House conservatives are already indicating that they're prepared to block some of the key legislative promises that Senate Republicans demanded in exchange for their votes on tax reform legislation. Those promises materialized in the frantic final hours of the tax debate last week, as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) gave Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ) assurances that some of their personal legislative priorities would be dealt with in exchange for their votes. Collins said she received a promise that the Senate would consider two bipartisan pieces of legislation that would ostensibly mitigate the negative effects that could come from the tax bill’s repeal of Obamacare’s individual mandate.
Subjected to an ultimatum breaking EU Theresa May sold on the main outstanding issues to be able to announce on Friday 8 December at dawn from Brussels, an agreement was concluded for a crucial advance for future of the British economy: the opening of negotiations on future trade relations with the European Union . "I very much welcome the next move to the next phase of the Brexit trade and security talks ," said the British Prime Minister with a smile that had not been seen in recent days . The EU had given until Sunday to M me May to makenew proposals, after the humiliation she suffered Monday when the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) in Northern Ireland had torpedoed the announcement of an agreement.
Given the nature of the payments between Russian state institutions and people tied to Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner’s investment ventures to spread propaganda through Facebook and Twitter, it seems perfectly prudent to check Trump’s personal bank records. We also know Kushner got emails regarding WikiLeaks and a “Russian backdoor overture and dinner invite” before forwarding them on to another official in the Trump campaign. Direct ties between Trump and Russia are now so well-documented they have their own Wikipedia page. This goes down to the level of Trump Tower being a place for Russian organised crime to congregate, and this appears to extend to enterprises in Panama.
Kremlin spokesmen have described Russia’s banning from the 2018 Winter Olympics as a “humiliation”. For once, they are telling the truth. They should try to get used to the pressure because the underlying fragility of President Putin’s regime could soon be exposed. The Olympic ban is the punishment for Russia’s massive state-sponsored doping programme at the last Winter games, which it hosted in Sochi. A World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) investigation uncovered the scandal. It proved that Russia’s athletes were given performance-enhancing drugs in accordance with a strategy directed by government ministers.
In G.K. Chesterton’s neglected 1904 masterpiece The Napoleon of Notting Hill, an insane civil servant called Auberon Quin rises to the office of King, and divides London into dozens of competing quasi-independent statelets, which fosters a growth of bizarre micro-nationalisms. In attempting to analogise its most extreme proselytiser, Adam Wayne’s passionate patriotism for his native Notting Hill, Chesterton says: “All this he knew, not because he was a philosopher or a genius, but because he was a child. Any one who cares to walk up a side slum like Pump Street, can see a little Adam claiming to be the king of a pathing-stone. And he will always be proudest if the stone is almost too narrow for him to keep his feet inside it.”
Before the EU referendum, pollsters found that immigration was the number one concern for voters. The economy, public services and British sovereignty were frequently mentioned. One topic that received scant discussion, though, was the Irish border. As negotiations have progressed, however, it’s rearing its head, to become one of the thorniest factors in our withdrawal from the EU. As the failure to reach a deal in Brussels this week on “sufficient progress” demonstrated, Theresa May’s situation is impossible. Adopting a hard Brexit – i.e. leaving the single market and customs union – requires a border between the UK and other EU member states. That might not be a concern for mainland Britain thanks to our island status, but across the sea it will result in a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic.
As talks collapsed between the EU and Britain, it was the most dramatic day in British politics since the general election. Close to a deal, May’s hand was forced by the DUP and she walked away. The wording of the leaked text infuriated the DUP whose ten MPs the Conservatives need for their majority. However, Corbyn should not be shining his shoes in case of a call from Buckingham Palace. Nor will May be losing much sleep over the prospect. To use her words: “Nothing has changed.” Rhetoric is slowly converging with reality. The impossibility of maintaining a soft border between the North and the Republic of Ireland while also leaving the Customs’ Union etc. is becoming clearer. EU understands that May’s government is pathetically weak, but that does not mean it will collapse.
The last two quarters of 2017 are proving monumentally important for women right now — both women of the past and those of the future. And of course, important for any men who have sexually assaulted or abused a woman in their lives. Since the initial few allegations were made about movie producer Harvey Weinstein, including his shocking sexual assaults on women in the industry, hundreds of further reports have been made against other men, both in and out of the public eye. And so sprung the #MeToo movement. It’s sort of ironic that the discourse on women and society’s apparent ownership of their sexuality is shifting, but it’s shifting under a president who himself is a prime example of what the fight is against. The fact Donald Trump was elected despite the sexual abuse and harassment allegations made against him says the unthinkable about society’s view of women and highlights why we need #MeToo more than ever.
President Donald Trump will not travel to Alabama to campaign for Roy Moore ahead of the December 12 special election, the White House said Monday, citing conflicts with his schedule. With a little more than two weeks left in the race, the President has sought to boost Moore's Senate bid, citing his denials of accusations that he sexually assaulted women as young as 14 years old when he was in his 30s and criticizing his Democratic opponent Doug Jones. In recent days, Trump has cited Moore's denials when asked if having an accused child molester in the seat is better than a Democrat not aligned with his agenda. Trump has also accused Jones, who successfully prosecuted members of the Ku Klux Klan who killed four young girls when they bombed a black church in Birmingham in 1963, of being "soft on crime."
The term “Eurabia” is coming back again after going AWOL for a few years—it seems that ethnic slurs go in cycles. It is one of those Alt-Right (formerly just Hard Right) myths that just will not die, no matter how many times it is debunked. This particular way of putting it—a way popular amongst Leavers in the run-up to the referendum last year—makes a strange assumption: that pretty much every single Turk in Turkey, upon accession to the EU, will up sticks and move to Western Europe. Well, you can hardly blame them given that the whole of Poland and Romania have emptied out and…oh wait. That didn’t happen. The only example I can find of an entire population voluntarily leaving its homeland to move to another country is (allegedly) that of the Angles.
The proposition that Britain could have its cake and eat it during Brexit, as the foreign secretary Boris Johnson once said, was always dismissed as a fiction by opponents. On Wednesday, it was quietly interred by the government as it capitulated on the amount it will have to pay for a divorce settlement. And this was not Britain’s first capitulation over Brexit, nor — almost certainly — will it be the last, analysts said. What Mr. Johnson was saying was that Britain could secure the economic benefits of membership in the European Union without paying a penalty or being subject to its rules, particularly on the free movement of labor within the bloc. On Wednesday, Britain reportedlyagreed in principle to a divorce check of around $47 billion to $53 billion in the hope of securing the start of talks on a future trade arrangement with the 27 nations.
Michael Gove told us to ignore the experts, but it turns out they were right to be anxious about a vote to leave the European Union. The impact of Brexit is already proving palpable, contributing to an economic downturn of worsening living standards, sluggish productivity and stagnant wages. Philip Hammond made his party’s priorities clear by allocating £3 billion towards Brexit in the budget. Yet Hammond is a hate figure among Conservative backbenchers for his ideological impurity, while MPs who want to moderate their party’s position are derided as traitors. A divided government provides easy pickings for the opposition. But Labour has also been criticised for a lack of clarity. Jeremy Corbyn once argued that Brexit requires leaving the European Economic Area - the single market and customs union that harmonise European trade and free movement - ruling out a so-called “Soft Brexit”.
