‘Comrades,’ Jim Callaghan told the Labour Party Conference in his first speech as leader in 1976, ‘there is a line of poetry which is a good line for socialists, even if it was not intended to be: “A man’s reach should exceed his grasp/Or what’s a Heaven for?”’ He was quoting Browning’s ‘Andrea del Sarto’. A line of poetry intended to be good for socialists might have been found in Brecht, but Browning would be more familiar, and less alienating, to the wider audience beyond the party. More »
In the conference hall the blue-heads have just been shown a video of Labour’s election ‘Edstone’, as a reminder of disaster averted. For a moment everything goes black, like a seance. The massed jam-makers and xenophobes sit in anticipatory rictus, a suckling pig waiting to gulp down the sweet nectar of platitude. But when the lights go up, it’s only the prime minister, on stage in Manchester to give his annual Tory pep talk. More »
‘This is Britain,’ David Cameron said in his speech to the Conservative Party Conference. ‘We don’t duck fights. We get stuck in. We fix problems.’ The thing on his mind presses upwards through the words at every point. Duck, stuck, fix… pigs?
In their general election manifesto, the Conservatives promised to ‘extend the Right to Buy to tenants in Housing Associations’. More than 1500 housing associations, all registered charities and some, like Peabody and Guinness, over a century old, would have to let tenants buy their houses at discounts of up to £103,000 each. The cost would be met by forcing local authorities to sell their most valuable council houses. After paying off councils’ debt, in theory these sales would not only provide enough to compensate housing associations for their losses but also allow replacement homes to be built both for them and for the councils.
In practice, no one knows if the numbers will stack up: the financial details were removed from the Conservatives’ website shortly after they were put up and official figures haven’t yet been produced. More »
More than 150,000 people have joined the Labour Party since May’s defeat, a figure which exceeds the total membership of any other political party in the UK. Over 60,000 have joined since Jeremy Corbyn became leader, more than either the Liberal Democrats or Ukip can boast among their ranks. The composition of the party is changing too. The average age of the party membership fell by 11 years over the summer – from 53 to 42 – and more women than men joined. Something similar happened with the SNP after the independence referendum, when its membership, in a nation of only five million, surged beyond the 100,000 mark. There, too, new members were younger and most of them were women. More »
There’s an exhibition of Christopher Logue’s poster poems at Rob Tufnell, 83 Page Street, London SW1, until 7 November.
‘Sex War Sex Cars Sex’ by Christopher Logue and Derek Boshier, 1967.
There’s a new website of Peter Campbell’s work. You can see some of his more-than-400 LRB cover pictures there, along with many other illustrations, paintings and designs. The thematic galleries include ‘On Wheels’ (cars, trains, trams, vans and prams, although he never learned to drive) and ‘On the Menu’, flowers and birds, sketches of the smart set and more everyday characters: waiters, gardeners, barmaids and nurses at work and in their off-moments. The archive will continue to grow.
Janette Taylor, a subscriber who makes paper beads, made this necklace out of the LRB.
France, 1976. © Josef Koudelka/Magnum Photos
Earlier this month I went on a press junket to the Josef Koudelka retrospective in Madrid. Reading the catalogue on the plane, I realised I was living the inverse of the romantic myth that grew up around the work I was going to see. Stuart Alexander’s essay describes the photographer in 1973, not long after he left Czechoslovakia for the West: More »
On 7 August 1991, the Albanian ship Vlora docked at the Port of Durrës, twenty miles west of Tirana, with a cargo of Cuban sugar. Thousands of people, desperate to leave Albania in the first throes of its ‘transition’ from communism, boarded the ship and prevailed on the captain to take them to Italy. The Vlora arrived in Bari the next day. According to a Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe report from January 1992: More »