New Statesman (1996)

Articles from Vol. 131, No. 4588, May 20

After 40 Years Here, Tom and His Wife Have No White Friends. Should They Integrate?
The term "asylum-seeker" is now easily interchangeable with "black" and "Asian". A friend of mine here in Brixton developed prostate cancer and had to visit a local hospital. He overheard the white receptionists referring to him as "one of those...
Almost a National Joke, He Has an unBritish Bent for Solving Puzzles Methodically, Yet Also Has Fierce Flashes of Creative Insight. (Profile: Lord Birt)
As director general of the BBC, John Birt became the most detested public figure of his generation. Relaunched as Baron Birt of Liverpool, he must have hoped that in semi-retirement things might start to look up. Instead, he finds himself something...
Amazingly, Even the Fat Cats Themselves Have Started to Rebel against Other Fat Cats Raking in Such High Rewards. (the Business)
Fat cats, schmat cats. Veteran war correspondents become inured to gore and suffering: financial journalists are starting to feel the same about boardroom pay. We have seen so many undeserved seven-digit packages, so many pay-offs rewarding failure,...
Beagle 2 - a Lesson in Science Communication: Have You Heard of Beagle 2? It Is Our Ambition to Have Everybody in the Country Aware of the Project When It Lands on Mars at Xmas 2003. (the Physics of the Universe)
For those who don't know already, it's a joint effort between British academics and our space industry to answer age-old questions concerning life on the Red Planet -- does it, did it, could it exist? A positive answer would be the vital first step...
Beagle Mania: The British (or at Least a British Landing Device) Are on Their Way to Mars, with a Little Help from Blur, Damien Hirst and Other Friends. (Space)
Travelling at nearly 20 times the speed of sound, Europe's most adventurous spacecraft will still take six months to travel 250 million miles to its final destination--Mars. Five days before the European Space Agency's Mars Express goes into orbit...
Bottle It -- the Conspiracy That Taps into the Celebrity in Us All. (Drink)
The thing about bottled water is that the more you think about it, the weirder it is. And the more you think about it, the harder it is to justify in common-sense terms. For a start, the logistical merry-go-round of getting water that might as...
Bringing Space Down to Earth: Susan Johnson Head of Government Affairs at Astrium, the UK and Europe's Largest Space Technology Company, Examines the Case for Government Funding for Space Programmes
Gordon Brown's 2002 Budget marked a significant turning point in modern British politics. Instead of focusing on tax cuts, he increased direct taxation. Despite the fact that more money is available, the battle for funds is intense. In this environment,...
Building on Our Space Science Heritage. (the Physics of the Universe)
Like all of my generation, I remember the mixture of threat and exhilaration which greeted the launch of Sputnik in 1957. As a first-year undergraduate, I measured the orbit from the roof of the Royal Observatory, Edinburgh. Eleven years later,...
Burger Secrets. (Fast Food)
One of the great lessons of Singapore for the rest of the world is that fast food need not be disgusting. This is not an unimportant lesson, because the fast-food industry is one of the world's largest, and half the British now seem to eat nothing...
Can Britannia Ever Rule the Skies? on Thatcher's Orders, Britain Opted out of the Premier Division in Space -- Because It Involved Working with Those Pesky Europeans. but Our Effort Still Has Some Merits. (Space)
There are two ways of looking at British space policy. Supporters see it as well-focused, realistic and cost-effective -- in contrast to the wasteful and grandiose programmes of, say, the US and France. For space enthusiasts, however, the UK contribution...
Colin Powell, the Loyal Soldier, Stays at His Post but Is Now Totally Isolated within the Bush Administration. (America)
It was still sunny at 11pm last Monday when Colin Powell flew in to Reykjavik for a Nato meeting. "I think things are starting to move along in a somewhat positive direction," the US secretary of state said of the Middle East. But, he added: "I've...
Deja Vu: Andrew Billen on a New but Spookily Familiar Spy Drama That Fails to Thrill. (Television)
It has gone beyond embarrassing, the times I have reviewed a new BBC1 drama series here and found it wanting. So let me get in early what praise I have for Spooks (Mondays, 9pm, BBC1). The first two stories are intelligent, pacey, well worked out,...
