Re-birth of a Nation?
‘Of all the small nations of this earth, perhaps only the ancient Greeks surpass the Scots in their contribution to mankind’, Winston Chuchill
Alex Salmond is giving the Scots a once in a generation chance to become and independent nation state. Yet current polls suggest that while the ‘Yes’ side is gaining momentum, the ‘No’ side is still the favourite. This is despite what’s been an almost universal negative campaign from the Noes. There have been scare stories about the Pound and Europe – the message being; you’re free to vote whichever way you want but the following very bad things will or won’t happen if you vote ‘Yes’. Salmond is in the Shroedinger’s Cat position of either being the greatest Scottish Nationalist since Robert the Bruce or just another failed politician who over-promised and under-delivered. The campaign still has almost seven months to run and there’s bound to be a few more surprises in the offing. Alistair Darling has been criticised as an anti-charisma Leader on the ‘No’ side but he is a good example of where slow and steady could end up winning the race. If the antis stay on message and remain consistent in their narrative, they could go on to win; and this would be an historic lost opportunity for the independence movement.
The alternative approach by the Naes, the somewhat patronising Westminster Tone of showing the Scots some Love, may not be to the favour of the Northern Tribes. While at Elections most people vote with their wallets, such an emotive issue as Independence may come down to a gut feeling rather than fear of living costs. Do the majority of Scots favour the status quo of a version of Home Rule with a separate culture, Football and Rugby team? Or do they want to go the full hog-many (groan) and become a Nation once again? The recent rival cabinet meetings in Aberdeen – Coalition on one side, SNP on the other was an example of the symbolic campaigning that will take place between now and September. This is a vote as much about sentiment as it is about financial security and Salmond knows that his best chance of a ‘Yes’ win is to engender the ‘Braveheart’ Factor. This is a once in a generation opportunity for the Scots – a ‘Yes’ vote would have profound effects on the United Kingdom. The Labour Party could struggle to form a majority government in England and Wales. It is a massive ‘game changer’.
Russia and Europe’s Faultline
The revolution in Ukraine is a clear demonstration, if one were required, of the fault-line between Russia and the West (EU and USA). It’s easy to understand Ukraine’s strategic position for Russia – it is in their backyard, with a history underscored by war and conflict. The current upheaval presents a real challenge for the EU and US; what happens if Russia sends in the tanks? Or, and more frightening in terms of loss of life and suffering, what should the West do if the country descends into civil war and Ukraine becomes another Syria or Yugoslavia?
There is a real dilemma for policy makers and diplomats – talk too tough and you encourage the view of the West ganging up on the Russians and making it look like they’re out to destabilize the region. Talk too softly and you are seen to let the Ukrainian people down in their hour of need or maybe even put them in harms way by encouraging the democracy movement to move beyond the sphere of EU and US support. Regional and international conflicts have broken out over less and the key players will above all want to contain any military adventurism coming from the Russians. The current loss of life has been horrendous – it must be an ongoing aim of the West to work with Russia (if possible) to prevent any more lives being lost over a regional chess game. The UN could play an important role in facilitating the path to full parliamentary democracy. The dangers ahead are many; the IMF ‘rescuing’ the country with severe spending cuts is one such possibility which could dissuade pro-European Ukrainians from their EU enthusiasm. The country may split in two as the Russians seek to maintain their strategic hold. Or there could be years of awful conflict ahead. The collapse of the Iron Curtain is still rippling in the present – let us hope that there can be a peaceful solution to a seemingly intractable problem. The danger for Europe and the World if not is potentially catastrophic.
What’s the Tory (again)?
