2 November 2004


Well, well, well . . . Up to now I have not been an admirer of Cristina Odone. One, she's a lightweight, the upmarket Glenda Slagg de nos jours. Two, she's religious. And three, she's been handling stolen goods for several years – my old job as deputy editor of the New Statesman, from which I was separated by the vile Geoffrey Robinson's takeover in 1996. (Funny, I find that bitter is best drunk cold.)

But now the girl done good at last. She's quit the Statesman over the fatuous cover on the current issue that equates Tony Blair with Josef Stalin.

I was going to post on the Statesman cover anyway, to make the points that the British left (a) still hasn't grasped the enormity of Stalin's crimes and (b) is in the grip of a quite extraordinary hysteria against Blair.

For now, all I'll say is that no one who knows what Stalin did could possibly claim Blair is doing much the same thing – and the article to which the NS cover refers, a Robert Service puff-piece for his new biography of Stalin, doesn't do it. In fact, it makes it very clear that there isn't that much Blair has learned from Stalin. "Tony Blair has not made the cellars of Bellmarsh prison stream with the blood of innocent detainees," Service writes, very reasonably. "It would be entirely ludicrous to suggest that Blair and Stalin, as exercisers of the might of the state in pursuit of political and personal goals, are in the same category."

So why the treatment on the Statesman cover? Desperation is undoubtedly part of the story – anything to make Blair look bad next to Brown, anything to put the ABC figures up beyond a boring old plateau of 23,000, exactly where it was before Robinson sunk his millions. (Ooh, a cold bitter is good. Fancy a couple of pints?) But it's worse than that. The current regime at the Statesman has a view of the world that is as blinkered as Kingsley Martin's when he refused to publish George Orwell on the Spanish revolution. John Pilger speaks the truth. John Kampfner has the supporting details. Amanda Platell supplies the sophistication. Cretinism rules, with rare pieces from Nick Cohen and the odd review giving us all a taste of what might have been.

At least there's still the Economist.

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