Treating leaders as celebrities is nothing new. Nor are political anthems. The Roman legions of Gaius Julius Caesar sang a ballad too bawdy for the sensitive ears of the Twitter generation. So “Oh! Jeremy Corbyn” must be seen in this context. Caesar merely conquered Gaul. Corbyn conquered Glastonbury. If it was a fault of political commentators that they paid too much attention to precedent in predicting the future, the present danger is that social media becomes a new barometer of public opinion. The reaction to the fire at Grenfell Tower was one of the most consuming of modern politics. So many pointless deaths was a shock; it may be seen in future years as a transformational moment. The other reaction was more partisan.
“They made up a phony collusion with the Russians story, found zero proof, so now they go for obstruction of justice on the phony story,” he tweeted. “You are witnessing the single greatest WITCH HUNT in American political history -- led by some very bad and conflicted people!” Where to start with the distorted thinking exhibited in these tweets? On collusion, Trump is, at best, premature; there is not “zero proof” but a continuing investigation into campaign and transition contacts between Trump associates and Russian operatives -- contacts that Trump aides have consistently minimized if not lied about directly.
In an interview with Die Welt newspaper, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel offered what was essentially an invitation for the UK to change its mind. "It would naturally be best if Britain didn't leave at all," Gabriel said. "It doesn't look like that at the moment, but we want to keep the door open for the British. Those sentiments were echoed in an interview with the same publication by Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament's chief Brexit negotiator. But he also hinted that even should there be a British change of heart, there would be no return to the current status quo. "The path is open for the British to change their minds and become part of the European Union again," Verhofstadt told Welt. "But they'll find a different EU than the one they left, an EU with no special wishes, concessions and unnecessary complexity, but with more powers for Europe."
It seems that the aphorism, coined after the Theresa May’s poor showing at the polls, is true. Denial is a river in Maidenhead. May called a snap poll in order to give her government a Brexit mandate. By losing her majority, she forfeited that mandate. Continuing to plough on as if nothing has changed, the Prime Minister is showing the same tin-ear that she demonstrated on Downing Street when she gave the same speech she might have given had she won a with commanding landslide. Although she hopes to carve out a majority by allying with the Democratic Unionist Party, she is now subject to the whims of her new partners and her rebellious backbenchers. The government is clutching to its political legitimacy with the tenderest of straws.
When it came, it came quickly. It is not that the fall was unexpected nor its rapidity surprising. The Prime Minister tried to ride the wave of Brexit populism. At times, she seemed almost daring but ultimately was unequal to the task. The impossible legacy of her predecessor made her fall inevitable but few realised it would happen so soon. Probably most expected it when she returned from Brussels with a deal and slogans alone could not steer her path. As it is, she has lost the last vestiges of her authority. When they write her political obituary, her response to the Grenfell tragedy will be written as the final nail.
Of course it is the case that Democrats and anti-Trump Republicans are predisposed to believe the worst about the man. But the fact is that doing so is not obviously wrong or unreasonable. Trump apologists instinctively want to treat Democrats’ exaggeration and hysteria as contemptible scandal-mongering, but their defenses — no hard evidence of collusion with the Putin regime! — sound a lot like “no controlling legal authority.” The question isn’t whether the president is a crook. The question is: What kind of crook is he?
There now stands a grim tombstone that will dominate the skyline of the capital for many months and, for both Londoners and non-Londoners alike, will become a symbol in the years ahead. Like the Aberfan slag heap, post-Katrina New Orleans, the smoking wreckage of the Twin Towers, or the radioactive hulk of Chernobyl, Grenfell Tower will become the pictorial representation of a failure of those in charge of us. As in these others, the fire at Grenfell Tower killed many - far, far too many - but also affected others profoundly and negatively. The thoughts off all of us at Disclaimer are with those who were killed, injured, bereaved or traumatised by Wednesday's fire.
European leaders have a message for Britons reeling from a shock election result: All is forgiven if London wants to abandon its divorce from the European Union. The sentiment, voiced by France’s president, Germany’s finance minister and a host of Brussels diplomats, comes after British voters quashed Prime Minister Theresa May’s dreams of a commanding majority — and a firmer hand — as she led her nation into Brexit talks. Instead, her Conservative Party lost its majority, and politicians in favor of closer ties to Europe appear ascendant just days before divorce negotiations are set to begin Monday.
With Conservative infighting returning to the nadir of the 1990s, George Osborne has called Theresa May a “dead woman walking.” The Prime Minister’s political career is a husk. Her credibility, authority and reputation lay in ruins. Now Northern Ireland’s hard-right Democratic Unionist Party holds the balance of power in the House of Commons, a prospect that should horrify nominally liberal Britain. Founded by Protestant fundamentalist Ian Paisley, the DUP stands for extreme anti-abortion and anti-LGBT policies consistent with his prejudices. They are tied to the anti-Catholic Orange Order and their leader, Arlene Foster, has even maintained links with the Ulster Defence Association - a proscribed terrorist organisation.
Humble pie is the dish of the week. The relish with which it is being served up is almost as great as the delight with which some are eating it. As one who stridently predicted that Corbyn would lead Labour to a historic defeat, there has been a fair amount of pie chez Kirby this week. So forgive the excessive use of the perpendicular pronoun. Justifying mistakes is an inelegant pursuit. I will not attempt to excuse my mistakes. I hope I am big enough not only to admit them but also learn from them. There is something else I am sorry about. It is when I criticised Jeremy Corbyn, I did so on the grounds of competence and electability. I am sorry that pragmatism obscured my beliefs.
After a brief leadership contest, Leo Varadkar was, on 2nd June, elected leader of Fine Gael, Ireland’s leading party. Now he has been approved by the assembly and will be sworn in as Taoiseach once his nomination is confirmed by President Higgins. This will make him Ireland’s youngest Prime Minister, the first from an ethnic minority background, and the first who is openly gay. The son of an Indian immigrant father, and a doctor who came out in 2015, Varadkar is in many ways a welcome addition to the international political scene. Before liberals get too giddy, though, it’s worth remembering that Fine Gael are a centre-right party, and Varadkar has been described as belonging to their ‘Thatcherite’ wing.
Jaws across the country collectively dropped when Theresa May walked back into 10 Downing Street last Friday. Her brief declaration outside before doing so was perhaps one of the weirdest moments ever witnessed in British politics: her blank-eyed assertion that nothing much had happened the night before suggested she was suffering from shock and deeply deluded. Those who oppose May and her party’s shameful attempt to cling on to power at all costs should not be fooled: May was clearly struggling in that instant to come to terms with what had happened. But the Tories are inveterate schemers and scheming is what they will have been doing since last Friday morning.
Theresa May called a snap general election in the hope that she would be given a huge mandate in order to negotiate Brexit. The public vote was the electoral equivalent of a large raspberry being blown in her face. Her stance on Brexit may have just been rhetoric in order to win Leave votes; she may well have used her mandate to stare down her backbenchers and produce a more compromised final deal. We will never know as that now belongs in the hypothetical realm of ‘What If’. The ambiguous answer by the public on the future direction of the country betrays that Britain is still horribly divided. May ought to have realised that making her election pitch only at the 52% and ignoring all others, especially the wealthy and educated middle-classes, was a recipe for disaster.