Why is anyone surprised that this president of the United States retweets misleading videos purporting to show Muslim violence against white Westerners? This is a president who has attacked London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, while London was still under terrorist threat; he has drawn equivalence between alt-right, white supremacist protesters and those protesting against them; one of his central election pledges was a ban on travel into the United States from Muslim countries and he has proposed a US register of Muslims residents. He has talked about sexual harrassing women. He has defended an alleged sexual predator who is standing for the US Senate. He, and his presidential campaign, is under investigation for crimes that might amount to treason.
This government is a shambles. Since losing their majority, May & co. have presided over a dumpster fire of u-turns, uncertainty and warring egos. They’re bound together by little more than a fear of Labour, and are riven apart by the nauseating helter skelter of Brexit negotiations. Why, then, do they have such a solid standing in the polls? Labour have maintained momentum since bouncing back in June with the biggest poll surge in modern political history. They’re constantly campaigning, and style themselves – not unfairly – as a government-in-waiting. And yet, according to YouGov, 41% of voters would still vote Conservative; only 2% less than Labour. ICM pegs both parties at an even 41%. If the Tories really are so weak, why aren’t Labour 20 points ahead?
When Cyntoia Brown was sixteen years old she shot and killed 43 year-old Johnny Allen. In her own words, she executed him. Brown ended up in that room with a man more than twice her age because her abusive ‘boyfriend’ Garion McGlothen prostituted her. In between raping her and getting her high, he also choked her and threatened her with guns. Allen waxed lyrical to her about his career as a sharp shooter in the army, after he had driven her to his empty house and showed her his gun collection. She has never denied what she did, stating that she thought he was reaching for a gun and so she killed him in self-defence. After being judged fit to be tried as an adult in Tennessee, she was held for two years waiting for trial.
Twitter may have helped bring about such radical transgressions as the Arab Spring and the Occupy movement, but it’s also helped birth some of the worst reactionary calamities to have struck Western civilisation in the past two years. “Post-truth”, “post-factual”, “fake news”, “MSM”, “establishment”, and many more buzz-phrases are bandied about even more and more while meaning less and less. As such, there is an overbearing need to rigorously defend the actual facts in a cybernetic public sphere that has become utterly senseless. Unfortunately, that means digging through the webbed muck to find the most egregious examples of bite-sized disregard for truth (and feasibility).
On Sunday, it was LaVar Ball, father of LiAngelo Ball, one of three UCLA basketball players who were arrested in China on shoplifting charges. Trump had helped secure their release during his recent trip to China, announcing his involvement in a tweet. “Do you think the three UCLA Basketball Players will say thank you President Trump? They were headed for 10 years in jail!” Not content to go after just one famous black person, President Trump started his Monday with a jab at NFL player Marshawn Lynch.
Oh dear. It begins. The inevitable backlash of women defending men. Lena Dunham has accused a woman of lying about rape. Don’t believe the hype in her retraction. Dunham, in a published statement said: “Our insider knowledge of Murray’s situation makes us confident that sadly this accusation is one of the 3% of assault cases that are misreported every year … We stand by Murray and this is all we’ll be saying about this issue.” Well, obviously, it wasn’t all they were going to say once the hail of women’s justifiable fury started raining down on this dangerous and cruel statement.
When commentators claimed that 313,000 Labour members and affiliates were holding British politics hostage, they meant that so long as they sustained their support for Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader, British politics would remain a one-party game. It turned out differently. In fact, it turned out worse. Labour are not holding British politics hostage, they are keeping it in a fantasy land. Two simultaneous events occurred on Monday night. BBC Two screened The Summer That Changed Everything, a documentary clearly commissioned with Labour’s demise in mind. The film turned out to be a moment when Corbynistas could relive their moments of vindication when the pundits called it wrong.
President Trump, in Manila on the last leg of his tour of five Asian nations, only briefly touched on the question of human rights with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who has waged a deadly extra-judicial war on drugs that has left thousands dead. Duterte's brash demeanor and untempered language have earned him the nickname "Trump of the East." Trump, in turn, has praised Duterte — telling him in an April phone call that he was doing an "unbelievable job on the drug problem." Duterte took the stage for an impromptu duet with local pop star Pilitia Corrales, which he later said he had done "upon the orders of the commander-in-chief of the United States."
In a widely expected result, Richard Leonard has been elected as the leader of the Scottish Labour Party. Yorkshire-born Leonard - a GMB trade union organiser who entered the Scottish Parliament at Holyrood in 2016 - defeated former deputy leader Anas Sarwar with 56 percent of the vote. The Glaswegian Sarwar was described as the centre-left candidate, but both MSPs praised Jeremy Corbyn and promoted him as a future UK Prime Minister. Leonard is considered a Corbynite but he refuses to be pigeonholed as such. Upon his victory Leonard praised Sarwar and in the spirit of unity pledged that his adversary will play a “vital role” in his leadership. Leonard is taking on a tough job.
Talks between officials from Britain and negotiators for the European Union have progressed slowly, and are now at a near-stalemate. The EU has given Britain a deadline of two weeks to agree on a figure for the so-called "divorce bill" -- the money May's government must pay into the EU budget as part of its membership obligations. As negotiations with the EU reach the crunch point, May's government is finding itself in ever-deeper trouble over its attempts to push through the legislation that will allow leaving the EU to happen at all. Lawmakers from all parties have put forward hundreds of amendments to the EU Withdrawal Bill, and debates and votes are expected to take a month.
A narrative has formed over the last few months. Theresa May spends her time clinging to the curtain rails of 10 Downing Street, in permanent fear that one day a metaphorical pearl-handled revolver will be delivered and she will be told to do her duty. Michael Gove and Boris Johnson have formed a government within a government; the same Johnson is a diplomatic without the powers of diplomacy nor compensating decency; the Chancellor of the Exchequer is at loggerheads with just about everybody; the EU - already exasperated at Brexit chaos - is preparing for Theresa May to fall. They do not just have rebels, they have mutineers! That is how bad they are. This is the worst government ever.
Russia wants Britain to leave the EU - and it would be delighted if more countries would follow. It is easy to see why. The Kremlin has long viewed the union as an existential threat, one that has empowered Russia’s former satellites and substantially reduced Russia’s own sphere of influence. To a country that still sees the world in terms of ‘great powers’ and the need for national prestige, it should not be surprising that there is a lack of harmony between Russia and the EU. Along with NATO, the EU is one of the main players that have thwarted Moscow’s ambitions by arguing and promoting sanctions. After Russia’s the illegal annexation of the Crimea, it was the EU that took the lead in travel bans, asset freezes and restrictions on investment, financing and trade with Russia.
This Week on Planet Trump: A Year On from His Election, Democrats Enjoy Their Own Upsets while President Tours Asia
Even though 26 people were gunned down at a church in Texas Sunday, there was to be no change to President Donald Trump’s scheduled golfing and negotiating in Asia. Trump was two days into a five-country trip when an armor-clad gunman walked into First Baptist Church in the rural town of Sutherland Springs and fired an AR-15-style assault rifle, killing 26—around half of them children, including one as young as 18 months—and injuring at least 20 more. The largest gun-rights lobbying group, the National Rifle Association, was the biggest outside donator to Trump’s campaign for president. And, in stark contrast to his predecessor, Trump has rejected any calls for even a debate about gun control in the wake of mass shootings.
