Showing posts from 2011

Romney's Dig At Newt..."I've Been Married To The Same Woman..."

Really not sure whether front-running Republican hopeful and eternal flip-flopper Mitt Romney has really done his campaign a lot of good with his not so subtle dig at the thrice-married Newt Gingrich in his current campaign ad. One political pundit analyses the vid and concludes that it might help Romney by focusing unforgiving conservative attention on the issue of 'character', but could backfire when the issue of 'stability' quickly translates from personal stability to political stability. There, says 'Allahpundit", Romney quickly sinks and Gingrich becomes most favoured candidate.

But as Gingrich becomes the most likely conservative alternative to Romney, there is some talk that a Gingrich-Obama contest could be a great ideological stand-off, focusing on genuine policy differences and with detailed back-up, rather than just rhetorical generalisations. The 'New Republic' pundit Michael Kazin posits just this situation, noting that Gingrich is dete…

Cameron Hit by Europe....Again, and Again, and Again

The website has got it right with their headline today, "The Conservative Curse: Cameron faces the Europe test." The issue that long ago became a latter day tariff reform menace has been warming up for some time to give Mr. Cameron the same unalloyed misery it passed on to predecessors John Major and Margaret Thatcher. Both were undone by Europe in the end - the converted eurosceptic and the europhile alike. Now it's back to haunt the eurosceptic but pragmatic David Cameron. His Prime Minister's Questions performance today was definitely not his finest hour, and while you might dismiss Boris Johnson's call for a referendum as just another piece of typical one-upmanship, it's a little different if your own Northern Ireland Secretary starts publically ruminating about the same issue.

When he became leader David Cameron, understanding the Curse of Europe as well as anyone, tried hard to hit it into the long grass once and for all. Part of that proj…

Obama's Bad Luck

With attention focused on the extraordinary - and to European eyes ludicrous - line-up of would-be Republican presidential candidates, we forget just how precarious the position of one-time saviour of the world, Barack Obama, is. In an on the money piece for online magazine 'Canvas', SGS alumni Joe Austin reminds us of Obama's undoubted successes - both domestically and in foreign affairs - and then examines why his second term should be so uncertainly viewed.

The Case Against Striking - But For Supporting Public Reform

I am at work today. Some might challenge the concept that my attendance at school constitutes 'work' of any sort, but the broad point is that I am in school, when many others are not. They are striking. I have set out what I think are the pros and cons of the public services strike today on the TRG's Egremont blog.

Out of the Ashes

My review of David Lammy's interesting book, "Out of the Ashes", has appeared on the TRG's Egremont blog, and is reprinted below:

The last time there were riots in Tottenham, the local MP’s response was to crow that the “police got a bloody good hiding”.He may have been chiming in with the views of many of his constituents, but in the aftermath of riots that encompassed the brutal murder of a police constable it was never going to be a response that scored highly on the constructive engagement scale.This time, the local MP, who was a boy growing up near the Broadwater Farm estate in 1985, raced back from his holiday as soon as he heard of tension in Tottenham following the shooting of Mark Duggan, spent hours and days in constructive engagement with the local community and the police, and has now published a book of his reflections on the state of urban Britain.But then, David Lammy has always been a very different character from his predecessor.The former Hi…

The Republicans' Lunacy

David Frum was one of George W Bush's speechwriters, who memorably recounts hearing, on his first visit to the Bush White House, one senior staffer ask another why they hadn't been at that morning's prayer breakfast. Since leaving the employ of the former president, Frum has maintained a profile as a stimulating Republican political commentator and thinker, but his latest article, for 'New York' magazine, reveals the depths of his despair about the direction the GOP is now heading in. He is particularly scathing about the Tea Party movement:

The list of tea-party candidates reads like the early history of the U.S. space program, a series of humiliating fizzles and explosions that never achieved liftoff. A political movement that never took governing seriously was exploited by a succession of political entrepreneurs uninterested in governing—but all too interested in merchandising. Much as viewers tune in to American Idol to laugh at the inept, borderline dys…

