September 2016


30 September 2016

In Liverpool

Dawn Foster

The mood at the Labour Party Conference this year was markedly different from last year: after Jeremy Corbyn’s victory was announced in Brighton in 2015, there was a huge amount of jubilation among delegates, while many MPs and political advisers wandered around the bars at night with bereft expressions. In Liverpool this week, the most that supporters could muster was temporary relief as they wondered where the attack would come from next. At private parties, MPs looked resigned as they gossiped with journalists.


30 September 2016

Make them dance

David Bromwich

The Presidential Debate Watch at the Apollo Theater in Harlem – it was a scene. The line wound around the block at 125th and Frederick Douglass Boulevard, but a friend and I were 'VIP' guests of one of the panellists, causing some embarrassment as we tried to figure out the way in; an organiser mistook 'VIP' for 'RSVP' and sent us to the line for aspiring almost-ticket-holders who didn't like the encroachment. Inside, the DJ in the balcony box stage right, DJ Enuff, was dancing to the tracks he played, and forwarding, to a large screen at the front, stills and short video shots of the crowd, taken by himself, plus selfies sent by the crowd, and tweets mostly just saying 'We are here!' but others more expressive: 'The DJ is filling us with love, which we need'; 'Are there any Trump supporters here? Or did all this fine ass melanin scare them off?'; 'READY TO RUMBLE'; 'May the best woman win.' My friend said about Trump and HRC: 'They should be forced to dance together, before they debate.'


29 September 2016

Reclaiming Holloway Prison

Charlotte England

HMP Holloway, the largest women’s prison in Western Europe, shut down in July. Prison reform campaigners and charity workers argue that the ten-acre publicly owned site in Islington should be ‘reclaimed’ for the community and turned into social housing and a women’s centre. Instead, it’s being marketed to property developers. It could be turned into 500 flats worth an average of £500,000 each, giving the site a redevelopment value of more than £250 million.


27 September 2016

The Art of the Nuclear Deal

Jeremy Bernstein

‘And by the way,’ Donald Trump said to Hillary Clinton in last night’s debate, ‘another one powerful is the worst deal I think I’ve ever seen negotiated that you started is the Iran deal.’ His view on the Iranian nuclear deal, and the nuclear weapons situation in general, hasn’t changed much since he spoke with two New York Times reporters in March. Not surprisingly he revealed an abominable ignorance of the subject.


26 September 2016

Lights, Camera, Justice!

Frederick Wilmot-Smith

The United States Supreme Court does not permit video recording. ‘The day you see a camera come into our courtroom,’ Justice David Souter said in 1996, ‘it’s going to roll over my dead body.’ The Supreme Court is not, he argued, ‘part of the entertainment industry’. In a recent paper called Transforming Our Justice System, the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Justice says that the justice system ‘should be competing … with every modern consumer experience’ that citizens ‘have in their lives’.


23 September 2016

Money for nothing?

Aaron Bastani

Last week Jeremy Corbyn said that Labour might consider adopting a universal basic income as party policy. Emphasising the responsibility of government to 'protect citizens' from uncertainty, rather than exacerbate it, he isolated a UBI as a potential solution to the risks of globalisation – but only after proper research and testing. That's probably a good idea, since nobody is really sure what happens when you start to give money to everyone for doing ‘nothing’. There was an experiment in Manitoba in the 1970s, and trials are imminent in Finland and Oakland, California, but they won’t give much sense of how it would work in a country with 65 million people and the world’s sixth biggest economy.


22 September 2016

Lesvos Burning

Yiannis Baboulias

On Monday night, a group of refugees in the Moria camp on Lesvos started a fire that blazed throughout the night and destroyed most of the camp. A storm hit the island the next morning and finished the job, mixing cinders and gravel into dark sludge. The 4000 people staying in the camp were displaced and most of them, including 100 unaccompanied minors, had to sleep rough that night.


22 September 2016

Missionaries in a Lift

Deborah Friedell

Mormons vote for Republicans – everyone knows that. But they don’t like Trump. ‘Mormons place a high premium on being nice, and Trump is not nice,’ Matt Bowman, the author of The Mormon People, told ThinkProgress. After Mitt Romney said that Trump was a ‘phony, a fraud’ last March, Trump told a rally in Salt Lake City: ‘I have many friends that live in Salt Lake City – and by the way, Mitt Romney is not one of them. Are you sure he's a Mormon? Are we sure?’