King Salman of Saudi Arabia and his son, the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (widely known as “MbS”), are being accused of a palace coup following their arrest of dozens of fellow royal family members and other Saudi establishment figures. Until now, Saudi Arabia has always been an ultra-conservative state, both in its attitudes and resistance to change. Although an absolute monarchy, successive kings have ruled through carefully calibrated consensus between different factions of the sprawling Al-Saud royal family and the religious, tribal and business elites. This cautious system has been vigorously shaken since the 81-year old King Salman acceded to the Saudi throne in 2015 and controversially appointed the 32-year old MbS as the de facto ruler of the country.
Officials say Brussels is preparing contingency plans for May leaving before the new year and Britain holding early elections months later. An unnamed European leader told the British newspaper The Times, “There is the great difficulty of the leadership in Great Britain, which is more and more fragile. Britain is very weak and the weakness of Theresa May makes negotiations very difficult.” Talks between British and EU negotiators were resuming Thursday in the sixth round of talks over Brexit. May is hoping her negotiators can secure a breakthrough and persuade the EU to start moving on to talks about a future trade deal even before there is a final deal on the rights of EU citizens living in Britain, what will become of the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland and the “divorce bill.”
In Britain this has resonated across the corridors of power, leading to a raft of MPs facing complaints of sexual misconduct - including Conservative Cabinet ministers. Labour and Liberal Democrat chiefs stand accused of attempting to cover-up the rape of party activists. We must face up to the likelihood that these are only the beginning of the revelations from Westminster, which has been plagued for years by a toxic culture of bullying and chauvinism. No longer can it be tolerated. Britain is already well-acquainted with the likes of Weinstein. The actress Emma Kennedy compares him to Jimmy Savile, the BBC personality who preyed on adults and minors for decades.
When you think about it, it is quite extraordinary. The state of British politics had never been worse. Then, Westminster was struck with numerous allegations of improper sexual conduct by MPs. In both parties, senior MPs have had the whip removed, or become the subject of investigation. Or both. Still reeling, the Guardian published leaked documents about the tax arrangements of the super rich. From the Queen to the stars of Mrs Brown’s Boys, they are (it seems) all at it: investing their wealth in offshore portfolios to avoid domestic tax.
The Week on Planet Trump: White House steps up conflict with Mueller, North Korea and Climate Scientists
Initially, Trump felt vindicated. Though frustrated that the media were linking him to the indictment and tarnishing his presidency, he cheered that the charges against [Paul] Manafort and his deputy, Rick Gates, were focused primarily on activities that began before his campaign. Trump tweeted at 10:28 a.m., “there is NO COLLUSION!” But the president’s celebration was short-lived. A few minutes later, court documents were unsealed showing that George Papadopoulos, an unpaid foreign policy adviser on Trump’s campaign, pleaded guilty to making a false statement to the FBI about his efforts to broker a relationship between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
One of President Donald Trump’s first — albeit superficial — orders of business after taking over the White House was eliminating nearly anything on the official site that could be tied back to the Obama administration. This included information related to climate change and the LGBTQ community, which is concerning. Many feel the new WhiteHouse.gov page is unrecognisable, with discussions about some of the most essential modern issues disappearing entirely from view. Long before he was elected, Trump made it clear he believes climate change is a “hoax”, and he also has some rather damaging views on energy independence.
The potential panic phase of Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is effectively history. That appeared to be the message delivered by the Bank of England as it lifted interest rates on Thursday for the first time in a decade, tightening credit in the world’s fifth largest economy. But if the risk of a precipitous plunge is now safely in the rear view, a trudge through confusing terrain remains ahead as Britain pushes on toward Europe’s exits — or Brexit. It is a journey that will almost certainly entail pain and lost treasure, the central bank explicitly warned in a statement accompanying its rate hike.
Although the catalyst appears to be have been the revelations about Harvey Weinstein in Hollywood, this has been a long time coming. The worlds of journalism and politics have changed radically in the past few decades. Their culture has not changed to reflect that reality. Perhaps it should be no surprise that Westminster is one of the places that has most struggled to keep up. Perhaps it is to be optimistic to see this as a shock to the system that will change behaviour and attitudes. From Jared O’Mara to Damian Green, misogyny and bigotry is not a party political matter. However, it is inevitable that political people try to treat it as such. We wear spectacles with rosey-hues. Sometimes we do not realise it. Those condemning Theresa May for appointing ministers with present and past sexual indiscretions should consider that O’Mara was approved as a Labour candidate despite well-known stories of unacceptable behaviour.
While working as a diplomat at the British Embassy in Moscow in 2006, I often visited the massive Stalinist “wedding cake” building that houses the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Once, as I exited into the snow and gales, I clattered one of the huge, heavy wooden front doors into the petite figure of Iran’s chief negotiator in the nuclear treaty talks, Ali Larijani, who was coincidentally coming in the other direction with his delegation. Mercifully, Mr Larijani was unhurt and a diplomatic incident to destroy the delicate discussions (in which I was also involved in a very minor role) was averted. President Donald Trump’s move towards withdrawing the US from the Iran nuclear treaty is about as clumsy as my inadvertent assault on Larijani and no more likely to produce a positive outcome.
There will be nerves in the White House as the news reverberates of the indictments of Paul Manafort and Richard Gates. Although it appears the twelve criminal charges against Manafort and his deputy are not directly related to Trump’s 2016 campaign, they are a stunning accusation that senior Trump advisers were paid agents for pro-Russian interests. “Do something!” Trump had tweeted prior to the Monday indictments. The desperation was revealing perhaps. Once the news broke, he attempted to distract by questioing why Mueller was not focussing on “Crooked Hillary, insisting that the allegations concerned events years before his campaign before crying: “Also there is NO COLLUSION!” Like many of Trump’s tweet it was disingenuous at best.
Whatever this was, it did not look like the birth of a nation. After a fortnight of political tussle, Catalan President, Carles Puigdemont, finally declared independence. Despite the cries of joy from nationalist supporters that evening, the crowd before the Catalan parliament had largely dispersed by 11 o’clock. In Spain (including Catalonia), that is when real parties get going. Having previously briefed that separatist parties would seek elections within the existing constitutional framework, Puigdemont then changed his mind and a day later called a vote of the Catalan parliament. It was a meeting boycotted by pro-Spanish parties, in which MPs voted 70-10 in favour of independence.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Monday pushed back on the idea that the controversy over a Niger ambush that left four Americans dead is a "defining moment" for the Trump presidency. "I would not say that this is the defining moment," Sanders said during a George Washington University panel discussion about Trump's first year in office, which also included several White House reporters. Sanders's remarks fall on the heels of a drawn out controversy over Trump's delayed Niger response after four U.S. soldiers died in an ambush earlier this month, as well as a disputed account of the contents of a phone call the president made to one of their widows. Trump attacked Florida Rep. Frederica Wilson (D) on Twitter last week after she blasted the president for telling the widow of one of the soldiers that he “knew what he signed up for.”
Theresa May seemed anxious to the President of the Commission, despondent and discouraged. A woman who hardly dares anybody but is not ready for an act of liberation. May’s facial expressions spoke volumes. Juncker later described it to his colleagues. Everyone can see this: the Prime Minister is tired from the struggle with her own party. Under her eyes she has deep rings. She looks like someone who does not sleep at night. Laughing you can see them only rarely, clearly, for the photographers it must be. But it looks tormented. Previously, May could literally pour out laughter, her whole body then vibrated. Now she brings out the utmost force to avoid losing her temper.