Oh No - Now It's Putin The Dentist

As if Russia wasn't in a bad enough state, it's next president (the election's just a formality) is now trying out in that most pain-inducing of professions - dentistry.
Having done his underwater archaeology stunt and found - surprise surprise - an immensely valuable vase that had lain undisturbed for thousands of years, the great master of all things is now clearly determined to intimidate those who may be thinking of voting for someone else by his wielding of the dentist's screwdriver. Journalists in Russia get shot or beaten into a crippled state if they question the Benevolent Leader, but could anything really be worse than settling into your dentist's chair for a standard check-up (just like travelling in a plane, as my niece once observed of the reclining chairs), only to have Putin leering back at you. Clearly, he's taken on board the lyrics from 'Little Shop of Horrors', which had Steve Martin's dentist sing that:
You have a talent for causin…

Is Perry Out?

The Republican presidential race has entered another of its rollercoaster loops, as one-time pack leader Rick Perry - who, let's face it, has had a torrid time virtually since he entered the race as a bright new hopeful in August - appears to have finally damned his chances. At least, according to nearly every pundit on the other side of the Atlantic. Which could mean he has every chance of surviving. He failed to name one of the government agencies he's intending to cut during the most recent presidential debate, and then kept on failing - so that means he's toast, right? Well, possibly, but a previous Governor of Texas went on national television during his presidential contest and drew ridicule for not being able to name the then very prominent leader of Pakistan (it was General Musharraf, for the record) - or, indeed, any other major world leader. The Governor's name? George W Bush.

Anyway - here's that apparently fatal Perry performance (and yes, it is pr…

History Can Change Minds

I remember dipping into historian Kevin Sharpe's remarkable book "The Personal Rule of Charles I" when I was teaching the period as an A-level teacher. Sharpe has recently died, and I was interested to read this blog appreciation of his work. The author, himself a lawyer, concluded with this excellent comment:

In the hands of a great historian, the subject has the power to change minds...

What better?

Home Cinema Doesn't Exist

Anthony Lane is one of the finest film critics at work today, and his reviews for the New Yorker are always worth reading, not just for their fine, literary, perceptive commentary, suffused with the empathy of the genuine film-goer and a pervasive wit, but also for the light he manages to shed on one of the central elements of our contemporary culture. In this week's edition, he uses his review of the crime caper 'Tower Heist', and the pessimistic fable 'Melancholia', to pass judgement on the concept of home cinema. Whatever their merits as films (Lane is hilariously cool about 'Tower Heist', definitely taken with 'Melancholia'), they share a history as films that were planned to go straight to Video On Demand, alongside their cinematic release - or as near as. The distributors of 'Tower Heist' eventually relented, but 'Melancholia' was available 'on demand' long before it was released in the cinema.

It is this…

BoJo and Barack Look Safe in 2012

There are two very different electoral personality contests taking place in 2012. On one hinges the fate of the world's most powerful military nation, and still its crucial economic engine. On the other hinges....the continued phasing out of bendy buses perhaps? They may be wholly different in scale but they are both going to offer fascinating and entertaining political drama, as is the nature of direct personal elections. And, intriguingly, though one is a philandering, gaffe-dropping right-winger, and the other a tightly controlled, committed liberal reformer, both the incumbents look - at present - as if they might be safe. That this is so, in a time of economic crisis which should absolutely not be favouring incumbents, is down in large part to the inadequacy of their challengers.

Let's take the smaller contest first. As Mayor of London, Boris Johnson has the second largest personal mandate in western Europe (only the president of France, elected by a whole nation, ha…

Two Clerics, No Bankers - Well Done the Protestors!

Whether or not two clerics from St. Paul's Cathedral really needed to resign is an open question, but few can doubt that they have done so with the most honourable of motives. One of them - Canon Chancellor Giles Fraser - was committed on principle to opposing any use of violence, and had aligned himself with the protestors. A perfectly consistent Christian attitude. Today's resignee, Dean Graham Knowles, is less clear on his reasoning but there is no doubt that he has felt overwhelmed at having to hold the balance between maintaining St. Paul's as an open place of worship, and wanting to support the aims of the protestors. These well meaning Anglican gentlemen have shown that the snake-pit of political action is probably not the best arena for the modern clergyman.

