Posts Tagged ‘New Statesman’

VAL 2016 | Säg den glädje som varar. När Labour valde Jeremy Corbyn till partiledare var det många konservativa som tackade högre makter.

New Statesman 8-14 April 2016

Inom partiet var näst intill säker på att regeringsmakten var näst intill säkrad för lång tid framöver när det största oppositionspartiet valt en partiledare långt ut på vänsterkanten.

Detta naturligtvis under förutsättning att man inte förflyttade partiet för långt ut åt höger. Detta var också premiärminister David Camerons strategi efter partiets överraskande valseger. Man ville säkra sin position i mitten.

Men det var innan de interna partistriderna inför folkomröstningen om medlemskapet i EU. Nu befinner sig Conservatives i ett inbördeskrig mellan ”Leavers” och ”Remain”.

Skiljelinjerna mellan anhängarna till Brexit respektive Bremain går rakt igenom regeringen. Sex ministrar har t.ex. valt att stödja ett utträde.

Och detta är bara de som öppet har tagit ställning för ett utträde. Hur stort mörkertalet är i realiteten är det ingen som vet.

Simon Heffer, kolumnist i The Daily Telegraph och The Sunday Telegraph, har skrivit i New Statesman om stridigheterna och David Camerons krishantering.

The Conservative Party is approaching not only a historic referendum, but a historic moment of crisis. It is deeply divided over whether or not to stay in the European Union, and the divisions are unequal. At the top, most want to stay in: not out of conviction, but because most ministers have found it politic to agree with David Cameron, even if they cannot support his view that he got a great deal from other EU countries after his supposed “renegotiations” with them. Among MPs generally the mood is far more hostile; and at the party’s grass roots it is predominantly in favour of leaving. Where this ranks in the history of Tory party crises is not easy to say.


The current division 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.


There is an idea on both sides that scores will have to be settled after 23 June, and, the way things are going with party discipline and out-of-control aides in Downing Street, such an outcome is inevitable. Should Remain prevail, a wise prime minister would understand that this was a time to heal wounds and not deepen them. It remains a matter of conjecture how wise Cameron, whose vindictive streak is more often than not on the surface rather than beneath it, is prepared to be.

Those who work for his party at the grass roots, and on whom MPs depend to get the vote out at elections, will be unimpressed by a purge of those who have not backed him over Europe. There isn’t much of a voluntary party left, and there will be even less of one if he acts rashly in victory. If it is a narrow victory – and it is, at this stage, hard to envisage any other sort – his party could become unmanageable unless he acts with restraint and decency.


Conservatives worried about the stability of their party believe that only Labour under a new, more effective and less factional leader could present the serious electoral challenge to them that would shake them out of these unprecedentedly acrimonious and self-indulgent divisions. We can only imagine how differently the In campaign would be conducted if Labour had a nationally popular and an obviously electable leader.

As it is, 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.

Tidskriftsomslag: New Statesman, 8-14 april 2016.

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HISTORIA | Dagens politiker låter sig gärna intervjuas av journalister. Intervjuer har blivit ett medvetet sätt för partierna att få ut sitt budskap till allmänheten.

Winston Churchill, 1941 by Yousuf Karsh

Winston Churchill, 1941 by Yousuf Karsh

Därför medietränas politiker hårt för att klara en intervju och undvika journalisternas fällor. Samtidigt ingår intervjuteknik i journalistutbildningen.

Så har det inte alltid varit.

Förr intervjuades inte politiker speciellt ofta. Och eftersom de möttes med större respekt än idag behövde de inte heller förbereda sig lika minutiöst som idag. Skjutjärnsjouranistik är ett förhållandevis nytt fenomen.

Men en fördel med den gamla stilen var att politikern ofta hade möjlighet att formulera sina tankar kring komplexa problem.

Men trots detta är det inte från intervjuer vi fått vår bild av politikern Winston Churchill. När vi tänker på politisk kommunikation i förhållande till Churchill handlar det oftare om hans tal och retoriska förmåga.

Dessutom är det mer bilden av talaren än själva innehållet vi känner igen. (Hur många vet t.ex. att han talade om ”blood, toil, tears and sweat” och inte ”blood, sweat and tears”?)

Även ikonen Churchill – t.ex. hans bulldogsliknande framtoning – är tydligare för eftervärlden än hans politiska åsikter. Än idag står han som den stora symbolen för motståndet mot Adolf Hitler under andra världskriget.

