New Statesman (1996)

Articles from Vol. 126, No. 4329, April 11

All the Big Election News Stories of the Past Seven Days - Even Tatton - Are Really, at Root, about the Overriding Issue of Tax
It may not appear to be as dominant. The references to it may be more subtle. But, as in 1999, this campaign is being shaped by the issue of tax. All the unexpected twists and turns of the past week - the row provoked by Tony Blair's comments on privatisation...
Aunty Earns Her Spurs
The Hillsborough disaster in 1989 is generally acknowledged to have altered sport - or certainly the circumstances in which it is experienced live but perhaps less widely appreciated is the impact of that dreadful afternoon on television coverage. The...
A Wind of Democratic Change
The constitutional argument is not about do-nothing versus do-something. It is about centralised sclerosis versus a revived economy and civil society The Conservatives portray themselves as the defenders of the constitution, protecting us from their...
Beyond the Battle Bus
The Conservative shadow cabinet waited two years after the party's humiliating defeat by Labour in 1945 to ask Winston Churchill to resign as party leader. Too cowardly to approach the great man themselves, they deputed the chief whip, James Stuart....
Bits and Pieces
This week's major release is The People vs Larry Flynt, Milos Forman's biopic of the flamboyant American pornographer. Some of its legal and constitutional aspects were discussed in these pages by Marcel Berlins last week, but a small aesthetic footnote...
Campaign '97
This column took to the campaign trail this week, setting off on Monday morning for the Labour and Conservative press conferences, those crucial daily opportunities for each party to set out the agenda, wrong-foot opponents and capture the early headlines....
Can Women Give Blokes What They Want?
Thirty years ago both my publisher and my literary agent were men. Today both are women. This is not just an anecdotal accident. Publishing is one of many industries that now seem to be almost wholly dominated by women. Though there have always been...
Dr. Alan Sked
Which books and authors have had the greatest effect on your political beliefs? My historical sense was formed by reading the works of A J P Taylor. I also greatly admire the essays of Sir Michael Howard. The one book that has specifically influenced...
Edgbaston Is a Rare Thing: A Middle-Class Inner Suburb That Has Never Gone Down in the World. Don't Tell, but It's a Target Seat for Labour
At the Birmingham Botanical Gardens the young mothers come with their smart buggies, ready to inspect the banana trees and watch the darting parakeets. The shop sells garden kneelers, wooden jigsaws and little floral pottery piggy-banks that look highly...
Exercise? the Real Exercise Is Finding a Sport the Suits a Sensitive Body like Mine
I'm not running in this Sunday's London Marathon because my training routine ground to a halt back in 1987. In the early summer of that year I decided it was time for new horizons, fresh air, meditation. I bought some running shoes which, on closer inspection,...
Fever Pitch
I watched Fever Pitch last week in an Arsenal cinema. It wasn't deliberate, just the way it happened, just the way the timings worked, for I like having a meal before the cinema, rather than afterwards. But as I go to bed at 10pm, that makes arrangements...
For All Th Hi-Tech, It's Still Three of Pieces Paper That Count Most at the Media Centre
"Thank God for the Rolling Brief," one of the media centre's generals muttered at the height of last week's onslaught. For all the gadgetry, the success of Labour's campaign rests on three pieces of paper: the "Rolling Brief", the "Labour Line" and the...
I Can't Believe the Numbers
Halfway through this election campaign, we have had a dozen polls. To the surprise of no one there is little comfort for the Conservatives in any of them. I have recorded 240 national voting-intention polls since the last election to the beginning of...
If Neil Hamilton's Real Political Opponents Don't Have the Confidence to Stand against Him, Martin Bell Is a Poor Substitute
Martin Bell's closest brush with sleaze was apparently a failure to submit a receipt for a Delhi taxi ride. This certainly puts him on a higher moral stratum than a Fleet Street correspondent who once spent his flight home confecting fraudulent expense...
In Search of New Labour
Clare Short bursts in to the Hayes and Harlington Labour rooms, all energy and good humour, and says: "You know what's happened? Peter Mandelson has told everyone there must be no more drinking by anyone from now in Millbank [the Party HQ] till after...
It's Monk Month at Oddbins, the Chain That Simply Wants to Please Its Customers. Suit You, Sir?