But what about the protestors? They cut a wretchedly useless, disparate, ill-begotten group of would-be radicals. Whatever the merits of their case - and who wouldn't argue that the arch satans of the bankin…


We have a year of this - great for genuine aficionados of the drama of American politics, potentially wearing for the less committed. Nevertheless, the US Presidential election is well under way, as the Republican candidates seek to position themselves for the right to challenge Barack Obama. The Republican field has been subject to more shifts than the San Andreas fault as each would-be saviour of the right flies high then falls to earth, to be replaced by the next political meteorite.
Michelle Bachman was once the Tea Party darling who would carry all before her. A couple of poor debate showings later, she was supplanted by the glamorous Democrat convert who governs Texas, Rick Perry. Now he too is struggling to re-gain momentum as pizza millionaire Herman Cain seizes the day, and the light. Through all of this the plodding, well funded campaign of Mitt Romney continues to keep its head above water, and while Sarah Palin may have decided not to enter the race, there remains a …

The Mis-Appointment of Philip Hammond

Two interesting views on the appointment of Philip Hammond to succeed resigned Defence Secretary Liam Fox.

The Guardian blog notes that Chancellor George Osborne has used the reshuffle surrounding Hammond's move very effectively to his own advantage, and suggests it's a further play in an undecalred leadership campaign against Boris Johnson.

The Tory Reform Group's Egremont blog, meanwhile, slams the appointment of a man professedly uninterested in defence matters as a grave error.

China's Opaque Views

I'm not sure how successful the Occupy Wall Street protests have really been. They've raised the profile - again - of the many opponents of corporate greed (well - we all oppose that don't we? It's our attitude to corporate existence that's more ambiguous) without achieving anything like the world-shattering results of their protestor mentors of the Arab Spring movement. But for all their relative modesty, the protests have managed to draw the attention of the world's second most significant economic power, China. All eyes increasingly focus on China, waiting for the merest hint or nuance of where they stand on - well, anything. But the Chinese are nothing if not opaque, and the comments of one of their foreign ministry spokesmen are a classic of the genre.

"We feel that there are issues here that are worth pondering", said Liu Weimin in one of his more illuminating comments, going on to add that "We have also noticed that in the media there …

The Daily Mail's Thoughtful Analysis

The Daily Mail have put their finest hack onto the Liam Fox case. Peter McKay, the journalist regularly lampooned by Private Eye, has given us his the benefit of his profound insight, and it's good to see that he's maintained the Mail's reputation for rigorous, thorough, innuendo-free analysis as he writes:
There is a final, delicate reason why Cameron and Co might have shied away from dealing with Fox’s private and public association with Werritty.
Although Fox has denied rumours that he is gay, his friendship with Werritty seems to go beyond what many might consider is normal in male friendships. But the more-inclusive-than-thou Cameron would instinctively steer clear of querying it.

Even better, McKay then has a go at Labour's Jim Murphy for 'smear and slander':
Labour’s shadow defence spokesman, Jim Murphy, justifying his own probe, says: ‘No one has any interest in smear or slander, only in ensuring the office of the Defence Secretary is respected and that …

Unconnected in a Connected World

One thing this great inter-connected world of ours does is lend itself to vast doses of paranoia. It is more than conceivable that an absence of texts, emails and BBM's simply means no-one actually wants to contact me. Not even the direct mail companies, or the relentless communications from people and places I thought I'd successfully 'unsubscribed' from ages ago. But we now judge our self-worth by the number of times we're wanted in the connected world. Our facebook friends, and the number of followers on twitter - is it really possible to over-rate the monumental importance of these frivolous things?
Well, after a day of communications silence, I did sneak a look onto twitter (via an alternative, working source naturally - an old fashioned computer) and discovered that thousands of users around the world have been suffering the same high levels of inconvenience, unable to access the latest junk mail, or read the most recent banal meanderings of their BBM frie…

Lilliputian Politicians Dwarfed by Techno Geeks

Andrew Rawnlsey bemoans the conference season as a gathering of lilliputians, in his Observer column today. While he reserved his greatest ire for a George Osborne speech so low-key it would drive insomniacs to sleep, he was little kinder about the leaders, Cameron, Clegg and Miliband. To say nothing of the gathering of other, distinctly minor, ministers.