The British general Election is still over a year away yet the tumbrels are sounding. Cameron is playing hard on signs of possible economic recovery, warning that Labour will jeopardise any the chances of more good news. His surrogates in the Press will be re-hashing the old ‘Red Ed’ trope and saying that electing Miliband the Younger would be as bad as electing Neil Kinnock. A recent article by Will Hutton suggests that the UK recovery is far from a job based one and that standard of living issues will still be a major battleground in 2015. So with just over twelve months to go and Labour far from streaking ahead in the polls, could Cameron be in with a shot? All the polls make a Tory outright majority seem unlikely; it’s a bit like Labour going into the 1987 Election expecting to win. If 2015 turns out to be like 1987, then Cameron is out of a job. It’s most unlikely that even the Orange Book Lib Dems could prop up a Prime Minister who has twice failed to get an overall majority. And there’s no way the Euro-Friendly Liberals could even countenance being party to a government that holds an in-out referendum. When even Daily Telegraph columnists like Peter Oborne (albeit a contrary writer even for the Torygraph) are arguing that George Osborne has let the rich off too lightly, there may be a mood out there that the Conservatives have gone too far and do not deserve to be biggest party, let alone the majority party of government. While this writer abhors most of Cameron’s politics, it should be noted that he (along with Nick Clegg) kept the coalition show on the road. It may come to a very sudden end in 2015.
France and Romance
French Presidents, eh? To read most British, American and this country’s Twitterati, there’s something hilarious about adults living an adult life. While the Atlantic media like to poke considerable fun at les politicians Francais, the French have the attitude that President Hollande’s personal life is exactly that. While the perennial Press privacy question always gets asked in on l’outre side of La Mer or Manche, is what the public may be interested in the public interest, French people have long ago determined that as long as a politician can do his or her job and is seen to be doing well in that job, then who he or she chooses to consort with is really of no concern to an electorate. Hollande will lose the Presidency if he fails to meet his promise not to his girlfriend, but to the country. Although that particular issue of ‘Closer’ sold out fairly quickly, it was only obliquely referred to, and in a somewhat embarrassed manner, at Hollande’s Press Conference in the Elysee Palace. There’s a tradition in France in the Fifth Republic – you become President, your private life remains off limits. Perhaps if not doing anything illegal, this should remain the case. As Bill Clinton proved, rightly or wrongly, personal morality matters less than one’s ability to manage an economy. For Hollande too, it will probably be L’Economy too, Monsieur/Madam Stupid! And that’s much more meaningful to real people in the real world.
The Human Factor
Rob Ford has stated on the record that he has smoked Crack. Opinion polls, somewhat tragically, have seen a strong cohort of people believe that he is still able to do a good job. This could well be people confusing personal with political support. Ford’s erratic performance as Mayor of Toronto posits us with some big questions. How can politicians who become addicted kick the habit and still make a comeback? Is it even possible in today’s media culture? If a political figure has become incapacitated due to their addiction or self-destructive behaviour, should they be given some space, such as would be allowed in most regular jobs, or should the person resign and rebuild their lives? When Charles Kennedy resigned as Leader of the Liberal Democrats in 2006 over alcoholism, he got pretty much short shrift from much of the Press – in fact, most commentators didn’t accept his diagnosis as an illness. There would seem to be double standards – we do expect more from our politicians. It’s highly unlikely that anyone who is in the grip of addiction is able to function properly at high-performance work; that doesn’t mean we should lose our compassion and sense of humanity in allowing them some time and space. There are notable exceptions to this rule; Churchill had serious depression and drank like a fish and yet he was the right man in the right place at the right time. We probably do expect too much from our politicians – we at times forget that they are all too human.
