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Showing posts from 2010

The Decline of Blogging

Blogging has been light recently, I know, but I haven't yet given up on the unforgiving task. Unlike web fixture Iain Dale, who has finally pulled the curtain down on his blog, while he now concentrates on being a radio host. I've commented here about what this means, if anything, about the direction of the blogosphere; and I've commented here about Tim Montgomerie's call for a new, mainstream conservatism of the right. There was a Conservative Mainstream once - of the left. What goes around, comes around, I guess - and with lines like that, maybe I should give up blogging after all.

England's Failure

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I suspect if it hadn't been another 'snow day' I'd have been a lot less enlightened about the England 2018 World Cup football bid. As it is, that and the snow have indeed been the only two stories that either of the main news networks have bothered to invest in.

I guess it's disappointing that the World Cup isn't 'coming home' just yet, all the more so given that England's late run has been so impressive. But I can clearly see the advantages of the Russian bid, and the Qatar 2022 bid as well. Football hasn't been just a game for years, and Sepp Blatter is not just some simple football chairman. His political ambitions are to see international football extend its roots into places that might have hitherto been seen as unreal. England didn't offer the chance to break through in Eastern Europe for the first time, and despite the Football United scheme that was associated with the bid, the economic and social gains for Russia of their bid a…

Defending Obama

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'American exceptionalism' - the firm belief in America's unique position and positive virtues in world society - is a clearly dear to the heart of most Americans, even if they might sometimes struggle to articulate it. Barack Obama identified it clearly in a recent speech at the G20 summit, but his comments have been ripped out of their context and subjected to severe criticism by numerous conservative commentators in the US. They have attempted to deny that he believes in any sort of American exceptionalism. It is a lethal charge in a country whose political centre of gravity is still firmly to the right, and we in Europe perhaps find it difficult to understand just how much the vilification of Obama as an entrenched leftist is gaining ground in the US. Andrew Sullivan, the libertarian ex-Brit who now lives in America and has been a consistent supporter of Obama, provides an illuminating comment about the 'Big Lie' being levied against the president. His defe…

What Students Could Have Protested About But Didn't

I must confess I'm not always on the same page as the 'Spectator' these days, but editor Fraser Nelson's blog-post about what students haven't protested about over the past thirteen years is pointed, and perhaps makes today's protests seem just a little more self-serving.

Quote of the Day

"This is what happens when they oppress students for so long", from an over-excited and distinctly unoppressed looking sixth former on his day out to view the violence. Next lesson - what oppression really means, with reference to North Korea, Burma, Zimbabwe, Russia...........

Palin and Our 'North Korean Allies'

Sarah Palin is the front-runner for the Republican nomination in 2012. A few nay-sayers keep trying to suggest that she just doesn't have the political nous or intelligence to be a credible candidate, but honestly, anyone could mistake South Korea for North Korea couldn't they?

Revolting Students - Again

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Having managed to retard their case with the ludicrously and violently mismanaged protest of two weeks ago, it is entirely typical of the student mentality that they should consider another expression of student nihilism to be appropriate today. This time, the protest is not London based but designed to be across a range of university campuses, and even schools. Students striking in protest would not, of course, have any impact at all given that the majority steer sedulously clear of lecture theatres for most of their university careers. So protests it has to be, and given the motley collection of organizers, the chances of these simply being peaceful protests is limited.

I have an innate sympathy with the opposition to student fees, which is what makes the opposition enhancing protests all the more frustrating. I have a sympathy because I, in common with the rest of my generation, benefited not just from free university education but also, where needed, government assistance towards l…

Did AV Deliver a Worthless Leader?

Churchill's jibe that the Alternative Vote delivered the most worthless votes for the most worthless candidate must be ringing a bit louder in the ears of Labour MPs. Their leader, Ed Miliband, is back on the job after his paternity leave, but a mere eight weeks in and there are already mutterings on the Labour benches about his lack of impact. MPs voted, of course, for his brother by a greater margin, and David won the first vote overall, but the the AV miracle stepped in and delivered Ed Miliband to the Labour Party. It can't be any great comfort, either, that the last party political leader to succeed to the job without gaining the majority support of his party's MPs was, er, Iain Duncan Smith.

The Liberal Defence on Tuition Fees - It's all about the Mandate.

Or not, in this case, as the Lib Dem defence, which we first heard articulated by Nick Clegg last Tuesday at Portcullis House, is that they didn't win the election and thus didn't have a mandate to carry out their pledge to remove tuition fees. Clegg's articulation of this played well at the Hansard Society meeting, so much so that it has now, finally, become Lib Dem orthodoxy. Tom Brake used it at a local meeting on Thursday evening, and now Vince Cable has used it in a BBC television interview. Looks as if there is some co-ordination going on behind the Lib Dem message after all.