Det är därför inte direkt den nyanserade politikern vi minns. Men läser man Kingsley Martins intervju med Churchill i New Statesman, åtta månader innan världskrigets utbrott, är det just den bild som framträder.

Han är både principfast och klartänkt. Han är en övertygad demokrat och långt ifrån den reaktionära konservativa politiker nidbild som så många revisionister har velat framhålla efter hans död.

Han talar initierat om de demokratiska och fascistiska staternas väsen. Och han är väl medveten om att de demokratiska rättigheterna riskerar urholkas om Storbritannien överreagerar för att skydda samhället mot i kampen mot ett totalitärt hot.

När han svarar på intervjufrågorna handlar det inte om några utslätade politiska ”talking-points” eller klyschor.

Kingsley Martin The country has learnt to associate you with the view that we must all get together as quickly as possible to rearm in defence of democracy. In view of the strength and character of the totalitarian states, is it possible to combine the reality of democratic freedom with efficient military organisation?

Mr Winston Churchill The essential aspects of democracy are the freedom of the individual, within the framework of laws passed by Parliament, to order his life as he pleases, and the uniform enforcement of tribunals independent of the executive. The laws are based on Magna Carta, Habeas Corpus, the Petition of Right and others. Without this foundation there can be no freedom or civilisation, anyone being at the mercy of officials and liable to be spied upon and betrayed even in his own home. As long as these rights are defended, the foundations of freedom are secure.

KM One point people are especially afraid of is that free criticism in Parliament and in the press may be sacrificed. The totalitarian states, it is said, are regimented, organised and unhampered, as the Prime Minister suggested the other day, by critics of the Government “who foul their own nest”.

WC Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfils the same function as pain in the human body; it calls attention to the development of an unhealthy state of things. If it is heeded in time, danger may be averted; if it is suppressed, a fatal distemper may develop.

KM Do you attribute the slowness in preparation of which you complain to any inherent defect in democratic institutions?

WC I am convinced that with adequate leadership, democracy can be a more efficient form of government than Fascism. In this country at any rate the people can readily be convinced that it is necessary to make sacrifices, and they will willingly undertake them if the situation is put clearly and fairly before them . . . It may be that greater efficiency in secret military preparations can be achieved in a country with autocratic institutions than by the democratic system. But this advantage is not necessarily great, and it is far outweighed by the strength of a democratic country in a long war. In an autocracy, when the pinch comes, the blame is thrown upon the leader and the system breaks up. In a democratic country the people feel that they are respon­sible, and if they believe in their cause will hold out much longer than the population of Dictator States . . .


KM People who are not necessarily pacifist are horrified at the idea that we may go into another war with the same kind of generals who were responsible for Passchendaele and other horrors in the last war. They say that they might be prepared to fight for democracy if they were democratically led; but that they are damned if they will be sacrificed again for the Camberley clique that was so horribly inefficient and wasteful in the last war. Do you think it is possible to democratise the army?

WC It is quite true, I know, that many people consider that the cadre of officers is selected from too narrow a class. I have always taken the view that merit should be rewarded by promotion in the army as in any other profession. I support this not only from the point of view of democratising the army, but mainly because I think it leads to efficiency such as no other system can achieve.

KM May I ask one more question of a more general character? Most of us feel that if there is a war it will be so destructive that the very substance of our civilisation, let alone our democracy, is likely to be destroyed. Clearly the great object is to prevent war. Is it possible in your view still to regard these military preparations, not as the acceptance of inevitable war, but merely as a necessary complement of a policy which may keep the peace?

WC I fear that failure to rearm Britain is bound to lead to war. Had we strengthened our defences earlier, the arms race need never have arisen. We should have come to a settlement with Germany while she was still disarmed. I think it is still possible, with a strong Britain and France, to preserve the peace of Europe.

KM Is it not true historically that an armaments race leads to war?

WC To say that an arms race always leads to war seems to me to be putting the cart before the horse. A government resolved to attain ends detrimental to its neighbours, which does not shrink from the possibility of war, makes preparations for war, its neighbours take defensive action, and you say an arms race is beginning. But this is the symptom of the intention of one government to challenge or destroy its neighbours, not the cause of the conflict. The pace is set by the potential aggressor, and, failing collective action by the rest of the world to resist him, the alternatives are an arms race or surrender. War is very terrible, but stirs a proud people. There have been periods in our history when we have given way for a long time, but a new and formidable mood arises . . .