Death of a Hero
There’s not much more to be said about the death of Nelson Mandela. Was he man of the Left, the political Centre, a Conciliator, a Revolutionary? It’s apparent that he was and is all of these things. While it is, to paraphrase Peter Mandelson on Margaret Thatcher’s support for Pinochet, ‘galling’, to hear Tories and Republicans of the US variety heap praise on someone they wanted imprisoned or worse, the global reaction to his death could not be imagined for any other political figure. Mandela may have failed to bring revolutionary change to the living standards of most black South Africans but he achieved equality at the ballot box when the odds were against him. It shows how much you can achieve with right on your side; we all admire Mandela for how he reflects the best of ourselves and also how he seems to mirror our own political persuasions and beliefs. How someone can be a hero to Corporate Captains of Industry to a Washer Woman in Soweto can only be explained in these terms. Which of us leads a life where our integrity is never in issue (honestly now?) and where we can stick to our main goal throughout our Life? Mandela lived enough lives for seven or eight lifetimes and the scale of his achievements may never be matched. All we can do is be grateful that his path crossed with ours and how we were able to see how one man, albeit a great one, can really make a difference. The World lost its First Citizen – in a translation of an old Irish saying, we’ll never see his like again.
A Chastened Cohort
‘Generation Gulp’ is perhaps the best description for those of us in our late 30s, 40s and 50s. According to a recent report from the UK based Institute of Fiscal Studies, most British people who fall in this age category will be relatively speaking worse off than their parents were at that age. If the study is true, and many of that cohort are feeling a severe pinch if not stagnation of being unable to get a foot on or move up the property ladder or having their wages frozen, then the notion of the American Dream writ large across the World, that each generation is lifted by the previous one, is under severe threat. The radical left would argue that there are the seeds of revolt stored up in the failure if market capitalism; people surely can’t accept decades of austerity and declining living standards can they? While the seeds may be there, the primary shaper and in many ways controller of popular opinion, the media, shows no signs of ceasing as cheerleader for the wealthy rather than an advocate of the 99% (to use a phrase, and a cruelly dismissed one by many at that, borrowed from 2011). This is a generation with choices; the structural problems may seem insurmountable, but by voting according to interests, real change can be activated. The Progressive Left has many critics – not radical enough, too accommodating etc, but by pushing the needle on the political compass to the Left, we can change not only our lives for the better, but the lives of other generations too. Things may seem bleak for ‘Generation Gulp’ right now but they don’t have to remain without hope.
New World Order?
The end of the year is always a good time to prognosticate about the political world – what are the trends and what could happen in 2014? Will Barrack Obama see his political capital drain further away over the next twelve months as he slips into ‘lame duck’ territory or will he fell embiggened, (thank you Simpsons, again) and throw caution to the wind? It’s clear that he does not like or trust Benjamin Netanyahu – whether this can be enough to embolden John Kerry to seek a meaningful and workable solution in the Middle East remains to be seen. The sceptics would look to previous US indulgence and support of Israeli occupation as a harbinger that real change is not on the cards. But Obama has nothing to lose now – there’s no third term to run for. Then there’s the Euro. Will there be another crisis or has ‘kicking the can down the road’ turned out to be this century’s equivalent of Asquith’s ‘masterly inactivity’? Nobody on the Left can feel comfortable with the European Project since the currency union; the benefits for business have far outweighed the pluses for the citizen. Barring possible natural disasters, where will the next big political crisis come from? Will technology and the rise of the machines still set the agenda in the West? The Forest Gump slogan is never more apposite than when it comes to international affairs; you just never know what you’re going to get. World leaders will pretend as always but the can only manage the world so much.
The 2012 US Presidential Election, was, in the end, won quite comfortably by Barack Obama. He took 26 out of 50 States but 332 out of 538 Electoral College votes. It had, to the outside eye, little of the drama of 2008. If you were a follower of Nate Silver and his uncannily accurate mathematical poll modelling prognostications, you would, as a Democrat, have been quietly confident of an Obama win going back for months. But drama and politics go hand-in-hand. ‘Double Down – The Explosive Inside’ account of the 2012 Presidential is Election’ is Mark Halperin’s and John Heilemann’s follow up to ‘Race of a Lifetime’ and they definitely see Presidential Elections as drama. Their latest offering again treats electoral politics as part horse-race, part blood sport rather than a wonk treatise. It makes for some good reading.
