Foreign Correspondence, Vol 73
The man who wants to fix Britain
Hello, and happy Friday! To new subscribers, welcome to Foreign Correspondence, a biweekly dispatch from London with my latest work plus links to some of the best stories I’ve read. In our last correspondence, I mentioned that I had a big story coming out soon. This week, I can finally tell you about it.
Back in March, I sat down with the man who virtually everyone—from political analysts to pollsters and even most voters—expects will be Britain’s next prime minister: Keir Starmer.
In his first major interview with foreign media, the Labour Party leader told me that he has what it takes to get Britain out of its years-long malaise and that he’s taking lessons from center-left governments in the United States and elsewhere on how to win power.
What I’d hoped to find out—and what seemingly all of Westminster is wondering—is what exactly Starmer is promising the British people and whether it’ll be convincing enough enough to sway voters to back Labour after 13 long years of Conservative Party rule. The fixation over his political vision, or lack thereof, isn’t something that Starmer necessarily thinks is shared by most Britons. “Working people want change,” he tells me. “They don’t want politicians talking about it. They don’t want false promises. They want it fixed. It’s a very simple thing for most families.”
This is my first profile for TIME and it includes insights from Labour Party advisers, Westminster analysts, and those who know Starmer outside the realm of politics—from his time in the courts (where he used to work as a human-rights lawyer) to the football pitch (where he plays midfield every Sunday). I hope you’ll give it a read!
What I’ve written
As Starmer sees it, Labour needed a sharp break from Corbyn after its electoral decimation in 2019. “If we simply appeal to the same people who voted for us last time or to our party members, we’ll lose the next election—and that’s the blunt truth of it,” he says. But not everyone has welcomed this shift. Under Starmer, Labour’s leftist flank has been “completely marginalized,” says Matt Zarb-Cousin, a former Corbyn spokesperson who has since left Labour for the Green Party. Without their support, he adds, Starmer wouldn’t have won the leadership contest. “I don’t know what he stands for,” says Zarb-Cousin. “I don’t think he really stands for anything.”
This criticism has dogged Starmer since he became leader. Unlike his predecessor, he doesn’t speak with the verve of an ideologue. When pressed to define what “Starmerism” is, he doesn’t provide much detail—fueling criticism that he lacks a political vision. “Some people think that passion is only manifested by shouting and screaming,” Starmer insists. “For me, the passion and determination to change the country for the better runs very, very deep. And I think once people understand that, then they’ve got a much better sense of who I am.” Keep reading here
Q&A: Russia's leading dissident is serving 25 years in prison. Now, his wife is taking up the fight
Post-match analysis: Why Erdoğan is now the clear favorite in Turkey’s election
A bunch of coronation-related coverage, including: the arrest of anti-monarchy protesters, peculiar coronation traditions, and the visual parallels between Queen Elizabeth II and King Charles III’s coronations
What I’ve read
This profile of one of America’s only doctors performing late-term abortions (The Atlantic)
Hern is now nearing his fifth decade of practice at his Boulder clinic; he has persisted through the entire arc of Roe v. Wade, its nearly 50-year rise and fall. He specializes in abortions late in pregnancy—the rarest, and most controversial, form of abortion. This means that Hern ends the pregnancies of women who are 22, 25, even 30 weeks along. Although 14 states now ban abortion in most or all circumstances, Colorado has no gestational limits on the procedure. Patients come to him from all over the country because he is one of only a handful of physicians who can, and will, perform an abortion so late.
This interview with Indian actress Deepika Padukone on bringing the world to Bollywood (TIME)
But her bankability as a star has also been met with fierce opposition, after the conservative Hindu-nationalist turn in Indian politics in the past decade. It first spiked in 2016, when she starred in Padmaavat, a maximalist period drama about a Hindu queen who becomes the object of infatuation of the Muslim Sultan of Delhi. Rumors of a love scene between the two characters drove Hindu vigilantes to light the film set on fire, while an official from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) offered a bounty of $1.5 million for Padukone’s beheading, horrifying spectators. Local police detained the official.
This moving tribute to Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh on the first anniversary of her death (New Lines Magazine)
Apart from her funny bone, what struck me the most was how down to earth Shireen was. This woman was an Arab media darling, a household name throughout the region, who brought Palestine into the living rooms of millions. But she was in no way a diva. She was kind and courteous to everyone. There was a touch of timidness and shyness in there too. She was humble despite being aware of her power to relay the stories and experiences of others. She was not afraid to ask for help, to learn, to channel her energy into something new. She traveled across the U.S. to highlight the plight of Black and Native Americans. Before all else, she was humble, and her humility shone through. Her listening skills were unmatched. Despite her years in the field, she still wanted to learn. She retained that hunger for knowledge and was constantly learning.
What I’m thinking about
This excellent explainer on the Nakba or “catastrophe,” the violent displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians—including my grandparents—from their homeland in 1948. This story about one Nakba survivor, written by my dear friend Odette Yidi, was particularly moving.
Until next time,