paid with money that had previously taken a lovely sunny holiday offshore? Was his Bullingdon Club uniform bought with wealth grown using a system his own Chancellor has called “morally repugnant”?
The most telling line came in the rebuttal from the firm involved, Mossack Fonseca, which claimed that in 40 years of operation it had never been charged with criminal wrongdoing. No, I imagine not.
Arts Interview: What Terry Christian did next.
He began life as a street kid in Old Trafford and became the most hated man on television. Andrew Harrison tracks down Terry Christian, presenter in the 1990s of Channel 4’s infamous late-night show The Word:
With its fluorescent acid trappings, its audience of genuine twentysomethings instead of listless dancers and its techno-house theme tune by 808 State, The Word connected with the more democratic, less uptight post-rave sentiments of the early 1990s. After a move from teatime to a late-night slot on Fridays, the show quickly became required viewing for an audience still shouldering the tyranny of pubs’ 11 o’clock closing time.
[. . .]
Christian’s cheekiness and occasional rudeness to his guests were products, he tells me, of panic and insecurity. On the one hand, he was expected to control a live audience while a voice in his ear screamed at him to get to the next killer question – for instance, asking Whitney Houston if she was a lesbian or not (on that occasion, an audience member got him off the hook by asking her first). On the other hand, here was a young, working-class man in an industry dominated by the privately educated, with their inexhaustible reserves of confidence. What else does a northerner with his back against the wall do but go on the offensive?
“I was literally out of my comfort zone,” he says, smiling grimly. “I couldn’t sleep properly, I [was] under a lot of pressure and I just couldn’t do wacky or zany. Trying to behave like someone who actually belongs where you are was weird. And hard.” Yet he managed to front it up series after series, to the extent that this insecure, self-doubting presenter was routinely criticised for being arrogant.
These days Christian, now 55, has made his peace with his showbiz past and is quietly pursuing his own stand-up career, as well as a handful of eccentric projects:
Today, it’s a tough market out there for a former youth presenter. Christian would like to work more – “I’ve got a mortgage!” – but the problem is, he’s just no good at being freelance. “If I was my own boss, I’d sack me for being lazy,” he jokes, possibly without realising that he is his own boss. “My mates are always telling me that I’ve had it easy, I’ve never had to hustle, and they’re kind of right. The irony is that everything I’ve ever done on TV or radio, the ratings have gone up. Yet nobody’s falling over themselves to offer me stuff. It is kind of frustrating.”
Diary: Lucy Worsley on a day at the WI.
In this week’s Diary, the historian and curator Lucy Worsley explains why Hampton Court Palace will soon be overrun by gnomes:
Hampton Court can lay claim to Britain’s first garden gnome – a character called Umbriel, named in Alexander Pope’s poem set at the palace, The Rape of the Lock. This summer’s gnomes project (informal title: “Game of Gnomes”) is a community art endeavour to create gnomes for each of our wildly different historical gardens. My gnome will stand in the Privy Garden and I’ve just learned which famous actor will provide his voice. I’m not allowed to tell you who, but I can say that I’m very pleased.
. . . and she spends a morning at the WI:
On Thursday, I went to Portsmouth to speak to the annual meeting of the Hampshire Federation of Women’s Institutes in the Guildhall. I always love addressing a hall full of cackling women. As it is the year of the Queen’s 90th birthday, they decided to sing not just one, but two verses of “God Save the Queen”. “We’ve written out the words of the second verse,” the organiser whispered in my ear, “so you’ll be able to join in.” I was forced to give her a quelling look. I may have many inadequacies but I think that you can expect the chief curator at Historic Royal Palaces to know the second verse of “God Save the Queen”.
Sultan Erdogan’s Ottoman wars: Tom Stevenson on why Ankara fears Turkey’s Kurdish-speaking east.
Christian Wolmar on Elon Musk’s Tesla motors and the myth
of a future of driverless cars.
Laurie Penny on why “celebrity feminism” isn’t so bad.
Barbara Speed: How a challenger to Bitcoin could reshape the law and entire industries.
Books: Shiraz Maher on Jihadi John, the London boy who became Islamic State’s chief executioner | Jane Shilling relishes Margaret Forster’s posthumous novel, How to Measure a Cow | Anthony Cummins praises new short stories by Helen Simpson and Ali Smith.
The NS pop critic, Kate Mossman, on the Rolling Stones and “Exhibitionism” at the Saatchi Gallery.
Television: Rachel Cooke is gripped by Undercover, Peter Moffat’s new BBC drama, starring Adrian Lester and Sophie Okonedo.
Telling Tales: Tony Blair’s former bandmate Mark Ellen recalls chaperoning Joan Collins at the Empire film awards.
For more press information, please contact Anya Matthews: firstname.lastname@example.org / 020 7936 4029 / 07815 634 396