That the loser spent the days after his defeat touring the TV studios while the Prime Minister holed herself in Downing Street not shuffling her Cabinet spoke volumes: with twenty-eight seats with Tory majorities under 2,000, the next election suddenly looks very winnable for Labour. While all the parliamentary arithmetic points to another election, no Conservative leader is going to call one willingly nor does the Fixed-term Parliament Act make it easy. Jeremy Corbyn appeared political buried by his unpopular poll ratings: now he would have to be dead, buried and with a stake through his heart and still any Tory would think more than twice before risking it. That leader will, of course, not be May. She’s toast. The question is merely when her party puts her out of her misery.
Theresa May’s fortune changed as “Big Ben” struck its first chime at 10 o'clock on Thursday 8th June and David Dimbleby declared that the Conservatives would be the largest party in the next parliament - the largest party but without a majority. It was then that the myth of “Strong and Stable” finally crumbled. In twelve months of Theresa May’s premiership, we have witnessed a marriage and extraordinary honeymoon. The campaign saw the honeymoon’s end and polling day divorce. Reconciliation is unlikely: the British are papal in regards to political marriage. Recrimination is far more likely. Had May won a healthy majority, commentators would be praising her wisdom; she would be a Conservative heroine. It is perhaps unfair to vilify her. The reality of politics is, however, that its practitioners live and die by the swords they wield. And so it goes with May.
Within minutes of the news breaking on Thursday night of the exit poll showing a hung parliament, came one of the time-honoured traditions of election broadcasting: the financial markets experts. Look, they said, the pound has fallen, government bond yields will rise, and stock markets may drop because of the political uncertainty. Terrible news, obviously. The fact that that is seen as a useful contribution is a testament to the way that the debate over economics has changed since the advent of neoliberal governments: anything that upsets the financial markets must be bad news. But the electorate did more than just thumb their nose at the financial markets, they have also rejected the cacophonous chorus from the media
The peace. Perhaps it is just me but suddenly the world seems a lot quieter. Even Twitter, consumed as it is with castigating Theresa May, seems a calmer place. Perhap its vindication. Shaken as we are and wan with care, we have found a time for frighted peace to pant. And that’s the trouble with UK general election campaigns, especially unexpected ones: voters are expected to make profound decisions but the campaign does not allow any space for reflection. In the frighted peace, one thing we can know for sure: Theresa May did not win, nor did Jeremy Corbyn. There was only one true winner. They seem to win every time. You would get poor odds on them at Paddy Power. They are the British middle-class.
The narcissism generally comes first. Early Saturday evening, an hour after first retweeting a Drudge Report alert about the London terrorist attack, Donald Trump declared that, “We need to be smart, vigilant and tough. We need the courts to give us back our rights. We need the Travel Ban as an extra level of safety!” In other words, London proves him right. Everything does. When Omar Mateen murdered 49 people at an Orlando nightclub last June, Trump tweeted, “Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism.” That same month, when The Wall Street Journalreported that NATO was considering creating a new intelligence coordinator to assist in the fight against terrorism, Trump—who wasn’t even yet the Republican presidential nominee—explained, “It’s all because of me.”
On Friday morning, the Democratic Unionist Party’s website crashed as stunned voters clamoured to find out who exactly they are. The 10 seat party have become the unlikely kingmakers of this election, set to prop up the Conservatives in what appears to be not a strict coalition, but some form of loose ‘confidence and supply’ deal. The dominant unionist party in Northern Ireland, the DUP are among the most conservative major parties in Western Europe, and would undoubtedly sit on the right-most fringes of any alliance. They oppose abortion and LGBT rights, notoriously using 'petitions of concern' to shoot down equal marriage legislation. They once appointed a climate change denier as Environment Minister, and were heavily pro-Brexit (though they oppose a ‘hard Brexit’ or having a hard border with the Republic of Ireland).
May has done something extraordinary: her mission was to put a weak Labour leader out of his supposed misery; instead, she turned the revolver upon her own party. Her whole rationale for calling the election was that an increased majority could provide the leadership that Britain needs to deliver on last year’s Brexit referendum. She failed. May has failed to recognise the difference between moral and political legitimacy. She no longer has the former - she might not even have the latter. Her rush to the palace to “kiss hands” as if she had just won a landslide was ill-advised. The Tories are now a minority. It is far from certain that a DUP deal will be acceptable to many in her party.
This must have been the worst election campaign that a British politician has run for decades. Theresa May treated the British like children, whose future could be dictated. She refused to take part in public debate, avoided any discussion with voters and endlessly repeated the same terms and phrases to every question. Her robot-like repetition of empty slogans earned her the nickname "Maybot." In the last weeks, the British have suddenly been able to observe their prime minister outside her protected role. She showed herself to be cut off, staying in her own small group of trusted people, not trusting anyone else, unable to listen. May appeared insensitive, lacking any understanding of people's real concerns.
Jeremy Corbyn has proved a lot of people, myself included, wrong in this general election campaign. The clouds of spring have hung over the country with a sense of foreboding over the past seven weeks. It felt inevitable that Theresa May would cement her majority and press on with a hard Brexit with renewed vigour. The Labour Party looked finished, its electoral successes seemed like they’d never happened and Corbyn seemed as though he was dragging the party of a cliff and down a cave. Alas - the Tories remain the largest party, but a hung parliament was described by some commentators as ‘’incredible’’ for the performance of Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party in the polls. This election was meant to be a shoe-in for Theresa May; it was an anointment.
Well, there is a certain amount of humble pie available today. Few people got this one right. When he was elected, few observers of politics thought he could do anything but lead Labour to a drubbing. Even a few weeks ago, Jeremy Corbyn lead his party to a drubbing in a local elections. The Tories were meant to hoover up the Ukip vote. Cynics said that young voters would sit out this election. The Conservatives were confident not only of a large majority but of smashing Labour. It didn’t work out that way, did it? We were badly wrong. Since the referendum, it has been the Tories who have been strong while Labour remained paralysed in its response to Brexit. At 10pm, the dynamics of British politics changed in an instance. At dawn, as Labour won Southampton Test, it was confirmed that May’s political gamble failed.
I was young once and when I was 18 I was exhilarated at the opportunity to vote in my first general election. Back in 1987, I had studied for enough to know that, in my humble opinion, Margaret Thatcher was a pox on the land, especially those northern bits I'd never has actually been to but which I knew, nevertheless, would benefit from a Labour government. There were only two problems: I lived in Eastbourne where the Tories had a stinking majority, and I would be away on a kibbutz in Israel on Election Day. Undeterred, I persuaded my dad - lifelong Tory voter other than 1945 when the whole nation voted Labour - to cast a proxy vote for Labour. The Conservatives won both the seat and the election, of course, but I was determined to have my say every four or five years.
How do we explain the new effigy at Dover of Theresa May giving a two-fingered salute to our European allies. One suggestion: Brexit is a cult and she has assumed its mantle of leadership. In the disaster that has been the Conservative campaign, one feature has been consistent: she will deliver on Brexit; she will stand up for Britain; she will realise the “promise of Brexit”. She will also avoid telling voters how she will do any of this. Those now smirking at May’s embarrassment might want to pause: re-elected May will need to shore up her position with the faithful with a sharp right turn. The trouble is that Labour is a cult too.
41 million Iranians voted recently in a presidential election won by the reformist candidate, Hassan Rouhani. But despite being a partial democracy in a region with few of them, Iran remains a menace to the Middle East and beyond. Its aggressive military actions have helped to prop up the abominable Assad regime in Syria. They now risk provoking a conflict with Israel that could rapidly escalate out of control. The reasons for Iran’s behaviour are manifold. As is often the case with revolutionary regimes, it feels impelled to spread its 1979 Islamic Revolution to others. This proselytising particularly applies to its fellow Shia communities across the Middle East. The Shias are a minority in the region as a whole (although they are a majority in Iran, Iraq and Bahrain) and Iran wants to be seen as their champion.
