In the latest issue:

Real Men Go to Tehran

Adam Shatz

What Trump doesn’t know about Iran

Patrick Cockburn

Kaiser Karl V

Thomas Penn

The Hostile Environment

Catherine Hall

Social Mobilities

Adam Swift

Short Cuts: So much for England

Tariq Ali

What the jihadis left behind

Nelly Lahoud

Ray Strachey

Francesca Wade

C.J. Sansom

Malcolm Gaskill

At the British Museum: ‘Troy: Myth and Reality’

James Davidson

Poem: ‘The Lion Tree’

Jamie McKendrick


Jenny Turner

Boys in Motion

Nicholas Penny

‘Trick Mirror’

Lauren Oyler

Diary: What really happened in Yancheng?

Long Ling

Short CutsBen Jackson

Terms and Conditions

These terms and conditions of use refer to the London Review of Books and the London Review Bookshop website ( — hereafter ‘LRB Website’). These terms and conditions apply to all users of the LRB Website ("you"), including individual subscribers to the print edition of the LRB who wish to take advantage of our free 'subscriber only' access to archived material ("individual users") and users who are authorised to access the LRB Website by subscribing institutions ("institutional users").

Each time you use the LRB Website you signify your acceptance of these terms and conditions. If you do not agree, or are not comfortable with any part of this document, your only remedy is not to use the LRB Website.

