New Statesman (1996)

Articles from Vol. 137, No. 4924, November 24

A Deadly Craft: Paddy Docherty Visits a Town on Pakistan's Afghan Border Where the Law of the Gun Reigns Supreme
My fixer sat down next to me in the packed and dilapidated minibus, whispering a hurried reminder to keep my head down at the army checkpoints. [ILLUSTRATION OMITTED] We were outside peshawar in north-western Pakistan and were travelling into...
Catastrophe Averted? the Leaders of the Rich Countries Went of Washington to Save the World from Sliding into Deep Recession. We Asked Key Politicians, Commentators and Economists Whether They Succeeded and What We Should Expect, and Hope for, in the Coming Weeks
Vincent Cable Shadow chancellor, Liberal Democrats By the low standards of economic summitry, the G20 meeting rated quite high. There was a predictable, no doubt pre-written, communique, full of the usual banalities. And the meeting suffered...
Eastern Approaches
If you are trying to determine whether a story is truth or fiction, strangeness is no guide, because truth is only intermittently stranger than fiction; but neatness may work. Truth is rarely as neatly structured, as prone to boil life down into allegories...
Everyone Is to Blame: Boundary Wrangles between Social Services Lie at the Heart of the Baby P Case, Argues Marian Brandon, a Leading Government Adviser on Child Abuse
The brutal circumstances of the death of Baby Pare hard to bear, and made more harrowing still by the publication of photographs of him, showing the toddler as an icon of childish vulnerability. Gordon Brown says such deaths must never happen again,...
Funny Peculiar
It is uncertain that the world was crying out for yet another book on the quirks of contemporary Britain and the British, but the phenomenal success of Bill Bryson's Notes from a Small Island created something of a vogue for the subject among non-British...
"How My Life Became One Long, Sad Sats Test"; in This Emotional Indictment of Our Education System, the Respected Writer and Teacher Francis Gilbert Explains How an Obsession with Testing Has Broken Children's Enthusiasm for Learning
The decision by the Children's Secretary, Ed Balls, to kill off the Sats exams for 14-year-olds is arguably the most momentous decision taken by a politician since Gordon Brown became Prime Minister. Dramatic as it may sound, I believe the scrapping...
Invisible Cities: In Myth, Babylon Is a Place of Romance and Wonder, but Years of Dictatorship and War Have Taken Their Toll on Its Ruins. Hisham Matar Recalls His Attempt to Visit the Ancient Metropolis in 1980s Iraq
Once upon a time, some 600 years before Christ, a king fell completely in love with his Persian concubine. He spent nights listening to her reminisce about the mountain meadows of her distant homeland. Fearing her restlessness, he vowed to replicate...
John Pilger's Article on Barack Obama Last Week Provoked a Powerful Response. Here We Publish a Selection of Your Many Letters
I have been, and remain, a fan of John Pilger's work. So it is with diffidence that I make this criticism: his repeated warnings that Barack Obama does not represent real change in the US have begun to sound uncharacteristically naive and simplistic....
Modernism a la Mode
Paul Morand first met Gabrielle Chanel at a New Year's Eve party in 1921 at her salon in the rue Cambon, Paris, She was almost 40 by then, and for a decade had created her own, and then other women's clothes more by appropriation and elimination than...
Old Labour's Heroic Age
Half a dozen years ago Lord Radice, then freshly recruited from the Commons to the Lords, published a book entitled simply Friends and Rivals. In it he chronicled, compared and contrasted the political careers of Roy Jenkins, Denis Healey and Anthony...
Orgies and Ecstasy
Mark Brendon used to be only an alcoholic. Then he went off to a chemical finishing school to well, finish off. At this clinic he learned that everyone goes to a therapist, is a therapist, or is a therapist going to a therapist. He left and discovered...
Pitch Invasions: There Are So Many Other Uses for a Stadium Besides Football
It's so obvious that Liverpool and Everton, each of which has been planning to build a new ground, at a total cost of [pounds sterling] 500m, should build just one ground and share. So obvious, they therefore probably won't do it. They'll blame the...
Shazia's Week Columnist of the Year
I'm in Pakistan, invited by the Rafi peer Theatre Workshop in Lahore as part of its 25 the festival of performing arts. Before I arrived, there were obviously concerns that I might bow come back. So my manager rang up the organisers with the predictable...
Silence of the Bees
Some of the most plaintive, and most distinctively English, lines to be written by any of the Great War poets were those of Rupert Brooke in "The Old Vicarage, Grantchester": "Stands the Church clock at ten to three?/And is there honey still for tea?"...
Singing for Their Supper: Two Musicians Take a Road Trip across Eastern Europe-And the Result Is Madness
Radio 4's The Goulash Archipelago (21 November, 11am) was a captivating documentary that followed two musicians as they travelled from Budapest deep into Transylvania's Carpathian mountains without offering money for their food--only music. The British...
Sort It out, Old Chap ... Is George Osborne "Nerdy", "Nasty" and "Overpromoted", as His Conservative Critics Would Have It, or the Potential Saviour of His Party and a Future Leader?
Last December, when it looked as if Boris Johnson's mayoral campaign was in trouble, senior Tories were in despair. The media were accusing their candidate of laziness and lacking an appetite for the fight. Unable to take advantage of the obvious weakness...
South Ossetia: The Plaything of Russia-Or Georgia?
Entering South Ossetia is like falling into a political black hold. At the top of a twisting, heavily wooded gorge, just below the highest ridge of the Caucasus chain, you leave Russia through a series of checkpoints, steel gates and customs controls....
