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.
The Bank of England has warned economic growth will remain "sluggish" as it kept interest rates on hold amid a tightening squeeze on family incomes. Policymakers on the Bank's Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) voted 6-2 to keep rates at 0.25pc, with fewer members this month calling for a rise as lacklustre economic growth has weakened support for a hike. In its quarterly inflation report, the Bank cut its forecasts for growth to 1.7pc in 2017 and 1.6pc in 2018 and cautioned the squeeze on household incomes would continue, with inflation still expected to surge close to 3pc in the autumn.
With control of both Congress and the White House — and yet no major legislative successes to point to — the Republican Party is finding itself stuck. A GOP Congress is frustrated with the president and unsure what will happen next in his daily West Wing drama. And Trump wants to sign legislation to show he is effective and is frustrated bills are not on his desk. A sudden White House shakeup on Friday made it even more clear that Trump, who campaigned as an outsider, is determined to govern as one, too — and not listen to McConnell, House Speaker Paul Ryan or other orthodox allies. The president expanded the power of the political neophytes in his administration, elevating Manhattan hedge fund manager Anthony Scaramucci to White House communications director, at the cost of an operative — press secretary Sean Spicer, who announced his resignation on Friday — with years of Washington experience.
British Home Secretary Amber Rudd on Thursday announced the launch of a study of the "costs and benefits" of EU immigration, to be completed by September 2018 - just over six months before Britain is set to leave the bloc. Rudd said she had asked the government's Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) to give the government "the most accurate picture possible of the extent to which the UK economy uses EU labor." The study will consider the regional distribution of EU migration, including which industries are most reliant on it. It will also look at the role of temporary and seasonal workers in British economy.
Unlike those of God, the mills of politics grind quickly but they also grind finely. On June 8th, Theresa May went from being a prime minister who commanded all she surveyed to one whose authority was nothing more than a joke. The extent of her decline was seen when, interviewed by Iain Dale on LBC, she begged for order from her Cabinet: no minister was unsackable, she claimed. Labour’s unexpectedly good defeat, followed by the awful Grenfell fire, left the Tories questioning their raison d’etre. The extraordinary turnaround in political fortunes was symbolised by the huge crowd at Glastonbury singing “Oh! Jeremy Corbyn!” Yet as Parliament has gone into recess, a temporary harmony has overtaken the Tories and it is Labour who is on the back foot.
In 2004, Republican strategist Karl Rove anticipated a majority that would last a generation; two years later, Pelosi became the most liberal House speaker in history. Obama was swept into power by a supposedly unassailable Democratic coalition. In 2010, the tea party tide rolled in. Obama’s reelection returned the momentum to the Democrats, but Republicans won a historic state-level landslide in 2014. Then last fall, Trump demolished both the Republican and Democratic establishments. Political historians will one day view Donald Trump as a historical anomaly. But the wreckage visited of this man will break the Republican Party into pieces — and lead to the election of independent thinkers no longer tethered to the tired dogmas of the polarized past.
Politics is full of ironies. When Theresa May presented her plan for EU citizens’ rights post-Brexit, the EU treated the Prime Minister as a wayward child: “Must try harder. It is ironic that a process that was about taking back control has exposed the feeble nature of our power. Equally when David Davis negotiates in Brussels it is clear where the power lies. The Brexit mythology is being exposed. Taking back control is merely the first. Even if Britain leaves the Single Market, some form of rules-based trade agreement will be needed and that agreement be one less favourable than the present one. It will also be one negotiated by one government against 27.
As discussions got serious this week in Brussels — amid open feuding, cabinet splits and confusion over policy objectives back in London — Britain’s handling of its most important negotiations since World War II was starting to look shambolic. Nearly four months after Prime Minister Theresa May invoked Article 50, starting the clock on a two-year window to negotiate Britain’s departure, little or nothing of substance has been accomplished. With the British currency languishing, the standard of living progressively squeezed and investors starting to take fright, there is markedly less bravado in London about a new age of opportunities for a “global Britain.” Amid a growing sense of drift, gone is the talk of a “red, white and blue Brexit” — a reference to the colors of the national flag.