Palin and Putin - A Match Made In......

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The two putative runners for the presidencies of America and Russia in 2012 are so similar it's uncanny - the First Post shows a collection of pics that underscore the spiritual partnership of these two cuddly candidates for supreme office.

Cameron Bows to Media Pressure Again

David Cameron has decided not to go on holiday to his old Eton pal's holiday home in Thailand (the Eton pal in question being the Prime Minister of Thailand of course). The media had already homed in on this, and he was worried about exacerbating a controversy by going. He engineered the resignation of Lord Young last week because Young's comments played badly in the media. And he has removed his personal photographer from the Downing Street pay roll in response to media criticism. There are certainly occasions to head off undue media criticism. But there is a danger that so many u-turns raise questions about his initial judgement, given his unwillingness to defend any of his decisions to a ravenous media, and that he simply becomes a push-over on any would-be critical media story. Neither of them great conclusions, alas.

Soundbite Interviews

Iain Dale increasingly uses his blog as a vehicle to promote his LBC show or publishing ventures, but there are some occasional nuggets and his piece attacking the soundbite nature of radio interviews is pretty on the button.

Radio Beats Television and Grammar Schools Win the Day

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Was at Any Questions on Friday night - a rare night out and change from my usual Friday night routine of selecting a new book to read. It was at Wallington Girls and Jonathan Dimbleby chaired Simon Heffer, John Denham, Philip Hammond and Viv Groskop (she's a Guardian journalist). Any Questions is, of course, a far more venerable programme than the more recent Question Time, which nicked the format for television and now adds an extra panellist just to ensure a lack of proper discussion. Question Time has the advantage of offering televisual political theatre, but falls down in the area of interesting political debate, and this is surely where the radio version scores. Shorn of the nuisances of television broadcasting it was a much easier, more straightforward production, with audience participation thankfully limited to the asking of initial questions and providing applause or expressions of disapproval, leaving the main discussion to the usually well chosen panellists. Dimbl…

Kim Il Gove

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Michael Gove has just received the Dunford 'Sporting Glory' treatment (sorry, SGS in joke) as an exciteable Andrew Marr refers to him as Kim Il Gove. Gove busily denied being more centralising but he shouldn't defend himself too hard - all Education Secretaries want to decide what is taught and how, and this is not necessarily a bad thing, given that there are almost as many different ideas about what is right for schools as there are teachers and education bureaucrats working for them. A bit of centralised decision making brings order, and decisions to remove GCSE modules, tighten up grammar and spelling, and even teach history sequentially (which many schools do as a matter of practice anyway) are likely to receive much support. There will be less support for the extraordinary decision to apparently cut back school sports spending, but we should hold back before becoming too hysterical. What Gove has done is remove the ring-fencing from a particular approach to prov…

The Commons in Action

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Still flush from the excitement of the Nick Clegg meeting, the SGS team then headed over to see what was going on at the House of Commons. Unusually for an evening sitting, the hallowed green benches had a few elected posteriors sitting on them to debate the issue of fixed-term parliaments. When we joined the party - although admittedly in the second class seats behind a mammoth glass partition that serves to remind us of our inferior, unelected status - two rather lonely government bench figures were being forced to listen to a succession of Scottish MPs ask why they weren't taking more notice of the Scottish experience. Thomas Docherty MP gave us a helpful lecture about the intentions of the American founding fathers. Sheila Gilmore, of Edinburgh East, rambled through a series of Scottish based points that faced regular intervention from those Tory MPs still casting half an ear to the debate, and which usually required one or two members of her own side to counter-intervene …

Clegg at the Attlee

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The Deputy Prime Minister himself, Nick Clegg, spoke at the joint Hansard Society, Political Studies Association meeting last night in the Attlee Suite at Portcullis House. But not until he - or, rather, the Political Studies Association - had been properly introduced by its chairman. Professor Vicky Randall proudly informed us that the Political Studies Association exists to promote.....political studies; a helpful clarification. Nick Clegg, by contrast, got the most cursory of introductions, and then spent some of his time laboriously commending former Times political editor Peter Riddell on his recently acquired Privy Council membership. The distinctly un-Privy Councilled Michael Crick, Newsnight's unruly political editor, sat with pursed lips at this evidence of a fellow journo entering the hallowed realms of the establishment. Anyway, commendation over, the Deputy PM got down to the brass tacks of giving us a fluent account of the Constitutional Reform Bill which we all …

Students Are Revolting

You've got to admire the genius political acumen of the student movement leaders, honed as it has been by the best that a university education can give. There had been a creeping sympathy for the plight of students faced with soaring fees. After today's violent protests, however, the story can quickly move back to the hoary old one of hooliganistic students who don't deserve a penny of taxpayers' money. Lucky old government. Unlucky decent students.