The 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy has been a source of intrigue and fascination for over half a century. The conclusion of exhaustive investigations was that the former army rifleman Lee Harvey Oswald carried out the killing on his own initiative, motivated by fame and his resentment of Kennedy’s anti-communism. Conspiracy theorists have put forth numerous alternative plots usually involving multiple gunmen. It is no wonder that a grand scheme to kill Kennedy - a strident president who made many enemies during a time of Cold War paranoia, bitter social divisions and powerfully organised crime - was suspected in the murder’s aftermath.
In May 1997, the new foreign secretary, Robin Cook told the world that from then on Britain would have an “ethical foreign policy”. So infamous is this that during the recent election, shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry invoked Cook’s spirit to state that Labour would return to the Cook Doctrine and embrace his “ethical foreign policy”. The only trouble? Cook said no such thing. What he actually said was that Labour’s foreign policy should have an ethical dimension. Yet every time the government was found to act with less than Augustinian purity, the mythology of Labour’s ethical foreign policy was thrown back at them. Politics is full of myths that have assumed near-factual status
Theresa May went into her keynote speech at the Conservative Party conference with low expectations. In a now-infamous spectacle with a P45 prankster, her lost voice and a crumbling set, the Prime Minister managed to plunge below these expectations beyond anyone’s wildest imagination. But had May’s conference speech not been a calamity it would have simply been forgettable - it was a thin gruel on policy. Its flagship initiatives were a cap on consumer energy prices - decried as ”Marxist” when pitched by Ed Miliband - and a “revolutionary” house-building scheme that will construct a paltry five thousand homes per year. Furthermore May’s plans to expand the help to buy scheme will only serve to inflate house prices.
President Donald Trump's cancellation of Obamacare’s cost-sharing reduction payments will increase premiums by 20 percent, cost the government $194 billion in higher subsidy payments, widen the deficit, destabilize insurance markets, increase the number of uninsured Americans, and cause chaos in health markets in the runup to the 2018 election. There is literally nothing in the health care system it makes better; it's pure policy nihilism. So why did Trump do it? Like the Republicans who came before him, Trump is trying to gain leverage by sabotaging the governance of the country; unlike the Republicans who came before him, Trump is responsible for the governance of the country, and so he is sabotaging himself.
The last time Jean-Claude Juncker and Theresa May had dinner together was in April in London, a little before the formal start of the Brexit negotiations, and the meeting was disastrous. On Monday evening, October 16, their impromptu dinner - in Brussels this time - took place in a visibly more cordial atmosphere. "Aimable and constructive," according to a Commission statement released Monday night. The two leaders said they had "looked at the progress made so far" since the opening of the negotiations for the United Kingdom’s EU exit, and "agreed to accelerate efforts in the coming months " for an agreement on Brexit. However, the British prime minister did not get the assurance that at the EU leaders' council on Thursday 19 and Friday 20 October in Brussels his twenty-seven colleagues would give a go-ahead for a transition period, that is, a two-year extension for a gentle Brexit.
Before the 2010 election, David Cameron set a benchmark upon which voters should judge his government: ”The test of a good society is you look after the elderly, the frail, the vulnerable, the poorest in our society. And that test is even more important in difficult times, when difficult decisions have to be taken, than it is in better times,” he declared. Seven years later, to many that might seem like a poor joke. Since attaining office, the Conservatives - at first in coalition with the Liberal Democracts, the alone - have instituted a public sector pay cap so that since 2013-2-2014 all but the lowest incomes have risen by 1%. This cap had affected 5.1 million workers, 1.6m of whom work in the NHS alone.
It was just a tweet. Maybe I am being optimistic. I acknowledge that when Philip Hammond becomes the voice of sanity, we are in dodgy territory. However, the Chancellor of the Exchequer is proving to be one of the more thoughtful members of the government. No wonder there are calls for him to be sacked. Forget the gaffs (and there are many). Forget the sombre (depressing?) tone. First, Hammond has stood out against a “no deal” Brexit and has tried to edge Theresa May towards a negotiation strategy that puts the economy first. Now, it appears he has taken his Budget proposals to Cabinet, accepting suggestions and provoking discussion. Perhaps Britain is one step closer to ending the absurd Budget theatre it endures every year.
Too often it is too tempting to rise to the bait. Had people rolled their eyes and moved onto more important news, Moggmania might have remained in well-deserved obscurity. Instead, hardly a day goes by without the Member for the Nineteenth Century being asked his views on the hot topics of the day. So perhaps the appropriate reaction to the Young Labour Conference should be an eye roll and then a look at some serious politics. After all, youth movements in UK politics do not have a healthy track record. In the 1980s, Norman Tebbit was compelled to disband the Federation of Conservative Students who had made a name for themselves by supporting extreme positions. Alongside rejecting a two state solution in Israel/Palestine and voting against free movement of people, Young Labour - in a motion of breath-taking inaccuracy and muddled thinking - voted for Britain to leave NATO.
A mockery was made of the national anthem all right. But it wasn’t by the San Francisco 49ers. Vice President Mike Pence turned the anthem into a prop Sunday, co-opting it for a stunt that served no other purpose than to sow division, further enrage the administration’s conservative base and try to cow NFL owners. That it likely deflected attention from yet more neo-Nazi protests in Charlottesville was all the better. This isn’t about patriotism or love of country or any other garbage excuse. This was a carefully orchestrated PR move — one staged at no small expense to taxpayers, given Pence flew to Indianapolis from Las Vegas on Saturday night and was heading back out West to Los Angeles later Sunday.
On Wednesday, the Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer was taken by the kind of intellectual inspiration that captures only a lucky few. With a need to share his profundity with British voters, John McDonnell took to Twitter: “Labour stands ready to take charge of the negotiations and deliver a jobs-first Brexit deal that works for the many, not the few.” Several hundred supporters decided to share McDonnell’s message. Why? What does this intervention in the debate reveal? What McDonnell is doing is spouting slogans. In no way is he making a case. For all the good it will do politics, you might as well share toilet paper. This is not an argument about how social media dumbs down politics. This is an argument about the fact that in politics we are no longer having arguments.
The look on the faces of the crowd standing outside the Catalan parliament said it all. The elation as Catalan President, Carles Puigdemont, appeared to declare the birth of an independent republic was quickly followed by dejection when, in his next sentence, he said the birth would be immediately postponed to allow for dialogue with Madrid. In making such an ambiguous and tentative start to the birth of a nation, Puigdemont was trying - to borrow a phrase - to have his cake and eat it. He stepped back from the abyss, but he has only bought himself a limited amount of time. In response, Spain’s prime minister Mariano Rajoy has triggered the now infamous ‘Article 155’ of the Constitution to give Puigdemont until next Monday to spell out whether or not he has declared independence.
The European Union's chief negotiator on Brexit talks says negotiations with the United Kingdom are stuck in a state of deadlock. Key points: Concern mounts that the parties might run out of time for a deal British proposals on expatriate citizens' rights and the Irish border fail EU test EU negotiator remains confident "decisive progress is within reach" The EU wants to know what divorce bill Britain is prepared to pay before talks go any further. British officials, on the other hand want to begin trade talks now, before they commit billions. Britain's Brexit Secretary David Davis insisted talks were going well but the EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier said a lack of agreement on a divorce bill was very disturbing for many Europeans.