Watching Conservatives on the campaign trail, it’s hard not to feel like you’re being gaslighted. Time and again, Theresa May insists that she cares deeply about whatever public service she’s questioned on – the NHS, social care, education, policing, the armed forces – and that she’s spending record amounts on each. For voters who’ve seen all of these services being systematically deprived of funds, it’s enough to make you wonder if you’ve been living in an alternate reality The Tories’ claims about record funding are, of course, disingenuous. Spending on the NHS is higher than decades past because there’s a wider array of treatments and a higher number of patients (not to mention a higher amount being spent on private contracts).
One of the real revelations of this unwanted election campaign has been Theresa May's poor judgement in picking her allies. Determined to push through a hard Brexit, she has at every turn gone out of her way to snub her European partners, instead choosing to hold Donald Trump's hand and offer him a state visit to the UK. When the US President announced he would withdraw from the Paris climate change agreement - a deal the UK was central to engineering - she shunned the opportunity to add her name to a letter by other EU leaders furious at the decision and only issued a mealy-mouthed response. Now Trump has gone too far. Hours after the terrorist attack on London Bridge, he put out a tweet that took a phrase from the eloquent response by London Mayor Sadiq Khan and twisted it out of context in an attempt to criticise the West's only Muslim city leader.
Any chess player would recognise that the moves of British politics have left voters in a state of zugzwang. Calling the election because she wanted to re-affirm last year’s referendum result, the Prime Minister has tried to campaign upon her leadership skills. Avoiding voters at every turn, she has reduced the debate to the simplest of slogans. Her current woes stem not just from her manifesto u-turn but from her unexciting personality - sometimes a strength - that is unable to hide the vacuity at the heart of her “Strong and Stable” campaign. Throughout May has been unable to define what that promise of Brexit is. Trade agreements with countries such as India and China will carry as many restrictions as EU membership without any compensating advantages.
Seven people are dead and many more are in a critical condition. Once again, Britain has found itself the victim of a terrorist attack. Even as the country was still nervously watching the news and discovering the fresh horror visited upon our streets, Donald Trump tweeted in defence of his Muslim Ban: it is time to stop the political correctness surrounding the issue, he typed. Rarely has a world leader had such a tin-ear for any opinion other than his own; never has a supposed ally behaved with so little sensitivity before a country has even begun to mourn and understand the loss. This is the second terrorist attack during the general election campaign. The third since March. After the Manchester suicide bomb, campaigning was suspended while the Prime Minister attended Cobra briefings and visited the site. With so short a period until polling day, that cannot - alas - happen again.
In June 1987, Margaret Thatcher seemed to be coasting to a landslide. Labour - despite being led by a political ingenu whom most could not envisage as prime minister - was running a good campaign. One week before the election, a poll showed a dramatic fall in Thatcher’s lead. Suddenly, the leader feared that she might lose. Late at night at CCHQ, she berated a baby-faced aide. She swung the “metaphorical handbag” around the room with wild abandon. When she left, Willie Whitelaw the Deputy Prime Minister said to the aide: "That is a woman who will never fight another election campaign." The day became known as “Wobbly Thursday”.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel underlined her doubts about the reliability of the United States as an ally on Monday but said she was a "convinced trans-Atlanticist", fine-tuning her message after surprising Washington with her frankness a day earlier. In a speech in Berlin, Merkel showed how seriously she is concerned about Washington's dependability under President Donald Trump by repeating the message she delivered a day earlier that the days when Europe could completely count on others were "over to a certain extent". She made those comments, which sent shock waves through Washington, after Trump criticized major NATO allies over their military spending and refused to endorse a global climate change accord at back-to-back summits last week.
Theresa May had been assumed to win her snap general election with a landslide that would crush Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party, like Margaret Thatcher did to Michael Foot in 1983. At one point in April the opinion polls saw the Conservatives on 50% with Labour 25 points behind. But as the election has progressed, the Tory campaign has unravelled. A core policy in the Tory manifesto, the “dementia tax” on homes to fund social care, proved deeply unpopular forcing May into an embarrassing u-turn. To her credit May performed as competently as any PM should in her response to the Manchester terrorist attack. But outside of this her political performance has been an embarrassment to her party. David Cameron might be regretting not staying on.
In The Adventure of Silver Blaze, Inspector Gregory asks whether there is anything to which the great detective would like to draw his attention. "To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time," he replies. When Gregory comments that the dog did nothing, Sherlock Holmes responds: "That was the curious incident." Holmes was famous for regarding his mind as similar to an attic: only having a certain amount of space, he discarded information that cluttered it up. Therefore he had only enough knowledge of currents affairs as would serve his detecting purposes. However, even he - if asked - would note that a feature of this election has been the Lib Dems.
British voters will soon choose who faces the European Union in Brexit talks that cover almost everything - from a golden handshake to border customs for people, goods and services. Will they pick the woman who says she is prepared to walk away rather than be forced to accept a bad deal or the man who has pledged to make sure a deal is reached before leaving the negotiation table? For the Conservative Party's Theresa May, an agreement can be good or bad though she's never been specific on either. As far as the Labour's Jeremy Corbyn is concerned, there isn't such a difference since a deal is simply a deal. So, who will get the unenviable job?
It will all soon be over. We should thanks the (non-existent) gods for small mercies. When Theresa May called the election, it was expected to be a walkover. Then it started to go wrong, and the narrative changed: it is now May who is under fire and Corbyn who is surging. An election that was meant to be about Brexit has turned into anything but. Her embarrassing u-turn on her signature social care policy started a backlash that she made worse by denying it was a u-turn when interviewed by Andrew Neil. The Manchester bomb attack paused the campaign and turned the focus towards national security. Resuming campaigning, Corbyn ran into the storm by addressing his foreign policy views in a speech. By trying to own the issue rather than focus on domestic priorities, he gave license to a series of attacks upon him.
Twenty-two people dead. Many more injured. Scores of people frightened as a suicide bomber attacked an Ariana Grande concert at Manchester’s MEN Arena. This is the second terrorist attack in Britain in a matter of months. That our leaders respond to attacks with well-worn homilies is to be expected. What can one say to make such unnecessary loss better? The Westminster Bridge attack was right at the heart of our democracy: its physical closeness to the symbolic heart of our democratic institutions was intended. More recently, the French presidential election saw incidence of such violence. Equally, the timing of the latest attack - during an election campaign - was not a coincident. That is was Manchester, not Westminster, makes it no less horrific; that it was a concert, attended by young people and families, makes its nature even more savage.
The legendary Liverpool football manager, Bill Shankly, once said the ball control of his ungainly centre-forward reminded him “of a dog walking on his back legs – he doesn’t do it very well, but you are surprised he can do it at all”. And so it was with Donald Trump’s Middle East speech in the Saudi Arabian capital, Riyadh, over the weekend. The speech proclaimed massive arms sales to the brutal, undemocratic, human rights abusing Saudi regime. These weapons will help the Saudis to further pulverise their poor and weak neighbours in Yemen. Trump went on to tout a Judeo-Christian-Islamic alliance to defeat terrorism in the Middle East, whilst conveniently ignoring that he was speaking in the homeland of fifteen of the nineteen 9/11 hijackers. Saudi Arabia’s malignant role in spreading its extremist Wahhabi brand of Sunni Islam across the Muslim world also went unmentioned.