  1. By registering for access to the LRB Website and/or entering the LRB Website by whatever route of access, you agree to be bound by the terms and conditions currently prevailing.
  2. The London Review of Books ("LRB") reserves the right to change these terms and conditions at any time and you should check for any alterations regularly. Continued usage of the LRB Website subsequent to a change in the terms and conditions constitutes acceptance of the current terms and conditions.
  3. The terms and conditions of any subscription agreements which educational and other institutions have entered into with the LRB apply in addition to these terms and conditions.
  4. You undertake to indemnify the LRB fully for all losses damages and costs incurred as a result of your breaching these terms and conditions.
  5. The information you supply on registration to the LRB Website shall be accurate and complete. You will notify the LRB promptly of any changes of relevant details by emailing the registrar. You will not assist a non-registered person to gain access to the LRB Website by supplying them with your password. In the event that the LRB considers that you have breached the requirements governing registration, that you are in breach of these terms and conditions or that your or your institution's subscription to the LRB lapses, your registration to the LRB Website will be terminated.
  6. Each individual subscriber to the LRB (whether a person or organisation) is entitled to the registration of one person to use the 'subscriber only' content on the web site. This user is an 'individual user'.
  7. The London Review of Books operates a ‘no questions asked’ cancellation policy in accordance with UK legislation. Please contact us to cancel your subscription and receive a full refund for the cost of all unposted issues.
  8. Use of the 'subscriber only' content on the LRB Website is strictly for the personal use of each individual user who may read the content on the screen, download, store or print single copies for their own personal private non-commercial use only, and is not to be made available to or used by any other person for any purpose.
  9. Each institution which subscribes to the LRB is entitled to grant access to persons to register on and use the 'subscriber only' content on the web site under the terms and conditions of its subscription agreement with the LRB. These users are 'institutional users'.
  10. Each institutional user of the LRB may access and search the LRB database and view its entire contents, and may also reproduce insubstantial extracts from individual articles or other works in the database to which their institution's subscription provides access, including in academic assignments and theses, online and/or in print. All quotations must be credited to the author and the LRB. Institutional users are not permitted to reproduce any entire article or other work, or to make any commercial use of any LRB material (including sale, licensing or publication) without the LRB's prior written permission. Institutions may notify institutional users of any additional or different conditions of use which they have agreed with the LRB.
  11. Users may use any one computer to access the LRB web site 'subscriber only' content at any time, so long as that connection does not allow any other computer, networked or otherwise connected, to access 'subscriber only' content.
  12. The LRB Website and its contents are protected by copyright and other intellectual property rights. You acknowledge that all intellectual property rights including copyright in the LRB Website and its contents belong to or have been licensed to the LRB or are otherwise used by the LRB as permitted by applicable law.
  13. All intellectual property rights in articles, reviews and essays originally published in the print edition of the LRB and subsequently included on the LRB Website belong to or have been licensed to the LRB. This material is made available to you for use as set out in paragraph 8 (if you are an individual user) or paragraph 10 (if you are an institutional user) only. Save for such permitted use, you may not download, store, disseminate, republish, post, reproduce, translate or adapt such material in whole or in part in any form without the prior written permission of the LRB. To obtain such permission and the terms and conditions applying, contact the Rights and Permissions department.
  14. All intellectual property rights in images on the LRB Website are owned by the LRB except where another copyright holder is specifically attributed or credited. Save for such material taken for permitted use set out above, you may not download, store, disseminate, republish, post, reproduce, translate or adapt LRB’s images in whole or in part in any form without the prior written permission of the LRB. To obtain such permission and the terms and conditions applying, contact the Rights and Permissions department. Where another copyright holder is specifically attributed or credited you may not download, store, disseminate, republish, reproduce or translate such images in whole or in part in any form without the prior written permission of the copyright holder. The LRB will not undertake to supply contact details of any attributed or credited copyright holder.
  15. The LRB Website is provided on an 'as is' basis and the LRB gives no warranty that the LRB Website will be accessible by any particular browser, operating system or device.
  16. The LRB makes no express or implied representation and gives no warranty of any kind in relation to any content available on the LRB Website including as to the accuracy or reliability of any information either in its articles, essays and reviews or in the letters printed in its letter page or material supplied by third parties. The LRB excludes to the fullest extent permitted by law all liability of any kind (including liability for any losses, damages or costs) arising from the publication of any materials on the LRB Website or incurred as a consequence of using or relying on such materials.
  17. The LRB excludes to the fullest extent permitted by law all liability of any kind (including liability for any losses, damages or costs) for any legal or other consequences (including infringement of third party rights) of any links made to the LRB Website.
  18. The LRB is not responsible for the content of any material you encounter after leaving the LRB Website site via a link in it or otherwise. The LRB gives no warranty as to the accuracy or reliability of any such material and to the fullest extent permitted by law excludes all liability that may arise in respect of or as a consequence of using or relying on such material.
  19. This site may be used only for lawful purposes and in a manner which does not infringe the rights of, or restrict the use and enjoyment of the site by, any third party. In the event of a chat room, message board, forum and/or news group being set up on the LRB Website, the LRB will not undertake to monitor any material supplied and will give no warranty as to its accuracy, reliability, originality or decency. By posting any material you agree that you are solely responsible for ensuring that it is accurate and not obscene, defamatory, plagiarised or in breach of copyright, confidentiality or any other right of any person, and you undertake to indemnify the LRB against all claims, losses, damages and costs incurred in consequence of your posting of such material. The LRB will reserve the right to remove any such material posted at any time and without notice or explanation. The LRB will reserve the right to disclose the provenance of such material, republish it in any form it deems fit or edit or censor it. The LRB will reserve the right to terminate the registration of any person it considers to abuse access to any chat room, message board, forum or news group provided by the LRB.
  20. Any e-mail services supplied via the LRB Website are subject to these terms and conditions.
  21. You will not knowingly transmit any virus, malware, trojan or other harmful matter to the LRB Website. The LRB gives no warranty that the LRB Website is free from contaminating matter, viruses or other malicious software and to the fullest extent permitted by law disclaims all liability of any kind including liability for any damages, losses or costs resulting from damage to your computer or other property arising from access to the LRB Website, use of it or downloading material from it.
  22. The LRB does not warrant that the use of the LRB Website will be uninterrupted, and disclaims all liability to the fullest extent permitted by law for any damages, losses or costs incurred as a result of access to the LRB Website being interrupted, modified or discontinued.
  23. The LRB Website contains advertisements and promotional links to websites and other resources operated by third parties. While we would never knowingly link to a site which we believed to be trading in bad faith, the LRB makes no express or implied representations or warranties of any kind in respect of any third party websites or resources or their contents, and we take no responsibility for the content, privacy practices, goods or services offered by these websites and resources. The LRB excludes to the fullest extent permitted by law all liability for any damages or losses arising from access to such websites and resources. Any transaction effected with such a third party contacted via the LRB Website are subject to the terms and conditions imposed by the third party involved and the LRB accepts no responsibility or liability resulting from such transactions.
  24. The LRB disclaims liability to the fullest extent permitted by law for any damages, losses or costs incurred for unauthorised access or alterations of transmissions or data by third parties as consequence of visit to the LRB Website.
  25. While 'subscriber only' content on the LRB Website is currently provided free to subscribers to the print edition of the LRB, the LRB reserves the right to impose a charge for access to some or all areas of the LRB Website without notice.
  26. These terms and conditions are governed by and will be interpreted in accordance with English law and any disputes relating to these terms and conditions will be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales.
  27. The various provisions of these terms and conditions are severable and if any provision is held to be invalid or unenforceable by any court of competent jurisdiction then such invalidity or unenforceability shall not affect the remaining provisions.
  28. If these terms and conditions are not accepted in full, use of the LRB Website must be terminated immediately.
Vol. 37 No. 20 · 22 October 2015
Short Cuts

The Canadian Election

Ben Jackson

Sometimes​ there’s nothing more useful than bad news. So when it was confirmed at the start of September that Canada’s economy was in recession, the leaders of the opposition parties were turning cartwheels on their way to the stump. ‘The news that is consuming Ottawa today is old hat to Canadians across the country,’ declared Justin Trudeau, the Liberal Party’s youthful leader and the son of Canada’s long-serving prime minister Pierre Trudeau. ‘They know Stephen Harper’s approach is failing them.’ Thomas Mulcair, the leader of the New Democratic Party (NDP), was jubilant: ‘Stephen Harper is the only prime minister in Canadian history who, when asked about the recession during his mandate, gets to say: “Which one?”’