He may have a point. The three weeks of conference gatherings, which should be showcasing all that is most exciting, radical and controversial about the parties and their policies - which should indeed be shaking up the British polity after its summer, ready for a reinvigorated political term - has been so underwhelming that most of us have been able to sleepwalk through it, unsullied by the thoughts of our elected representatives and their adoring supporters. The barely memorable bits are memorable for the wrong reasons - Sarah Teather's truly lamentable attempt at stage humour, for example, or Ed Miliband's arguably self…

Clegg-Clarke Axis?

A fascinating line in the Independent on Sunday's taking apart of David Cameron. Commenting on the "cat-flap" nonsense, which saw Clarke robustly attack Home Secretary Theresa May, to the fury of many on the right of his party, the IoS journos comment -

Nick Clegg, say cabinet sources, would not let Mr Clarke, a hero of the Tory left, be sacked.

It adds a new dimension to coalition politics to see a big Tory beast of the left surviving as a result of Lib Dem pressure. But then, Clegg did describe Clarke as the fifth Lib Dem member of the Cabinet in his conference speech.

Defending the Defence Secretary

Liam Fox's friends are beginning to rally round, none more so than the determinedly right-wing Conservative Home website part owned by Lord Ashcroft. Conservative Home remains broadly suspicious of the modernising agenda of the Cameroons, and have pre-empted his possible desire to remove Dr. Fox - a perennial political opponent - with a detailed defence of the accusations swirling around the beleaguered Defence Secretary. The piece is un-named, the author being merely identified by the handle "The Lurcher", but it contains the key points of any useful Case for the Defence.

Meanwhile, Conservative Home also links us to an article from the Independent on Sunday pointing out "the flaws of David Cameron" (it is, actually, a very interesting piece). You can almost hear hands rubbing with glee over at CH headquarters.

The Independent on Sunday's Odd Reference

The Independent on Sunday carries an account of the friendship between Liam Fox and Adam Werrity, as part of its coverage of the corruption allegations being levelled against them. Tucked away towards the end of the story, 5 paragraphs from the bottom, comes this intriguing paragraph:

During the general election campaign last year, Fox's home was burgled. His laptop, mobile phone and car were taken, although no sensitive documents were stolen and there was no sign of forced entry.

Intriguing not because it is new information - the incident was well reported at the time - but because it bears no possible relation to the rest of the article. Between two paragraphs continuing the story of the Fox-Werrity relationship comes this wholly disconnected paragraph. It doesn't fit, doesn't continue the story, and sits very oddly indeed. Now why, I wonder, would the IoS see it as important to remind us all of this incident?

The Case For the Low Profile MP

So in Liam Fox, another high flying minister seems to be scorched by the sun as tales of abuse of power abound. Makes you yearn for the more forgettable, conscientious, hard working MP/minister who just gets on with his job in an attitude of probity. Take heart then from this article by former SGS big shot and current Sheffield luminary Joe Austin, who profiles Liberal Democrat MP and health minister Paul Burstow, citing him as just such an example.

Fox's Failings

The other week Liam Fox celebrated his 50th. birthday, and entertained the icon of the right, Margaret Thatcher, as his star guest. As if it needed further endorsement, Lady Thatcher's presence - when she has been largely hidden from public view as a result of illness - will have unerlined Fox's position as the pre-eminent spokesman of the right. It all looks so much more fragile now.
Dr. Fox is under investigation for his relationship with Adam Werrity. That they are close friends is not in doubt. That Mr. Werrity has been using business cards calling himself an "official adviser" to the Defence Secretary when he is nothing of the sort is also not in doubt. Mr. Werrity was the sole employee of Atlantic Bridge, a neo-con organisation set up by Dr. Fox to promote the Atlantic alliance with American Republicans of similar outlook. Atlantic Bridge has just been wound up, following a Charity Commission report that stated it had not achieved any of its 'charitabl…