In November 1990, having failed to win the Tory leadership, a wounded Margaret Thatcher saw her Cabinet one by one to secure their support. Famously, she later described their candor as “Treachery. With a smile on its face”. Three ministers deviated from the script. Alan Clark who said she should fight a second ballot against Michael Heseltine and go down in a blaze of glory; Ken Clarke allegedly threatened to resign should she fight on; and Tom King who offered a compromise whereby Thatcher preannounced her resignation to stayed in office until the potential in the Gulf had been resolved. Thatcher proclaimed that such a compromise would leave her without a shred of authority and she would not remain in office for a day without authority.
What has President Trump done with his power to tweet? The most important use of this medium has been to stir social and political divisions, aggravating deeply rooted cultural tensions within the national psyche. We have seen this at numerous points in this presidency, including recently with his tepid response to white racist protesters in Charlottesville and his blasts against African-American players protesting racial injustice by kneeling during the national anthem. These are not "dog-whistles," but megaphones, which he uses to get across his message loud and clear. And in his latest tweet about Puerto Ricans, he appears to be comfortable using his words to reinforce obvious social stereotypes about their being lazy or "uppity" that are extraordinarily damaging.
Rarely have the two annual conferences of Britain’s main political parties provided such a vivid contrast. Labour in Brighton were energised and confident; the following week in Manchester, the Conservative party’s conference was confused and lacklustre. Party conference season is very much like going to the cinema on a sunny afternoon. The sun is banished by the darkness of the theatre; the drama requires a suspension of disbelief. However, when the film ends the audience returns to reality. And so it was this year. While applause sustained Theresa May as she gave her already notorious speech, the Tory conference was very much a B-movie affair: applause could not disguise how that this was a tired party whose confidence has vanished.
German companies are watching the zigzag course of the British government and the very difficult Brexit negotiations with the EU with nervousness. Great Britain is one of the most important trading partners in Germany. German companies have recently exported goods worth around one hundred billion dollars to Great Britain. German companies employ around 400,000 employees in the United Kingdom. "The unbundling of one of the closest allies of Germany is inevitably associated with high economic losses," warns Lang. Basically, the German economy is preparing itself in working groups for all possible scenarios, according to the BDI.
There’s no denying it. A Universal Basic Income was what God wanted for us. Humanity, both examples of it, was secure in its Eden UBI. It wasn’t that basic either. All wants supplied- food, shelter, diversion and companionship -albeit companionship rather cis-gendered and heteronormative to the modern eye. But then came that unpleasantness with the fruit*, and the first job interview ever. It was a shocker. “The ground is cursed because of you,” said the First Boss. “You will eat from it by means of painful labour all the days of your life.” So, mankind came off UBI and has been off it ever since. Hard boss that one. And we can see that, from the first, employment was never meant to be easy or fun.
The majority of us will doubtlessly have had an exasperated discussion about America's current political situation at one point or other since the 2016 Presidential Election. Let's face it, very few of us could have imagined this outcome and the train of events this year. It has brought with it a sense of bewilderment — for some despair and for others even hysteria. Naturally, we talk about it to try to make sense of it and come to terms with the international realm's new, unknown borders of reality. So far, no names have been mentioned, so putting cards on the table, Trump is the central focus of the world's – particularly the Western world's – scrutiny, derision and ridicule.
The worse thing Theresa May could have done is declare her mantra that she was “getting on with the job”. What actually happened was a close second. Plagued by a cough and then a comedian who handed her a P45, Theresa May’s speech was pretty much a disaster. Clearly nervous, her final humiliation came when the lettering of the conference logo began to fall from the wall. No leader can cope with such humiliation. Especially a female leader. There was a general irony here that this was by far the most personal speech the Prime Minister has given: she talked about her diabetes, and her sadness at not having children. She referenced Alexander Paul who influenced her stop and search policy. Yet, for all the humanity the script showed she was unable to show her human side as everything went wrong around her. All she could do was keep going.
As of Saturday, the death toll rose from 7 to 9 fatalities linked directly with Maria, Rosselló confirmed. Among them, two sisters swallowed by water and muck in their backyard in Utuado. The number is still on the rise. According to the National Weather Service some areas of Puerto Rico received more than 38 inches of rain by Saturday, and the deluge went on, producing harsh conditions and complicating rescue work. Many prayers were focused on Quebradillas, a coastal municipality whose almost 90-year-old river dam started to crack, provoking the evacuation of 80,000 people who never knew their lives were in danger. Governor Rosselló had warned early on there might be a blackout for four days. But on the fifth day little had improved.
It does not matter that his speech was a load of tosh. It also does not matter that Labour chose, as much as possible, to avoid discussing Brexit. Nor does it matter - sadly - that speaker after speaker in Brighton danced with antisemetic bigotry to wild applause. The tide is with Jeremy Corbyn. In his main speech, he claimed Labour as the mainstream party. He has eked out a waferthin lead in opinion polls. As much as his supporters used to complain about media coverage, they cannot now. Once lauded as Britannia reborn, if Theresa May sneezes she is accused of causing a pneumonia epidemic and betraying Brexit to boot. Politics is about luck. For the moment, Labour has it.
According to the Office of National Statistics, business investment by British companies and local subsidiaries of multinationals was broadly unchanged in the second quarter from a year earlier, at £43.8 billion, or about $59.2 billion. But Mark Carney, governor of the Bank of England, warned last month that uncertainty about the country’s relationship with the EU is weighing on business investment. The central bank says it now expects investment in the U.K. economy to be 20% lower in 2020 than what it had been forecasting before the referendum.
Ireland is holding a referendum on legalising abortion. It has been announced as the first in a program of referendums (others include votes on blasphemy laws and whether to lower the two year separation period necessary to qualify for divorce), all of which have the potential to liberalise the county's social attitudes. Reactions to the announcement have been broadly positive, for obvious reasons. As it stands, abortion is only permitted if the mother's life is endangered, making Ireland among the most conservative European countries on the issue. Women who don't wish to become mothers must either travel to mainland Britain for a termination, carry the baby to term then give it away, or risk a dangerous backstreet procedure.
Jeremy Corbyn’s first two Labour conference speeches were overcast by disbelief, and then by Shadow Cabinet resignations and a leadership challenge after the EU referendum. But this speech saw Corbyn, serenaded to his White Stripes theme tune, not as a dead man walking but as a prime minister-in-waiting. He spoke with a sense of urgency. Labour did not win the general election but anticipates another snap election to finish the job. Corbyn pitched himself to the country as standing not on the radical left but on the middle ground, taking advantage of the government’s weakened position to set the national agenda. There were the typical talking points condemning austerity cuts to public services and social security, but in the aftermath of the Grenfell fire there was deeper emphasis on housing policy to tackle inequality.
Labour is a party that loves its traditions so it was no surprise that its conference in Brighton started off with the traditional singing of “Oh Jeremy Corbyn”. Labour Conference 2017 will be a celebration of humiliation deferred and future victory. There is no doubt the whole week will be one whose underlying message is that the party is closer to government than it has been since it lost the 2010 election. They are right. And that is frightening because Labour is no longer a serious political party. There are a husk; Corbynistas merely dilettantes. This week by the seaside, Labour will merely give Brexit the briefest of mentions. Banquo received a warmer welcome when he turned up for dinner at Macbeth’s.