Forgive me, but this is where I came in. 45 million people will soon have an opportunity to put a cross in a box on a piece of paper that could change the nature of their governance. If the polls are correct, an overwhelming plurality will reject change and hug the devil they know. For many democracy is a cathartic experience. For true believers it is a test of their identities. On 8th June, that plurality will reject not just the party that they support, it will reject them. In their grief, many will turn on Jeremy Corbyn. The one-time saviour of the left will receive scorn for his poor communications skills. We’ve been here before: that the electorate rejects a party because they did not understand its message is one of the tropes of democratic politics. Ask Ed Miliband.
“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” If this proverb can refer to politics then Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond should be pleased, not angry, about Labour “stealing” Scottish National Party policies. It is a compliment and a nod to shared values. As social democratic anti-austerity parties, the SNP and Labour’s main disagreement is constitutional. Plagiarism, if we can call it that, is therefore inevitable. However, what the SNP’s criticism does is illustrate a point. Ukip is in its last gasps as a political party. The right has united, but the left remains fractured. In response to this Clive Lewis, the Labour MP for Norwich South, called for Labour to form a “progressive alliance” with other left-wing parties, which at the general election would maximise the anti-Conservative vote.
There is a scene in the 1980s comedy Yes, Minister where Sir Humphrey accuses of Jim Hacker of one of the worst government decisions he has ever witnessed. The minister replies that he has just made one of the best political decisions of his life. It may be that Theresa May has just made one of the worst political decisions of her premiership. “Dementia Tax!” screamed Paul Dacre at May’s plans on social care. Politics might be the art of the possible but May did something impossible: she united the Corbynite left with The Daily Mail. Next week she will reveal a flying pig. Perhaps she hoped that in an election about Brexit nobody would notice. Perhaps she thought Jeremy Corbyn so toxic that it was worth the risk. Or no risk at all. If so, she has been proven wrong. With a ruthlessness reminiscent of New Labour at its finest, John McDonnell savaged her plans.
They’ve claimed it will hurt working families - without ever quite explaining how - and that it isn’t properly costed, despite failing themselves to explain how they’d invest in the NHS beyond saying “we’ll keep the economy strong”. Their most hysterically screeched claim is that Labour are dragging us back to the 1970s. Is that the case? Labour’s manifesto does incorporate many of the post-war values trashed by Thatcher. And while undoing everything wrought by Thatcherism is unlikely, re-nationalising services and increasing the top rates of tax would mark a profound shift towards socialist thinking not seen since…well, the 1970s. To free market devotees and certain right-wing tabloids, those certainly were the “bad old days”: strong unions, regulations, a culture of redistribution allowing for a strong welfare state.
White House and administration officials are reeling at news that President Donald Trump shared classified information with Russia’s top diplomats during an Oval Office meeting last week. It’s the latest crisis jolting Trump’s senior staff in the week following the chaotic fallout from the firing of FBI director James Comey—and especially ironic considering the president’s repeated condemnations of Hillary Clinton for her use of a private email server, which contained a handful of messages deemed to be classified. The White House initially denied the reports, but Trump confirmed that he had shared information on terrorism and airline security with the Russians in two Twitter posts on Tuesday morning.
In principle, a resounding electoral victory should strengthen May’s position in the U.K.’s upcoming Brexit negotiations. Going into those negotiations, May could claim to have received a strong mandate from the U.K. electorate. She would also enjoy the benefit of not having to return to the polls until 2022. That should ease her task of getting parliamentary approval for any deal that she might have struck with her European partners by the March 2019 deadline. The basic question remains as to whether these elections will give May the room to make a U-turn from the hardline position she has been taking toward the Brexit negotiations up until now. Repeatedly, May has insisted that any deal with Europe must satisfy two basic U.K. demands.
Not Mayism but “good solid Conservatism”, the Prime Minister said when she launched the Conservative manifesto. Yet this is a very different policy package than we have been used to from Conservatives for a long time. There is an irony that both Theresa May and Margaret Thatcher’s popularity stems from the suburban values that they espouse. However, whereas Thatcher’s values came from her father’s grocery as much as Milton Friedman, May’s Conservative comes from the vicarage she grew up in and the type of populism espoused by Edmund Burke or, more recently, Joseph Chamberlain. In many way, May is more authentically suburban than Thatcher.
Political correctness gone mad. That is the trouble with the media these days. By bending over backwards to be “fair and balanced” to right-wing extremists, it has accidentally assisted their advance. Take Marine Le Pen (no, go on, take her – as pre-PC comedians used to remark of their mothers-in-law). During the deluge of coverage of the French Presidential election, Le Pen and the Front National were routinely described in the respectable media as “anti-immigration”, “nationalist” or “eurosceptic”. These labels can all be applied to reasonable political positions.
“When the president does it, that means it is not illegal.” It became the defining quotation from the famous Frost/Nixon interviews, conducted after the 37th president left office. Although defenders have argued that cotext is key and that Nixon was merely interpreting the wide range of powers given to the president in terms of national security, it summed up for many the political corruption at the heart of his presidency. Yet, however much power the framers gave the vast executive, they did not give the president complete power. And herein lies the current problem. Never has a president sabotaged himself so readily or so frequently. What’s more his errors come unforced. Having stretched the constitution and definitions of truthfulness Trump is now exceeding expectations of how bad he would be as president.
The victory of Donald Trump in the US presidential election triggered the inevitable sneering from the Brits at the simply awful American political system and how it was inferior to our time-honoured mechanisms of parliamentary democracy and an unwritten constitution. But the political events so far in 2017 should wipe the smirk off the face of anyone but the most hardened Conservative supporter in the UK. To put it bluntly, the first few months of President Trump’s four-year term have been a pretty abject failure, as Disclaimer documented in its assessment of his first 100 days. But the reason is not wholly his own ineptitude - although that has doubtless helped - but the ability of the American political system to apply the brakes to his out-of-control presidential vehicle.
It would not be quite right to describe this manifesto as a gamble. Labour do not stand much chance of winning this election - or even increasing the number of seats they hold. However, this was the manifesto that Labour members hoped for when they elected Jeremy Corbyn as their leader. The headlines will read of £48bn of public sector investment and tax increases: the IFS have already said that Labour’s plans would increase taxation levels to their highest levels for 70 years. Asked by Nick Robinson on Radio 4 whether this massive increase represented a return to the 1970s, Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell defended it as necessary. He was, however, unable to cost Labour’s nationalisation plans. The promised “fully-costed” pledges have not materialised.
Traditionally, the Conservatives’ voting bloc is founded on more well-off voters. Every few years, though, they remember that they have to win over at least some of the working-class, so out come their claims of being the ‘party of workers’ or the ‘party of aspiration’. They’re paper-thin claims. This year, though, many traditional Labour voters feel distanced from Corbyn, and those who voted Leave are being seduced by the Tories’ tougher Brexit stance. Theresa May, more than almost any other Tory leader, is on the assault, aiming to hoover up as many of these votes as possible. She has claimed that Labour have “deserted” the working-class, and that habitual Labour voters were “appalled” by Corbyn’s beliefs. She urged these people to leave tribal loyalties behind, presumably by putting faith in her - you guessed it - strong and stable leadership.