The news, which was largely driven by low oil prices, came at a specially bad time for Harper, the Conservative leader. He had dissolved parliament on 2 August, and called an election for 19 October. A tight three-way race between the Conservatives, the Liberals and the NDP started to take shape, but Harper’s campaign was struggling to get off the ground. His first problem was an expenses scandal: in 2013, a Conservative Senator called Mike Duffy accepted a cheque – allegedly a bribe – of $90,172 from Nigel Wright, Harper’s chief of staff, in order to pay off expenses he shouldn’t have claimed. Duffy’s trial was at a critical point in August, and the only thing the media were interested in was how much Harper had known about the affair.

Things seemed to get worse with the Syrian refugee crisis, or more specifically the image of Alan Kurdi’s body. Kurdi’s family had been trying to reach relatives in Canada when he drowned along with his brother and mother. Both Mulcair and Trudeau called for a large number of refugees to be let into the country immediately. The Conservatives, on the day the image broke, had been planning to make an announcement about strengthening immigration controls. They cancelled that plan, but Harper still looked callous when he insisted on combining any intake of refugees with tight security measures and ‘a firm and military stance against Isis’.

The other problem for Harper was that the opposition parties were looking more plausible than any he’d faced since he defeated Paul Martin’s Liberals in 2006. The NDP, traditionally an outsider on the left of Canadian politics, got a bump in the polls last May when it took power in Alberta, a province that has voted Progressive Conservative for almost fifty years. Mulcair entered the campaign as favourite and, with his high poll numbers presumably made up mostly of Canada’s left, he made a reasonable strategic decision: the next voters to gain were in the centre ground. He started to toss out policy positions. The policy book was even taken down from the party website. He promised to balance the budget, he left pro-Palestinian members of the party out in the cold (admittedly, they have been there for some time) and he promised not to raise anyone’s personal income tax. The Liberals outflanked the NDP from the left. Trudeau promised to run ‘three modest deficits’ in order to invest in infrastructure. He wanted to accept 25,000 Syrian refugees by the end of the year, while Mulcair thought 10,000 more appropriate. And he promised to create a new tax bracket to raise taxes for people earning over $200,000 (vive la révolution).

The Liberals’ strategy worked: Trudeau came to be seen as the candidate who embodied change, and he caught up with Mulcair in the polls. But then, towards the middle of September, it suddenly looked as though all the chips were falling in Harper’s favour. The Duffy trial, adjourned until November, dropped down the news agenda. An economic uptick in June (despite a decline over the entire quarter) came to seem more important than the ‘technical recession’, as the Conservatives liked to call it (GDP had shrunk, modestly, for two consecutive quarters: don’t tell us this means we’re in recession). In any case, economic uncertainty can make change look risky. As for the refugee crisis, it turns out that if two parties are both on one side of a divisive issue, it’s a good idea to be on the other side.

Enter Lynton Crosby to advise the Harper campaign. On 15 September, the Federal Court of Appeal ruled that the Conservatives’ 2011 ban on women wearing the niqab during citizenship ceremonies was illegal. Harper affected outrage: he would never tell his ‘daughter that a woman has to cover her face because she is a woman’. No sooner had he promised that his government would reintroduce the legislation within a hundred days of being re-elected than the Conservatives could talk about nothing else. The reason was that both Mulcair and Trudeau had decided to defend minority rights, despite opinion polls indicating that 82 per cent of Canadians backed the ban, with support at 93 per cent in Quebec, a province the NDP had to win to have any chance of forming a majority government. On 26 September, the Conservatives doubled down by stripping a convicted terrorist, Zakaria Amara, of his Canadian citizenship, in the first application of a new citizenship law.

The Conservative strategy seems to be working. The NDP shed 17 points in Quebec, and its support nationally dropped from the mid-30s to around 25 per cent. The Liberals seem to have taken the hit better (and in theory have a lot to gain from an NDP crash): at the time of writing, they stand at 32 per cent, level with the Tories, whose vote, as in Britain, has historically been underestimated by the polls. Of course, this could all change. One issue in particular has so far rumbled in the background and could end up defining the campaign: on 5 October, the ‘caretaker’ Conservative government agreed to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the world’s largest trade deal, which reduced tariffs and set common standards for trade between 12 Pacific Rim countries. Trudeau seems inclined to support it, with Mulcair insisting that an NDP government would not be bound by the deal. It could be more important than any other election issue, but it’s too early to say how it will play out.