It is clear that Trump is a hero among white supremacists: He panders to them, he is slow to condemn them and when that condemnation manifests, it is often forced and tepid. Trump never seems to be worried about offending anyone except Vladimir Putin and white supremacists. What does that say about him? How can you take comfort among and make common cause with white supremacists and not assimilate to their sensibilities? I say that it can’t be done. If you are not completely opposed to white supremacy, you are quietly supporting it. If you continue to draw equivalencies between white supremacists and the people who oppose them — as Trump did once again last week — you have crossed the racial Rubicon and moved beyond quiet support to vocal support.
In a major speech on how Britain wants to exit the European Union, Prime Minister Theresa May called Friday for a two-year “implementation period” after Brexit, during which trade and travel, customs regulations and security arrangements would continue on current terms. May’s remarks in Florence immediately stirred debate in Britain and across Europe about exactly what she meant. But the consensus was that Britain means to leave the European Union as promised in March 2019, but remain a full trading partner, pay its full share to the European Union budget and fully abide by its collective rulings for an additional two years, more or less.
The Tory MP George Freeman is attempting to launch what has been described as a ‘Tory Glastonbury’. The ‘Big Tent Ideas Fest’ is certainly no Glastonbury but it is part of a wider campaign to make the case for centre-right policies to the young. According to recent polls 69% of 18-24 year olds would vote for Jeremy Corbyn. It may be that many will change their politics as they become older but it is likely that many if not most will remain hostile to the Tories.
The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about, said Oscar Wilde. Of course, politicians love being talked about. Back in the 1980s and 1990s, politicians knew they had made it when they they earned a Spitting Image doll. They might not make headlines but their faces - however grotesquely distorted - were recognised. Two years after helping run the country, the Lib Dem are hosting their annual party conference. Tumbleweed has a greater impact. The average man or woman in the street would struggle to hold a conversation about anything that has happened this week in Bournemouth. They launched a new party political broadcast to introduce their new leader to the nation and that leader claimed he was a potential prime minister.
When the Coalition government came to power, Iain Duncan Smith unveiled the Universal Credit (UC), a new benefits system meant to combine unemployment, low-income and housing benefits into a monthly payment, as the government’s big idea to restore fairness to the welfare state. But as UC has rolled out across the country its impact has proved disastrous. Housing authorities describe its inefficiency as only worsening hardship for claimants, with delayed payments leaving them with rent arrears and at risk of homelessness. The system UC is replacing no less appalling: the horror stories about benefits being docked by the DWP for various ridiculous reasons are the stuff of nightmares, driving the demand for emergency aid from food banks.
What Happened. What did happen? The 2016 U.S. Presidential Election might have been reported minute-by-minute, unfolding before our eyes, but a year later it’s still easy to scratch your head and wonder: what on earth happened there? It’s a ripe time, then, for Hillary Clinton’s new book. There’s no question mark in her title – the book does contain plenty of soul-searching, but What Happened is a firm account of the whats, hows and whys of that unique election, as seen by one of its two central players. After decades of public service, Clinton is now neither holding public office nor running for it. For perhaps the first time, she is free from the “wire without a net” she’s often felt herself walking. What Happened, then, is Clinton at her most candid.
The word “deal” has a definition. It implies mutual benefit and reciprocity as a result of a negotiation. The arrangement to which Donald Trump agreed with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on Wednesday was no deal because there was no negotiation. By all accounts, Trump took the first offer Democrats made to secure an unconditional hike in the nation’s debt ceiling for just three months in exchange for disaster relief—with no spending offsets. For the “Never Trump” conservative right, this amounts to the confirmation of a theory: Donald Trump is a closet liberal. Not really. Trump is no conservative—he’s essentially admitted as much—but his ideological affinities are tenuous at best. He’s done some conservative things, and he’s done some liberal things.
So obvious was Boris Johnson’s intervention in the Brexit debate that nobody bothered to ask “What did he mean by that?” As the foreign secretary’s Daily Telegraph article landed, the immediate reaction was - without question - that it was a challenge to Theresa May. Humiliated by his great office and a toxic political figure, that Johnson would do something was inevitable. Rumours abound that May is confident enough to demote him. The most that can be said for his outburst is that he is less easy to provoke than Donald Trump. It is to set the bar pretty low. So many nails have been put in his political coffin that it is impossible to say this is another one. However, the article’s crassness and cack-handedness surely rules him out as anything but joke candidate in the Tory succession.
This week Brexiters secured another victory. The government’s Great Repeal Bill was passed, at second reading, by 326 to 290. It is the latest of a series of small victories they have won. The economic outlook might be gloomy but the political momentum continues to flow with Brexiters. In contrast, Remainers have secured few victories. Even May’s botched election gamble has not derailed Brexit. The euphoria as Remainers cut the Prime Minister down to size now seems a fleeting victory. A minor tweak in Labour’s policy saw the party hailed as the ‘soft Brexit’ party, a sign of the low level of expectations. The problem is more fundamental. Both main party leaders accept the referendum result. The media has maintained the powerful cartel that aided Leave last year.
We know by now that the American Dream is not unprejudiced. There is institutionalised discrimination within the very powers which are meant to ensure that citizens’ rights are protected. But this isn’t new. We all know this. And yet there are still groups of people who aren’t talked about – their plight is simply not discussed or acknowledged publically. These groups are suffering a silent marginalisation, acutely particular to their own circumstances and perpetually ignored out of convenience or even for political leverage. Known to be politically invisible, they have very little representation within the political sphere and therefore have next to no voice. They are wrongly identified and categorised to assume the hindrances that affect other groups, but not their own.
Everywhere we look, the improbable has become possible and then inevitable. Brexit, which was just a glint in the eye of a small number of MPs for four decades, is now set to take place in 18 months time. The White House is now occupied by a grotesque billionaire whose candidacy was mocked from the outset. These monumental effects happened thanks to a combination of complacency among middle-of-the-road voters and staggering incompetence by the establishment political leaders — David Cameron’s selfish decision to call a referendum in the case of Brexit and Hillary Clinton’s tin-eared campaign in the US. But why does the (far) right-wing have to have all the fun?
Before our politicians take office, they are required to pass an exam. In this exam, they demonstrate their right to the political position they are applying for by undertaking hustings and debates and campaigning during election season. The examiners are voters. Collectively, we decide which politicians have passed the exam. Those who pass are elected to office and are afforded the power and responsibility associated with being an elected politician. If an election is an assessment, what are we assessing politicians on? What criteria do we expect politicians to fulfil to pass the exam? It is through this question that the health of our democratic process can be evaluated. A considerable proportion of campaigning occurs through the mediums of television and radio, where politicians partake in live debates, panel shows, and interviews.
Just when you thought politics might calm down for a moment, Jacob Rees-Mogg – the foppish, reactionary, meme-worthy backbencher – starts being discussed as a potential Conservative leader. His chances are slim, but that hasn’t stopped a fervent ‘Moggmentum’ campaign from building. Those slim chances seemed to be dashed on Wednesday, though, (or not, who knows – it’s a strange world we’re living in) when Rees-Mogg stated that he opposes equal marriage and abortion under all circumstances due to his strict Catholicism. There was understandable outcry, but among the condemnation some voices were saying “And? They’re his opinions, he’s entitled to them”. Rees-Mogg did clarify that he wouldn’t stop someone having an abortion or a same-sex marriage, since his opinion and the law are different things.