The 1994 Rwandan genocide saw an estimated one million people slaughtered out of a population of 7.7 million, as Hutu extremists attempted to eliminate the Tutsi minority, moderate Hutus and other, smaller ethnic groups. The international community, distracted by divisions between the major powers and simultaneous events in Yugoslavia, largely stood by, despite the valiant attempts of the UN Mission in Rwanda (UNAMIR) Commander, Lieutenant-General Romeo Dallaire, to raise the alarm. The genocide was ended when the mainly Tutsi Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) seized control of the country. The RPF had been fighting since 1990 from its bases in exile in Uganda to overthrow the increasingly extremist Rwandan government. It was led by Paul Kagame, one of the most capable world political figures of his generation.
Just when we thought Donald Trump’s presidency couldn’t get any worse, it reached a new nadir with this month’s tweet-storm against MSNBC presenters Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski. For critically reporting on his beleaguered administration, Scarborough was attacked as “Psycho Joe” while Brzezinski’s appearance was subjected to the chauvinist-in-chief’s signature misogyny. Next in the firing line was CNN. Or the “Fraud News CNN” as Trump renamed them. He shared a clip from his 2007 appearance at World Wrestling Entertainment’s WrestleMania 23, with his storyline beat-down on owner Vince McMahon having CNN’s logo superimposed over McMahon’s face. It was crafted by a Reddit user who made an antisemitic meme targeting Jewish CNN journalists.
Trump has not organized a single public event specifically around the cruel and detested health-care reform designed by his congressional allies since a lone rally in Kentucky on March 12. He spent July 4, our most important national holiday, at the Trump National Golf Club in Virginia. Had he been forced to work that day, he surely would have griped about it like his U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley. This crew is less protestant work ethic and more protesting having to work at all. These are the actions of a man who either does not believe his own noxious rhetoric about the dire problems facing the country or who has concluded that he is simply not up to the task of working hard to address them
At times like these, it's crucial to remember that the president is not, in fact, the most powerful or important person in America. He works for us, and we retain control of and responsibility for our destinies. In far grimmer eras of American history — slavery, internment, the Jim Crow days in the deep South — millions of men and women in this country found a way to conduct themselves with dignity, no matter how depraved things got at the top of the hierarchy. And their forceful dignity and refusal to give up on the American ideal are what makes me hopeful that this, too, will pass.
It’s the ultimate man-off: Vladimir V. Putin and Donald J. Trump, two leaders who have staked their appeal on projecting masculinity, face off with the world judging who prevails. Each is almost a cartoonish version of hyper-masculinity [and has ] built his following partly on unmanning his predecessor, on restoring strength to a country that each successfully portrayed as weakened by past policy concessions. Mr Trump has set himself up with little room to manoeuvre. He’s built his brand, and much of his foreign policy, on masculine strength. He lost the handshake contest to Emmanuel Macron of France.
“I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent's youth and inexperience," said Ronald Reagan in 1984. Today young people have never been more engaged in politics, but older leaders have apparently found a new lease. Vince Cable, at 74, is likely to succeed Tim Farron as leader of the Liberal Democrats. If successful Cable will be the oldest leader of a major British political party since Winston Churchill, who became Conservative prime minister for a second time at age 77 in 1951. Cable’s party is a shell of its former self however, still paying the price for its coalition with the Tories. It descends from the Liberal Party led in the 19th century by “Grand Old Man” William Gladstone, who left Downing Street for the fourth and final time at 84.
We have approached the 20th anniversary of the handover of Hong Kong from the United Kingdom to the People’s Republic of China (PRC) yet few in Britain are aware of the dire situation in its former colony. Memories appear to be short and only a handful of Westminster politicians regularly raise concerns about the crackdowns on freedoms in Hong Kong. Now it’s time for Parliament to wake up and fulfil our obligations to Hong Kongers. The question of Britain’s right to speak out on matters relating to Hong Kong is clear cut. The Sino-British Joint Declaration, signed in 1984, is a legally binding international agreement.
The first European Union summit since British Prime Minister Theresa May lost the mandate of an outright parliamentary majority reflected a weakening in her Brexit negotiating position, highlighted by the migration question. Immigration was a potent issue in last year’s Brexit referendum campaign. The future of about three million EU citizens residing in Britain is now an emotive debate. They have reason to fear a hard Brexit. May’s tough rhetoric on immigration has done nothing to ease their anxiety that they might be forced to leave, or become second-class citizens. There has been a shift in sentiment, however, to a soft Brexit in which Europe’s views on the future relationship carry more weight. It is to be seen in the response to what May called a fair offer on the rights of EU citizens in Britain.
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).