During the 1992 General Election campaign, the Labour Party produced a party political broadcast about a girl called Jennifer who had to wait for a year for an operation for her glue ear, while a school friend whose parents, were able to afford private medical insurance, did not suffer as much. Being what they call a tear-jerker, it received a little bit of praise and highlighted Labour campaign issues of Conservative underfunding and mismanagement of the NHS. The trouble was that there was no Jennifer. Also parents of the girl who play who played Jennifer were Conservative voters. The ensuing media storm became known as the War of Jennifer’s Ear. Somewhere in the mess, the issue of healthcare got lost. It would be heartening to think that in twenty-five years we had learned something.
Mrs. May’s idea that her opponents are merely playing self-interested political “games” is a classic populist trope, one that suggests that constitutional democracy is really an obstacle standing between people and leader. The prime minister’s rhetoric since calling the general election has implied that the best outcome for “the national interest” would be to eradicate opposition altogether, whether that be in the news media, Parliament or the judiciary. For various reasons (not least the rise of the Scottish National Party) it is virtually impossible to imagine the Labour Party achieving a parliamentary majority ever again, as Mrs. May well knows. To put all this another way, the main purpose of this election is to destroy two-party politics as Britain has known it since 1945.
The hunting ban was one of the more absurd pieces of legislation passed under New Labour, governed more by emotion and inverted snobbery than by evidence and reason. Would I reverse the ban? Practically, no. Its ineffectiveness renders that pointless. Does that mean it is a ‘good’ law? Definitely not. But the issue was never animal welfare: had it been, then the religious practise of non-stun killing of livestock (exempt from the Welfare of Animals Regulations 1995) would have been a priority. Scandal after scandal has shown the sub-standard animal husbandry we allow in the name of cheap meat. Instead, Labour MPs devoted 700 hours of parliamentry time on a bill that improved animal welfare not one jot.
In a life otherwise replete with adventure, I have had very little experience of cross-dressing. I played a Spartan woman in a production of Lysistrata but, apart from that, I am a novice. So, forgive me, if I speak out of turn. Whatever its appeal, cross-dressing achieves a change of appearance without altering the core. Whether male or female, the cross-dresser retains their assigned gender and sex. The transformation is cosmetic. Like its literal counterpart, political transvestism has a long history. Benjamin Disraeli crossdressed over the Great Reform Bill, ensuring that the Conservative party broke the Liberal dominance of British politics. A more modern political cross-dresser was Tony Blair. On a range of issues he spoke like a Conservative, even sometimes he acted like one; however, only a hardened refusenik could deny his government’s left-wing achievements.
President Donald Trump’s stated reason for sacking FBI Director James Comey can be quickly dismissed. Comey’s clumsy handling of the Hillary Clinton emails case during the election campaign helped to hand Trump the presidency. Had Trump genuinely and magnanimously been concerned by the effect of Comey’s conduct on his opponent, he would have fired him as soon as he took office. Instead, he praised Comey’s actions to the skies, having previously used them to inspire chants of “lock her up” and urged him to continue pursuing the investigation. The Clinton email case is clearly not why Comey was removed. It is equally clear that Trump’s ties to Russia warrant a full and independent investigation. Indeed, what is known already would, in more normal times, be sufficient to push a president out of office.
The polls were wrong again. For once, though, they overestimated right-wing populism. Centrist Emmanuel Macron won the French presidency with an unexpected 65% of the vote, leaving the far right’s Marine Le Pen trailing with 34%. Macron earned almost twice as many votes, and more people abstained than chose Le Pen. You could even use the ‘L’ word - landslide. After the painful results of 2016, though, liberals and lefties shouldn’t be too quick to embrace this as a straightforward triumph. Many were invigorated by Macron’s dynamic ascent, but many others weren’t. This is a measured victory. Pundits can’t sit back in their armchairs, content in the renewed success of liberal centrism, just yet. Let’s take the positives. A former Socialist Party minister who left to found his own En Marche! movement, Macron managed to win without the backing of either major party, tapping into anti-establishment sentiment without veering off to the right.
The victory of Emmanuel Macron is arguably a more unlikely feat than Marine Le Pen making it into the second round of voting, despite the Front National leader’s ability to seize the limelight. Macron is a political centrist, who tries to appeal to both left and right without being ideologically committed to either. He proposes some liberalisation of the economy and an end to some benefits, strict savings in some areas whilst increasing spending elsewhere, a strong proponent of green politics whilst also a believer in cutting corporation tax. He wants France to meet it’s 2% target on defence spending and proposes more prison places and police officers whilst at the same time proposing a secular programme and cutting class sizes to 12 for primary schools in poor areas.
A key Tory strength is message discipline – find a phrase with impact and repeat until voters accept it as fact. Theresa May, playing to her perceived strengths, settled early this election cycle on “Strong and Stable Leadership”. Strangely, though, it’s already feeling vacuous. Her manifesto, when unveiled, might illuminate what the Conservatives are actually standing for. Currently, however, their soundbites are words with no substance – empty slogans voters are expected to just mindlessly regurgitate. It doesn’t help that May so obviously avoids directly answering questions on policy. “Strong and Stable Leadership” has become less of a soundbite and more of a crutch. Unless May shows that she is a strong leader, rather than just telling us, it will tire as quickly as “Brexit Means Brexit”.
For the past few months, economists who track short-term developments have been noting a peculiar divergence between “soft” and “hard” data. Soft data are things like surveys of consumer and business confidence; hard data are things like actual retail sales. Normally these data tell similar stories (which is why the soft data are useful as a sort of early warning system for the coming hard data). Since the 2016 election, however, the two kinds of data have diverged, with reported confidence surging — and, yes, a bump in stocks — but no real sign of a pickup in economic activity. The funny thing about that confidence surge, however, was that it was very much along partisan lines — a sharp decline among Democrats, but a huge rise among Republicans. This raises the obvious question: Were those reporting a huge increase in optimism really feeling that much better about their economic prospects, or were they simply using the survey as an opportunity to affirm the rightness of their vote?
Sacré bleu, what a relief! Emmanuel Macron has been elected as France's youngest head of state since The Little Corporal clambered onto his throne, not without, it must be said, the help of a sturdy wooden footstool. After the spectacularly dramatic X-Factor style countdown across French news channels, it was revealed that Macron had surged out of the exit polls with 65.1% of the vote, exceeding the 60% benchmark predicted by pollsters. This figure will of course change slightly as official results begin to pour in from across L'Hexagone. As his victory was announced, the packed crowd of En Marche! supporters gathered at the Esplanade du Louvre erupted into raucous celebrations, filling the air with frantically waving Tricolores.
There is no point finding adjectives to describe the results of the local elections. If the crocodile masks of Tory spokespeople declaring that this victory does not correspond to a stonking general election win is not enough, the results speak for themselves. Across the country a government that has been in office for seven years has just gained 563 seats, while its opposition has lost 382 seats. The government is in charge of more eleven councils than it was yesterday, while the opposition lost seven. In Wales - the heartland of Nye Bevin and Neil Kinnock - Labour lost over one hundred seats. In Scotland, the birthplace of Keir Hardie, the SNP now controls 18 out of 32 councils; in a country where Toryism was (and not so long ago) akin to devil worship, the Labour party is a poor third.
Malia Bouattia, Stuart Hall, and Carlton from The Fresh Prince: Identity Crises and the Corbynite Left
In an early Fresh Prince of Bel-Air episode, the street-wise Philadelphian Will embarks on a cross-California car journey with his preppy cousin Carlton. Driving through the sticks in Uncle Phil’s Mercedes, they’re pulled over by a couple of state troopers. Will knows the drill, but Carlton is outraged that they’ve been stopped without cause, and speaks to the officers as he would any other functionaries. Unfortunately for him, he’s no longer in Bel-Air, and they’re taken to jail. After their release, Carlton expresses his continued bafflement that the police pulled them over without them committing any crime.