If Harper retains power, he will continue with an agenda that has restored the confidence of Canadian conservatism. During the 2006 election, when he first came to power, he was asked – seriously – whether he loved his country. The problem wasn’t just that he didn’t seem to be able to emote on demand. The Liberals held power in Canada for 69 years of the 20th century – more than any other political party in a Western democracy. In The Longer I’m Prime Minister, a biography of Harper published in 2013, Paul Wells quotes a Conservative strategist talking about the symbols associated with Canada: ‘Healthcare. The Charter [of Rights and Freedoms]. Peacekeeping. The United Nations. The CBC. Almost every single example was a Liberal achievement or a Liberal policy.’ When a country is so dominated by a single party, how do you distinguish contempt for the politics of that party from contempt for Canadian politics – and Canadians – as a whole? There is still a school of thought that suggests Harper’s goal is nothing more ambitious than smashing up the Liberal Party.

That’s unfair. Harper, alongside Angela Merkel, is probably the most successful conservative politician in contemporary Western politics. He undoubtedly wants the Conservatives to end the Liberals’ reign as Canada’s ‘natural governing party’ (though I’d be more convinced of his commitment to that goal if he weren’t so quick to offload anyone in his party who looks like a plausible successor), but he has also reduced the size of the state by slashing taxes and closing down or reducing the budgets of hundreds of federal departments and research programmes. Federal revenue as a proportion of GDP is at its lowest level in fifty years. And he has promoted new national symbols – monarchy, military and ice hockey (a subject about which he has written an entire book) – that put him in more of a chest-thumping mood than universal healthcare.

In fact, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Canada is now a conservative country in search of an excuse. Socially liberal attitudes to abortion and same-sex marriage are entrenched, but campaign messaging for all the parties has had a relentlessly insular focus on ‘the middle class’, low taxes and security. In modern politics, this is all part of a sophisticated, data-driven search for votes. Often what it means in Canada is that the country’s real problems are ignored. The condition of Aboriginal Canadians, to take one example, is a national disgrace. They make up 4 per cent of the population, and 23.2 per cent of the prison population. The murder rate among Aboriginals, as Scott Gilmore has pointed out in Maclean’s, is higher than in Somalia. More than 840,000 Canadians, 13.6 per cent of them Aboriginals, use food banks every month in a country of just 35 million people. Little of this seems to have registered with the party leaders, let alone passed their lips on the campaign trail.

The paradox of the Canadian election is that it’s supposed to be about change (64 per cent of Canadians want a new prime minister), yet on crucial issues, the economy in particular, the main story has been about political convergence. All the parties are pursuing the same swing voters – something that could become a common feature of the new data-driven approach to politics. It’s not clear how sustainable that is: the reaction to perceived political convergence in Britain was Jeremy Corbyn. But at the moment Canadian politics are less turbulent than politics in Britain or the US. I can’t help feeling that Canada could use a real shake-up, and not in the direction Harper wants to take it. That probably won’t happen any time soon; the theory, which looks like a good one here, is that it’s not the way to get votes. Stephen Harper might not win this election, but this time no one is asking whether he loves his country.

9 October

Send Letters To:

The Editor
London Review of Books,
28 Little Russell Street
London, WC1A 2HN

Please include name, address, and a telephone number.


Vol. 37 No. 22 · 19 November 2015

Now that we know the outcome of Canada’s election, it’s much easier to see what was important about it than it was when Ben Jackson was writing (LRB, 22 October). To my mind, this election reveals that the committed conservative base remains at just over 30 per cent, which is where it has been for years; the great majority of political opinion continues to be centrist or centre-left, and because it was less fragmented in this election a moderately progressive majority government was elected; this majority was the outcome in part of a lot of strategic voting for ‘Anybody but Harper’. Finally, negative advertising doesn’t always work – the Liberals did little of it and still won.

The Liberals also promised electoral reform and will have trouble abandoning this commitment. Currently there’s widespread dislike of first-past-the-post, but most people have yet to think through the implications of the various alternatives. None of them, though, would favour the conservatives.

Robert Malcolmson
Nelson, British Columbia

send letters to

The Editor
London Review of Books
28 Little Russell Street
London, WC1A 2HN

Please include name, address and a telephone number

Read anywhere with the London Review of Books app, available now from the App Store for Apple devices, Google Play for Android devices and Amazon for your Kindle Fire.

Sign up to our newsletter

For highlights from the latest issue, our archive and the blog, as well as news, events and exclusive promotions.