Tuesday, March 27, 2007
Thursday, March 22, 2007
Much blood has been spilled over the reputation of Gordon Brown.....did I say blood? That damn Stalin analogy - gets everywhere. Of course I meant much ink. Regardless, Brown is just one of the two likely principal protagonists at the next election, so what about Cameron. I am indebted to the ever eagle eyed Conor Daly for drawing my attention to a major Guardian feature on 'Team Cameron' - the people surrounding the Tory leader. One got the impression that this was meant to be a pretty devastating expose of an extraordinary and mysterious clique. Understand it, was the implication, and you'll never look at Cameron in the same way again. Alas, no such luck! Over four pages of G2, this was pretty thin stuff.
The main conclusions were that Cameron is surrounded by a young-ish team; they all went to Eton; they are polite to journalists; they may be young but they're not novices and...er...that's about it. The Guardian's real gripe, I think, is the Eton one. How dare the aspiring leader of a modern egalitarian democracy come from an elitist school and then use his school-mates as advisers! Eton's always been divisive, but it's hardly a killer point!
More significant, I think, is the political pedigree of these advisers. For all the veneer of Tory progressiveness that provides the nice sheen on the surface of Project Cameron, his closest supporters hail from a right-wing, euro-sceptic past that has no more relationship with traditional Tory One Nation-ism than Blair does with working class socialism. They understand modernisation in terms of public perception and high-profile political campaigning on 'triangulation' issues. But there is no heart or passion to what they are doing. The Guardian reporter got that bit right - they want power, but to what end?
Tomorrow a film called 'Amazing Grace' is released. It follows the extraordinary political crusade of eighteenth century Tory MP William Wilberforce as he fought to abolish slavery. Of course, Wilberforce was inspired by his Christian faith to pursue his noble campaign against often enormous odds. The film's title is taken from the hymn by former slave trader turned Christian minister, John Newton, who inspired Wilberforce. But whatever the personal inspiration, such a film might prompt us to ask the question today, 'where are the men of principle and idealism'? In a world of spin, are we no longer capable of producing the Wilberforces and Shaftesburys? Compared to such giants, David Cameron looks small indeed.
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
Monday, March 19, 2007
"Feminism has created a wonderful gift for us....the gift of empowered women but the shadow side of feminism is that it has demonized men as if we had to find an enemy to women's empowerment".
Guardian online today carries another poll report showing a substantial gap between Gordon Brown and David Cameron, with the Tory leader enjoying a 15 point lead over his likely Labour opponent at the next election. All Labour MP's can do is look and groan as they fail to find a credible challenger to the brooding chancellor. Meanwhile, Tory blogger Iain Dale writes, on the Guardian's 'Comment is Free' pages here, that there is still time for David Miliband to launch a potentially successful challenge to Brown for the Labour leadership and thus remove, in one fell swoop, the gap that has opened up between the two parties. Miliband, argues Dale, can go head to head with Cameron on all of the personal areas that are currently perceived as advantages for Cameron over Brown. All that is wanting, says Dale, is a bit of good old fashioned courage on the part of Labour's young pretender.
A message of doom indeed. In fact, things are not nearly so bleak as they might seem for the chancellor, and the Tories know it. The Tory lead is weak and metropolitan, and for all that Brown may not seem to have a huge amount of warmth he is a chancellor continuing to preside over a long period of prosperity and who just seems, well, much more experienced - in a positive way - than his Tory challenger. Andrew Rawnsley, in yesterday's 'Observer', put the case for Brown and noted, furthermore, that here was someone who knew where all the levers of power were, and wouldn't hesitate to use them to his advantage in an electoral fight. The Tories that he spoke to, said Rawnsley, were by no means over-optimistic about Brown as an electoral 'gift'.
Iain Dale, meanwhile, is surely engaging in a bit of sublime Tory mischief. Nothing could be better for the Tories than a nice old ding-dong within the Labour party, exposing Brown to all sorts of attacks whilst also, usefully, dragging bright new-seeming Mr. Miliband down as well. Miliband's lack of desire for a fight is not for want of courage - it is clear, cold, calculation. He is either figuring a Labour defeat at the next election, after which he would indeed be well placed to emerge as a much stronger leadership candidate. Or, more likely, he is conscious of the Hague precedent - a young, bright seeming new leader crashing before his time.
Labour MP's may be wanting enthusiasm for Brown, but they know they are not going to stop his accession, and some of the brighter ones may even see in it the potential for a surprising rejuvenation that the poker-faced chancellor wouldn't dream of revealing before the time is ripe. Let the Tories enjoy their brief flirtation with poll leads, he seems to be saying - I'll be back!!
[Oh, and if you like the accompaying picture, try the blog from which it comes - the spine - for much more of the same!!]
Sunday, March 18, 2007
David Cameron has also moved to his other big issue, by once again asserting the Tory commitment to the NHS (BBC report is here). Whether this strategy works - big speeches and policy announcements on Green issues and the NHS, designed to create the perception of a more modern, caring Tory Party - still remains to be seen. One of the Sunday stories on the round-up suggests that the green taxes idea may have backfired.
Monday, March 12, 2007
In its original form, feminism was a movement to gain political, legal and civil rights for women - effectively to apply the liberal doctrine of individual freedom to women as well as men. With that aim largely achieved by the mid-twentieth century, in the 1960s a so-called 'second wave' of feminism emerged, more radical and also more disparate in its aims. At the heart of feminist ideology is the concept of patriarchy (male supremacy), and the belief of modern feminists is that it is so deep rooted that it requires more than simply extending voting rights to women in order to remove it.