Diary
We passed Gretna Green but decided it would be foolish to change partners. Dr Johnson thought second marriages merely the triumph of Hope over Experience Last week, I took part in an expedition to Ayrshire in Scotland. My companions and I were...
Europe Needs More Space: The Old World Is Launching Satellites, for Both Commercial and Military Reasons. but the US Doesn't like It. (Space)
What is the European Union trying to become? Should it aspire to be merely an economic superpower, or should it aim for a more credible common foreign and security policy? Should its aerospace industry depend on US technology; or should the Europeans...
Events
The NS guide to what's going on in politics, current affairs and culture CONFLICT AND TRANSFORMATION From 25-31 May With Mo Mowlam, Scilla Elworthy and others. Open Space conference and training event to explore skills and provide tools...
Fly Me to the Moon: There's Money in Them There Craters. or So Some People Think. (Space)
If the priorities for would-be property speculators are truly "location, location, location", then Francis P Williams would seem to have got things wrong on three counts. Because the real estate that he's offering for sale to the British public...
From Russia with Uplift: The Order Came from Moscow Via Amsterdam. but Why Did the Customers Want to Pay [Pounds Sterling]90,000 for a Job That Need Cost Barely [Pounds Sterling]50,000? (Features)
The inquiry came in a telephone call from a chap called Nigel (definitely a chap, not a bloke) in London. He was offering what, for my small Midlands engineering company, was a big job: [pounds sterling]40,000 at a guess, and enough to keep us busier...
Funny Business Abroad. (the Euro Debate)
The most leaked memo-writer in the history of British politics received another breakfast-time shock on Monday morning, thanks to a Daily Telegraph splash on "Blair's euro battle plan". The research for GGC/NOP, the research firm led by Philip Gould...
Hello Again, Mr President: Justin Webster Meets Hugo Chavez, the In-out-In Ruler of Venezuela, and Finds He Still Fears for His Life. and with His Army Opponents Saying He Is Supported by a Layer of Thin Air, He Has Every Reason to Worry. (Features)
Heightened security around Hugo Chavez, the maverick president of Venezuela, is just one hint of the fragility of his grip on power, despite his dramatic and popular reinstatement a month after the military coup that ousted him from government....
How My Father Spied for Peace: Forty Years Ago, Activists, among Them Nicolas Walter, Found Secret Government Plans for the British Elite to Survive Nuclear War. Natasha Walter Argues That Their Story Can Be an Inspiration for Today's Protesters. (Essay)
In the long-winter that froze the early months of 1963-one of the coldest of the 20th century -- a few people were fanning flames of rebellion. They were peace activists -- and anarchists and socialists -- who wanted to challenge the power of the...
If It Can't Bury Bad News beneath a Real Funeral, a la Jo Moore, This Government Is Prepared to Create Its Own Cadaver. and a Race Row Fits the Bill Perfectly. (Watching Brief)
One of new Labour's greatest achievements has been to create an unprecedented cynicism about the political process among British people. Never have I seen this contempt demonstrated more plainly than last Sunday night, when I turned up at the...
In an Aesthetic Landscape of Dirty Knickers, Outraged Stuffiness Creates the Greatest Stir
The Mediaeval Baebes, Bond and Charlotte Church are creating most of the noise in classical music at the moment. With the exception of Miss Church, of whom we've all heard quite enough, these might be unfamiliar names to many. Transparently alluded...
In Bed with Madonna: Peter Conrad on the ENO's Latest Sexual Romp. (Opera)
Lulu -- the polymorphous and gleefully perverse heroine of Frank Wedekind's sex tragedies, Pabst's film Pandora's Box, and Berg's opera -- is the obscure object of everyone's desire. Both men and women yearn to possess her, but none of her suitors...
Left, Right, Left, Right: Orwell Has Been Co-Opted to Defend Almost Everything, Including the US Star Wars Programme and the Falklands War. Is It Time to Rescue Him from His Friends? (the Back Half)
Had he lived, Orwell would have turned 99 next month. The spangled Edwardian literary generation of which he was apart, and which dominated English literature in the half-century after his death, is dead and gone. Alone among that gentlemanly throng...
