Starmer should feel largely unthreatened from his left. The Corbynite rump in the Labour Party has broadly failed to regroup since 2019, spending much of the pandemic relitigating its defeat. Many left-wingers have disengaged from the party while retaining vestigial membership, giving their attention to less poisonous local issues, community support in the pandemic or climate activism. The left’s counter-festival of socialist ideas, The World Transformed, will be held again in Brighton alongside the sealed tomb of the party conference. Its wide-ranging programme suggests that sincerity, intellectual energy and ambition are still there on the left of the party. But the outcome of its scheduled debate, ‘Starmer Out?’, is academic: even as earnest members wrestle with how best to transform society in response to the climate crisis, the political capacity to realise those ideas ebbs.

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23 September 2021

At Home in Berlin

Harry Stopes

The German elections have serious implications for the climate, housing and healthcare. There are major differences between the parties though the campaign materials aren’t always clear about what these are. ‘Berlin: ready for more,’ says a poster for the CDU’s mayoral candidate, Kai Wegner. (More what?) ‘There has never been more to do … let’s grab the future,’ the FDP urges. ‘Olaf Scholz, chancellor for Germany,’ the SPD flatly declares.

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22 September 2021

The Fifth Season

Mark Sinker

This evening, according to the Guardian, Nigel Kennedy was due to perform live at the Royal Albert Hall with Chineke!, an orchestra of young, ethnically diverse musicians, in a concert hosted by the radio station Classic FM. They planned to play an arrangement of the Jimi Hendrix song ‘Little Wing’, but Classic FM apparently nixed this, insisting on The Four Seasons yet again. So Kennedy cancelled, accusing the station of ‘prejudice’ and ‘musical segregation’.

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20 September 2021

Promoting Virtue and Preventing Vice

Sadakat Kadri

At a recent press conference, a written statement attributed to the Taliban’s ‘commander of the faithful’, Haibatullah Akhundzada, said that the incoming government of Afghanistan will ‘work hard to uphold Islamic rules and sharia law’. In Arabic, ‘sharia’ implies a path to salvation, and ultra-pious Muslims don’t abandon that road willingly. But the rules to be upheld are less obvious. They’ve been contested for at least twelve hundred years. Some jurists have been tolerant and inclusive; others not. One prolific scholar popular in Taliban circles, Ibn Abiʼl-Dunya, a stern tutor to several princes in late ninth-century Baghdad, wrote seven tracts on prohibition alone. Among the frivolities he thought hateful to God were stringed instruments, chess, pigeon-fancying and sitting on seesaws.

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17 September 2021

On the Coup in Guinea

Alexandra Reza

On 5 September, a group of soldiers led by Colonel Mamady Doumbouya kidnapped Alpha Condé and took him to an undisclosed location. They had deposed him, they said, and dissolved the government. Later they released a video of Condé, slouched on a sofa, looking irritable. Soldiers in full uniform try to get him to say on camera that all is well. The ex-president looks at the camera. Is it the old oppositional spirit that flickers on his face, or just the arrogance of power? It is hard to tell. Condé stays silent, his feet up, shirt untucked, lips pursed.

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16 September 2021

How to Track a Mammoth

Liam Shaw

From a guide to the fossil mammals and birds in the department of geology and palaeontology in the British Museum (1896)

What little we know about individual mammoths is often constrained to their last moments, based on where their skeletons were found – a struggle in the sticky tar – or the record of violent trauma inflicted by human weapons. But recent developments in isotope dating allow for longer narratives.  

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15 September 2021

In Little Haiti

Edna Bonhomme

When I was seven or so, my aunt Fifi would take my cousins, siblings and me to demonstrations outside the Immigration and Naturalisation Services building on 79th Street in Miami. We were protesting against the policy – introduced by his Republican predecessors but continued under Bill Clinton – of intercepting Haitian refugees at sea and imprisoning them in Guantánamo Bay. We stood with the other Haitians, clutching aunt Fifi with one hand and waving our other fists in the air, shouting and chanting in a mixture of English and Kreyòl: ‘Let the Haitians in!’ 

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