Läs mer: En intervju med Churchill i The New York Herald den 2 februari 1915 när han var First Lord of the Admirality.

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IMAGE | Med monoton regelbundenhet dyker det upp artiklar och böcker som hävdar att det nu är dags att slå håll på ”myten” Winston Churchill.

New Statesman 9-15 January 2014

Alla dessa försök till historierevidering innehåller nästan alltid några gemensamma komponenter.

Författaren försöker t.ex. alltid antyda att ingen tidigare har gett den ”sanna” och ”oförfalskade” bilden av Churchill. Tydligen har sanningen om mannen, politikern och statsmannen alltför länge varit dold bakom den officiella bilden av Churchill – en bild som ingen vågar ifrågasätta.

Detta sätt att argumentera håller inte för en närmare granskning. Få politiker har nämligen varit lika kontroversiella som Churchill. Han var ifrågasatt under hela sin politiska karriär.

En annan ingrediens i dessa försök att förändra bilden av Churchill är att framhäva, inte bara hans politiska felberäkningar och misslyckanden, utan även att hans politiska åsikter inte längre ligger i linje med dagens etablerade konsensus.

Att studera Churchills politiska åsikter är naturligtvis historiskt intressant men ganska missvisande när man skall bedöma hans samlade insatser.

Med tanke på att Churchill var född 1874 (!) borde det inte förvåna någon att hans åsikter inte låg i linje med vad vi tycker idag. Det omvända skulle ha varit betydligt mer uppseendeväckande.

Churchill skulle knappast varit mer än en historisk kuriositet om hans åsikter hade överensstämt med dagens politikers.

Frågan är om han ens hade varit en identifierbar historisk person om han hade avviket alltför mycket från sin egen tid. Hade vi då ens kunnat finna några historiska spår av honom i dokument och arkiv? Sannolikt hade han aldrig blivit vare sig parlamentsledamot eller premiärminister om han haft åsikter som inte gjort honom valbar.

Många gånger liknar kritiken av Churchill vad man idag kallar ”virtue signalling” Poängen är att visa, d.v.s. signalera, vilken god människa man själv är. ”One of the crucial aspects of virtue signalling is that it does not require actually doing anything virtuous”, skriver mannen som myntade begreppet.

Ett exempel på detta är Simon Heffers artikel ”Why it’s time to debunk the myth of Churchill” i New Statesman. Rubriken säger allt. (I papperstidningen: ”The Churchill myth”.)

Ingenting av det som Heffer skriver om i artikeln är överhuvudtaget nytt för den som studerat ämnet. Alla exemplen beskrivs i de flesta historiska verk och politisk biografier om Churchill som publicerats under de senaste femtio åren.

He had an unfortunate knack of finding himself on the wrong side of too many arguments, over things that usually did not require the benefit of hindsight to be understood.


At the khaki election of 1900 he began his political career, as a Tory. He left for the Liberal Party in 1904 when the Tories, under the influence of Joseph Chamberlain, who had left the Liberals in protest against the Irish home rule bill, started to move towards protectionism. That was fair enough: but moving back to the Tories after the collapse of the coalition in 1922, when the Liberal Party had divided, imploded and been eclipsed by Labour, was widely regarded as an act of outrageous cynicism, not least by those whom he was rejoining. Churchill deployed his considerable wit to gloss over this episode – “Anyone can rat, but it takes a certain amount of ingenuity to re-rat” – but a bad smell lingered in the Tory party for some time because of it.


Once the Conservatives were pushed out of office in 1929 he began his “wilderness years”, and adopted resistance to Indian self-government as one of his main causes. It was at this stage that he described Gandhi as “a seditious Middle Temple lawyer, now posing as a fakir of a type well known in the East, striding half-naked up the steps of the Viceregal palace . . . to parley on equal terms with the representative of the King-Emperor”. Such rhetoric turned Baldwin against him and ensured he did not serve in the National Government that Baldwin formed with Ramsay MacDonald in 1931.


Despite a record of failure and misjudgement that in any other politician would offset even the most considerable achievements, Churchill in death has become largely untouchable by all, apart from those who are dismissed as mavericks and sectarians. The myth keeps us from an honest interpretation of our history in the first half of the 20th century. The false and romanticised picture we have of him, created by his reputation from 1940-45, is a huge obstacle to true understanding.

