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Why is sport so popular?


OUR RULERS must hardly be able to believe their luck. A wholly accidental sequence of events-the death of the Queen Mother, the Jubilee and the World Cup-has produced week on week of patriotic flag waving (reinforced by a decidedly unaccidental intensification of the campaign against asylum seekers).

Seville shows two faces of Europe


SEVILLE IN Spain sees the two different faces of Europe this week. Tony Blair and other European leaders are meeting to force through even tougher legislation to victimise those seeking refuge from war and famine. Blair is at the heart of a right wing axis. Downing Street has leapt in to dub right wing French president Jacques Chirac "a man we can work with", as he plans huge tax cuts for the rich and an assault on French workers.

Fairy tale ends for economy


THE BLOOM has suddenly gone off the British and US economies. Until a few weeks ago the business media were stridently celebrating the ease with which they had shaken off the slowdown that hit both stockmarkets and the real economy in 2000-1.

Parsons not for my baby


TONY PARSONS'S novel Man and Boy is one of the most successful books of recent years. It has sold over a million copies, been translated into 30 languages and won many awards. His latest book, One For My Baby, is destined to be equally popular. I think they are both grossly overrated and push a false, very conservative view of the world.

Is Europe turning towards the right?


IS THE tide of history flowing to the right? The claim is put forward by politicians like Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith, and echoed by a growing number of commentators. Four years ago Labour-type parties were in government in 13 of the 15 European Union (EU) countries.

They stifled the scream


IF YOU were told that either Primal Scream or Mary J Blige would bring out a record condemning the US's bombing of Afghanistan, who would you put your money on? Before you decide, let's look at the odds.

This insane system threatens all of us


NUCLEAR NIGHTMARE hung over the world throughout the years of the Cold War. It now threatens to become a reality of almost unimaginable horror. Those who target the missiles and run the Indian and Pakistani governments are horrifying. But all the major Western powers share the responsibility.

Blair can't bury all the bad news


THE FALL of Stephen Byers was quite revealing about the nature of politics in Britain today. In the first place, the Labour MPs who rallied round Byers because he effectively nationalised Railtrack bear witness to the capacity for wishful thinking of government backbenchers.

Lefty who's really righty


MARTIN AMIS is a novelist. He's also someone who the broadsheets turn to for his views on the state of the world, the meaning of art, and the purpose of life. Last weekend the Guardian kicked off its new weekly books supplement with an article by Amis on the state of the world, the meaning of art, and the purpose of life.

Brewing up a monopoly


DRINKERS WHO are looking forward to cheap beer in their locals during the World Cup will be left feeling bitter thanks to a government con-trick. In his budget speech Gordon Brown said that, to help small brewers, he would halve the duty or tax they pay on beer: "A cut equal to 14 pence off each pint to be implemented for village pubs and small breweries in time for the World Cup."

Byers' fall shows Blair's weakness


STEPHEN BYERS' resignation has struck right at the heart of New Labour. He was one of Blair's closest ministers. As trade secretary and then transport secretary he was at the centre of this government's obsession with privatisation and policies for big business.

The British economy: Sustainable or sluggish?


AMID NEW Labour's long and growing list of crimes and failures, the government's defenders constantly cite one factor in its favour-the allegedly strong state of the economy.

Chances for all or old school tie?


NEW LABOUR leaders have a clear message about how to succeed in their "enterprising Britain". It is that if you pass your exams, work hard and "fit in" with your employer you are on the way up.

No farewell to conflict


GEORGE W Bush said that last week's agreement between the United States and Russia to cut the number of nuclear warheads they deploy would "liquidate the legacy of the Cold War".

How can the far right advance be halted?


THE DUTCH general election saw the latest frightening advance for the far right in Europe. The party of Pim Fortuyn came second. The Labour Party, which had led a coalition government for eight years, got its worst result since 1945. That came after the Nazi Jean-Marie Le Pen beat the leader of France's equivalent of the Labour Party, Lionel Jospin, in the first round of the presidential election there.

The media is running wild


ARE WE really plunging into a new wave of youth crime caused by out of control children running wild? The media wants us to think so. It is full of stories about "gangs of feral children bringing fear to the streets of London".

Hain, Morris and the porn broker


BLAME THE victims-that's New Labour's response to the rise of the far right and Nazis across Europe. On issue after issue, New Labour ministers are adopting reactionary ideas and turning the screws on the poor and the vulnerable. Education secretary Estelle Morris was crowing with delight when lone parent Patricia Amos was jailed for 60 days.

The war that won't go away


THE GREATER the chaos in Afghanistan, the more assorted US and British generals seem compelled to proclaim a victory. "The war is all but won," announced Brigadier Roger Lane last week. He is the commander of British troops in Afghanistan, the biggest combat deployment since the 1991 Gulf War.

See Naples and revolt


IN THE wake of the general strike in Italy on 16 April the Partito della Rifondazione Comunista (Communist Refoundation) organised a May Day rally which I was invited to address.

Not going back to business as usual


BACK TO business as usual. That was the message from much of the press and many establishment politicians this week. The threat of far right and Nazi parties has, they said, been seen off. Jean-Marie Le Pen has been soundly beaten in the run-off for the presidential election in France.

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