Well, that escalated quickly, didn’t it? On Monday a detailed account of a dinner between Theresa May, Brexit Secretary David Davis and Jean-Claude Juncker was leaked to German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. “Let’s make a success of Brexit” the newspaper reported May as saying. To which Juncker replied that Britain was not resigning from a golf club: Brexit, by definition, could not be a success. May, FAZ said, was living in another galaxy. At first Downing Street downplayed the report. Davis dismissed it as “megaphone diplomacy”. Then on Wednesday the Prime Minister, on her way to the palace to formally mark the dissolution of Parliament, responded herself. Her language was extraordinary.
Prime Minister Theresa May was supposed to be the “safe pair of hands” whose leadership would lead Britain through the storm of Brexit. It is on this basis that she has called the snap general election. But May’s Brexit negotiations are unfolding disastrously. She has accused the EU 27 of ganging up on the UK in favour of their interests. It’s almost as if they are a union of countries formed to mutually cooperate, or something. Meanwhile, Jean-Claude Juncker allegedly says she is occupying another galaxy in regards to her negotiating position and predicts a diplomatic collapse. May dismisses these unconfirmed reports as Brussels gossip. But we do know she dangles the country over the precipice of a hard Brexit falling back on World Trade Organisation rules that would impose a raft of tariffs and barriers. The thousands of UK businesses that depend on EU trade are unlikely to be impressed.
Donald Trump’s administration is many things. It’s divisive, authoritarian, inexperienced. It’s also incredibly white, and incredibly male. Trump’s cabinet is 87% white and 87% male; his wider White House staff is similarly homogenous. A lack of women or people of colour in any administration would be alarming, but it might sweeten the pill if these white men weren’t so, well, mediocre. Trump’s administration is a celebration of white male mediocrity. Take Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and heir to a real estate company, becoming a senior advisor. Or Rex Tillerson, whose only diplomatic experience comes from haggling with Russia over oil prices, becoming Secretary of State.
Commentators frequently claim it to be a presidency like no other. His presidency was unexpected, even accidental; he had held no government office before nor, like previous occupants, served in the upper echelons of the military; he tends to react to events not through quiet negotiation but through Twitter outbursts. His presidency is unique as grostesque theatre, but ultimately it will be judged as any other. We elect our leaders to improve our lives - to create jobs, increase living standards and better public services. It is on this basis that we assess, and will assess, Donald J Trump. The 100 Days is a marker, started by the great Franklin Delano Roosevelt during the Great Depression. It is false but, as with so much of politics, impressions matters.
It was clear during the presidential campaign that Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” sloganeering was vacuous, pseudo-patriotic puffery. But, in classic Orwellian “double-speak” style, it did succeed in obscuring how Trump would take a mere 100 days to become the most anti-American President in US history. The United States of America is a nation based on and bound together by a set of ideals. Prime amongst them is the cherished concept of the “American Dream”. By launching an assault on immigrants in the quintessential land of immigration, Trump has trampled all over the promise inscribed on the Statue of Liberty that “your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” can come to the US, work hard and have an equal opportunity to achieve the good life.
Keir Starmer, the shadow Brexit secretary, has revealed the Labour party’s strategy for leaving the EU. Speaking on Tuesday, Starmer criticised the Conservatives’ “rigid and reckless” approach to exiting Europe, positing a strategy that would not make immigration controls the “overarching priority” of negotiation talks. Labour would guarantee the rights of EU nationals to stay in the UK “on day one,” in the hope that other countries would reciprocate with guaranteed rights for UK citizens living abroad. Starmer announced that Labour would seek to end free movement but not shut the door on the single market, the customs union or participation in EU agencies. The Tories’ great repeal bill is now rivalled by Labour’s EU rights and protections bill. A Labour government would preserve all workers’, consumers’ and environmental rights, currently protected by EU legislation.
Prime Minister May’s surprise announcement of a snap General Election to be held on June 8 seems to have led some people up the garden path. According to the Financial Times, market analysts interpreted the announcement as meaning the chances of the UK leaving the EU on World Trade Organisation terms – a so-called “hard Brexit” – were reduced. The pound rallied shortly after her announcement, and gilt yields rose, both indicating greater optimism about the future. I suppose when you are caught in a raging torrent, any passing straw looks like a lifeline. But their hope is fatally misplaced. The election will make no difference at all. Come what may, the UK is headed for a hard Brexit, with potentially dire consequences for its important finance industry.
Until now hardline Brexiteers on her backbenches have been supportive of her approach, but that support could crumble once hard compromises become necessary. Whitehall sources suggested on Tuesday that May’s decision was influenced by the emerging timetable for Brexit negotiations, which could see substantive talks about a free trade deal with the EU postponed until after Britain leaves in March 2019. Before Tuesday’s announcement May faced the prospect of attempting to leave the EU with a partial deal, against the background of a slim parliamentary majority, and a general election looming within months.
When Theresa May triggers Article 50, it becomes the moment that Britain’s exit from the European is inevitable. It is also the moment that “taking back control” - the central premise of Vote Leave - becomes a reality. The forty year cornerstone of Britain economic, trade and security policy will end within two years. To the exclusion of much else, Britain’s relationship with the European Union has dominated public discourse for a year now since David Cameron returned with his renegotiation package. Since the referendum result in June, the debate has become more heated and, if possible, less temperate. Yet it has been a phoney war. The EU has refused anything but the most informal of informal talks: invoking the article is a precondition of talks. That Theresa May has waited for nine months for this moment is to be commended.
The desire to apportion blame after such a traumatic, self-inflicted wound as the vote to quit the EU is understandable. As one of my former editors said after a major story had been missed: "I must find someone to blame." The desire for justice is strong and the case against all those this week on Disclaimer is weighty but - and whisper it quietly - maybe the real culprits are much closer to home. Perhaps they are us. No, not the 52% who voted for Brexit, but the 48% who believed the mission to keep life as it is, with open borders, open trade, access to cheap goods from around the world, and low cost flights to Europe and beyond was self-evidently going to carry the day.
British politics and the Conservative party in particular have always been riddled with faction over issues such as the Corn Laws, Tariff reform and Irish Home Rule. Europe is just this modern incarnation of this age old problem. The uncertainty and the need for a new direction following the end of Empire made splits in the Tory part inevitable. It is easy to forget that the Tories were the first Europhiles and have had a proud tradition of supporting closer integration. These are the true believers, the Ken Clarkes, Michael Heseltines, and Chris Pattens of this world. Then there are the sizeable number of realists who do not believe in the vision but accept Britain’s new direction is best served being part of Europe, in this category belong David Cameron and George Osborne as well as most of the Conservative MPs that backed remain.
How we respond to adversity says a lot about us. Therefore Theresa May deserves praise for her statement before Downing Street, and then her address to Parliament: in terms of tone and content she was dignified, tolerant and moderate: this was not a fact of faith, she said, but the manifestation of a warped and perverted ideology. Equally, Jeremy Corbyn, who spoke emotionally of the common bonds of humanity, rose to the occasion. Politicians too often display their low cunning or play up division for passing convenience. The House of Commons, united as rarely before, sent a clear message that, for our divisions, there remains immense ties that bind us. Yes, when faced with trauma, we resort to cliche. However, we need sometimes need to hold some simple truisms.
