New Times,
New Thinking.

1 October 2014updated 03 Oct 2014 12:30pm

In this week’s New Statesman | ISIS vs the world

A first look at this week’s magazine.

By New Statesman




The Middle East’s 30 Years War

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Francis Fukuyama ● John Bew ● Jonathan Rugman




The Politics Interview: George Eaton quizzes the Lib Dem MP Jeremy Browne about his leadership ambitions ahead of the Glasgow conference

Notebook from Jordan: Jemima Khan reports from the Zaatari refugee camp

Tim Farron: why we should celebrate Non-Independence Day

Tim Wigmore discovers it’s not all fruitcakes and damp rags at Ukip’s Doncaster conference

Adam Boulton reviews Andrew Marr’s new political satire, Head of State

Letter from Hong Kong: Adam White on fears that Beijing will lose patience with the Occupy protesters

Helen Lewis on the nappy-filled abyss and “caregiverism”

John Sutherland remembers the editor, critic, academic and writer Karl Miller

Mark Lawson on Batman: the early years and the art of the TV prequel





Francis Fukuyama, the American political scientist who once declared that liberal democracy had won the battle of ideas, tells the NS’s Sophie McBain that political Islam is not a serious threat to the west and that we should not intervene in Iraq and Syria. China’s rising global influence and Russia’s renewed territorial ambition are greater threats to western society, he argues:

“The whole west, and especially the United States, has overestimated the impact of terrorism,” he says. “It’s a big problem, it’s not going to go away any time in the future – but it’s not an existential threat.” If the brutality of Isis makes the group seem a danger to the US and Europe, it is also a weakness: “The attraction of this kind of radicalism to most people is zero.”

In this week’s NS Essay, the award-winning historian John Bew argues the contrary: “There is usually a price to be paid when bloodlust goes unchecked in distant lands,” he writes. Bew is particularly critical of Labour’s “non-position” on the matter:

In recent times Labour has been more comfortable with the idea of open borders and extensive immigration than the Tories. It is for that reason, if nothing else, that it is important to contemplate the reality of the new societies that this has brought into being. We live in a country that, more than ever, has familial and ideological ties to communities abroad – whether in the Middle East or in south Asia. We cannot just ignore what happens there.



The NS political editor, George Eaton, meets Jeremy Browne in the lead-up to the Liberal Democrats’ conference in Glasgow. Eaton finds the 44-year-old MP for Taunton Dean, who is strongly associated with the Orange Book wing of the Lib Dems, “brimming with optimism” even though the party is polling in single figures. Browne neither confirms nor denies having leadership aspirations when challenged by Eaton:

Such is the conviction and vigour with which he propounds his views that it is impossible not to regard him as a future leadership contender. “This is where politicians are meant to give some sort of clever and evasive answer,” he laughingly replies when I broach the subject. “Let me give you a genuine answer, rather than trying to give you a clever answer.”

Browne believes there are “three broad options for the party”. The first is to “slump back into being a protest party” (“the comfort zone of tweeting about student sit-ins”); the second is to adopt a “continuity, steady-as-she-goes approach”; the third is to embrace “360-degree liberalism” and to be “the liberal voice in the liberal age”. Of the first two, Browne says, “I can think of candidates for both of those.” When I suggest that he has Tim Farron, the party’s left-leaning president, and Danny Alexander, the moderate Chief Secretary to the Treasury, in mind, he tells me, “Now you’re being mischievous,” which, I note, is not a denial.

“I don’t have massive personal ambitions. It’s a big sacrifice being the leader of a political party.” But he adds: “It’s essential that that choice is one that the party has. It’s actually essential that it’s one that the party adopts but it can’t adopt it if it doesn’t have [the choice].” He adds: “Now, if someone else can do that better than me, that’s great.” And if they can’t? “We’ll see,” he replies in his low baritone. At this stage, it would be imprudent for him to say anything else.



The president of the Liberal Democrats, Tim Farron, hopes that the significance of the Scottish referendum result will not be forgotten in years to come:

Scotland has voted to stay in the Union and its choice should change the whole country. I am relieved, delighted and reassured by the Scots’ decision – but I am increasingly concerned by the aftermath. Will England remember this as much as it should? I want us to mark this vote annually with a national non-independence day. I’ll explain why.

[. . . ]

Scotland has shown us once again what we stand for – a unity that isn’t threatened by diversity. It is defined by it. We have always been a multicultural country. But if Westminster defaults to political point-scoring (or, even worse, stops talking about anything outside England), it will lose the greatest potential outcome of the vote: a clearer national identity, one that says we are different and we should be free to choose our own fates but, even so, that we’re better together.



The NS associate editor, Jemima Khan, travels to Jordan to see at first hand Unicef’s efforts to help the children living in plastic tent cities such as the Zaatari refugee camp:


I met Adil, a gentle, serious, 17-year-old Syrian boy, the same age as my son now (it’s impossible not to make these comparisons), who desperately wants to finish school and to become an engineer but who has to work to support his family. One of Unicef’s goals – and it sounds like a trite corporate slogan until you meet a boy like Adil or see a toddler carrying a baby on its hip – is to try to give children in the camps their childhood back, through schools, playgrounds, activities, sports and safe areas.


In her notebook, Khan also denounces Friday’s vote by British MPs to sanction renewed bombing of Iraq.



Reporting from the Conservative party conference in Birmingham, George Eaton notes that although history gives the Tories confidence that they can beat Labour, the old rules may no longer apply:

The Tories wrap themselves in the comfort blanket of Ed Miliband’s dismal poll ratings, an act undermined by the possibility that many intend to vote Labour regardless. The uncomfortable truth for the Tories is that there is little the party can now do to alter the fundamentals of the election. The strategy has been set and the themes have been chosen. As Crosby is fond of remarking, “You can’t fatten a pig on market day.” It will be for a future Conservative leader, if he or she is wise, to revive Cameron’s original mission of expanding his party’s shrivelled tent. Behind their swagger, the Tories are left, like Mr Micawber, hoping that something will turn up.




As Andrew Marr adds “novelist” to his long list of accomplishments, his fellow broadcaster Adam Boulton reviews his newly published Head of State, a political satire that lifts the lid on Westminster and settles a number of old scores:

What makes Head of State worth reading is that it is Marr unbuttoned. The cloak of fiction allows him to express his view of his world, from Fleet Street to Westminster, in the witty and wicked way that he used to when chatting to his fellow hacks, waiting to go live from Downing Street.




Excellent sheep: Mark Damazer on Ivy League automatons

Michael Prodger meets the painter Howard Hodgkin

Leo Robson on the new literary awards threatening the Booker’s supremacy

Ian Steadman talks to the sci-fi writer Cory Doctorow about the dark future of internet censorship

Caroline Crampton takes a lesson in screenwriting from the Oscar-winning actress Emma Thompson

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