21 September 2016

A Promising Future for All

Jeremy Harding

The informal EU summit in Bratislava last week was the object of semi-enthusiastic press speculation as the dignitaries prepared to gather, and bored silence once it was over. Billed as the first summit without the UK, all it could say about meeting as a group of 27, rather than 28, was that 'the EU remains indispensable to the rest of us.’ But it set down a new marker in the European refugee crisis, which Theresa May hammered into place yesterday during her first speech to the UN General Assembly in New York. In Europe and the UK the very notion of asylum has finally been buried under security issues.


21 September 2016

On ‘Ripper Street’

Bernard Porter

My historical centre of gravity, so to speak, is the 1890s, and has involved research into the London Metropolitan Police; so I’ve been a keen watcher of Ripper Street on BBC2, starring Matthew Macfadyen as Inspector Reid, a fictional detective in Whitechapel around then. It takes a strong stomach to watch it; but historically it’s pretty accurate, despite the occasional (unsurprising) anachronism. This week’s episode centred on the Thames Ironworks factory in the East End; and in particular its football team. Thames Ironworks FC was the original name of West Ham United, a.k.a. the Hammers or the Irons. I've followed them for decades. On Monday night, we saw them playing, convincingly (i.e. roughly but skilfully), in late-19th-century strip. The plot involves the murder of one of the star players – with a hammer. It also features the Arsenal. But I don’t want to give too much away.


20 September 2016

Up the Commonwealth

Sadakat Kadri

In the Telegraph last week, Andrew Roberts suggested that one of ‘the many splendid opportunities provided by the … heroic Brexit vote’ was the chance for Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom to unite as a federation. Nigel Farage advised Irish radio listeners to ‘hedge their bets’ by rejoining the Commonwealth. And Liam Fox (who wants us to abandon our ‘obsession’ with Europe in favour of the Commonwealth) has started ‘scoping out the parameters’ of a free trade deal with Australia.


20 September 2016

Come Together

Alex Abramovich

I'd heard there was 'nothing new' in Ron Howard's Beatles movie, and in the grand scheme of things this turned out to be true, though there's new concert footage and excellent bits with the fans. (Among other things, you'll see a tweenage Sigourney Weaver, up in the nosebleed seats at the Hollywood Bowl.) But forty-five minutes into the film, there's a striking set piece.


17 September 2016

Left, Right and Centre

Lorna Finlayson

Opinium and the Social Market Foundation have released a report based on a survey of 2000 people in the wake of the Brexit vote. Respondents were asked for their views on various policies, and to say where they saw themselves on the political spectrum. The report's conclusions, repeated in the press, were that public opinion is currently centrist-to-right-wing, and the left is split over policy in a way that the right is not, above all over immigration. The report also identifies Britain's eight ‘underlying political tribes', the two largest of which – ‘the Our Britain tendency’ and 'Common Sense' – make up 'around 50 per cent of the population' and 'hold a range of traditionally right wing views, offering a solid foundation on which to aim for the 40-42 per cent of the vote which normally guarantees a healthy majority under our electoral system.'


14 September 2016

Selling Love

Moira Donegan · Mother Teresa

In order to be made a saint in the Catholic Church, you first have to be dead and then you have to perform two miracles. The first posthumous miracle the Vatican says Mother Teresa performed was the healing of an Indian woman named Monica Besra, whose abdominal tumour disappeared after a locket containing a picture of the nun was pressed to her stomach. The tumour was caused by tuberculosis, one of the diseases Mother Teresa had spent her life providing care for. The Vatican rushed to confirm the miracle, but Besra’s family and doctors were sceptical: ‘She took medications for nine months to a year,’ Besra’s doctor told the New York Times. Other hospital staff said that they felt pressure from Catholic authorities to say that the recovery was miraculous.


13 September 2016

In John Lewis

M.G. Zimeta

London Fashion Week will begin on Friday, and with it comes the usual dismay about the thinness of the models and the impact of this on women and teenagers – including the models themselves. The Women’s Equality Party (founded last year) has launched the #NoSizeFitsAll campaign to challenge the UK fashion industry to do better. One of its demands is for Fashion Week to include models of UK size 12 and above. (Size 12, though smaller than average, is considered 'plus-size'.) 'The softly, softly approach has been tried for years and is not working,' the manifesto says. Well: not for women, anyway. Nearly a year ago I complained about the mannequins at the entrance of the ladies’ department in John Lewis on Oxford Street. ‘It’s nothing to do with us, it’s head office, you’ll have to fill in a complaint form,’ the sales assistants told me. A few months earlier, Topshop had been publicly shamed for its ‘ridiculously thin’ mannequins after a customer’s open letter went viral.