The pattern has become all too familiar. Young people gathered for a musical event find themselves subjected to what British Prime Minister Theresa May has described as an “appalling terrorist attack”. While there is no confirmation as yet this was a terrorist-inspired incident, police suspect the Manchester attack, which has so far killed 22 people and injured 59 others, was caused either by a bomb contained in an abandoned backpack, or was the work of a suicide bomber. At this stage no group has claimed responsibility. But it is not being overlooked that last week Islamic State released a 44-minute video in which fighters of different nationalities urged their supporters back home to carry out acts of violence. Among those featured was a British man.
As Trump compiles a record of failures, feints and half-finished work, his determined opponents anxiously await the moment when his voters will wake up and realize they have been conned. It’s a moment that never comes. Preeminent evangelical leader Franklin Graham, who attended the signing of the wispy order, raved on Facebook: “A lot was accomplished today at the White House on the National Day of Prayer. … I’m thankful we have a president who is concerned about religious liberty and isn’t afraid to speak the Name of Jesus Christ.” (Other Christian conservatives gently urged the administration to take more concrete action in the future.)
Barnier said there was no fixed sum for the UK's financial obligations, and that the figure would be calculated using a "methodology". He also said that, while the UK has to respect its obligations towards the EU, the same is true the other way around. "There is no punishment, there is no Brexit bill, the financial settlement is only about settling the accounts," he told a news conference. In the wake of reports of a disastrous dinner between UK Prime Minister Theresa May, European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker and Barnier last week, Barnier said no one should believe Brexit would be easy. "Some have created the illusion that Brexit will have no material impact on our lives or that negotiations can be concluded quickly," he said. At the same time, he acknowledged that he thought his counterparts in London were "aware of the urgency of the matter and of their responsibilities".
First, the good news: UKIP were defending 147 council seats across Britain. As of publication, they had lost all of them as their vote plummeted. The bad news is - for Labour at least - that the Conservative Party was the beneficiary. Even where the Labour vote held up they were drowned as former Kippers turned to the Conservatives. This was an astonishingly dreadful night for the Labour Party. It was a great night for Theresa May. Twenty years ago Tony Blair’s landslide reduced her party to an English rump. Even in 2015 they were only able to pick up a handful of seats in Wales and one in Scotland. These elections may be a sign of a coming era of Conservative dominance.
It seems an age ago that Theresa May stood in Downing Street and told a stunned Westminster that she was calling for a general election. The General Election campaign seems to have gone on an eternity already. However, it was only on Thursday that Parliament was dissolved. As the Prime Minister berated Brussels, that was the official moment the real campaign started. British election campaigns are, at three to four week, generall pretty short. The last time a campaign was so long was in 1997 when John Major was pushing the election date as back as hecould in the hope of maximising voter satisfaction with the economic recovery. Those with longish memories may remember that Major’s early dissolution had prevented the publication of a report into cash-for-questions affair.
The re-emergence of the far right has been one of the more unpleasant surprises of recent years. In the face of Trumps and Le Pens, it’s easy to grow wistful for those simple left vs. right days of old. Battles over welfare, tax, the NHS and unions are increasingly looked back on in a rosy hue; at least they didn’t contain as much brazen hatred. You know things have gotten weird when George W. Bush becomes a voice of reason, but it’s even tempting to reflect on his administration nostalgically – if nothing else, there was a lower chance of nuclear war with North Korea. On this side of the Atlantic, another person being subject to reappraisal is former Chancellor and outgoing MP George Osborne. In the face of Brexit he has made multiple appeals for sensible centrism, which he believes needs to assert itself against inward-looking “extremes”.
Let’s put it bluntly: if one turns off Twitter, Labour is having a disastrous election. Despite having been ready for battle since September, their campaign has got off to a terrible start. Jeremy Corbyn says one thing on Trident, his defence spokesperson says something else on - well, she states party policy. Of course, Theresa May is playing it low key - if you’ll forgive the English understatement - if you don’t interupt your enemy when they are shooting themselves in the foot, why would you when they are doing it to both feet? Then Kier Starmer stood up to give his Brexit speech. That it was Starmer not Corbyn is telling. Starmer is meant to be a rising talent and a potential successor in the event of Corbyn resigning after defeat.
In 1983, Shadow Defence Secretary John Silkin asked the then Labour leader, Michael Foot, to stop bringing unilateral disarmament into his speeches. The Tories were heading for a landslide election and every time Foot mentioned his support for CND, Labour dipped in the polls. After a general murmur of agreement, Foot’s reply was, “I will never again have the opportunity that I have to convince the British people of what I think is right.” Foot would have rather been right than prime minister. Whether that is admirable or not, his party took fourteen years to recover enough to win an election.
The first headline of Britain’s snap general election was Theresa May’s refusal to participate in televised debates with other party leaders in the run-up to the June 8 poll. ITV, Sky and the BBC have pledged to hold debates regardless of whether the prime minister shows up. It’s unlikely they would literally “empty chair” May, but her absence would speak volumes to voters. This is the new Iron Lady? The opposition leapt at the chance to accuse May of weakness and evasiveness about defending her party’s record in government, and her own plans, on the national stage - particularly Jeremy Corbyn and Labour who lag far behind May’s Conservatives in the opinion polls. May has already u-turned on holding an early election. Labelled #ChickenMay and being harassed on the campaign trail by The Daily Mirror’s man in a chicken suit, she may reconsider taking up her debate podium as well.
At time of writing #SansMoiLe7Mai (count me out on May 7th) is trending in the top four on Twitter. Sparked by the far-left's disgraceful refusal to openly back Macron against Le Pen, this worrying trend amongst French voters represents the National Front's only chance of winning in in two weeks time. And, what's more, it's their supposed opposite numbers, blinded by self-righteous principles, who are attempting to hand it to them on a plate. Started as a protest by La France Insoumise (France Undefeated)- a group of pro-Melenchon partisans not dissimilar from Corbyn's acolytes over at Momentum, the hashtag is being used to express their intention to abstain and encouraging others to do so.
If you've been living under a rock for the past 9 months, or perhaps deactivated your Twitter account in a last ditch sanity-saving effort, you might not have heard: the French are having an election. Although Britain now has its own election, there's one reason we should temporarily turn our attention to our croissant-munching cousins across the channel: the threat of a Madame Le Pen government and the subsequent collapse of Europe as we know it. So book your political intrigue a ticket on the Eurostar, strap yourself in and brace yourself for 7 reasons why the French election is better than our one could ever hope to be.
So there we have it. The provisional results are in. Emmanuel Macron has won the first round of the French Presidential election and will face up against Marine Le Pen and her fiercely loyal Front National in the second round on May 7th. The first results to come in showed Macron winning by two percentage points at 23.7%, closely followed by Marine Le Pen at 21.7% It is hardly say a surprise, despite the media hubbub about how unpredictable this election has been thus far. It has to be said, Fillon's surprising come back and Melenchon's triumphant surge both caused the bookies to reconsider as today approached. For weeks now, I've been talking with French people and generally coming to the conclusion that a Macron/Le Pen second round clash is inevitable. I was, however totally convinced that Le Pen would win by some distance tonight, yet to my great pleasure, I was proved wrong.