UPDATE: Paul Waugh's tweet is on the money - predicts that student protests will be a thing of the past once students are paying high fees and needing to get their money's worth out of their education!

Phil Woolas

He was an unimpressive minister, outgunned by Joanna Lumley on the Gurkha issue amongst other political failings, and he has ended ignominously, by being declared to have lied about his opponent in his election literature. Phil Woolas represents a sorry episode for Labour all round. but does the new hard line, enunciated by Harriet Harman this morning, really ring true? She says that Labour will not have him back even if he wins his appeal agains the election ruling. This is, she says, because Labour will not tolerate lying in order to get elected. Is she really saying that up to this point the Labour party, which had Woolas back as a shadow spokesman until last week, had no inkling until now about the tendentious nature of his election literature? It beggars belief.

Oborne's Punts

The Telegraph's Peter Oborne has stuck his neck out again this week. He dares to suggest that the Coalition is one of the most revolutionary governments Britain has seen, comparable to Asquith, Attlee and Thatcher - potentially. And he thinks the Tories' civil war on Europe has been laid to rest, citing the extraordinary events of this week -

Last weekend, David Cameron opened the way for a sharp increase in our budget contributions to Brussels, while giving the green light for a new treaty to save the eurozone. On Monday, he announced a new era of defence co-operation with France. The Prime Minister has developed an easy, relaxed and mature relationship with both President Sarkozy and Chancellor Merkel. Until very recently indeed, there would have been uproar had a Tory leader countenanced any of this. Last week, there was scarcely any reaction on Conservative benches. The spectre of Europe, which has engulfed the Tories since the assassination of Margaret Thatcher …

The Right Nation Again?

There remains a lot of excitement amongst British conservatives over the Tea Party victories in America, and the house journal of the right, the Spectator, has no less than three admiring articles on the subject in this week's edition. Most prominent amongst them is Andrew Neill's turning of an extra buck by translating his BBC programme into a second salary piece about the 'New Republicans'. He suggests that America has returned to the embrace of the right, but he may be as premature in that assertion as other commentators were two years ago when they spoke then of the dawn of a new liberalism heralded by Obama's historic victory.

The American electorate is as fickle as any other, and veers from liberalism to conservatism on a regular basis. The liberal Woodrow Wilson was succeeded by a forgettable trio of small government Republicans who were caught short by the Wall Street Crash and gave way in turn to the uber-liberal Franklin D Roosevelt. In the 60s, the l…

The People's Contradictory Voice

The people may have spoken in the US mid-terms, but hardly with one voice, and not terribly clearly. The Tea Party may be celebrating the arrival of some of its key people in Congress, but I doubt the vote on Tuesday was a particularly significant endorsement of them. The exit polls are interesting - as they left the polling stations, 37% of voters said they wanted a stimulus to create jobs, while 37% said they wanted the budget to be reined in. They weren't necessarily different people in each group either. The Tea Party and their imprisoned leader, John Boehner, may be talking of dismantling the Obama reforms, too, but health care was not the priority issue for those questioned in the exit polls, and when they did express a view they appear to have been evenly split in favour of further expansion and taking apart.

Lessons, therefore? Not exactly new - a government presiding over unemployment, even when they are not responsible for the economic conditions which produced it, …

Tea Party Prisoner

Will new House Speaker John Boehner really be his own man? He's told the Tea Partiers that "I will never let you down", and has probably just closed the prison door on himself. Republican intransigence was the reason for the difficulties faced by Obama in passing his radical bills, but so too was the way in which the whole project was undertaken - the BBC's Mark Mardell has it on the button:

It didn't help that the bail-outs of the banks and the car industry were disliked by left and right. To the left, they were helping the rich and powerful corporations which helped create the mess. To the right this was a Big Government takeover of the economy.

There was some terrible politics. Regardless of its merits or otherwise, health care reform looked like a muddle, badly sold, badly explained - and the eventual bill was the mangled result of the sort of horse trading people thought they were voting against.

The Republicans Are Back

The new House Speaker, John Boehner, announced that he hoped President Obama would now respect the wishes of the American people. Just a pity that the Republicans in Congress didn't do that for the past two years.