Tactical Briefing
From: The Unit To: GB Subject: Osborne on the rack * So, pretty good week. After months of finding it hard to pick up the papers it's become a pleasure again: Osborne on the rack; Cameron shitting it or absent; polling almost no longer very depressing;...
Taking on the World: Having Conquered France, This Malian Duo Are Closing in on the British Market
With their catchy, soulful, bluesy vocals, Amadou and Mariam, the singing duo from Mali, have been slowly but surely seeping into the world's consciousness over the past few years. This was helped dramatically by their breakthrough album, Dimanched...
Thanks for the Memories; an Unsetting and Inspired Exploration of How the Trauma of War Affects the Mind
Emily Dickinson wrote: "Remorse--is Memory--awake/Her Parties all astir/A Presence of Departed Acts/At window and at Door." Her words find their cinematic equivalent in Waltz With Bashir, a sophisticated blend of documentary, fantasy, war film and...
The Best-Dressed Man
Who will rid me of this turbulent president? Ever since Guy Fawkes Night it has been a case of Obama this, Obama that. I am not a fool; it is a significant moment. But the world has not turned on its head, merely shifted on its axis. It is akin to...
The Outlandish Talent of Robert Kilroy-Silk
When Robert Kilroy-Silk was elected as MP for Ormskirk in 1974, he marked himself out as being someone in a hurry. Confident and handsome, with a strong regional accent, the former Liverpool University lecturer announced, in a documentary made about...
"There Is No Normal Life Here. Everything Is in Ruins"; the War with Russia Last August Has Devastated Georgia: Work and Even Food Are Now Scarce. and Georgians Fear That Worse Is to Come
A late autumn afternoon in Tbilisi. A group of middle-aged men, neatly dressed in yellowing shirts and fading suits, are playing backgammon under the trees in a square in the Armenian quarter. Several have well-groomed moustaches. The atmosphere is...
The Revolution Will Be Televised: A Drama Proves That England's Radical Past Is Something We Should Celebrate
The Devil's Whore Channel 4 So, this is exciting, No sooner has Dominic West finished his work on the HBO cops-and-drugs-drama The Wire than he turns up as ... Oliver Cromwell. I don't think of Cromwell often-though my father, a fan, owned an...
The Travelling Man: Gordon Brown Likes to Portray Himself as a Chancellor for the World. but He Cannot Keep Leaving These Shores with an Election Looming
During the Labour party conference in September, one big beast was doing the rounds of the parties with a plan for Gordon Brown. First, the Prime Minister should fall on his sword for the greater good of the party. It was then necessary, according...
The Yellow Peril Gets on His Scooter
* Good and bad news for foundering George "Oik" Osborne. On the plus side, he retains a rich admirer. Unfortunately it's Richard Desmond. Word is that Dirty Des, a guest of Boy George's in the recent past at a Carlton Club fundraiser, retains great...
Tribes of Clutter; A New Study of Contemporary Londoners' Possessions and the Values They Attach to Them Reveals an Important Shift of Allegiance Away from Wider Society and towards the Individual Household
This book sums up how far social anthropology has progressed since Henry Mayhew wrote about the skull shapes of costermongers in the 19th century. Daniel Miller's approach is more in keeping with that of the wild and weird Tom Harrisson and the pioneers...
Uncomfortable Origins: We Have Had a Remarkable Response to Tom Holland's Essay of 13 October on the Christian Roots of European Secularism. Here the Author Responds
In 1074, a monk from the Benedictine Abbey of Cluny, in Burgundy, crossed the frontier of Christendom and entered Muslim Spain. Arriving in the infield capital of Cordoba, he offered to walk through fire if only his audience would agree to abandon...
We Will Get There: The New Statesman's Campaign to Free Children Locked Up in UK Detention Centres Has Made Progress, Writes Alice O'Keeffe
"Yesterday was one of the worst days I have ever had to experience," wrote Bethlehem Abate, aged II. She described how immigration officers had stormed into home in Leeds, bundling her and her mother into a van. She was writing from inside Yarl's Wood...
When Greed Was Still Good: Unlike His More Didactic Work, David Hare's Latest Play, about the Blair Premiership, Is a Skilful Fusion of Drama and Politics-Insightful and Entertaining
Gethsemane, David Hare's 14th original play for the National Theatre (surely a case for the Competition Commission), has the luck to appear topical and the misfortune to have been overtaken by events. Just as George Osborne was being splattered over...
Why, Oh Why, Do I Love Paris?
Back from a weekend in Pairs, I wonder for the hundredth time why I don't live there. It is a curiously shocking experience arriving in the city via Eurostar. If you fly to Pairs, you pass through airports that muffle the senses. Travelling directly...
With the Battle Lines Drawn, Labour Has a Chance to Help the Weakest
It seems only yesterday that wise commentators were talking of a political consensus, of co-operation between the parties, and even of including leading opposition party figures on the National Economic Council, established to steer the UK through...
World Saved ... Planet Doomed: Green Activists Are Seeing the Global Economic Crisis as an Opportunity, but the Truth Remains: The Pursuit of High Economic Growth Cannot Be Reconciled with the Finite Nature of the Earth's Resources
You could call it the see-saw effect: it has long been an article of political faith that as worries about the economy go up, interest in the environment must go down. It stands to reason: people who are concerned today about their jobs have more immediate...
You Make My Palate Water No 4053; We Asked for Some Chat-Up Lines from a Range of Professionals of Your Choice, Such as Chefs, Footballers, Teachers and So On
[pound sterling] 15 each to the winners, a [pound sterling] 5 book token for the singletons. The Tesco vouchers go to Steve Morley, who made me laugh. I don't know how many of these have been thought of already, but I'm trusting you all came up with...