Luckless Liberals

It might have been better when no-one paid attention to their conferences after all. Apart from David Steel's memorable peroration in 1981 to "Go back to your constituencies....and prepare for government", followed by many years still out of government, few people commented on the deathless stage speeches of Lib Dem politicians. Now, in the full glare of publicity, they're coming under merciless scrutiny. Sarah Teather's humour-defying jokes have already been mentioned, and remain the stuff of Philip Cowley's re-tweeting. The largely anonymous Andrew Stunnell apparently tried a joke at the Guardian's expense which, er, failed. But the big-name fall guy today was Chris Huhne.
Having weathered the tawdry revelations of his driving and related offences, he is now climbing back into the mainstream. His speech today was meant to be clarion call against the evil Tories (a repetitively wearying theme at this conference) but came across somewhat passionlessl…

The Sarah Teather Jokes Routine

I personally think it was a mistake to allow politicians to wander around the stage during their conference speeches. Keep them behind the lectern and remind them that they are indeed just politicians delivering little listened to speeches of occasional political consequence. Then at least we might avoid the crushing embarrassment of Sarah Teather's jokes routine. To be fair, having seen one joke fail utterly - even the notorious tumbleweed failed to put in an appearance - she carried womanfully on through another two cataclysmically dire two-liners. You really do have to admire the hide of someone who can stand on stage and look as if everything's alright after that.
Just so you can make your own judgement on the latest comedy sensation to hit Birmingham, it's here:

NB - Politics professor Philip Cowley has been so taken with the Teather style of comedy that he's taken to putting a few similar jokes out on twitter himself - such as this one, oh and this one, to say …

The Lib Dem Dilemma - Opposition or Government?

There was a time when we could safely ignore the Lib Dem conference and not really return to the world of active politics until Labour gathered the brothers and sisters by the sea. There can be no greater sign of the radical change wrought by the 2010 election than the fact that, actually, we have to listen to the Lib Dems. And that they have armed police at their conference too.
They've had a torrid year electorally and reputationally, which makes their Birmingham gathering all the more impressive for being actually quite buoyant by all accounts. Nick Clegg's made one speech, which also had a moderately good joke (the one about Ken Clarke being the sixth Lib Dem cabinet member - probably sounds better when you're at a Lib Dem conference than on the page). He wasn't mauled, and he was able to claim that Lib Dems were 'punching above their weight'. He gets to make another would-be show-stopper on Wednesday. Meanwhile, Lib Dem conference go-ers, for the secon…

Lilliputians Question Murdoch

My initial thoughts on the much anticipated appearance of the Murdochs before the Commons Culture Committee are on the TRG's Egremont blog.

Sun Hacking Continues

In amongst the escalating scalps and the tragedy of a dead reporter, the hacking of News International has taken a new turn with the Sun's own website being hacked this evening, thanks to the mysterious twitterfeed of The Lulz Boat. Their original replacement site was this story (courtesy of our old friends at Media Watch) about Murdoch's death, which proved so popular that it crashed! Now they've just redirected to their twitter feed, with such ditties as: We have joy, we have fun, we have messed up Murdoch's Sun.

Sometimes hacking can be really worthwhile!

The Last News of the World

I did wonder whether to buy a copy of the last News of the World. It would also have been the first copy I ever bought too, and in readiness I glanced across its online pages this morning, to see what I would be getting in my last, closing down souvenir issue. The headline, "Thankyou and Goodbye" is a fair enough one, running across a montage of previous front pages. I could then have read about ""Harry's Flo looking good in drag", seen a celebration of "page three cheers - the very breast pics", read about "Michelle's Huge Parts", read an article about Coronation Street's sliding ratings or examined "Kelly's slinky legs" at my pleasure. It wasn't difficult to keep my cash in my pocket and forego the dubious pleasure of a last News of the World.