I recognise that it's important in a magazine of this status to keep advertising and editorial material strictly separate, but I simply can't help mentioning the bargains currently on offer at your local Oddbins. For the rest of April the company is...
Me Serge, You Jane
The French love couples. For decades their popular weekly magazines have elevated French celebrities and their spouses du jour to the status of national monuments, chronicling their every move from domestic bliss to marital strife to separation, and...
Mexico's Love-Hate Relationship with Its Big Brother in the North Is Calcifying into Something Rather More Disturbing
In American movies such Mexicans as ever appear are a joke or a menace. And if you say "Mexican" in California, the state most intimately connected with its southern neighbour, the word it inevitably throws up is gardener, or domestic servant, or trash...
No Papers, No Chance
Who's filling the prisons these days? Lads caught without their driving licences or MoT The offence of aggravated vehicle taking is about to be beefed up. It already has an "entry point" in the magistrates' guidelines of custody. Now Michael Howard...
Politics Isn't Working
The church report on unemployment briefly put at centre stage the election issue that belongs there. We shall see in the next five years whether we really care Clerics certainly know how to annoy Tories. No amount of ecclesiastical spin-doctoring could...
Ruth Deech
Halfway through our interview a curmudgeonly member of the Oxford and Cambridge Club arrives to wind up the proceedings. "Are you talking?" he asks Ruth Deech, in a tone that suggests such antisocial practices are frowned on round these parts. "Well,...
Slow Down, You Move Too Fast
Technology was supposed to make life better but, by speeding everything up, we suffer losses we have not yet learnt to fathom The alarm rings and you hop out of bed. A quick shower. Wake the kids and rush them through breakfast so they won't miss the...
So You Want to Know the Best Cure for Your Hangover? Cheers!
There is an American barroom adage that goes: "One drink is never enough. Two is just fight. Three is never enough . . ." Drinker's remorse is universal and our serial foolishness has produced a formidable lexicon of hangover cures. Most famous is hair...
The Battle of Stirling
"I believe in devolution," Michael Forsyth declares, standing between two huge saltires. This is unexpected. A last-minute change of heart by the Scottish Secretary, facing the loss of his ultra-marginal Stirling seat? But the front row of Tory ladies...
The Door Swings Both Ways in Contemporary British Culture, but the Labour Party Is Far Too Square to Notice
Dear Tony, Sorry you missed the private screening of David Cronenberg's Crash I organised a few weeks ago, but I understand you were otherwise engaged. It would have been interesting to see an ethical socialist respond to a film the power of which lies...
The Fielding of Election Candidates by a Black Party Could Be an Important Step to Bringing Two Divided Societies Back Together
A cable station flashed up the news that a black political party is to field candidates in the general election. Was it an All Fools' Day announcement? It turns out it was not. In fact, during all the reports and commentaries on the campaign which I...
The Knives Are Sharpened
The press has had five years in which to become disillusioned with John Major: it must lose its illusions about Tony Blair in less than a month. This past week's commentary has been a start to the process: if it accelerates, and becomes a national mood,...
The Mancunian Candidate
The power of politics to intervene in theatre far outweighs any influence operating in the opposite direction. Last June an IRA bomb destroyed the Royal Exchange Theatre. The company's response, now in an improvised venue in Upper Campfield Market, has...
The Man Who Set Me on Fire
Adrian Mitchell pays tribute to Allen Ginsberg, who died in New York last weekend Whenever I saw him, I always made y way through the crowd and hugged him. We'd swap a few words and then I'd fade away. Allen had already given me plenty, and there were...
The People vs. Larry Flynt
This week's major release is The People vs Larry Flynt, Milos Forman's biopic of the flamboyant American pornographer. Some of its legal and constitutional aspects were discussed in these pages by Marcel Berlins last week, but a small aesthetic footnote...
Time Hangs Heavy
"Are there any surprises?" a hopeful Five Live presenter asked a BBC political correspondent at the launch of the Liberal Democrat manifesto. "No, no surprises. . ." began the reply. You could almost hear the sigh of the presenter. Four weeks to go,...
What This Country Needs Is
Disestablishment Continuing our pre-election series of unorthodox prescriptions for improvements to the state of the nation from non-politicians Men of honesty and principle in government, imbued with compassion, prepared to sacrifice political dogma...