In one aspect of his life, when the man met the hour, he was as outstanding as anyone in British history has been. In all others he was just another politician on the make, firing out opinions at random in the hope that one, now and again, would hit the target. He had a bellicosity that in all circumstances other than 1940-45 could be intensely dangerous, and that had its downside even in the fight against Hitler.

But we would best understand his indisputable greatness, and our enduring debt to him, by realising how his achievements came in spite of, not because of, his parti­cular character. The myth is too much. It is more important than ever to examine the reality of his life and works, and to try to get him in a true perspective.

Tidskriftsomslag: New Statesman, 9-15 januari 2014.

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KAMPANJ Liberal Democrats var partiet som inför förra valet kunde suga upp väljare som var trötta på de två huvudmotståndarna.

New Statesman 23-29 May 2014

Inför valet 2015 kan det vara UK Independence Party som blir alternativet för missnöjda väljare.

Risken är den samma för både Conservative Party och Labour; att man tappar så pass många väljare till UKIP att man inte kan bilda en egen majoritetsregering.

Både Tories och Labour slipar därför på strategier för hur man skall kunna underminera förtroendet för UKIP. Men inget parti vill vara allt för tydliga med sina attacker eftersom riskerar irritera de av ”sina” egna väljare som uppfattar UKIP som ett alternativ.

Rafael Behr, på tidskriften New Statesman, skriver om partiernas våndor inför utmanaren Nigel Farage och hans UKIP.

Downing Street is becoming more aware of the limitations of “Vote Farage; get Miliband” as a message. One No 10 source tells me: “It will have to be more sophisticated than that.” The general election campaign will stress economic dependability. Cameron will be sold as the only candidate who can be relied upon not to poison the recovery with snake-oil policy prescriptions, whether bottled as Farage’s fearmongering nationalism or as Miliband’s wealth-destroying retro-socialism.


On the Tory side there is growing confidence that Ukip support can only decline as the party acquires a disreputable air. The source of many press reports that embarrass Farage is Conservative Campaign HQ, where researchers scour pamphlets and social media for unsavoury remarks by Ukip candidates. Tory strategists recognise that undermining Farage is a job best undertaken at arm’s length. Too many direct attacks by Cameron would lend Ukip the status of equal adversary and risk reminding Tory dissenters of the times they have felt insulted by their own leader. “We need the racist thing to seep into public consciousness,” says an ally of the Prime Minister. “But it can’t be us saying it.”


Labour has been slow in waking up to that dynamic. At first, the opposition tended to view Farage’s strength as a helpful disruption of Tory support – a family feud on the right that eased Miliband’s path to Downing Street. Then it became clear that Ukip was attracting support from older, working-class voters who felt neglected by Labour in government, especially over immigration policy, but remained culturally immune to voting Tory. At that point, Miliband’s allies conceded that there was a potential hazard down the line but insisted it was not big enough to cost Labour seats in the 2015 general election. Only in recent weeks have aides started voicing concern that Ukip is dragging the whole political debate on to terrain that the Labour leader finds inhospitable.


Ukip’s reach may be limited by its status as a vehicle for protest votes but that gives it power to define the terms of protest in ways that harm the constitutionally recognised main opposition party. Labour’s priority is to look like a government-in-waiting but part of that image requires also looking like the main destination for people who don’t like the incumbents.


Instead the party is lumped in with the Tories and Lib Dems as part of a shabby establishment stitch-up, with the added baggage of a reputation for economic mismanagement.

It is an old opposition conundrum: how to fashion a message that is dramatic enough to represent a credible alternative to the status quo, yet responsible enough to withstand scrutiny as a potential programme for government. Ukip isn’t bothering with the second part of the equation (which will be its undoing next year), but Farage is hogging the rhetoric of change and upheaval. His incendiary nationalism burns up the oxygen of publicity that Miliband needs to illuminate his milder offer of soft-left populism. That all suits Cameron to the extent that he is in the business of promising security through continuity.

While Labour and Tories have opposing reasons for wanting to see Farage thwarted, the basis for their arguments is the same. Downing Street aides and Miliband advisers both speak of the need to impress upon voters how high the stakes will be in 2015; how the ultimate question is whether Cameron is allowed to continue as Prime Minister – with one side warning that another term of Conservatism would finish off hope of fair rewards for all and the other warning that Labour would guarantee national bankruptcy. What they want, above all, is for the public to view the general election as a two-party race, with the Lib Dems and Ukip as sirens, luring in wasted votes and thereby abetting the real enemy.