Obama's had a set-back, and the very active 111th Congress will now give way to a 112th Congress controlled by people who want to undo most of the Obama-Pelosi legislation. The message for Obama is to be as good a politician in office as he was campaigner out of it, and to sell his remarkable agenda more effectively to the American people. As for the Republicans, who still lack a positive agenda and who have been in thrall to the radical, eccentric Tea Party movement, they could reflect on the fact that but for the Tea Party's more fringe candidates, they might now also be the majority party on the Senate as well.

One Nation Tories Should Want Obama’s Democrats to Triumph Tonight

They won’t of course. Caught in the midst of a recession that isn’t of their making, they will still receive much of the blame from disillusioned voters, and the Republicans should cruise to a victory in at least the House of Representatives. A Gallup poll is estimating an unprecedented Republican gain tonight , enough to give them the Senate as well, and the Republicos at Conservative Home are already cooling the champagne. Tim Montgomerie has triumphantly recorded Conservative support for the Democrats at a limping 17%. Where, he smugly asks, have the former Tory Obamacons gone?

If the Obamacons were genuine One Nation Tories they should still be standing at his side. The witches’ brew of Republicanism and Tea Partyism offers up such a lethal cocktail of xenophobia, state minimalism, fear, religious fundamentalism and rampant, crush the poor libertarianism that it should inspire nothing but horror amongst all decent, modernising One Nation Tories. The idea that anyone in the To…

Public Sector Virtue

Jackie Ashley (private sector journalist) defends the public sector from the right-wing perception that it's all simply comprised of a bunch of parasitic, unproductive leeches, in the Guardian today. Looking forward to reading a defence of the bankers as genuinely upright, wealth creating men and women of corporate virtue, but am not holding my breath!

The Politics of Spin - in the Commons

Great story in, of all places, the Mail on Sunday this morning, showing how Danny Alexander had to move along the Commons bench to make room for Nick Clegg to hove into camera shot during the Chancellor's Spending Review. All so that the Commons cameras could then project the trio of Cameron, Osborne and Clegg, without Alexander getting in the way. The story has given Alan Johnson his first good line as shadow chancellor, when he commented that Danny Alexander 'disappeared faster than a family's child benefit'.

Tower Hamlets and Labour's Misery

The election of an Islamic fundamentalist mayor for Tower Hamlets may have poor repercussions for Ken Livingstone. Lutfur Rahman was Labour leader of the Council before being removed, and was dropped as Labour's candidate for the new post of executive mayor of Tower Hamlets. The national Labour party appears to have had very good reasons for its actions, and did at least manage to distance itself from a man who, had they kept him on their lists, would have become an even more serious embarrassment. Somehow, the eternal maverick Ken Livingstone failed to get the message, but then, show him an extremist and he's right there. He campaigned for Rahman, standing as an independent, rather than the official Labour candidate for mayor.

This may be bad for Livingstone, but there are serious downsides for Tower Hamlets as a whole from Rahman's election. The Telegraph's Andrew Gilligan reports on the affair here, as does Labour member Luke Akehurst on his blog here.

Headline Agreement

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The Spending Review was so clear that there can be absolute agreement on who the cuts are hitting........er, not.

US Politics

With the mid-term elections approaching, and a likely harsh verdict on President Obama's first two years,the BBC's Mark Mardell reflects on Obama's apparent fall from grace, and asks why things have gone wrong for the reforming president. He refers to an article in the New York Times which uses an interview with the president to offer further reflections.

Schools Question Time

For politics set members, the information about Schools Question Time is here, with the application form questions here.

PMQs and Ed Miliband's Debut

David Cameron made a storming start when he was a novice Leader of the Opposition facing Tony Blair at his first Prime Minister's Questions, pointing at a clearly weary Blair and exclaiming that "You were the future once!" Well, now it was Cameron's turn to face a new Opposition Leader, although he has himself barely got his feet behind the Prime Ministerial Despatch Box yet, so weariness wasn't an option!

Several commentators called the exchange for Miliband - the BBC's Nick Robinson, the Evening Standard's Paul Waugh and the Spectator's James Forsyth for example. Certainly Miliband was considered, understated even, and rightly eschewed flashy statements or corny one liners. He came across as a man genuinely trying to get the truth out of the Prime Minister, and rightly focused on the child benefit policy, still one whose weakness doens't appear to have been properly explained or corrected by the government. Although there was a nervousness t…

St Vince Loses His Halo

Pity poor Vince Cable. An intelligent man, once able to command universal respect for authoritative economic pronouncements that could never expect to be tested in the cold light of real decision making, he now faces the nightmare of any politician in danger of wielding real power - the need to row back from rash promises. It must have seemed a great idea for the Liberal Democrats, in opposition, to demand the removal of university tuition fees. After all, it not only differentiated them neatly - and positively - from both main parties, but their pre-election expectations would hardly have indicated that they might ever need to actually deliver on such a generous promise. Alas, the turn of events that has given Clegg and Cable ministerial cars has also given them the thorny economic realities of higher education funding.