You see broad Republican allegiance to Trump in the polling. Nearly 70 percent of Republicans say they agree with Trump on the issues. And 78 percent of Republicans say they approve of the president’s overall job performance. Republicans who have bucked or criticized Trump, like Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona, have jeopardized their political futures as a result. You also see the degree to which white racial resentment is a key force among Republican voters. Most Republicans, remember, agreed with President Trump’s response to the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, where he held both sides—white supremacists and counterdemonstrators—responsible for the chaos that claimed the life of one anti-racist protester.
That Jacob Rees-Mogg is still getting airtime is a sign that the silly season is not yet over. “Right-wing Party Approves of Right-wing Politician” is perhaps only marginally less startling a headline than “Dog Bites Man”. That observers are taking it seriously is a sign of the shocks politics has produced. Politics is not a series of Aristotlean impossible probables though. Sometimes the possible happens. So, having learned nothing from the last few months, I am going to make a prediction: Jacob Rees-Mogg will not become Britain’s next prime minister. Coalition with the Liberal Democrats obscured that the Tory party - obsessed by Europe - has been unfit for government for nearly three decade. That it does not mean there are the numbers to get a fringe candidate close to Downing Street’s steps.
The Sunday Times columnist Kevin Myers effectively ended his career when, in writing about the BBC gender pay gap, he suggested that certain presenters were able to barter for higher salaries because of their Jewish backgrounds. It is no surprise that Myers would harbour antisemitic sentiments. He did, after all, once described himself as a Holocaust denier. What is bewildering is that the editors would view them as fit to print in the first place. It reflects a disturbing cultural problem in Britain. Three years of polling commissioned by the Campaign Against Antisemitism has revealed that one-third of British Jews have considered leaving the UK in response to antisemitic discrimination. Shockingly, only 59% feel welcome in their country and a majority mistrust the Crown Prosecution Service to tackle antisemitic hate crimes, which this year have been the heighest on record.
Until Donald Trump’s victory last November, America had never elected a businessman as president. It is strange that it did not happen earlier. No other country on earth has a popular and intellectual culture as saturated in the mythology of entrepreneurship. Businessmen are lauded as ‘visionaries’, ‘geniuses’, ‘heroes’; the market is described as ‘mystical’ and ‘enchanting’; The Great Gatsby is interpreted as a celebration, not a warning; Jay-Z raps about the glories of compound interest. With a zeitgeist as affectionate towards capital as this, a tycoon in the Oval Office was only a matter of time. America had always nurtured a fantasy about an ‘entrepreneur-in-chief’. It was imagined that such a figure would float above the swamp of Washington. Party squabbles, bureaucratic fat, lobbyists: all would cower in the face of a tenacious ‘deal-maker’. He’d cajole and bully, he’d apply ‘know-how’, he’d run the country like America Inc.
With each passing day the list of supposed benefits Britain will get from leaving the EU becomes shorter and shorter. In a recent interview, the Tory peer Lord Harris claimed that one of his principle reasons for promoting Brexit was that ‘I just feel we would be better off out of the EU.’ Unfortunately, gut instinct is not a great way of building economic and trade policy. One idea that has begun to make the rounds recently is supposed ‘unilateral free trade’. This is proposed by ‘Economists for Brexit’ who are to the economic community what climate change deniers are to scientists. Their idea is simple: to make Britain attractive, boost flow of imports and share of trade, the government should unilaterally remove all tariffs to trade, even if its trading partners don’t do the same.
In 2004, conservative then-Prime Minister John Howard rushed through an amendment to the Marriage Act to specifically state that it could only be between a man and a woman. Opinion polls now show that Australians want marriage equality. Instead of again voting in parliament, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is pandering to the hard right of the Liberal Party and holding a weird non-compulsory, non-binding postal vote run by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Their make-it-up-as-you-go-along, directionless approach to same sex marriage is symbolic of the state of Australian politics. Mental health experts warned the government that the campaign could be extremely damaging to LGBTIQ+ people and would increase the risk of suicide, especially among young people.
“Democrats have made clear we will not support funding for President Trump’s misguided, ineffective border wall,” Rep. Joseph Crowley (N.Y.), who chairs the House Democratic Caucus, told The Hill last week. “If President Trump and Republicans insist on wasting taxpayers’ money, they will be to blame for any government shutdown.” For all his bravado, Trump knows he has not delivered the “winning” that he promised his base. That is why he held the Phoenix rally so quickly after Charlottesville. The latest polls show Trump losing swing votes in key states such as Pennsylvania and Michigan. So, now we find out if Republican voters will abandon Congressional Republicans in order to stand by a man who sees himself as bigger than the GOP: Trump.
The Syrian war is almost over. Pockets of opposition resistance remain and ISIS is still being cleared out of the North-Eastern part of the country. But, in the narrow sense that it is still in situ, the Assad regime has won. This, though, may not be the end of Syria’s nightmare. As happened in Lebanon in the 1980s, a country broken by civil war can easily and tragically become a battleground for regional rivals who are reluctant to fight on their own soil. Assad’s triumph is a grimly hollow one. Achieving it has involved destroying half of the country while killing, maiming and exiling millions of Syrian citizens. More accurately, it is not even Assad’s victory: rather, the willingness of his Russian, Iranian and Hizbollah allies to join him in committing war crimes ultimately outweighed the backing anyone else was ready to provide the opposition.
With its usual mixture of vibrant costumes and clanging calypso drums, Notting Hill Carnival took to the streets of London this Bank Holiday weekend. It went off largely without a hitch: nearly a million revellers enjoyed the Afro-Caribbean food and music, and there were touching tributes to those killed at Grenfell Tower. Leading up to the event, though, the emphasis across much of the news and social media was not on community cohesion nor the planned commemorations, but crime. The Met Police announced that they were “disrupting gang crime, drug supply [and] knife crime”, while former Kensington MP Victoria Borick urged carnival-goers “don’t bring your knives, don’t bring your guns”.
This summer we have witnessed the perplexing rise of #Moggmentum - the movement to crown Jacob Rees-Mogg as the new Tory Party leader. Rees-Mogg, who was elected as the Conservative MP for North East Somerset in 2010, pledges his allegiance to Theresa May. But like a young cardinal voting for an old pope, he can bide his time. May is a hopeless PM. It is a matter of not if, but when she steps down and triggers a leadership contest that will in turn lead to calls for another snap general election. Rees-Mogg is, apparently, so uncommitted to becoming PM that he has written for The Telegraph outlining his vision for the Tory Party. With the ConservativeHome website ranking him as the second favourite to succeed May, all the signs point to Rees-Mogg planning towards a leadership campaign.
Another week, another murmur about splinters in Westminster. This time, though, it’s a splinter that would affect both Labour and the Conservatives. James Chapman, George Osborne’s former spin doctor, has floated the idea of a new centrist party called the Democrats, and claims that a handful of ministers from both sides have “been in touch”. I won’t go so far as to say it’s the answer to a question nobody asked. There’s been questions ever since Corbyn’s rise about how to hold left and centre-leaning Labourites together, just as there have been about pro and anti-Brexit Tories. A new centrist movement that mops up disenchanted MPs from both parties is an answer. It’s just not an answer that helps anybody.