The threat that situation poses to Cameron lies in the electoral arithmetic – Ukip can cost him seats. For Miliband, it is a problem of momentum – Ukip has stolen his insurgent thunder. The Tories spent too long chasing Ukip’s agenda; Labour spent too long ignoring it. Farage’s bubble will not suddenly burst. More likely, the air will seep out slowly over the coming year, by which time both Cameron’s and Miliband’s prospects of winning a majority may already be blown away.

Tidskriftsomslag: New Statesman den 23-29 maj 2014.

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VAL | Narendra Modi och Bharatiya Janata Party vann överlägset valet i världens största demokrati. Här är några intressanta siffror från valet.

Bild från AFP-Getty Images -- Vallokal i Pune, Indien

Antalet röstberättigade väljare: 834 miljoner

Antalet väljare som röstade: 554 miljoner

Antalet partier som deltog i valet: 464

Antalet platser som stod på spel i valet: 543

Antalet elektroniska valapparater: 1,4 miljoner

Den procentuella andelen väljare som röstade på Modis parti BJP: 31 %

Valets längd: 5 veckor från den 7 april till den 12 maj

Beräknad kostnad för valet: 600 miljoner dollar

Källa: Time den 2 juni 2014 och New Statesman den 9-15 maj 2014. 

Bild: En vallokal i Pune, Indien. AFP/Getty Images

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INDIEN | På måndag blir Modi officiellt Indiens nästa premiärminister. Han har kallats både en modern Nero och Indiens Vladimir Putin!

New Statesman 9-15 maj 2014

Narendra Modi blev partiledare för det hindunationalistiska Bharatiya Janata Party efter att ha inlett sin politiska karriär i den paramilitära organisationen Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.

Grundaren av RSS beundrade bl.a. Adolf Hitler hantering av Tysklands minoriteter. Organisationen introducerade t.o.m. en egen hälsning; den skiljer sig bara från nazisthälsningen genom armens vinkel, horisontellt över bröstkorgen (se omslaget ovan).

BJP bildades med syfte att vara den politiska grenen av RSS. Många äldre medlemmar i partiet har även varit medlemmar i RSS.

Författaren William Dalrymple, som även är Indienkorrespondent för New Statesman, skrev strax innan valet en längre artikel om ledaren för världens största demokrati.

In the past few months he has been transformed into a hugely popular, even cult figure for many around India and is now widely admired by many who do not share his Hindu nationalism. This is because he has come to embody the collective longing, especially among India’s middle class of 300 million, for an economic rebirth of the nation: after all, under his stewardship, the economy of the state of Gujarat, for which he has been chief minister since 2001, has nearly tripled in size. He also has a reputation for decisiveness, getting things done, rooting out corruption, stimulating investment and slashing through the bureaucratic red tape and outdated, cumbersome regulations.

It is easy to understand why so many Indians feel a need for bold change and why the thought of another five years of a dithering, divided and corrupt Congress government fills them with dismay. But it is less easy to understand why so many are willing to overlook Modi’s extremely dodgy record with India’s religious minorities.

In 2002, the year after Modi became chief minister of Gujarat, as many as 2,000 people, most of them Muslims, were killed and about 200,000 more displaced in an intercommunal bloodbath. Large numbers of girls were raped; men were cut to pieces and burned alive with kerosene or burning tyres. Pregnant women had their womb slit open and the foetuses smashed in front of their eyes. Modi, who prides himself on his hands-on administrative skills, was accused of allowing the 2002 riots to happen, or even of ordering the police to let the rioters get on with their work – something he has denied.

A report by Human Rights Watch asserted that his administration was complicit in the massacres. “The attacks were planned in advance,” a senior researcher for the organisation said, “and organised with the extensive participation of the police and state government officials.”

Modi has survived several formal investigations by the courts without conviction, but he has never apologised for his government’s failure to protect the minority or shown the slightest remorse for what happened. He refuses to answer questions about the riots. In a rare comment on the subject last year, he said he regretted the Muslims’ suffering as he would a “puppy being run over by a car”. Once he seemed to half-justify the actions of the rioters: in the US, he said, “An innocent Sikh was murdered after 9/11. Why? Because he looked like the terrorists. If the educated in America can get provoked, why use a different yardstick to evaluate Gujaratis?” On another occasion, even more chillingly, he told the Washington Post: “Why even talk about 2002? . . . It’s the past. What does it matter?” His only regret, he told the New York Times, was his failure to handle the media fallout.