At least Vince is not alone in his need to retract an unthinkingly generous promise. I seem to remember a buoyant Labour Party under Tony Blair declaring their op…

The New Ruling Class

For a long time we had the aristocracy. Then came the distinctly lower middle class leaders (Heath, Thatcher), interspersed with the odd scion of the genuine working class (Callaghan). Now, who are our masters? Simon Head in the Guardian considers the new ruling class represented by the wealthy products of top public schools that are Cameron and Clegg. For class watchers amongst you, an entertaining read (and due thanks to blogger Skipper for noting this article).

Bloggers - Inadequate, Pimpled and Single

Oh dear. That description above is the [abbreviated] one applied by the BBCs Andrew Marr to bloggers, and all I can say in response is that I'm not pimpled. Actually, Marr described bloggers as "socially inadequate, pimpled, single, slightly seedy, bald, cauliflower-nosed young men sitting in their mother's basements and ranting." I don't think he likes us, but when you take away the range of adjectival epithets he applies to us, at heart is an issue about online debate, and just how helpful it is, or indeed how informed. Whether anyone likes it - even an anyone as esteemed as Andrew Marr - is irrelevant, since it is certainly here to stay.

The quality of online debate is undoubtedly variable, and Marr's point that too much of it is simply angry and abusive can be verified from a look at any one of hundreds of political blogs and, even more, the comments attending most of their posts. Marr's successor as political editor of the BBC, Nick Robinson, h…

Tory Teacher Trouble

Katharine Birbalsingh returns to work today after a rather turbulent week. The blogger Cranmer has an update on the somewhat murky political circumstances surrounding her suspension here.

The Argument of the Right

At the Conservative Party Conference last week, Daniel Hannan MEP was a hugely popular speaker at the right-wing fringe events. A cogent, articulate and personable man, he is the current hero of the recidivist Tory right. Although he is a British representative in the European Parliament, his real ideological home is America, and he has just written "The New Road to Serfdom: A Letter of Warning to America", in which he urges them not to follow the European route towards statism and welfare. To mark its publication, he has been interviewed by the right-wing National Review, and the interview makes for genuinely fascinating reading. He correctly marks the historical beginning of America's move towards greater federal state action with the two Roosevelts, especially FDR. He rightly sees FDR as in some ways a model for Obama, although draws, naturally enough, rather different conclusions to those of liberal sympathisers from this comparison.

Since he covers American pol…

Teacher In Trouble For Speaking At Tory Conference

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The nature of the modern Conservative Party Conference is that its main arena is a bland speech-fest for senior party figures. The days of delegate debate have gone, and in its place is a parade of established statements from ministers or shadow ministers that occasionally inspire but more often induce somnolism. Thus, it was good to see that in the Conservatives' Education debate, some figures from the real world of teaching were put up to talk of their experiences. One of the best received of these was an inner city primary school deputy head, Katharine Birbalsingh. One of my colleagues who attended the debate was enthusiastic in his praise of Ms. Birbalsingh's forthright assessment of the school system and why, in her view, it is failing poor kids. Certainly she received an extremely warm reception. Her analysis may not be to everyone's taste, but there is no doubt that in claiming that education ideology now inhibits schools from really pushing the brightest of …

How Tory Conferences Work

Internet access here is ridiculously limited if you've forgotten to bring your own laptop, so a short reflection from the Tory Conference for the moment. Liam Fox, William Hague and Jeremy Hunt have been this morning's keynote speakers, and each has managed to demonstrate the facility of gaining ready applause by recycling some old tabloid fears or pushing the Tory crowd pleasing buttons. Thus, Liam Fox and William Hague both get decent responses to the "We will always support our brave forces" line, and Liam Fox managed to regurgitate some of the stories about men in uniform being refused service or harassed at shops, to rising anger from the few delegates still awake. I think there may have been one incident of that type a few years ago, but it goes down well here to remind us all that we are the party of "Our Boys" (rendering the conference a bit like a reality tabloid).