Well, possibly - there is certainly a debate to be had here. Many might argue that in the modern world the place of women is far less inferior than feminists might suppose, and that modern women hardly represent a great example of female liberation. The story of modern woman Toni Comer, last week, was not exactly edifying. This was the woman who launched a legal attack on police for the way they arrested her after a typical night out. The blogger Frank Chalk writes about it as follows:
"Poor Toni Comer, whilst taking a break from looking after her two year old, accidently got howling drunk, was thrown out of a nightclub, vandalised someone's car, then punched, bit and spat at the poor copper unlucky enough to have to arrest her. Obviously she is a victim who needs urgent compensation."
Then, of course, there are the many social reports bemoaning the lack of male role models for boys growing up on hard-nosed urban estates, and the generally poor advance made by boys academically when compared with their more motivated female peers. Feminism, in the modern age, mnay have had its chips - it's time for the boys to reassert their rights and develop an ideology!!
The BBC story on the Griffiths resignation is here, and worth noting for material on ministerial resignations (the inability to maintain collective responsibility in this case).
UPDATE: Philip Cowley was on Newsnight tonight to comment on the prospective rebellion. It must be serious!
CORRECTION (13/03/07): There is only 1 PPS who has so far declared he is resigning - Jim Devine - not two as stated above!
Well, they've gone head to head. Cameron and Brown have both unveiled 'green' policies today which means, in theory, that the green lobby is in a win-win position at any rate.
David Cameron revealed a well trailed policy to use taxes on domestic airline flights as a way of reducing our national 'carbon footprint', and encouraging us all to think about our travel habits. Gordon Brown, meanwhile, proposed a less high profile set of measures, including the need to make homes better insulated and the phasing out of 'standby' buttons on electronic goods. Fascinatingly, it is Cameron who has risked voter wrath by going for an unpopular tax option, while Brown has opted for a more voter friendly option. This may have something to do with recent polling evidence, for instance by yougov, showing that Brown is still perceived as being on the left wing on his party and so cannot afford to generate the wrong image re. taxation, while the Tory Party is still seen as being very right-wing, with a more moderate Cameron doing all he can to challenge the perception of an 'uncaring' party. So there are good polling reasons for the respective standpoints, but hopefully some principles as well.
In Cameron's case, the initial reaction to his proposals has been far from warm. He has achieved the unheard of feat of uniting Virgin Atlantic and British Airways in opposition to his proposals, while Murdoch's continuing love-in with New Labour was seen in the 'Sun's' negative reaction. In his own party, too, Cameron faces the anger of the not inconsiderable number of low-taxers, so perhaps, after all, he is following principle more than expediency in his now relatively long-lived green agenda.
BBC Report on the Brown policies, and comparison with Tory ones, is here.
Peter Kellner in First Post writes about Cameron's gamble here.
The website Conservative Home shows some of the diehard Tory reaction here, particularly with regard to the tax agenda.
Sunday, March 11, 2007
I only ask, because the study of fascism has reduced my U6th to torpor and disinterest. When one student, the DHB no less, initiates a class verdict on learning the subject with the phrase, "Does anyone else find this boring?", and gets a positive response - well, we're in trouble. Before I hang up my metaphorical gown and go and work in a bookshop somewhere, I thought I would make one last effort to point you to the enduring fascination of this extraordinary, if perplexing, ideology.
In the somewhat laclustre presentations we had in class, one group was asked to look at the internal coherence of nazism, and another at whether fascism even deserved to be called an ideology. Here is one contemporary European writer, Jose Ortega y Gasset, in 'Sobre el Fascismo' (1927), quoted by Kevin Passmore in his 'Very Short Introduction to Fascism' (OUP):
'Fascism has an enigmatic countenance because in it appears the most counterpoised contents. It asserts authoritarianism and organises rebellion. It fights against contemporary democracy and, on the other hand, does not believe in the restoration of any past rule. It seems to pose itself as the forge of a strong State, and uses means most conducive to its dissolution, as if it were a destructive faction or secret society. Whichever way we approach fascism we find that it is simultaneously one thing and the contrary....'
And fascism brought us the concept of totalitarianism, a word invented by the Italian fascists to encapsulate, as Passmore puts it, their drive to 'nationalise' the Italian masses.
An ideology that appealed to streetfighters and intellectuals, which glorified a mythic national past and yet was obsessed with the dynamism and technology of the future. The only ideological term to have made its way fully into modern vocabulary as a term of abuse. It is certainly many things, but boring? Please!
Thursday, March 08, 2007
Wednesday, March 07, 2007
Thursday, March 01, 2007
This is one of the video ads being put out by the internet politics tv station 18doughty street. It has caused quite a stir on youtube, where it has received over 250,000 hits and over 4,000 comments. The station is a right-wing venture, funded by Lord Archer's former aide Stephan Shakespeare, using the fortune he has made from polling organisation YouGov. Their avowed aim is to use new media to bypass what they see as the hidebound and biased attitudes of old media, and these political ads are part of that process. BBC online reports on what it sees as the coming of age of internet politics here, but not everyone shares their view that the web is the place where it's at! After all, 18 doughty street, with its evening chat programmes, will struggle for some time to get audiences anything like the size of Question Time or Newsnight, and it is noticeable that new media still uses old media to trumpet their successes. Nonetheless, politicians of all parties are leaping into the web-o-sphere - Clarke and Milburn's venture being merely the latest. And don't forget, across the pond, that Hillary Clinton launched her presidential bid on the internet, that here in the UK David Cameron has seen fit to establish his webcameron, that all bar one of the Labour Deputy Leadership candidates have set up websites, and that most newspaper and media outlets now have a whole host of blogs to accompany their more traditional output. New media may not yet be setting the agenda, but it is a given part of the news gathering process now.
To finish, here is another of the doughty street videos, this one emulating the US attack ad format against Ken Livingstone.