On the campaign trail, whether from pragmatism or otherwise, Modi has largely kept his Hindu nationalism hidden and presented himself throughout as an able, technocratic administrator who can turn the country’s economy around and stimulate much-needed development.


What seems certain, however, is that, in the absence of any serious competition, the BJP’s Modi will be the man attempting to build the new coalition: not necessarily something to which his abrasive character will be suited. In voting like this, India is knowingly taking a terrific gamble on its future, in effect choosing to ignore Modi’s record on civil liberties and human rights in return for putting in place a strong and decisive leader who would be brave enough to make the difficult reforms and provide the firm governance and economic prosperity this country is craving.

Tidskriftsomslaget: New Statesman den 9-15 maj 2014.

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IMAGE | Det cirkulerar många skämt om partiledaren för Labour i Storbritannien. Men det är kanske något Ed Miliband kan bjuda på.

The Spectator 26 april 2014

“A new cruel joke is doing the rounds about Ed Miliband: that the Labour leader is like a plastic bag stuck in a tree. No one is sure how he got up there, but no one can be bothered to take him down”, skrev t.ex. Fraser Nelson i The Spectator.

Ett annat skämt är att utmåla honom som en av figurerna i ”Wallace & Gromit”. Både New Statesman och The Spectator har haft tidskriftsomslag på temat.

Ovanstående bygger vidare på temat och kombinerar det med en valaffisch från Conservative Party; ”New Labour. New Danger.” från 1979

New Labour New Danger Conservative Party 1979

Texten på affischen från reklambyrån Saatchi & Saatchi, som egentligen lanserades månader innan själva valrörelsen, lyder:

One of Labour’s leaders, Clare Short, says dark forces behind Tony Blair manipulate policy in a sinister way. ”I sometimes call them the people who live in the dark.” She says about New Labour: ”It’s a lie. And it’s dangerous.”

Även om de konservativa förlorade valet kom Tony Blair snart att uppfattas som just manipulativ.

Hur mycket affischen bidrog till detta kan naturligtvis diskuteras. Valaffischer spelar trots allt mindre roll än vad en regering verkligen gör när man väl fått makten.

Poängen här är att tidskriftsomslaget knappast skulle fungera om läsarna inte minns originalet. Om affischen varnade för en ”ondskefull” Blair så varnar omslaget snarare för vad som kan hända om en ”inkompetent” Miliband tar över.

En kampanjaffisch från 90-talet hjälper därmed Tories – via media – att definiera hur väljarna skall uppfatta Ed Miliband inför valet 2015.

Men Miliband och Labour behöver kanske inte bry sig alltför mycket. Det är trots allt valresultatet som gäller. Och alla opinionsundersökningar pekar mot ett regeringsskifte efter nästa val.

Läs mer: “Miliband spinner embraces Wallace and Gromit resemblance” 

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MAKT | Apropå Niccolò Machiavelli skriver John Gray att liberala tänkare skulle må bra av att ta till sig några av florentinarens erfarenheter.

New Statesman 12-18 juli 2013

Enligt Gray har liberaler ofta en överdriven tro på att goda lagar kan upprätta och garantera människor deras rättigheter i länder som Irak, Afghanistan, Libyen och Syrien.

Att bara prata om mänskliga rättigheter leder ofta inte till några varaktiga resultat. Lagar kan aldrig, enligt Gray, ersätta politik.

Politik och ett lands lagar är alltför nära sammankopplade med varandra för att denna relationen skall kunna skapas av västmakterna när de tar över misslyckade och defekta länder på andra sidan jordklotet.

Gray skriver i New Statesman:

One of the peculiarities of political thought at the present time is that it is fundamentally hostile to politics. Bismarck may have opined that laws are like sausages – it’s best not to inquire too closely into how they are made – but for many, the law has an austere authority that stands far above any grubby political compromise. In the view of most liberal thinkers today, basic liberties and equalities should be embedded in law, interpreted by judges and enforced as a matter of principle. A world in which little or nothing of importance is left to the contingencies of politics is the implicit ideal of the age.

