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Showing posts from 2013

Obama has lost his way. And the world is a more frightening place.

President Obama is a true enigma. He falls into the intellectual camp of US Presidents, which in modern times has been predominantly Democrat and largely progressive. He will always be remembered for his incredible achievement in becoming the first-ever African American leader of the USA. And yet...

After seeing off Mitt Romney in last year’s election, Obama should be buoyant. Things hadn’t been good economically for the US in the aftermath of the financial crash and to triumph in spite of all that was fantastic. But we don’t see a confident victor. On the contrary. We are presented with a nervy, vacillating, agonising figure, who has now become embroiled in a developing fiasco over Syria.

A word of advice to world leaders. If you worry that people will cross your red lines, then don’t paint them in the first place.

When the first evidence emerged of Assad’s regime using chemical weapons, the President was desperate to say that it should all be looked into very, very slowly. So t…

Crunch time for Labour

I first met Chris Bryant over twenty years ago, when he was working for the Labour Party in Camden, north London. As one of the officers in Frank Dobson’s constituency of Holborn & St Pancras, I remember being quite tickled at the idea we’d chosen to employ an ordained Church of England vicar to organise our campaigns.

Chris was always bright and ambitious. And although he has tripped up once or twice along the way, his rise within the Labour Party has been pretty steady over the years.

Until this week, of course.

One can only hope that the former curate still finds solace in prayer, as his performance as Shadow Minister for Borders and Immigration has left the whole of the Labour Party in need of divine intervention.

In the course of 24 hours, he managed to convince corporations that Labour didn’t understand business and make liberal supporters of the party squirm as he seemed to appropriate the language of the right. At the same time, he confirmed to potential UKIP voters th…

Winning the arguments against British isolationism

Back in the 1980s, I seem to remember the Militant newspaper often quoting from the Financial Times. The thinking of the Trotskyist editors was that the title represented the authentic voice of the bosses. If you wanted to have a true insight into the devious and calculating minds of the capitalist enemy, you needed to read the FT.

David Cameron should try reading it too. The letters page has recently been full of people explaining why leaving the EU is a bad idea. The arguments are various. One contributor explains the damage that an exit would do to the UK’s non-EU exports. (That’s because we currently benefit from dozens of trade treaties, which we’d have to renegotiate single-handed. ) Another talks of the improbability of our being able to negotiate a bilateral trade agreement with the EU when we exit. A third points out the madness of threatening Scotland with potential isolation outside the European bloc if it votes for independence, while planning for the whole UK to withdr…

Reflections on the Thatcher era

I sat through the extended BBC news bulletin on the death of Margaret Thatcher and can’t say I really learnt anything much I didn’t already know. One of the problems with such huge figures is that their lives have already been so analysed and picked over that there is nothing much left to say when they finally pop their clogs.

For me, the announcement of the Iron Lady’s demise actually provokes surprisingly little emotion. If I do feel anything, it’s probably at a personal, sentimental level. It’s about the people I knew and the places I visited as a left-wing teenage activist in the 1980s. Memories of a time in which in which Thatcher was dominant and omnipresent. A malign force which banded us together. There was a great camaraderie among activists involved in organisations such as CND and Anti-Apartheid, although on occasions it seemed like the camaraderie of the damned. Maggie really did go on and on and those years passed excruciatingly slowly.

The first demonstration I ever we…

Welfare, Philpott and the dangers for Labour

I remember going on a media training course well over 20 years ago, run by a lady who was a hard-bitten Fleet Street hack of the old school. The kind of person who could type 40 wpm with two fingers, while chain-smoking Silk Cut. She started by explaining that there were only three things that qualified a story as news: sex, death and conflict. How salient her observation seems to be in the light of the extraordinary case of Mick Philpott – ‘Shameless Mick’ as he’s branded by The Daily Mail – whose conviction for the manslaughter has thrown up a generous helping of all her three criteria.

Philpott would have been big news at the best of times. But these aren’t the best of times in the UK. On the week his trial concluded, the government introduced cuts in welfare benefits which are going to leave a lot of people poorer. Amid the polarised debate, the trial set another sinister fire raging in pubs, workplaces and social networking sites. Just how far was Philpott’s lifestyle symptomati…