The one thing Donald Trump was always great at was personal branding; the success that he had in business was in large part a product of people who had seen him on TV and associated him with wealth and success wanting to taste some of it themselves. If the image always outpaced the reality, so what? Doesn't every salesman exaggerate? Perhaps, but when you're president, there's a point at which you have to deliver. It's becoming clear that Trump's supposed skill as a negotiator was all part of the act, just bluster and bombast, as thin as his gold leaf wallpaper. And everyone's beginning to figure it out. Paul Waldman, The Week
If voters are going to punish Theresa May for her opportunism, they have a funny way of showing it. According to YouGov, in the first poll of the general election campaign, her party now has twice the number of votes Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party does. As many are preparing to mark the twentieth anniversary of the party’s greatest landslide, Labour is on the verge of its biggest post-war defeat. The first days of the campaign have been marked by ritual posturing. A mere thirteen MPs voted against the government’s motion for an early election, yet few opposition MPs have completed an interview with criticising May’s opportunism. May is refusing debates. No doubt the Mirror will resurrect its famous chicken suit, which is almost a national institution. Process issues will not win an election. They make for good tweets though.
“Shame on you if you fool me once, shame on me if you fool me twice” It’s a saying the Labour Party ought to heed. In 2015, it seemed inconceivable that the Conservatives would win a majority. Labour had every reason to fight for a lead, to trumpet their policies, even to inscribe them on giant stone slabs. Few could have predicted the overseers of austerity coming out on top. In 2017, however, Labour can’t afford to be so blinkered. Gross naivety is forgivable the first time, but not as a repeat offence. If they sail into the upcoming election without having learnt the lessons of the previous one, the fallout will be squarely on their shoulders.
The announcement of a general election was the final nail in the coffin for Theresa May’s reputation as a cautious, prudent leader. After months and months of stating there would be no election, there is one. Add this to her about-turn on raising National Insurance for the self-employed and we’ve got a prime minister who can be described as fickle at best, cynical at worst. May said she called this election because Parliament was blocking the Brexit process. Article 50 was passed by three-quarters of MPs and so the entire basis for an election is flatly untrue. Just weeks ago she declared that another Scottish independence referendum would be ‘divisive’ during Brexit talks. Now we have a whole general election on our hands.
Unlike her predecessors, when Theresa May stood on the doorstep of 10 Downing Street, she was unable to call a general election. The queen had been informed by telephone of her decision the night before, but all the prime minister could do was to call for a general election by announcing her intention to put a motion before the House of Commons under the Fixed-term Parliament Act. However, it did not take long for before all the major parties had confirmed that his party would walk through the government lobby. With a commanding majority in favour, there will be a general election on Thursday 8th June.
Nothing has changed in the last few weeks to justify a change of mind. There has been no defeat in parliament to act as a catalyst. The reasons Theresa May gave as she called for an election - she has a small majority and she faces opposition - could haved been given months ago. There could be another reason. More cynical. On Tuesday, the Crown Prosecution Service told Channel Four News that they were considering charges against 30 MPs over fraudulent election claims. By calling an election, May is getting out ahead of the issue. She avoids losing her majority or having to endure a series of by-elections as accused, or even convicted, MPs find their positions untenable.
Never trust a politician, eh? After nine months of saying that there will not be one, Theresa May has changed her mind and will, under the terms of the Fixed-term Parliament Act, move a motion in the House of Commons tomorrow calling for a general election. She needs a two thirds majority. She dared the Labour party to vote against - her new mantra: “politics is not a game”. Within minutes of her surprise announcement, Jeremy Corbyn welcomed the decision. The challenge was accepted. There will be a general election on June 8th. In the first poll published since the statement, YouGov produced a poll showing a 18 point lead. Labour is on a miserable 26%.
Alexander Blackman, better known as Marine A, is a war criminal. In September 2011, while serving as a royal marine sergeant in Afghanistan, he killed a Taliban insurgent who was not a combatant, but an unarmed and wounded prisoner of war. Shooting him in the head at point blank range, he immediately admitted to breaching the Geneva Conventions on the rules of engagement, and conspired with his two comrades to cover-up the crime. Blackman’s supporters were jubilant when the Court of Appeal converted his murder conviction into one of manslaughter - a bizarre reaction given that Blackman’s conviction was not quashed, but merely downgraded. Blackman was a distinguished serviceman, but - as any common felon - he is now as ineligible to serve in the army.
No, we haven’t learned that Mr. Trump is an effective leader. Ordering the U.S. military to fire off some missiles is easy. Doing so in a way that actually serves American interests is the hard part, and we’ve seen no indication whatsoever that Mr. Trump and his advisers have figured that part out. Actually, what we know of the decision-making process is anything but reassuring. Just days before the strike, the Trump administration seemed to be signaling lack of interest in Syrian regime change. What changed? The images of poison-gas victims were horrible, but Syria has been an incredible horror story for years. Is Mr. Trump making life-and-death national security decisions based on TV coverage?
In her Easter message the prime minister pledged that her government would stand up for people who of faith and counter those who try to drive religion from public life. Yet her belief that Britain is a Christian country flies in the face of evidence. According to one study from 2012, Britain will cease to be a Christian country in 2030. This is not as a result of any increase in Islam – Muslims still only make up around 4.4% of the UK Population – but due to the irresistible rise of secularism. The number of people describing themselves as atheists and agnostics is going up annually by around 750,000. Moreover, if we look at attitudes, we may already be living in a post-religious society. The numbers of people describing themselves as Christian compared to those who regularly attend church highlights this shift.
Such has been the frenetic pace of politics that the Easter break comes as a welcome pause. Brexit and the Trump presidency have consumed politics. Then the tempo was heightened last week by Donald Trump’s strikes on Syrian bases. Although politics will be far from the minds of many, the pause gives us time to reflect. Britain is undergoing one of the greatest changes in its post-war history. It carries considerable risks. The risk becomes greater when one considers the dearth of new ideas and bold thinking among our political class. When she became prime minister, Theresa May spoke passionately about her unionist beliefs, about the need to tackle society’s burning injustices and, most intriguingly, about rebalancing capitalism, to help those who have not seen its benefits. Her rhetoric shifted dramatically to the left, abandoning the orthodoxies of the Cameron-Osborne regime.
To many people in the capital, the vote last year feels like a rejection not just of Europe but also of the values embodied by London, perhaps the world’s most vibrantly and exuberantly cosmopolitan city: values like openess, tolerance, internationalism and the sense that it is better to look outward than to gaze inward. Even as a sense of melancholy seemed to descend on St. Pancras when I walked around the other day, much of the rest of Britain was celebrating.
“Pokazukha” is a wonderful Russian word. It means an empty spectacle, designed for show or to deceive. Russians have ample use for such a term, given their long tradition of political fakery from Catherine the Great’s Potemkin villages to Vladimir Putin plucking Greek urns from the ocean. Such has been the through the looking glass feel of Donald Trump’s presidency and his murky connections to Moscow, that it has been suggested that the US bombing of Syria’s Shayrat airbase was another exercise in pokazukha. But let’s assume that coordinating a Middle Eastern bombing raid with the Russians is too far-fetched even for Trump. It was probably a routine bout of impulsivity. Or @realDonaldTrump expanding his distraction techniques to divert attention from his failures.
Brexit is turning out to be a national, and international, humiliation for the UK. As Bonnie Greer writes, it has caused the country to “turn its back, pull up the drawbridge, put up the wall [and] curl in.” This is exemplified in former Tory leader Michael Howard’s bewildering suggestion that Britain would go to war with Spain over the status of the eight-mile-long outpost of Gibraltar. Empowering a reactionary politics that is manna from heaven for the Tory right, Brexit has quite possibly managed to surpass the worst fears of the Remain camp. This trend is reflected in the foreign policy agenda of Theresa May’s government, as it seeks to strengthen ties with nations that vastly deviate from the norms of liberal democratic Europe.