The trouble is that politics can’t be swept to one side in this way. The law these liberals venerate isn’t a free-standing institution towering majestically above the chaos of human conflict. Instead – and this is where the Florentine diplomat and historian Niccolò Machiavelli (1469-1527) comes in – modern law is an artefact of state power. Probably nothing is more important for the protection of freedom than the independence of the judiciary from the executive; but this independence (which can never be complete) is possible only when the state is strong and secure. Western governments blunder around the world gibbering about human rights; but there can be no rights without the rule of law and no rule of law in a fractured or failed state, which is the usual result of westernsponsored regime change. In many cases geopolitical calculations may lie behind the decision to intervene; yet it is a fantasy about the nature of rights that is the public rationale, and there is every sign that our leaders take the fantasy for real. The grisly fiasco that has been staged in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya – a larger and more dangerous version of which seems to be unfolding in Syria – testifies to the hold on western leaders of the delusion that law can supplant politics.

Machiavelli is commonly thought to be a realist, and up to a point it is an apt description. A victim of intrigue – after being falsely accused of conspiracy, he was arrested, tortured and exiled from Florence – he was not tempted by idealistic visions of human behaviour. He knew that fear was a more reliable guide to human action than sympathy or loyalty, and accepted that deception will always be part of politics.


Resistance to his thought comes now not from Christian divines but from liberal thinkers. According to the prevailing philosophy of liberal legalism, political conflict can be averted by a well-designed constitution and freedoms enshrined in a regime of rights. In reality, as Machiavelli well knew, constitutions and legal systems come and go.


The true lesson of Machiavelli is that the alternative to politics is not law but unending war. When they topple tyrants for the sake of faddish visions of rights, western governments enmesh themselves in intractable conflicts they do not understand and cannot hope to control. Yet if Machiavelli could return from the grave, he would hardly be annoyed or frustrated by such folly. Ever aware of the incurable human habit of mistaking fancy for reality, he would simply respond with a Florentine smile.

Tidskriftsomslag: New Statesman, 12-18 juli 2013.

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POLITIK | David Cameron måste ta tag i en lång rad problem om han vill att Conservative Party återigen skall bli ett majoritetsparti.

New Statesman 11-17 januari 2013

Ett av de riktigt stora problemen är att man är näst intill utplånade i Skottland. Ävven i norra Englands städer har man stora problem.

Ett exempel är Liverpool. Här hamnade partiets kandidat först på sjunde (!) plats i förra årets borgmästarval.

Förutom Labour och Liberal Democrats gick det även bättre för de grönas kandidat, och för en som definierade sig som ”Trade Unionist and Socialist” samt en liberal och en ”independent”.

David Skelton, deputy director på idéinstitutet Policy Exchange, en think tank till höger, skriver i New Statesman vad förnyarna måste ta itu med om man vill stävja ”dinosaurierna” inom partiet.

Last year, Policy Exchange and YouGov carried out a major polling exercise about what voters want, and there are lessons from it for all the main parties. For the Conservatives, it highlights four (overlapping) ways in which the party needs to do better.

First, they need to do better outside their southern heartland. In the south and the east of England the Tories have nine out of every ten seats. In the Midlands they have about half, and in the north less than a third. In Scotland they hold a single seat.

Second, they need to do better in urban areas. The Tory problem in the north and Midlands is a specifically urban one. There are 80 rural seats in the north and the Midlands. The Conservatives hold 57 of them (or 71 per cent). But there are 124 urban parliamentary seats in cities in the north and Midlands, of which the Conservatives hold just 20 – or 16 per cent.


Third, the Conservatives do badly among ethnic minorities. Fewer than one in eight voters of Pakistani origin voted Tory, while nearly six out of ten voted Labour. Among black voters, fewer than one in ten voted Tory and eight out of ten voted Labour. Brit – ain’s ethnic-minority voters are usually concentrated in urban areas.

Finally, the Conservatives need to do better among ordinary working people. Polls show two-thirds of voters agree that “the Conservative Party looks after the interests of the rich, not ordinary people”. Even among Conservative voters, more than a quarter agree. They are voting for the party despite this problem. (And no, that isn’t because these people think they are rich and that they will benefit.)

Although class differences in voting patterns have declined, there are still large numbers of people who think that the party is “not for people like them”. This is a problem for the party everywhere, but particularly outside the south-east. People in the north are more likely to perceive themselves as working class than people doing the same jobs in the south.

So was Tory modernisation off target? What was the first phase of Tory modernisation? Ask a Westminster journalist and he would talk about hugging huskies, promoting greenery and not wearing shoes.

