New Statesman | Let’s be alarmist: Brexit could take us back to the very worst of Europe’s intolerant past


Things must be atrocious when, as a Labour supporter, you end up yearning for the Michael Foot era. Yes, he was to the left of the public in an electorally untenable way. Yes, his presentation made him a sitting target to a hostile press. Yes, he led Labour to defeat. But he wasn’t Corbyn. He understood that the Labour Party exists to win power and put itself in the service of the country. He was principled – something that means a bit more than “committed to endlessly calling Tony Blair a war criminal”. He respected Parliament as an institution, too, and when he finally lost his MPs’ confidence after the 1983 election, he went.

He was a great speaker, writer and intellectual too. My favourite of his lectures is published in a 1983 pamphlet called Byron and the Bomb. In it, he makes the seemingly unlikely claim that poetry should be one of our first resources in opposing nuclear weapons: we must “grasp and imagine what a nuclear holocaust might mean . . . we must use our imagination in a way that has not been attempted before”, he writes.

If politics is to be more than glorified management, it demands people who can imagine better possible worlds and work out how to get us there. It demands people who can see absolute hell coming as well, and help us to avert it.

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New Statesman | Corbyn’s supporters loved his principles. But he ditched them in the EU campaign


“A good and decent man but he is not a leader. That is the problem.” This was just-sacked Hilary Benn’s verdict on Jeremy Corbyn, and he’s two-thirds right. Corbyn is not a leader, and if that wasn’t obvious before the referendum campaign, it should be now. If the Vice documentary didn’t convince you that Corbyn is a man who cannot lead – marked by both insubstantiality and intransigence, both appalling presentation and mortal vanity – then surely his botched efforts for Remain must have.

But so what. Even Corbyn’s greatest supporters don’t rate him as a statesman. They like him because he believes in something. Not just something (after all, Farage believes in something: he believes in a bleached white endless village fete with rifle-toting freemen at the gates) but the right things. Socialist things. Non-Blairite things. The things they believe in. And the one thing that the EU referendum campaign should absolutely put the lie to is any image of Corbyn as a politician of principle – or one who shares his party’s values.

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New Statesman | Sarah Wollaston changed her mind on the EU because – unlike Britain in this debate – she cares about truth


Poor old truth. Sarah Wollaston has done an admirable thing, switching her support for Brexit to Remain over Vote Leave’s misleading claims on health: “They have knowingly placed a financial lie at the heart of their campaign,” she writes in The Times. “Even emblazoning it on their battle bus, alongside the NHS branding, to imply a financial bonanza.”

Wollaston is smart. She calls out the falsehood without committing the debunker’s error of repeating it. But the thing about truth is, once you’re trying to establish it, the lie already has the front foot. Every time you say “not that, but this!” you’re repeating the false that and letting the honest this come second.

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