Sunday, January 15, 2006

New Statesman Jan 16th 2006

New Statesman Jan 16th 2006

Cover story is Jonathan Freedland saying "We Were Wrong About Sharon". He compares his feelings in 2001, his horrified shock at Sharon's landslide election victory with his heart plummeting at the news o Sharon's stroke. It's not illusion in Sharon's motives. Freedland is clear that withdrawal from Gaza was a military step, partly driven by worries about the demographic future, but that it was still the right thing to do. Sharon delivered some progress. Demanding perfection, demanding complete justice for the Palestinians, would be to line up with Netanyahu in getting nothing.

By way of contrast Lindsey Hilsum presents Sharon as a cynical manipulator, whose monument is the wall and the legacy of bitterness. And Samir El-Youssef presents a view from Palestine that presents Amir Peretz as the source of hope.

Martin Bright in 'The Adrian Mole Generation' makes the argument that Kennedy's ousting from the leadership of the LibDems wasn't to do with his alcoholism, but was 'everything to do with the revival of the Conservative Party under David Cameron'. Bright quotes the Sheffield LibDem Nick Clegg: "The crisis about Charles Kennedy's leadership was a response to the changing geography of British politics..... The centre ground was becoming crowded and we were not punching above our weight. If the leadership election comes out in the right way we will be better-equipped to stop Cameron stealing the liberal mantle from us."
And Bright continues: 'In one month David Cameron has become the driving force in British politics..'
Bright presents this as a major generational shift (leaving Campbell and Brown a bit high-and-dry?) to politicians born into the 'Adrian Mole generation', all around 40 and with an 'essentially moderate and unthreatneing politics'. New Labour was created by people formed by the landslide of 1983, these people formed by 1992 and the Major government.

David Marquand contributes the first of what they claim will be a major series on British politics. His focus is on the meaning of the SDP split after 25 years. Marquand always tells a sophisticated story and here he denies both a role in setting Kinnock off on the trjectory that led to New Labour and that the SDP split the anti-Tory vote and allowed the 1983 and 1987 landslide victories. Marquand says that in both those years Labour would have suffered catastrophic defeat. It might be a sophisticated story, but its from the point of view of a radical intelligentsia defined as people like Marquand himself. He thinks that the SDP won the battle of ideas in the '80s and that the 'radical intelligentsia' went back to Labour only in the '90s. But now New Labour's 'authoritarian populism' has started to appal the radical intellectuals, but they don't have an SDP to go to, only the Liberal Democrats, 'honourable people, with good liberal insitncts, but without an idea to rub between them.' Marquand emphasises the defence of an open democratic society with civil liberties. The enemy: 'statist determinism'.

There's also a profile of Zygmunt Bauman, 'greatest living sociologist' at 80 and the impact of his ideas since 1989s Modernity and the Holocaust, through to the engagement with 'postmodernity', or rather 'liquid modernity' (Liquid Love). Good, but that reference to Hobbes's Panopticon can't be right.

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