I did check out one further part of the website - the 47 page collection of their best front pages, and as I was reading these, I realised how much better our Sunda…

Farewell to the Screws

Great piece by Steven Baxter - ex of SGS - on the New Statesman blog about the News of the World's demise. Baxter points out that the 'Screws' owes its destruction to a culture that it has itself helped to create and maintain - the "do something now even if we don't know all the facts" culture. It's a pretty devastating indictment of the levels to which the tabloid journalism espoused by the 'Screws' has fallen:

We don't know what the outcome will be of various investigations, inquiries and hearings, including the one overseen by Brooks herself at News International. But people couldn't wait for all that to unfold: they demanded something be done now. If they jumped the gun and jumped to conclusions based on limited evidence, they were only acting the way they had been taught to by the News of the World itself.

He goes on to elaborate:

"We will be passing our dossier to the police." Those words appeared at the end of News of …

News of the World Closure

The stunning announcement that the News of the World will close after this Sunday's edition is a far more nuclear announcement than was being anticipated from News International. It is extraordinary, and many will assume that it is only right that a paper now so sullied should fold. Perhaps it even sends a salutary message. The News of the World was Britain's best selling daily, and it has not proved immune from the ramifications of its wrong-doing. It is, it seems, a stunning victory for the forces of good.

And yet. The extraordinary announcement manages to leave a bitter taste in the mouth. After all, no-one is claiming that it is the paper's current leadership and reporters who have been responsible for the scandals currently engulfing it. The current investigations relate to an ethos and practice that dates back to at least 2002, and the person who was responsible for setting that paper's standards, as the editor, was Rebekah Brooks, now the person presiding …

A Tale of Our Times

Hubris, it seems, comes to everyone in time, even apparently invulnerable and all conquering media magnates. Or so it must seem to anyone observing the News International saga at the moment. For years Rupert Murdoch has bestrode the British political scene. Unencumbered by the menial requirements of mere voters such as British citizenship or the need to pay taxes he has wielded more power and influence over prime ministers and putative prime ministers than any British citizen. His editors have been the satraps of his power, the unelected viziers demanding their preferred politics from timid, beleaguered politicians.

How things have changed. Like many revolutions, this one has been boiling under the surface for years but has suddenly, and largely without warning, burst onto the scene. In so doing, it is not only changing the way in which things are being done, but shedding an illuminating light on the darker corners of the British polity.

On changes, Steve Richards in a trenchant p…

Ministers Who Don't Resign

Prompted by a desperate tweet for examples of ministers who should have resigned on the basis of Individual Ministerial Responsibility but didn't, here are a few thoughts.

It really is increasingly rare for ministers to be brought to book over specific issues connected with their job. Plenty of ministers might resign due to non-job related problems: sex scandals, for example, which took David Mellor in John Major's government; or abuse of office - see David Blunkett and Peter Mandelson, who both resigned twice for different reasons - well worth googling them; or health reasons (Mo Mowlam in 2000). Ministers do also resign over differences with policy (i.e. they cannot maintain Collective Responsibility) - Robin Cook resigning as Leader of the Commons over Iraq is a good case, or James Purnell resigning as Work and Pensions Secretary because he believed Gordon Brown should stand down as Prime Minister. However, the responsibility of modern ministers is so wide that it is bec…

The Prime Minister's Prerogative Powers - AS Students

There is an old article by Nick Cohen in the New Statesman which sought to explain why Tony Blair, as Prime minister, was able to behave virtually like a monarch unchecked. Cohen examined Blair's governing style, including his notoriously offhand attitude to the Cabinet, and looked at how the prerogative powers of the monarch contributed to the Prime Minister's dictatorial authority. Although the article, from 2002, clearly relates to the Blairite premiership, it is still a useful reference for AS students. The Blair precedent remains relevant in exams, and the issue of monarchical prerogative powers wielded by the PM has hardly gone away.

Cohen's article is here.