Trump, in his remarks on Saturday, refused to align himself against the so-called alt-right protest movement. His decision to maintain a neutral stance on the activities of the racist and anti-Semitic right has opened him to charges of hypocrisy; Trump is now refusing to speak plainly about the nature of a particular terrorist threat, a sin he continually ascribed to his predecessor. But the issue here is substantially larger than mere hypocrisy. Obama carefully measured his rhetoric in the war against Islamist terrorism because he hoped to avoid inserting the U.S. into the middle of an internecine struggle consuming another civilization. But the struggle in Charlottesville is a struggle within our own civilization, within Trump’s own civilization.
On Tuesday, reaction to a new British proposal designed to avert a damaging rupture in trade when the country leaves the European Union underscored the deepening troubles in Britain’s contentious path to negotiating its withdrawal. After months of internal feuding, Britain’s government said it wanted to remain — temporarily — in something similar to the European customs union immediately after the withdrawal, scheduled for 2019, to avert the types of border checks that could cause chaos at British ports and at the border with Ireland. British business groups, relieved to see a way to manage the short-term risks of quitting the European Union, welcomed those plans, seeing them as a means, perhaps, to buy two years of stability
As images poured onto my Twitter feed of swastika-tattooed meatheads and torch-bearing neo-Nazis last Saturday, I kept asking myself the same question: "Why is no one talking about the guys in camo holding assault rifles?" As a Brit, public protest brings to mind busloads of placard-bearing students having a shouting match with lager-slurping skinheads, not grown men dressed up as soldiers wielding military grade firearms. The 32 heavily armed and well-equipped men photographed patrolling the Charlottesville protest were members of a makeshift militia. No, we're not talking about a war-torn banana republic. This is 2017 America. Resembling a group of renegade mercenaries from an Andy McNab 'novel', they came with the supposed purposes of keeping order, protecting people from violence and, of course, "defending free speech".
For me, the depressing state of Britain’s politics was summed up by a tweet: “Bored of 'I hate Tories & Brexit' so 'I want Labour & will conveniently forget they also back Brexit,'“ Tim Walker wrote. He’s right. The government is stumbling like a bad drunk to a hard and chaotic Brexit. The opposition would rather talked about anything except the most important issue of the day. The Lib Dems talk a good game but lack credibility. For every study that is done that shows the country wants a hard Brexit, there is another that shows voters put economic stability before immigration control. With the staying power of Banquo at a bad dinner party, Nigel Farage pops up to tell us that a transition period involving Customs Union and Single Market membership was not what the British people voted for.
A 32 year-old woman was killed and more injured when a white supremacist drove his car into a crowd in Charlottesville, Virginia, in clashes at a white supremacist rally. A man has been arrested and charged with second degree murder. To say that the scenes are shocking is a gross understatement. The killing of an anti-racist demonstrator was an act of domestic terrorism. Morally and intellectually, there is no difference between this act and any act of Islamic terrorism. Terrorism is not defined by the colour of the perpetrator’s skin. They should be treated with the same disgust. The spectacle of far-right violence and intimidation on the streets of modern America is a grotesue one. Heather Heyer’s death is the terrible price of America’s divided politics and the far-right’s hatred.
Sometime in October, the United States is likely to default on its obligation to pay its bills as they come due, having failed to raise the federal debt ceiling. This will cost the Treasury tens of billions of dollars every year for decades to come in higher interest charges and probably trigger a severe recession. The debt ceiling is politically imposed, and the decision not to raise it, and therefore to choose to default, is also political. It’s something America has avoided in the past. This time, though, will be different. This country has hit the debt ceiling once, in 1979, and then largely by accident and only to a minor extent.
James Chapman, who formerly worked as chief of staff to Brexit minister David Davis, and before that as an aide to then-finance minister George Osborne, said May's Brexit plans would sink the British economy. After calling for a new political movement to keep Britain in the European Union, Chapman said senior politicians from both the Conservative and Labour parties had contacted him. "Two people in the cabinet now, and a number of people who have been in Conservative cabinets before now, better cabinets I might say than the current one, and a number of shadow cabinet ministers have also been in touch," he told BBC radio.
In psychological terms, it is called projection. British political observers watch Donald Trump’s presidency with the cringing fear reserved for a cheap slasher movie. In every comment the underlying, but unasked, question is: “How could they have voted for this?” The thing is, observant Americans - though who even notice these isles - are asking the same question of Britain. If it were just Brexit versus Trump, we could claim a draw and go back to debating the advantages of metric and imperial systems. It is not to deny the deep problems in American politics to say that Britain is in a far worse situation. British politics, in any meaningful sense, has stopped functioning.
Be careful what you wish for. For decades voters have gone through the occasional spasm of revolt against the two party stranglehold. The have flirted, in turn, with Liberals, the SDP, the Greens, Cleggmania then UKIP. At every point, Britain’s creaking political system has rescued the two party state. At the last election, the two parties fought off challenges to records their highest combined vote in years. Even Scotland’s love affair with the SNP seems to be waning. Labour’s gains in Remain areas, such as Canterbury and Kensingston, is well-documented. The post-election narrative hides that working-class voters shifted towards the Conservatives. Both are extraordinary. Though only one benefitted either party.
On Sunday, as the bacon grilled slowly in preparation for breakfast, the major picked up his paper. Shocked, his moustache quivered with rage as he turned to his wife. “Marjory, can you believe it? This lily-livered government has offered to pay the blasted EU £40bn.” “Really, dear? Why’s that?” said Marjory putting the sausages in the pan. “Why’s that? Because they are a bunch of pinko commies. This is not what we voted for Marjory. It is a betrayal!” Before she could turn to face him, the major had taken the shotgun from his side, pointed it at the telebox and fired two rounds into its screen. “Bloody BBC!” he sniffed and, his point made, he waited for his breakfast.
On Wednesday, after Trump announced the transgender ban on Twitter in an early-morning tweet storm, I wrote to Locke to see what she made of it. “That is very disturbing,” she wrote back tersely. We spoke later that day. “It was very much out of line with what I thought his views were on the issue,” she told me. “He’s made positive statements in the past; he’s been critical of those who’ve been hard on the trans community. But then again,” she sighed, “he has a political debt to pay, too.” A Trump administration official, describing the rationale for the ban to Axios’ Jonathan Swan Wednesday morning, was breathtakingly candid in acknowledging the political expediency of it.
Donald J. Trump was once the star of The Apprentice. But now he captivates America, and the world, as the leading man in a drama similar to The Sopranos but seemingly directed in the surrealist style of David Lynch. The ten day tenure of Communications Director Anthony “The Mooch” Scaramucci, the humiliating survival Obamacare and the rollback of the Muslim ban by court injunctions, all exemplify the chaos of the Trump White House. The new Chief of Staff, army man John Kelly, promises to instil discipline into the president and his regime. Ultimately though, Kelly’s influence is irrelevant as long as special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Trump camp’s links to Russia continues.
As a break from the dispiriting state of British democracy, it is a joy to be in Kenya amidst an election campaign. Huge candidate billboards are everywhere and the traffic is punctuated by convoys of colourfully painted campaign cars blaring out music and messages to drum up voter support for the 8th August poll. Kenya has perhaps the most healthily politicised and engaged population I have encountered during decades of travelling the world. Everywhere, the issues and deeds of leading politicians are avidly discussed by well-informed people at all levels of society, from senior executives to street traders. Campaign rallies attract huge crowds, far from all of whom are attracted by the ubiquitous free t-shirts bearing the candidates images.