What new can be said about Mitt Romney? A man hoisted on his own petards, his stream of ‘Richie Rich’ gaffes were a gift for the Democrats and allowed them to paint him as an out of touch and heartless millionaire. Some, if not all of this, may be true; in something akin to a Left Wing Conspiracy theory, the authors ‘credit’ Romney with consorting with Billionaires, most notably Rupert Murdoch and the Koch Brothers. He recklessly ‘doubled-down’ in picking Paul Ryan as Veep Nominee, a man even further to the economic right than the Millionaire Mormon himself. Mitch, one has to be believe, was never really cut out to be President and only got the Republican nomination in the first place because the field was so weak.
The GOP Primaries were a prime example of how far off centre the Republican Party has gone even since 2008. As documented by Halperin and Heilemann, all of the rival candidates were lacking in the right stuff. Rick Santorum, at one stage, raised contraception as an national election issue. The Tea Party loved his red-meat policies as they did those of Michelle Bachmann – but neither had the political stamina or eventually the money to stay the course. Newt Gingrich was shown up as the dingbat loco crazy person that he is and John Huntsman as a disengaged dilettante. Herman Cain briefly rose and fell. The authors appear not to have had any access to Ron Paul, who they barely mention at all. Chris Christie, in print like in life, looms large but is ultimately rejected as a running mate after an issue raising background check.
Where did this leave the incumbent President? He hated fundraising with ‘the plutocrats’. His mojo wasn’t always apparent; was the analytical, serial litigator ‘up for it’? Of course he was, but in the run up to and during the first debate, in which Obama tanked, there was doubt amongst his team. This nearly turned into panic after a disastrous performance but their man dug deep reclaimed all his lost ground in the second and third debates.
There’s some excellent stuff on the higher profile Team Obama members such as Joe Biden and Bill Clinton. The President seems to have spent a lot of his time worrying just what would Joe say next. But Biden more than made an excellent team player and set himself up for a possible 2016 run. As for Bill Clinton? Obama and he fell out badly in the 08 campaign but Bill became the President’s greatest asset, delivering what was possibly his greatest speech at the Democrats convention, becoming cheer leader in chief for a man he once bitterly dismissed. Politics is a funny old game and who’d have thought that Barack and Bill would become as close to friends as you get in politics? Hilary’s loyalty to and friendship with the President had made Obama warm to her husband – the 2012 campaign was the meeting of minds of two of the most charismatic Commanders in Chief since Kennedy.
Most of the book is in a deep background or off the record style and you have to wonder about the level of leaking and co-operation the authors got from their sources; what’s in it for them blabbing to journalists? Perhaps the hope of a good word down the line when they themselves might run for Office or the need to get their spoke into the first draft of history. Whatever the reason., the authors appear to have no shortage of sources willing to spill the beans for them.
For politics to matter, we need it to be exciting, to grip us. But, as noted elsewhere, to have what might purport to be a definitive account of the 2012 Election and not mention Nate Silver once seems churlish or just plain wrong. Reporters need a race, we enjoy it but what’s real is real and should not be replaced by manufactured reality. Having said that, Halperin and Heilemann provide a scoopy, inside baseball account that will be difficult to match. As political reportage goes, it is very very good and if not quite a ‘game changer’, ‘Double Down’ is well worth a gamble.