William Hague draws the prize for emptiest gesture receiving most applause yet. He an…

Paxman's Nadir

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There are undoubtedly better things to be doing on a Friday night - one friend has updated her facebook status to note that she will be drinking jager bombs in Piccadilly this evening, and that's one option. As it happens, I ended up half-heartedly watching Newsnight in between social reading sessions ("Team of Rivals" still). Half-heartedly, until I saw the neutering of that once fearsome interviewer, Jeremy Paxman. Quite why a significant section of the BBC's premier news show was devoted to the essentially frivolous (when he's not being essentially offensive) character of Russell Brand is unclear. Maybe it's a slow news day, this day when Rahm Emanuel decided to leave the White House to run for Mayor of Chicago, and Pervez Musharaff looked as if he might be getting back into Pakistani politics. Whatever the reason, we got a ludicrously light interview with a man whose celebrity (Brand) remains both inexplicable and bizarre. Paxman grinned away at the…

The Impact of AV

The use of the Alternative Vote delivered the Labour Party a leader who was not their first choice. They're stuck with Ed Miliband now - and he may yet prove more impressive than his over-rated brother (see below) - but the impact of AV on General Elections has now been given a more in depth academic study in Parliamentary Affairs magazine. Tory blogger Iain Dale has referenced the new article with the gloss that AV would reward the Lib Dems with almost permanent king-maker status. This certainly seems to be the conclusion of the research done using the 2010 election data by the article's authors. However, voters are nothing if not unpredictable, and as the German experience shows, king-making parties too can suffer the wrath of the voters, who may choose to reject them completely. AV is a flawed system certainly, and it is a poor PR alternative to offer the voters in the proposed referendum, but Mr. Dale's concerns may be a bit presumptuous even so. The full article is he…

The Shallowness of the 'New Politics'

Peter Oborne shows once again why he is a must-read, in today's column for the Daily Telegraph, comparing David Miliband's rapid and undignified exit after losing to the fortitude and reslience of earlier politicians.

David Miliband Finally Exits

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David Miliband may well be looking at his last headlines tomorrow, as he shuffles off his political coil and finally exits the front-line political scene he has occupied for so relatively short a time. He has managed to upstage his leadership winning brother for much of this week, but now he's accepted the logic of his position - and implicitly acknowledged the bitterness of his defeat - and made the first steps away from politics. If he lasts as an MP to the next election I'll be surprised. If his reputation lasts any longer I'll be even more surprised.

The meteoric rise and rapid fall of David Miliband have been an instructive tale on the conduct of modern politics. He was one of that increasing group of advisers who were making their name before they even hit parliament. Ushered into a safe seat, David didn't have to waste much time on the backbenches before oozing smoothly into the cabinet, where he was almost instantaneously spoken of as the obvious Blairite succe…

The Press and Miliband

The line being taken by Critics of Miliband includes, of course, the fact that he was only elected by dint of union support, and was clearly not the first choice of members or MPs. One thing calculated to quickly bring the Labour membership into line behind him will be the front pages of today's newspapers. With two exceptions, they subject Ed M. to a critical firestorm - just the sort of thing to persuade ordinary Labourites to swing in behind their new leader.

The Miliband Dilemma

They really don't know what to make of him. The pundits, that is. So much so that Blairite John Rentoul in the Independent on Sunday basically seems to want to write Cameron's PMQ attack lines for him, while the conservative James Forsyth on the Spectator blog explains why Ed is a far more formidable figure than the Conservatives are allowing.

More on Miliband

Quite a bit is being made of the role that Derek Simpson's Unite union played in Ed Miliband's victory. Certainly the union did all it could to swing its members votes for Ed, but not all is what it seems! One very Conservative friend of mine happens to have joined Unite in the last year or so to protect his position, and used his opportunity as a union member and devoted Conservative to vote for the man he thinks will keep the Tories in power. Chalk up another one to Ed M.

Cameron, Clegg, Miliband - The Triumph of the Political Professionals

Ed Miliband’s victory as Labour leader tells us virtually nothing about the possible direction of the Labour Party, as witness the acres of disparate punditry occupying today’s press. Is he ‘Red Ed’, or is he the pragmatist leader of a new generation? Is he Iain Duncan Smith or Tony Blair made anew? Other than the fact that the unions appear to have voted for him in order to reject his more obviously Blairite brother – one in the eye for a historically failing Blair there – what, really, does Ed Miliband stand for? We don’t really know. We don’t really know because he has been in front line politics for such a short length of time, and it is this fact as much as anything else that may be the most telling aspect of Ed Miliband’s election, as the renowned political scientist Philip Cowley comments today.

Read more here.

