From political strife to Swedish songwriting—a look at this month's issueby Bronwen Maddox / October 15, 2015 / Leave a comment
Could Jeremy Corbyn ever get to No.10? For all the improbability of that image, as our exclusive polls this month show, voters say they back some policies he embraces far more than they do the government’s. He is also clearly “on to something,” as Peter puts it, in trying to strike a new tone. But you can’t glue together a winning platform from these strands, as he also notes. The prospect of Prime Minister Corbyn remains implausible unless he becomes less like, well, Jeremy Corbyn.
Being Leader of the Opposition has never been a smooth ride. But Philip Collins, offers a script for what the Opposition should now say, targetting the government’s weak flanks, such as tax credits, Europe, and social mobility. David Cameron used his conference speech to revive the theme with which he opened his premiership, of remaking his party into one of compassionate Conservativism. If he succeeds, that could be a recipe for future victories. But for a leader who once gibed at Tony Blair, “You were the future, once,” it is striking how much in his speech he resembled Blair.
The government’s confidence rests not just on the existence of Corbyn but on the recovery. Yet George Osborne’s plans are vulnerable to factors beyond his control as well as to a backlash against cuts. Room to soften the withdrawal of tax credits as Boris Johnson is now urging would disappear in a slowdown. Building on the scale he plans remains hard; John Kay demolishes the model the Airports Commission used to recommend expansion at Heathrow. Anatole Kaletsky argues, too, that the next crisis could well be labelled Made in China. And Europe was the huge omission in Cameron’s and Osborne’s speeches. The “in” case is slipping away from Cameron’s grasp in rows about migration. Migration, plus the Eurozone’s contradictions, could even break the union, as Niall Ferguson argues, and before that point, confound its aspirations.
Those aspirations barely extend at the moment to a coherent foreign policy—certainly towards Syria. Rachel Polonsky, sets out a controversial case for seeing the conflict more through Russia’s eyes, and joining Moscow in backing the Assad regime—or staying out. That’s not a view I share; the risk of civil war seems great. But she is right that the west needs to deal with Russia in this. And with Turkey, where Europe also sends mixed signals in discouraging the Erdoğan government from authoritarianism; Orhan Pamuk, says he won’t stop speaking out against it.
Meanwhile, US politics has rarely seemed more separate. Sam Tanenhaus, former Editor of the New York Times Book Review, who joins us to write about the 2016 US election, describes the Republicans trashing each other; Diane Roberts adds that Donald Trump is a phenomenon beyond parody. As a respite from the tangled calculations of politics, you might turn to John Harris’s account of how to make a hit. There is, he says, a formula for a winner in the “modern pop age” and the Swedes—or at least, one of them—have found it.