That’s a misleading stereotype. In reality, efforts to reassure voters about the National Health Service and economic competence were much more important. That first phase of modernisation succeeded far enough to make David Cameron Prime Minister, but not to get him a majority. That is because the most important part of the modernisers’ agenda isn’t done yet.


The modernisers “get” the problem, but efforts to address it have been uneven and too limited. The deficit makes it tougher.

Läs mer: Ledaren ”The Tory modernisers cannot allow the dinosaurs to win”.

Bild: Tidskriftsomslaget är New Statesman den 11-17 januari 2012 (Lägg märke till dinosauriens monokel. Nice touch!)

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EKONOMI | Många av presidentens egna anhängare har blivit djupt besvikna över resultat efter fyra år med Barack Obama i Vita huset.

Under första perioden brukar presidenter bränna mesta av sin energi. Det är då man är som mest innovativ och lanserar sina bästa idéer.

Har man inte lyckats genomföra idéerna under de fyra första åren blir det inte mycket lättare under andra mandatperioden.

Under de sista åren tryter idéerna. Även om man aldrig skulle erkänna det för sig själv har man redan börjat nedräkningen till den dag när man lämnar Vita huset.

Dessutom är många av de närmaste medarbetarna slutkörda. Många söker sig till mer välbetalda jobb med mindre pressande arbetstider och uppgifter.

Allierade i kongressen är dessutom inte längre lika villiga att hjälpa till om de sista åren ser ut att bli en segdragen historia med vikande opinionssiffror.

Många positionerar sig för att kunna bli återvalda. Går det inte bra för presidenten vill man inte gärna binda upp sig allt för nära till en person som snart skall lämna över.

Politiska motståndare har ännu mindre anledning att kompromissa. Man vet att presidenten är på väg ut. Och varför då ge hans partis nästa presidentkandidat möjlighet att rida på föregångarens politiska framgångar?

Och i media har man börjat spekulera om presidenten redan har blivit en ”lame duck”.

”It’s the economy, stupid!” var den maxim som kampanjstrategen James Carville spikade upp på väggen i Bill Clintons ”war room”. Samma sak gäller för Obamas administration.

Presidenten hoppas säkert att republikanerna efter sitt nederlag nu kommer att bli mer kompromissvilliga.

Om inte annat för att väljarna kan komma att straffa dem för vad man ser som ren tjurskallighet.

Om ekonomin förvärras kan det mycket väl vara kongressen som får stå som boven i dramat. Väljarnas förtroende för presidenten har nämligen alltid varit större än för politikerna i kongressen.

Nästa fyra år kommer därför att bli tuffa för Obama. Och problemen har knappast blivit mindre.

I en ledare i New Statesman skriver man följande:

The greatest immediate danger is that Congress will prove incapable of steering the US away from the so-called fiscal cliff, the $607bn worth of tax rises and spending cuts due to come into effect on 1 January 2013. Should the Democrats and the Republicans fail to reach agreement on a less severe austerity programme, the US could suffer a double-dip recession, with grave consequences for the global economy.

The US Congressional Budget Office estimates that the planned fiscal contraction, which, at 4 per cent of gross domestic product […] would cause the US economy to shrink at an annual rate of 1.3 per cent during the first half of 2013. In addition, it would lead to job losses of over five million by 2014. Already, the fiscal cliff is thought to have reduced GDP by 0.6 per cent this year through its chilling effect on investment. Ben Bernanke, the chairman of the Federal Reserve, whose activist monetary policy has done much to keep recession at bay, has warned, “If the fiscal cliff isn’t addressed, I don’t think our tools are strong enough to offset the effects of a major fiscal shock.” The responsibility for averting economic catastrophe lies with the president and Congress.

Mr Obama has proposed maintaining the Bush-era tax cuts for all Americans earning less than $200,000 ($250,000 for married couples), while allowing taxes to rise for those on incomes above this level. He would seek to achieve $4trn in deficit reduction over the next decade by cutting $2.50 in spending for every dollar in revenue, including using half of the money saved from ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for this purpose.


On the economy, as in other areas, Mr Obama must hope that the Republicans, no longer preoccupied with defeating him, will instead seek to work with him. Should they prove willing to do so, there is potential for the president to make progress in those areas where he disappointed during his first term.

Bild: Tidskriftsomslaget är New Statesman den 9-15 november 2012. Montaget med Obama som Harold Lloyd i den berömda klockscenen i filmen ”Safety Last!” är gjort av Dan Murrell.

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