"Miliband of Brothers"

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Thenight before one of them becomes the Labour Party leader, More 4’s tongue in cheek docu-drama, “Miliband of Brothers” didn’t do either of them any favours, but was an entertaining and illuminating watch.Yes, they were both portrayed as the nerdy middle-class sons of a comfortably off, radical professor who quailed when faced with real rebellion.Yes, it was entertaining to watch the clashes between their well-meaning, utterly divorced socialism and the real world of conflict (there’s not a lot of conflict going on in the left-wing parlours of North London and the glorious isolation of Oxford colleges after all).In terms of character, I suspect the programme makers rather favoured Ed Miliband over his even nerdier brother, giving him a more entertainingly subversive personality with a slightly stronger relationship to planet Earth than that enjoyed by his brother.David’s inability to party or act like “a normal teenager” was played up for a bit of cheap humour, but partying is over-r…

Vince's Masterly Hatchet Job

When Nick Clegg was merely an inexperienced neophyte who had rather surprisingly been elected to the leadership of a third party few people really cared about, he was very often in the shadow of a far greater, altogether more majestic figure. Vince Cable had shown, during his temporary leadership of the Lib Dems, that age didn't have to be a bar to effective leadership. He had combined well aimed comedy - his jibe about Gordon Brown transforming from Stalin to Mr. Bean was one of the most wounding to be aimed at the former PM - with a reputation as the country's greatest political seer. Never mind Cardinal Newman, it was Vince that everyone thought should be sainted.

Even as the election campaign began, the Lib Dems seemed to think that St. Vince, as he was commonly becoming known, should always be seen at Mr. Clegg's side in order to give the younger man more gravitas. Well the rest is, as everyone rather unoriginally says, history. Nick Clegg delivered a passable performa…

Brown Damned Again

With one academic book about the 2010 election already out (the Hansard Society one, launched last week at Portcullis House), another one is due soon. Edited by Philip Cowley and Dennis Kavanagh, it contains more lurid descriptions of the inability of Gordon Brown's No. 10 office to function properly. We have heard much of this before from Andrew Rawnsley, but Iain Dale has a flavour of what else is to come to haunt Brown on his blog here. Little wonder David Cameron has been greeted with relief for being just more - well, normal.

What Unites Lib Dem 'Progressives' and Tory rightists?

Utter dislike of the Coalition of course. The Lib Dems may have greeted Nick Clegg triumphantly enough today, but the tenor of many questions to him yesterday was far from triumphal. Even today's set piece speech seemed, to the BBC's Nick Robinson, just a little defensive.

If you want a clear idea of just what problems beat against the coalition from the Lib Dem left and the Tory right, have a read of the following two articles. Evan Harris in the Guardian explains why the Lib Dems need to distance themselves from policies which they feel have been imposed on them by the Tory part of the coalition. Tim Montgomerie on Conservative Home bemoans the fact that the Lib Dem part of the coalition has become too powerful, and identifies three more policy changes which concern Tory right-wingers.

The leadership of the two parties may be pretty well in synch, and former Tory turned Lib Dem Baroness Nicholson might exult that we now have a properly One Nation government, but this is …

The Tea Party, a masturbation socialist and Palin's Presidential Run in 2012

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The Tea Party movement in America is admired and venerated by some of those right-wing Tories, like Dan Hannan MEP, who distrust David Cameron's leadership. As a movement dedicated to the classical liberal philosophies of less government and low tax, it is the most successful recent incarnation of the New Right. It has also managed to create waves with the selection of a range of Republican candidates for the forthcoming mid-terms who are sympathetic to its aims. For the most part, such candidates have not caused much comment outside of being Tea-Partiers, and one positive account of the current Republican situation can be found in the Weekly Standard here.

However, the selection of Christine O'Donnell in Delaware (Joe Biden's home state) has caused waves. She was well supported by Sarah Palin, and is considered by many to be on the extreme fringe of the Republican Party, and even the Tea Party movement (Slate magazine exposes her as a 'masturbation socialist' h…

Clegg - A Tory Favourite (But not a Liberal One!)

The Evening Standard reports a poll which shows Nick Clegg having a far higher popularity rating amongst Tories than amongst his own Lib Dems. The Lib Dems, indeed, have had a battering as a result of their coalition decision, currently languishing at 15% in the polls. This is in part to do with a problem of identity - are they an indistinguishable part of a Tory government, or are they a distinctive party of the liberal-left? One Labour insider put it to me, rather gleefully I thought, that Clegg's real problem was that he had embraced the coalition, and his partnership with Cameron, much too enthusiastically. From the moment he appeared like a love-struck courtesan in the garden of Number 10 he was doomed. Had he suggested that it was only with real difficulty that he entered into coalition, and kept on showing real regret, perhaps even occasionally emulating Vince Cable's all too frequent look of utter despair, then anti-Tory voters and Lib Dems might have been prepare…

A Coalition Electoral Pact?