AS Unit 2 Help

Essay Tips, with specific reference to the topic of prime ministerial power (includes sample essay) can be found on the tutor2u website here. This piece is by Mike McCartney, author of the tutor2u revision guide.
Also, recent mark schemes and examiners' reports are collectively here, or click on the individual links below - they are well worth reading thoroughly:
June 2010 Mark Scheme
June 2010 Examiners' Report
Jan 2011 Mark Scheme
Jan 11 Examiners' Report

AS Unit 2 Links

With a half term looming before the second of the AS level politics exams, there is some space to read a few extra articles in order to gain that all important specific information which enhances exam answers so much. I have listed some suggestions below:

1. The Institute for Government blog is worth keeping an eye on anyway, but specifically have a look at this article by former Times commentator Peter Riddell about the effectiveness of ministers, and how long they should really be in place. Particularly cogent given that David Cameron has signalled his intention to try and keep ministers in their positions for a longer than normal period of time. Hence his reluctance to sack erring ministers like Caroline Spelman or even Ken Clarke. The downside of any plan to retain stability in ministerial office, of course, is that it generates frustration in the MP ranks below, all of whom want to experience office for themselves.

2. If you have a bit of time, you could read through the Inst…

When Is An Apology Not An Apology

When it's in the Daily Mail apparently. I'm very late to this story about the Daily Mail from the indispensable Tabloid Watch blog, but it's an instructive case nonetheless. Having accused a senior medical consultant of saying that babies born at 23 weeks should be left to die, the Daily Mail then did some research and found out they'd got it wrong (always a danger when the research bit follows the writing bit). So they apologised. Somewhere deep in the US section of the paper, just where you'd an expect an apology on a health related story to be!
Tabloid Watch reports that the apology was eventually moved, and thank loads of people for tweeting the error, which may have had an impact on the Mail decision.
But if you think the Mail's bad, have a look down the TW stories for some great Express misnomers. I'm not sure anyone who reads the Express for serious news reasons actually has much of a brain to speak of, and they certainly shouldn't qualify for…

Sharing the Heartbreak

Good to see that the former SGS luminary who runs the Media Blog is as sympathetic as ever -

yfrog Photo : Shared by The_MediaBlog

The Not So Special Relationship

[photo tweeted by the Spectator's Pete Hoskin]

It’s all very friendly. David and Barack have been partnering each other in a table tennis game at a south London school; they’ve been serving up burgers in the No.10 garden; they’ve both been reveling in the pomp of a Buckingham Palace banquet; and they penned a joint article for the ‘Times’ suggesting that their two countries don’t just enjoy a ‘Special’ relationship but an ‘Essential’ one.

Oh dear. Another prime minister bites the dust as he succumbs to the seductive charms of the power and glory of the American presidency. It doesn’t really matter who the president is – although it can’t hinder matters that it is currently the coolest man on the planet, and a man more determined to get his guy than the Terminator. At some point in their premiership career the men, and one woman, at No. 10 quickly fall victim to the belief that Britain enjoys a Special Relationship with the United States. That there is precious little evidence to sug…

Republican Field Narrows Again

The race amongst putative Republican candidates for the US presidency seems to be one to announce that you're not running, rather than entering what is at the moment a pretty narrow field. And it just got narrower, as Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels cited family concerns for not joining the race in 2012.

An American friend of mine, a strong Obama supporter now residing in the UK, was almost in despair as she considered the one Republican who might be able to unseat the current occupant of the White House. It was, she said, Mitch Daniels, a man who combined rare qualities of empathy and commonsense with a core Republican appeal given his past history as speechwriter to Reagan and Budget Director to Bush I. I seem to remember a speaker - a former Congressman - at a conference at the British Museum last September making a similar point - if the Republicans wanted a winner, they should look to the Governor of Indiana.

Well, Daniels has pulled that rug from under the Republicans - perh…

New AS Links

The Revision Presentation for Unit 1 and a copy of the Examiners' Report for the January 2011 paper which relates to the questions in the presentation, are here - check the left-hand column of AS material, and you should see they are the first two links.

From Today's AS Revision - Pressure Groups, Cameron U-Turns and Direct Democracy

Pressure Groups:

This article from the Guardian details a rally organised by the pressure group Save Lakeland Forests as part of the ultimately successful campaign to get the government to overturn its decision to sell off Forestry Commission land.