‘Double Down – The Explosive Inside Account of the 2012 Presidential Election’ by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann, WH Allen, £20
With Friends like These…Clegg’s Problems
The spat between Nick Clegg and David Laws over ‘Free Schools’ tell us a lot about the pickle the Liberal Democrats are in. Clegg’s Choice, now looking like fulfilling his Cassandra-like fear of destroying the Party he leads, has left the Coalition mudguard little option but to pick issues to get notice. Not only is Nick Clegg outflanked on the Left by the grassroots, he’s also feeling the heat on the Right, something he’ll be distinctly uncomfortable with himself, being an ‘Orange Book’ Liberal by temperament and conviction. The fact that the slap down has come from Laws, a figure who resigned in disgrace over an expenses scandal and is only back as a Minister with the say-so of Clegg himself, just shows how rough and tumble the sport of politics can be. Nick Clegg must have some regrets over never taking Labour seriously as an option in May 2010. He faces a tough eighteen months to try and salvage something from the 2015 General Election. His advisors and he believe that only differentiation from the Tories can save them now. Yet, with Ed Miliband’s star possibly on the ascent, though the recent attack on Ralph Miliband is just an indication of the personal campaign to come, Clegg knows he is on his uppers. Politics always throws up surprises; at this stage if the game, the Liberal Democrats need a lot of things to turn up. But sometimes in politics you just run out of options, such as with Gordon Brown from 2008-2010 when, in retrospect, the tunnel just kept getting darker and darker. A wipe-out beckons; the Party may survive but Clegg’s legacy is a different matter.
If it’s Not Love, then it’s the Bomb
Eric Schlosser’s ‘Command and Control’, serves to remind us all how precarious the nuclear balance of terror was and how close we’ve come to accidental Armageddon since the dawning of the atomic age. Drawing on recently declassified records and extensive interviews, Schlosser highlights the 1980 Damascus Incident in Arkansas where a Titan II Hydrogen Bomb nearly exploded; the devastation would have been appalling, much of the State would have been wiped off the map and a certain Bill Clinton, Arkansas Governor at the time, would never have become President. Yet this, while by far the most serious accident to happen on US Soil, was just one of dozens of incidents, protocol breaches, security blunders and bizarre coincidences that could have caused a) a nuclear detonation and b) an accidental nuclear war where the USSR would respond as though attacked. Such was the precarious hair-trigger nature of ‘MAD’ Game theory. Schlosser quotes senior Service Personnel as saying pure luck meant that there was never a catastrophic explosion or nuclear exchange between the Superpowers. The author is no starry-eyed unilateralist; he believes the technology behind the Bomb can’t be un-invented. But he does espouse a rigorous form of multilateralism – missile reduction with rigid controls. We don’t like to think about a possible Nuclear Holocaust – it’s something we store away in a compartmentalised part of the brain labelled ‘denial’. ‘Command and Control’ shows how we were fortunate not to have had Armageddon and how we run colossal risks just by having these ‘destroyers of Worlds’ around at all. We came very close to not being here and we would have never known about it; the World would have ended both with a bang and a whimper.
Commanding the Moral Heights
President Obama has successfully seen off a Tea Party attempt to derail his health care programme. But a potentially cataclysmic clash between the TP and the ‘Norms’ i.e. rest of Congress, will re-erupt in the New Year. Gary Younge writes in the Guardian of how race is a defining but frequently unspoken issue for the Republican Right. They simply haven’t accepted Obama’s legitimacy. There’s a valid argument that a lot of ‘the South’, both as a geographical and metaphorical term, have yet to accept Reconstruction, let alone desegregation. The Civil war is still being fought out in the slogans and prejudices of recalcitrant political knuckle-draggers unable to believe that a black man now occupies the White House. The fact that he’s a highly intelligent graduate just makes things worse! These new Jacobins can exploit the US constitution to the hilt in an all out effort to defeat the democratic will. Some people just want to win at all costs; they want to see the World burn. Obama has many flawed or simply plain wrong policies, but as long as there’s a Tea Party willing to sabotage any good he tries to accomplish, he has the higher moral ground; it’s a terrain from where he can do the things he was elected to do. Life isn’t like ‘The West Wing’ though – the good guys don’t always win.
