The Corbyn Project

James Butler

Broad scope and lofty ambitions can conceal ambiguities and faultlines. Was the goal of the project primarily to wind the clock back, to undo the changes Kinnock and Blair had wrought within the party, and Thatcher in the country as a whole, by returning the trade unions to a central position in Labour and chasing a romanticised version of the postwar settlement? Or was it to bring the post-2008, post-austerity generation which had been so enthused by Corbyn into formal, institutional politics? Could the two ambitions be bridged? Why was it important to change the party’s structure, and how could it happen? Was it intended to put decision-making power back into the hands of union leaders or give it to individual members? How could the middle layers of the party be brought on side? When talking about ‘the project’, who was included? Corbyn and his staff and advisers in Westminster, or the wider circle of activists and party members, or supporters in the country generally? During the last 18 months of his leadership, Corbyn himself, the one man who had sufficient power to impose clarity on any of these questions, seemed barely involved.

Diary

America is a baby

Patricia Lockwood

On Election Day,​ as soon as the polls closed, I had to watch the three-hour-long 1972 movie musical 1776. You almost certainly haven’t seen it, so I’ll summarise it for you. The year is – well, you know that part – and the flies of patriotism are buzzing in the room in colonial Philadelphia where the Second Continental Congress is refusing to debate a proposal for...

 

Kissinger looks for his prince

David Runciman

Whenfamily and friends of Christopher Hitchens periodically tried to persuade him to temper his unhealthy lifestyle, they used to point out how awful it would be if Henry Kissinger outlived him. Hitchens spent years pursuing Kissinger in print – and sometimes in person – for his assorted war crimes. He wanted to see him prosecuted at The Hague. Failing that, wouldn’t it...

 

DeLillo tunes out

Andrew O’Hagan

DonDeLillo has been a catastrophist for so long that we only really get excited when life’s catastrophes go way beyond his predictions. That happened with 9/11, when the attack on the Twin Towers and their collapse in broad daylight made his warnings suddenly appear to have been too vague in meaning and too small in scale. His subsequent fictional account, Falling Man, seemed from...

 

Echo is a fangirl

Ange Mlinko

If you’re a poet, and also a philosopher of language who dotes on the real-world consequence of words, it comes as a shock that words have no bearing, finally, on death. ‘That you can’t edit.’ The great licentiousness of language lies in its counterfactuals: that is its source of invention, in play as well as villainy, but therein also lies Riley’s problem: she can be told her son is dead, she can say it to herself a hundred ways, but words are just that. It’s only with the continuation of his non-return that the fact sinks in.

Close Readings

Podcast

Close Readings

Seamus Perry and Mark Ford’s ‘revolutionary … ★★★★★’ (The Times) podcast about British and American poets from the long 20th century.

 

Cyberpunk’d

Niela Orr

Late​ in the evening, early this century, Washington Square West, Philadelphia. Washington Square West overlaps an area identified by W.E.B. Du Bois in The Philadelphia Negro as the Seventh Ward, the site of many places famous in Black history: Mother Bethel A.M.E. Church; the Institute for Coloured Youth; the home of Frances E.W. Harper, one of the first Black American women to have her...

 

Edward the Confessor

Tom Shippey

TheAnglo-Saxon period of English history lasted more than six centuries, from the legendary arrival of Hengest and Horsa in Kent in 449 AD to the downfall of the last native dynasty at Hastings on 14 October 1066. It is the final event that has dominated the public imagination. Since Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s Harold, the Last of the Saxon Kings (1848), ‘last of’ has been...

 

‘Shuggie Bain’

Christian Lorentzen

‘Above all,’ Douglas Stuart writes in the acknowledgments to Shuggie Bain, his first novel, ‘I owe everything to memories of my mother and her struggle.’ The American cover has a black and white photograph of a boy and a woman in bed, their foreheads touching in a maternal embrace. (On the British cover, a boy sits on a post that looks not unlike a cross.)...

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