Letters
John Lloyd's excellent article is a timely reminder of the issues at stake. The liberal left must embrace global capitalism and sell it as a force for good, in much the same way as classical liberals embraced the free market, paving the way for...
Let Them All Come: It's Not a Soft Touch Welfare System That Makes Britain a Magnet for Immigrants; It's Our Need for Cheap Labour. (Features)
In January last year, Barbara Roche -- now, thankfully, a forgotten politician -- published an extraordinary report. Britian, the Home Office minister said, needed 150,000 immigrants from outside the EU every year for the next 20 years. They had...
More Water Issues: Staying Cool at School Is a Serious Business. (Food)
An NS reader, David Browning, recently raised the question of drinking water in schools. "Some Health Action Zones," he wrote, "have discovered that many schools no longer supply drinking-water, even at lunchtime. Gone are the jugs and glasses,...
Parliament and the Stars. (the Physics of the Universe)
The modesty of the UK's ambitions in space is reflected in the amount of time politicians devote to it. The Trade and Industry Select Committee produced its first Space Policy Report (HC355) in July 2000, the first since 1988. and time was found...
Pollocks: Philip Kerr on a Biopic That's as Drippy as Its Subject. (Film)
This isn't Welsh. No, this is action writing. As a writer for the new look New Statesman, I've been striving for an unstudied, spontaneous freshness of statement. It doesn't matter how the letters are put down so long as something is said. Because,...
President Bush Has Declared a War on Hormones and Is Set to Do Battle with Every Teenage Erection, Secretion and Moistening in the World
When the rumours started about a month ago that Bill Clinton was in negotiations to host an Oprah Winfrey-style TV talk show, I prayed: "Oh Lord, let it be true." I hope it sets a trend and soon ex-leaders all around the world will be presenting...
Return of the Space Race? the Russians Can't Afford a Space Programme Now; the US Has Lost Interest. So Will China Be Next to Reach for the Stars? (Space)
The early decades of the space age were dominated by the Americans and the Russians. Will their near-monopoly continue? The American space programme is at a crossroads. Since 1972, no American astronaut has ventured more than 200 miles away from...
Roar of Approval: Sholto Byrnes Exposes a Conspiracy of Niceness among the Critics. (Jazz)
What is the collective noun for a group of critics? It ought to be something like a "spike", a word conveying the relish with which the critic should pierce shoddy material and lay bare the reality behind the poster gloss. Alas, I'm not sure that...
Rocketing Away - at a Price: Helen Gavaghan on How Europe's Newest Satellite Can Help Ensure That Environmental Treaties Stick. (Space)
The night before the European Space Agency (ESA) successfully Launched its newest Earth-observing satellite -- Envisat -- earlier this year, gusting winds and driving rain created a gothic backdrop to a technological drama unfolding on the launch-pad....
Selling Gibraltar, a New Club for Top People, and Computer-Nerds-Are-Cheerful Shock. (the Insider)
MPs have given much painful thought to the attention-seeking behaviour of Alastair Campbell over recent weeks. He solicited an interview on Radio 5 Live, appealing for Burnley voters to oppose the BNP. He also offered an extraordinary audience to...
Space Science - Unveiling the Universe. (the Physics of the Universe)
What is the origin of our universe? How did it evolve? Is there life elsewhere? Such questions have perplexed mankind for the last two millennia. Now space science, which is only four decades old, is on the verge of providing the answers. Space...
Space Weather and Aircraft - a Threat to Aircrew and Passengers? (the Physics of the Universe)
In May 2000, an EU directive was implemented in UK law, requiring protection for commercial aircrew from exposure to cosmic radiation. Cosmic radiation is present at aircraft altitudes and primarily originates from beyond our solar system. But our...
The End of Civilisation: When Is It Nigh? an Asteroid Is More Likely to Kill You Than an Air Crash. but Your Government Does Not Seem to Care. (Space)
Space research delivers benefits in contrasting ways. One is through education, and inspiration to the young. The astronomy and space technology courses I teach are simply physics in disguise, the sugar that makes the pill palatable. Another...