There was some agreement at yesterday's Hansard Society meeting that the Conservatives were still drawing the poison of the Thatcher years in terms of their electoral appeal. No-one doubts that the Coalition has the happy effect of moderating some Conservative positions, and there is the persistent rumour that David Cameron prefers being in coalition to governing alone, when he would be even more subject to the raucous calls of his right-wing without the defensive buffer provided by the Lib Dems. Inevitably, there is going to be talk of whether it might help for the Conservatives to enter a formal electoral pact with the Liberals as well. This issue has received a little more attention as the result of an article by influential Tory MP Nick Boles in the Times. One moderate Tory reaction, very much favouring Boles' proposal, is here. However, as we were also reminded by yesterday's assembled academics, the round of party conferences is going to show us both Lib Dem and…

Lessons for Education from TV

Michael Gove apparently wants schools to start emulating Gareth Malone, whose "Extraordinary School for Boys' series started last week on BBC1. Malone could become the Jamie Oliver of lessons, so I finally got round to watching the first episode of his programme. It's difficult to say what was most annoying about this tedious tv enterprise. It could be Malone himself, who combines his ridiculous keenness with an incredibly annoying adoption of a naive/'little boy lost in big world' persona that was wearing thin after the first five minutes. It could be that the programme is based upon the nonsensical premise that educating and playing are essentially the same thing. Or it could be the programme's desire to keep focusing in on the class 'characters' - who of course are the really annoying kids with loud, inarticulate opinions who would be better advised to go and re-read the school's Healthy Eating guidelines.

The programme had an annoying habi…

Coalition's Narrow Lead Against Leaderless Opposition

The headline polling figures yesterday were about the Labour leadership (see below) the results of which are due in two weeks. Just as interesting were the YouGov daily polling figures which had the Conservatives on 42%, Labour on 38% and the Lib Dems on 14%. Plenty has already been written about the Lib Dems' current precarious state amongst potential voters, and you can see why they will be best advised to get five year fixed term parliaments in as soon as possible. But it isn't that much sunnier for the Tories - with spending cuts yet to bite, and an opposition that has effectively been leaderless since the election, a 4% lead is not exactly an Everest of electoral approval. Whichever Miliband wins, they will surely have the nouse and position to close that narrow gap very quickly. Cameron's honeymoon is already over.

The Miliband Race

With the YouGov polling data now out there is the fascinating conundrum that while Labour members apparently see David Miliband as more electable (55% to 25%) and a potentially better prime minister (45% to 28%), the poll of members, as reported in the Sunday Times over the weekend, gives Ed Miliband a narrow lead (51% to 49%). But, this lead makes an assumption over second preferences, dividing them equally between the two brothers from the other three eliminated candidates. That this is by no means certain is commented on by James Forsyth on the Spectator blog.

On first preferences (and with the other candidates still in the race) David beats Ed 36% to 32%. Whether or not Labour members really will decide to use their second preferences to give the leadership to the man they perceive as both less qualified and less electable remains to be seen, although it will be an interesting commentary not only on how a party membership often rejects electability in favour of ideological comf…

Robert Harris Damns Blair

Robert Harris once began his regular Sunday Times column during the dying years of the Thatcher regime with the following words: “It is a sobering thought to realise that we are being governed by someone who is mad”.Hardly surprising that he embraced Tony Blair and New Labour with enthusiasm.However, the man who is now one of Britain’s most popular novelists (“Fatherland”, “Lustrum”) fell out of love with New Labour, and especially its egocentric leader.In his novel “The Ghost” he damned Tony Blair through fiction.Now, in his Sunday Times book review, he has damned Tony Blair via the former premier’s memoirs.If you haven’t read it in the paper (the ‘Culture’ section), it is worth the pound to read it online.Harris is withering about Blair in every possible way.While politics students and teachers will almost certainly want to read the book for themselves, they can get an (obviously partial) sense of it from Harris’s extraordinary critique.
Despite Blair’s merely passing reference to re…

There is No Defence of the British Tabloid

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The Case Against Andy Coulson continues to be analysed in the less Conservative friendly newspapers - notably the Guardian and Independent. Coulson, Cameron's now press chief and former News of the World editor, is the man currently at the heart of the story - always a bad position for someone whose job should keep them directing rather than starring in the drama - but both the Guardian and Independent (see this piece in today's Independent on Sunday for instance) have widened their investigations to implicate a much broader culture of illegal behaviour at the Murdoch tabloids that places the spotlight much more firmly on Murdoch's direct minions and even Murdoch himself. Since Murdoch controls the most ferocious tabloids in Britain, the story obviously stands as a pretty strong indictment of tabloid behaviour and attitudes, full stop. Now, however, there are starting to appear attempts to defend the appalling culture of the British tabloids.

One such appeared in the Ba…