Ed’s Not Dead
The squeeze is on. The ‘Tory Press’ has reverted to type. The New Labour love-in with News International is as dead as the ‘News of the World’. The Conservative smear operatives will make the skulduggery of Damian McBride look positively angelic. The Blairites are back – they never went away you know- warning Labour to steer away from anything the looks like re-distribution. Yes, even though there are probably another eighteen months to go, the run-up to the 2015 Election is well underway. ‘Red Ed’ – if only this moniker were true cry many of the Labour Progressives – will be pilloried, lied about and generally kicked around until the starting pistol sounds. Nothing seems off limits; Ed’s geeky appearance, his perceived lack of slickness and wonk-like image will all come under the spotlight. The David Miliband supporters – like champions of a faded Royal-line – cling to the betrayal myth of brother back-stabbing brother. If you just read the Telegraph or the Times, you’d think he’s on a terminal decline. It can only be a matter of time before they try to label him Labour’s Iain Duncan Smith. Yet things could be far worse for the Labour Leader. Far worse.
Without putting too much of a panglossian world-view on things, the Tories still look highly unlikely to form a majority government. Labour is in with a good chance of being the biggest Party after the Election. Ed Miliband should be the Prime Minister. He may not seem ‘Prime-Ministerial’ – but were Atlee, or Major or even Thatcher before they assumed Office? He is absolutely entitled to tilt to the Left on certain issues as the right-ward drift of the Coalition has been so severe. Cameron may claim that the economy is on the mend, that austerity works, but Labour can point to the worst economic recovery for over 100 years and also, finally, cauterize their Tory-Press reputation as a tax and spend profligates. It is, as of now, still improbable that there’ll be a Conservative/Lib Dem Coalition after 2015. Never underestimate the inherent conservative nature (with a small ‘c’) of the English electorate though. The battle is well and truly underway. Politics can be a nasty business and it’s about to get nastier. Miliband did well in his speech to Party Conference today and he has to keep his game at this level for much of the next two years; he has the capacity to do so.
Coronation for Hilary?
Hilary Clinton is touted by many as the de facto 2016 Democratic Candidate – it’s a shoo-in, right; she can’t not be nominated? Many a slip between cup and lip. There’s over two years to go and Senator Clinton may not become nominee and go on to achieve what her supporters see as her destiny, to be the first female President of the USA. But, just as in 2008, there may be several reasons why this may not come to pass. The dynasty issue is a fair point – is it right that, if she is elected to the top job in 2016, from 1992 to 2020 the United States will have had a Bush or Clinton as President for 20 out of the last 28 years. She may be perceived as too hawkish for the Democratic grass roots, weary of constant War and military engagement. Her ambition could turn many voters off.
She is still the favourite. She has proved herself a formidable campaigner and a loyal Secretary of State in the first Obama Administration; the latter has shown her to be a good team player, someone who can adapt to the team leadership required in the Oval Office. She has survived the sheer stress and madness of having been in public life since her husband became Governor in Arkansas. There’s little doubt that she will run the most financed and possibly slickest campaign. Bill Clinton is still a huge asset for her. The diagnosis for 2016 is that it looks good but it will be no cake-walk.
Thaw not War
‘Clearly, there’s a thaw going on…they’re rethinking their positions. And we ought to do what we can to explore it. We ought to get caught trying, because we have nothing to lose by getting caught trying’ Bill Clinton, 23/9/13, CBS
The news that there has been a slight thawing in relations between the US and Iran will be welcomed by all except Neo-Cons, anti-Obamaites and Left and Right Libertarians. In other words, most of us will breathe a small sigh of relief that there may, stress may, be a chance of Iran and the Great Satan cooling the temperature of their rhetoric and leading to a potentially more peaceful modus vivendi between them. When even blockbuster movies (‘White House Down’) are presenting Bomb-Iran Hawks as swivel-headed lunatics, then you know things could be changing. This is tricky politics for both the US and Iran but the World can move the ‘present danger’ clock back somewhat should anything come of it.