Cameron U-Turns:

I thought there had been 9 U-turns already from the former PR man turned Prime Minister, but this New Statesman list suggests ten in fact! Meanwhile a thoughtful assessment of why Mr. Cameron U-turns so much, and why it could be seen as part of a good old fashioned pragmatic and responsive Toryism, is here in the Guardian.

Direct Democracy:

And here is Douglas Carswell's latest brief comment on his Direct Democracy campaign, although for more detailed material on what he is aiming for go here to his and Dan Hannan's Direct Democracy blog.

No Such Thing As Society!

What did Mrs. Thatcher mean with her most famous quote that "there is no such thing as society"? Robert Low unfolds the ideas behind the misleading quote in a short article for Standpoint magazine.

Blue Labour?!

We'll be hearing more of this, but Ed Miliband's search for a distinctive Labour identity is finding some illumination in this new defining of a Labour identity. So-called as a response to Philip Blond's 'Red Toryism', Blue Labour seeks to re-engage Labour's heartlands with the party.

The Conservative Home website carried a lengthy article analysing the new ideas here.

Amongst other things they comment that "Blue Labour is fundamentally against the economic neo-liberal and socially liberal approach of Blairism. "

Labour MP and former education minister David Lammy, who is sympathetic, explains the idea here.

How does this fit in to likely AS questions? Really as an indication of where Ed Miliband is trying to take the Labour Party at the moment. Like David Cameron in 2005, he is confronted with the need to develop a fresh identity for an old party (Mao's delight in blank sheets of paper, which you could write completely new things on, comes to mi…

The Chinese Internet Censor Gets Pelted With Eggs

Great story from the Telegraph today - they report the pelting of the Chinese academic who created the so-called Great Firewall of China, the internet wall designed to keep out western social networking and search sites.

For a Chinese youth not easily able to blog or tweet their unhappiness with the authoritarian political set-up of their country, it seems the resort to a more old-fashioned, tried and tested method of political protest has now been enacted. It may not be the Cultural Revolution, but I guess the eggs that hit might have made a modest impact on Fan Binzing. Apparently the Chinese government was scrambling to remove any internet traces of the incident...something of a Canutian policy I'd have thought!

The Sun and David Cameron

Did the Sun really precipitate a shadow cabinet reshuffle when David Cameron was in opposition? This is the truly alarming scenario posited by the Spectator's James Forsyth on the Spectator blog. He writes that after Dominic Grieve went to News International and ripped apart their lamentably bigoted and one-sided reporting of crime issues, the word came back (via Andy Coulson) that they wanted Cameron to replace him as shadow Home Secretary. Cameron did, bringing in Chris Grayling.

Forsyth uses the story to point out the danger to Ken Clarke in the wake of yesterday's typically evidence-based and elegantly argued Sun editorial that Ken Must Go. But the real alarm bells ring not for Clarke, but for the government as a whole if it really is in hoc to such ridiculous decision making parameters. Many of the commenters on the Spectator site seemed to take a similarly dim view of proceedings, such as this eloquently expressed point:

Let's hope for all our sakes that it [ the …

Ken Clarke Rehabilitates Himself In Wormwood Scrubs

There was much discussion on the BBC Question Time programme tonight about the purpose of prisons in rehabilitating prisoners, but there can be little doubt that one man certainly used his prison opportunity to good effect, and that was the Justice Secretary himself, Ken Clarke.

After a torrid day yesterday, when his perhaps too casual words in a radio interview caused a mini media flurry, and even the demand from Ed Miliband that he should be sacked, Clarke showed this evening why he is still one of the government's great performers.
First off, his response to a harshly worded question about whether he was "clumsy, wrong or misconstrued" in his remarks was "probably a bit of each", followed by what appeared to be a heartfelt bit of contrition that was heard in silence by the audience, and then applauded. He was helped by an articulate and supportive Shami Shakrabati, and even Jack Straw was reluctant to endorse his own leader's call for Clarke's sacking.…