13 September 2016

Cameron Quits Again

Glen Newey

On 19 June, shortly before the EU referendum, David Cameron tweeted that 'Britain isn't a quitter.' Outside 10 Downing Street three days later, he reaffirmed that 'Brits don't quit.' The next day, Britain voted to quit the EU. During the campaign, he had let it be known that if it did, he would remain prime minister – before quitting on the morrow of the referendum. In his resignation speech he vowed to stay on until the autumn, to 'steady the ship' for his successor. When he was elbowed aside within a fortnight, he vowed not to quit as MP for Witney. Now he's quit at that, too.


9 September 2016

A Battered Monument

Sam Kinchin-Smith · Nick Cave

Whenever Nick Cave launches a new project in London, the same group of respectable goths and men in silk shirts find themselves together again, and recognition flickers – because you met this person last time, or you catch a glimpse of Ray Winstone again, or Will Self. It was like that at Her Majesty’s Theatre in 2013, when the Bad Seeds played Push the Sky Away in full for the first time; and at the Barbican in 2014, for a gala preview of Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard’s film about Cave’s 20,000 Days on Earth. Last night, P.J. Harvey was ahead of me in the queue at the cinema, where I’d gone to watch One More Time with Feeling, Andrew Dominik’s film about Cave’s sixteenth album with the Bad Seeds, Skeleton Tree.


8 September 2016

The Zrada Card

Peter Pomerantsev

The three Home Alone movies all featured in a list of the ten most watched TV programmes in Ukraine in January and it’s tempting to speculate that the popularity of the franchise reflects the way the country sees itself: abandoned by those who should be responsible for it, under attack from bigger powers and having to improvise its self-defence with anything that comes to hand. This isn’t just about the latest Russian aggression. Historically Ukraine has been invaded and occupied by everyone in the region: Romania, Austria, Poland, Germany, Hungary, Czechoslovakia.


6 September 2016

Israel’s Impending Civil War

Uri Avnery

Something happens to retired chiefs of the Israeli internal Security Service, Shin Bet. Once they leave their jobs, they become spokesmen for peace. How come? Shin Bet agents are the only members of the establishment who come into real, direct, daily contact with Palestinians. They interrogate Palestinian suspects, torture them, try to turn them into informers. They collect information, penetrate the most remote parts of Palestinian society. They know more about the Palestinians than anybody else in Israel (and perhaps in Palestine, too).


5 September 2016

The Spirit of Charlemagne

Glen Newey

By origin the European Union is a deeply Catholic institution. Its six-member precursor took in the main Catholic powers of Western Europe, apart from Fascist Spain; even part-Protestant Germany was led in by that devout Roman Catholic Rhinelander, Konrad Adenauer. The Union's close historical avatar, the Holy Roman Empire, aspired to an imperium that, if not wholly Roman, remained as firmly of this world as papal power itself.


2 September 2016

At Lincoln Center

Adam Shatz

A few weeks ago, I played an album by the jazz saxophonist Henry Threadgill to a composer I know, and asked him to guess who wrote it. Old Locks and Irregular Verbs is an extended suite for an octet, and, like many of Threadgill's compositions, full of jagged rhythms and mind-teasing patterns. ‘Milton Babbitt?’ my friend suggested. Babbitt was an academic serialist composer and the author of a notorious article, ‘Who Cares if You Listen?’ But he also dabbled in jazz, or rather, in ‘Third Stream’ music. The Third Stream, a synthesis of classical music and jazz, was first dreamed up by the French horn player and composer Gunther Schuller, in a 1957 lecture at Brandeis University.


1 September 2016

After the Olympics

Kathleen McCaul Moura

Athletes are now arriving in Rio for the start of the Paralympic Games next week. The predictions of unfinished stadiums, Zika outbreaks and rampaging crime at the Olympics last month proved largely unfounded. Brazil won more medals than ever before, with some powerful symbolic victories for its ordinary citizens. The men's football team avenged their 7-0 World Cup defeat against Germany. Brazil's first gold of the games (for judo) was won by Rafaela Silva, a black lesbian from the City of God favela. Maicon de Andrade Siqueiro, who got a bronze medal in the taekwondo, trained around his work as a builder and a waiter. El País described him as a fighter not only in the stadium but, ‘like so many Brazilians’, in life.