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Renowned as the man who has made economics sexy with The State We’re In, Will Hutton is back with The State To Come. Words: Marc Lambert
It has been a productive few years for Will Hutton. In I995 the former stockbroker-turned-journalist for the BBC and The Guardian. wrote The State We’re In. which became a bestseller against the odds.
In the book. Hutton managed to present economics as sexy and accessible enough for anyone wishing to brush tip on their left-wing credentials. In selling 250.000 copies. the book gave the lie to the political narcolepsy into which Britain seemed to have fallen after so many years of Tory rule. Editorship of The Observer swiftly followed. establishing the 45-year-old Hutton as a major player in the political debate. and putting a powerful means at his disposal for further promoting his views.
Now comes his follow-up book The State To (OHM). extracts of which were recently distributed with The Observer. At a little over I00 pages. and written in five weeks. it adds little that is new to its predecessor. Instead. Hutton rcstates in condensed and simplified form — but with his usual passion — his wide ranging proposals for economic and constitutional reform. It is a manifesto of sorts. even if it does cost three quid more than either Mr Major‘s or Mr Blair‘s. He wrote it. he says. to set the record straight about his concept of stakeholding. an idea that has taken a bit of bashing over the last two years. It is clear that in his view it has all gone a bit Blair-shaped.
‘lt‘s a historic moment for the Ieft.‘ explains Hutton. ‘The Tories haven't been so weak since l945.
‘As a journalist I can recognise a good story when I see one, but the truth is that sleaze is not disguising the issues, it is the
so it‘s a great pity the leader of the Labour Party isn‘t taking a more vigorous position at the moment. He‘s going to win by a landslide. Yet he could continue to stand by stakeholding ideas. call for a top marginal rate of tax of 50p in the pound. and still have a twenty point lead in the polls.
‘As it stands however. once he’s won the election. he won't do very much because of his pre-election promises. Frankly. I think it’s a misjudgement.‘
He continues: ‘Individualistic market capitalism along the lines of Thatcherism. Majorism. and — worryingly — Blairism, doesn’t work. Command and control socialism doesn‘t work either. therefore we have to find another model.’
So into the frenzied pre-election mud-slinging going on between the parties. Hutton has relaunched his proposals. One suspects the sleaze issue is grist to his mill.
‘As a journalist l can recognise a good story when I see one.‘ he says with relish. ‘but the truth is that sleaze is not disguising the issues. it is the issue. Parliament regulates itself — we don't have an independent judiciary nor an independent central bank. everything is run from Westminster and that gets into every nook and cranny of the system. Sleaze. far from being a diversion. goes to the heart of the way British politics is structured.‘
Hutton‘s achievement has been his ability to refashion a political language and an economic argument from twenty years of devastation. While appealing to an old Liberal tradition. he simultaneously makes radical proposals. all of which makes him difficult to place. When asked exactly where he stands — socialist or liberal capitalist — he roars with laughter: ‘I‘m a social democrat who believes in markets. I was that when I was fifteen. and I remain that when I‘m 45.‘
It is a very diplomatic answer. Will Hutton for president. anyone?
The State To Come by Will Hutton, is published by Vintage at £4.99. Interact with Will Hutton on http:/lelection.observer.co.uk
preview BOOKS The Write Stuff
American writer Naomi Wolf turned minds and attitudes with her debut The Beauty Myth. Now she’s back with teenage sex in Promiscuities. NAME: Naomi Rebekah Wolf. AGE: 34.
PREVIOUS JOBS: Oh man, you got me here. I've done a lot of clerical work, been an artist's model and an ice-cream store attendant.
ROUTE TO BECOMING A WRITER: My dad is a writer so I was aware from a young age that it was a job with low overheads and you could type late into the night. The act of writing really overtook me when I realised I had to write The Beauty Myth, when the best minds of my generation were starving themselves to death. In the words of Gloria Steinem: 'No one likes writing but everyone likes to have written.’ DAILY ROUTINE: If I'm not sitting down to write at 11am each morning after three hours of procrastination, waves of self loathing hit me. I try to sustain it till 3pm or 4pm. If I don't write it's like not cleaning my teeth, as if I've not redeemed myself that day. I try not to work weekends though. INFLUENCES: Virginia Woolf, who is the goddess of my personal pantheon — I turn to her for inspiration constantly, especially her diaries. I admire Germaine Greer because she is so fearless. Allen Ginsberg who just died was a man who burned with ardour and I'm moved by people with continual personal fearlessness, even if it goes against the conventions of culture.
AMBITIONS: This is gonna sound really pathetic but my highest ambition is that I hope to get better at my craft. I'd also like the world to change and we would no longer need feminist polemics.
FEARS: My biggest fear is not doing my best. I have an obligation to the reader to push myself to the personal limit. My second fear is being unread, and my third is that I never get comfortable enough to stop learning.
INCOME: I can’t tell you that. I can tell you that I'm in the extremely lucky 15 per cent of American non-
fiction writers in America who make
a living from it. (Ann Donald)
I Promiscuities by Naomi Wolf is published by Chatto & lA/indus at £72.99 The author is at the Assemb/y Rooms, Edinburgh, Tue 29 Apr,
7 30pm, [3 iii)
18 Apr 1 May I997 THE LIST 85