The Last Frontier: Once People Saw Mars as like the Wild West, without the Indigenous Inhabitants. but Is Antarctica the Better Archetype? (Space)
In the 1890s, Percival Lowell, a wealthy Bostonian hitherto known for his accounts of travels in the far east, moved to Flagstaff, Arizona, in order to build himself an observatory from which to study Mars. Thus began along association between Mars...
The Last Spaceship from Earth: In Space, Machines Have Proved More Useful Than Men. but We Should One Day Revive Human Spaceflight to Ensure the Survival of the Species. (Space)
Back in the 1950s, space travel was a futuristic concept, familiar from comics and cornflakes packets. By 1969, Neil Armstrong's "one small step" on the moon had made it a reality. It seemed a high point in a decade blighted by the arms race and...
The Long Struggle. (Devolution)
The north-east of England has been very patient. Within two years of taking office, Labour had created a parliament for Scotland and an assembly for Wales. Within three, London was given a mayor and assembly. Northern Ireland was rewarded with a...
The Race in the Sky: Should Going into Space Be about Dominance or about Collaboration? (Space)
Europe's space science programme is being nibbled to death, upsetting the fine balance between international competition and collaboration. Each bite taken in the past seven years from the budget of the 15-nation European Space Agency (ESA) is never...
The Races. (the Back Half)
In real life, you seldom meet the sort of people you come across in jokes: actresses who are romantically involved with bishops, nymphomaniac brewers, talking dogs. But I can report the sighting of one of the most cheering characters in all tall...
The Real Problem with My Dad's Legs Was That He Kept His Cycle Clips on All Day. (Sidelines)
Sometimes, when cycling across Hampstead Heath, I will come across somebody I don't much like the look of, and they will duly intone: "There's no cycling on this part of the heath." "What are bikes for?" my six-year-old asks. "You can't ride them...
The Riddle of the Porn Baron's Cheque: Nobody at Labour HQ Knew Anything about Richard Desmond's Donation. or So They Say. but the Party Is So Broke That It Needs Cash -- Any Old Cash. (Cover Story)
Millbank Tower is not the happiest of places at the best of times. It is now in a state of disarray. The revelation on 12 May that the Labour Party had taken [pounds sterling]100,000 from Richard Desmond, owner of Express Newspapers, came as a complete...
US Hits the Poor. (Trade)
George Bush has just signed away $l9Obn to America's farmers, no doubt pleasing them but angering his Republican colleagues, who reportedly begged him to veto the farm bill right up to the signing ceremony. They were offended partly by the sheer...
What Has Space Ever Done for Us? (the Physics of the Universe)
Few people realise just how many products we encounter in everyday life owe their origins to space science: from the small explosive charge that activates the airbag in our cars, derived from technology developed to separate a rocket launcher's...
Why Life Is Now More Fun: For Billions, Satellite TV Is the Most Important Thing in Space. How Has It Changed Them? (Space)
The idea of transmitting television from satellites in space was first floated (in Wireless World in 1945) by 2001 author Arthur C Clarke. And from the beginning, the concept had the ring of science fiction. Beaming pictures and sounds from the...
Why Privatisation Makes Railways Unsafe. (Leader)
The sequence of events after a rail disaster is now familiar: first, the speculation (or the hope in some quarters) that vandalism or, more excitingly, sabotage is the cause; next, the attempt to blame some lowly worker (a driver, an engineer or...
World of Interiors: Ned Denny Discovers Magic in a Genre That Is Old Hat. (Art)
Future historians wanting an insight into the lives of privileged, late-20th-century urbanites will do well to take a look at Sam Taylor-Wood's series Five Revolutionary Seconds. These panoramic, richly detailed, 360-degree photographs - taken over...
Young Space Scientists - Does the UK Offer a Future? A Personal Perspective. (the Physics of the Universe)
Our future success and leadership lies in the hands of the younger generation of scientists and engineers. One of the many strengths of the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research council's commitment to space science is the training it gives to...
"You Thought You'd Have Had Slaves," I Roared. "Classic. but You're Black!". (Now What?)
About once a month, I get the following text: "Haven't heard from you for ages. Is it cos I is black?" To which I gleefully respond: "Yes it most certainly IS!!" The question and the response make both sender and receiver smile. We are cool with...