‘I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”’
There are very few events, ideas or people that ‘Left’ and ‘Right’ can agree on. The legacy of the French Revolution? Disputed between those who saw the insurrections in late 18th Century France as a democratic mass movement or an upheaval of the Mob. Edward Snowden and the revealing of US State secrets? Either the actions of a traitor threatening the security of the United States or a whistleblower exposing wrongdoing that would otherwise have been covered up. The legacy of the Post-WW2 economic consensus; is it a testament to civilised values or the ideological cause of market turbulence today? But there is one figure, specifically making one speech, that most from both sides of the political spectrum can coalesce on; the ‘I have a Dream’ speech by Martin Luther King, which happened fifty years ago this month.
Stand on the Lincoln Memorial and you can feel how powerful the ‘Dream’ speech must have been. It speaks to fundamentals – and asks us to dream of a society where harmony, not conflict, can be the natural order in the World. If ‘mixed’ marriage is still exceptional in some areas in the US now, it was highly unusual in the 1960s and for those ‘mixed-race’ couples then, very dangerous south of the Mason-Dixon line. The idea of a Black President in the lifetime of those attending the 1963 Rally would have seemed unlikely; marching for equal rights could end with a billy-club to the head or in the most extreme and appalling instances, a lynching. America has changed radically since these times but there are still enormous unfinished economic and social issues to be resolved. ‘Left’ and ‘Right’ may be moved by Dr King’s speech but they have disagreed and will always disagree about how to reach his goal of economic justice for all. For millions of American citizens, that ‘dream’ seems as far away now as it was in 1963.
Obama’s Test on Road to Damascus
Barack Obama is facing several crucial foreign policy tests, and, in his own words used to devastating effect against John McCain in 2008, all at the same time. Syria is a bloody mess, while Obama’s thoughts and advice on Egypt offer little comfort either – does he withdraw military aid, calling it the coup that it is and would this only make things ‘worse’? The cynical/realist view is to let the dust settle and deal with the ‘winners’ in both countries once they’ve killed their ways to victory. This camp decries the ‘interventionists’ as the ‘do something’ brigade, as in a war atrocity has been committed, something must be done, regardless of the long term consequences. But there is the machinery to take on human rights abuses and bring war criminals to justice – the United Nations must be used as honest broker in conflicts, encouraging negotiation and sanctions where possible and supporting military action where all else fails. Already a disappointment to many on the domestic US Left, Obama runs the risk of being trapped by foreign policy events beyond his control and becoming that self-fulfilling epithet, the ‘lame duck’, less than a year after his 2012 election victory. The way he deals with the chemical weapons issue in Syria is the key as to how he is viewed over the coming months; does he ‘go it alone’ with the usual British support or can he somehow get the Russians and Chinese to come on board to oppose a regime that appears to use chemical weapons on its own people?
Summer’s Labour Pangs
Yet again, a whispering campaign has turned into an attempted media putsch to force Ed Miliband out of the Labour leadership. Newspaper articles by Blairite malcontents, John Prescott putting his foot in it and general ‘Silly Season’ mischief-making has meant that Miliband’s role is again under question (but probably not under immediate threat). Yes, Labour should be streaks ahead in the polls, and they’re not but they are ahead. Yes, Ed Miliband should be scoring points off Cameron and he seems strangely becalmed; but the Tory Leader is vulnerable at the Dispatch Box and the new Parliamentary Term offers Miliband ample opportunities. Now is not the time for Labour to change course with a new leader. Miliband has flaws and has made tactical and strategic errors since taking the reins almost three years ago (in the case of his handling of the Unite dispute, some grievous ones). However the Party is a million miles from ‘Brown’ territory, and is far removed from the malaise and despair of the 2008-10 period. There is no Julia Gilard for Kevin Rudd (or vice-versa) option of a quick ditch-and-replace. A Labour majority won’t be easy ‘ask’, it rarely is. There have been unlikely Prime Ministers before; perhaps David Blunkett’s Attlee comparison shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand. Miliband is still the favourite to boot Cameron out of Downing Street in less than two years from now.