Monday, January 30, 2012
At what was billed as a Hispanic town hall meeting at another church yesterday in Orlando, Gingrich was greeted by row after row of empty pews and maybe 40 voters in attendance. For a full hour after the scheduled starting time, Gingrich and his wife, Callista, sat outside, cloistered in his campaign bus — possibly sulking, possibly fuming at his campaign's horrid advance work, and surely praying that a few more souls would show up. When Gingrich finally entered the building, it was announced that the event was a town hall no more; the candidate would speak briefly, then take pictures with the scant few who'd turned up. And "briefly" was an understatement: Standing behind a Lucite lectern, Gingrich talked for a bare eight minutes and eleven seconds, looking deflated and exhausted. By no small margin, it was the worst and saddest campaign event that I have witnessed in this presidential cycle.
After the glory moments of South Carolina, here's Newt back on terra firma and holding out for yet another come-back. But Heilemann reckons he might decide to make a fight of it all the way to the convention, which would be a nightmare for Romney, and possibly the Republican Party. After all, Newt does nothing quietly. If Florida doesn't comprehensively bury him, he'll be up and running again soon. They love this show in the White House.
Given his independent status, the Daily Dish's Andrew Sullivan is a powerful and articulate cheerleader for Obama. Here, he reminds us that the decision to get Bin Laden would have caused the GOP to demand an extra face on Mount Rushmore if only he were a Republican. He says:
It was Obama who made that dangerous, ballsy call. It was Obama who argued in a 2008 debate with McCain that he would be prepared to ignore Pakistan and launch a raid in that country if OBL was found there and the US could get him. He was derided as "naive" and without the experience to be commander-in-chief. McCain specifically said he would not authorize such a mission.
Either the government leads the way in making the case for protecting our £45 billion investment in this bank, which we so sorely hope to get back in due course. Or alternatively the only other logical option is that we write-off the entire sum pumped into RBS and from now on run it as a public utility headed by a civil servant on an established grade salary.
Wow! It could be that bad?! A "civil servant on an established grade salary"? Boy oh boy! If Mr. Field's conclusion is that ony sums in the region of £1 million or more can bring in people of real talent, then what price any form of public service, to say nothing of vast numbers of talented private sector toilers? Teachers, doctors, nurses, soldiers, sailors and airmen, civil servants - just go back to mediocre-land and exist on your sub-human salaries worthy only of such despairing lack of talent. If you're not in the million pound bracket, you're useless!
Saturday, January 28, 2012
Friday, January 27, 2012
This can't last, especially not in the midst of a long and relentless recession - today's headlines about Stephen Hester's bonus show just how febrile the atmosphere actually is - but Cameron should enjoy the experience while he can. As to the other two, can they improve their position?
Nick Clegg is both the first Liberal leader in generations to be in government, but is of course similarly hidebound by that very arrangement. He has, in many respects, managed it very well, exercising real influence at the centre thanks in part to his positive relationship with Cameron, and managing to put out a distinctive Lib Dem message in more recent months. Politics Home's Paul Waugh observes the tactical success of Clegg's recent TV Sofas campaign on lower taxes for poorer earners, and it is worth emphasising that Clegg specifically, and the Lib Dems generally, have never been able to depend on any heavyweight media support. He is also a helpful lightning conductor for discouraged right-wing Tories who prefer not to attack their leader directly. Much better to direct frustration and blame towards Clegg, and never forget that the Tory media fields some very heavy, and very effective, guns in the British polity. There is an element of the old medieval tactic of not criticising the king but savaging his dispensable advisers instead. Clegg may yet emerge intact, and politically stronger, from his coalition experience if he can stay the course and keep perfecting the art of Liberal message making.
Miliband seems to be a worse case. For an opposition leader not to be making inroads at a time of economic convulsion is the sort of achievement no politician really wants to their credit. Even the Republicans have some credibility in the US political debate, and look at their cheerleaders. The latest Miliband interview, by Paul Waugh (again!) in the House magazine still shows him as strangely relaxed and optimistic, but whether his personal stoicism is enough to keep fending off grumbles from within his own party remains to be seen. If Yvette Cooper keeps sweet talking the Labour MPs, and Miliband keeps being duffed up by the bully Cameron at PMQs, no amount of zen-like relaxation will rescue him from the abyss. It must be Cameron's sincerest hope that his opposite number survives - somehow I think he'll find Cooper a far more difficult opponent both publically and in parliament. "Calm Down, Dear" only works once.
Wednesday, January 25, 2012
Monday, January 09, 2012
JR Clynes, a trade unionist from Oldham, had been elected party leader (technically in those days, Chairman of the party’s MPs) in February 1921. Although one of the party’s least known leaders he was arguably one of its most successful. In the 1922 election Labour more than doubled its number of MPs, winning 142 seats. However, in two ways that proved to be Clynes’ undoing.
First, one of Labour’s ‘new’ MPs was Ramsay MacDonald. He had been an MP before – from 1906 to 1918 – and had, indeed, led the party from 1911 until 1914, when he resigned because he opposed the party’s support for Britain’s involvement in the First World War. Back in Parliament in November 1922, he was ambitious to resume the post he had surrendered eight years earlier.
Secondly, Labour was now, unquestionably, Britain’s main opposition party. But the Speaker did not want the party to acquire the full rights of His Majesty’s Opposition, and some Labour MPs criticised Clynes for not standing up to the Speaker.
The showdown took place on November 22, eight days after the election. More than 20 MPs were absent – mainly Clynes supporters, new to Parliament, who were trade union officials and who had yet to disentangle themselves from their union commitments. Clynes assumed he would be re-elected unopposed, and let them stay away. Macdonald, however, had quietly but effectively organised his support. He challenged Clynes and won by 61 votes to 56. Fourteen months later MacDonald was Prime Minister. (Fourteen years later, MacDonald was out of power, out of Parliament and largely discredited; but that’s another story.)
By contrast, Tottenham MP David Lammy is tonight addressing a meeting opposed to the conversion of a failing Haringey primary school into an academy. This has provoked controversy on the right, with Spectator columnist James Forsyth blogging that such opposition will keep the pupils of the Haringey school mired in the morass of inadequate teaching and poor results. Certainly Lammy appears to be allying himself with dyed-in-the-wool opponenets of any educational change such as the NUT's Christine Blower and Fiona Millar.
Education has become one area of significant change and challenging ideas under Michael Gove. The problem is delineating any form of consensus on what might pass for good teaching - given the diversity of several million pupils passiong through the state system this is, of course, inevitable, but it is surely a good thing that a one size fits all policy is no longer applicable. The permanent revolution in education may yet yield real leaps forward and, importantly, a sense of ownership for parents and pupils.
Saturday, January 07, 2012
They enjoy each other's company. There is a lot of laughter, but also a lot of serious business. There is no rivalry and total mutual confidence. In the entire history of British government from the time of Robert Walpole, I cannot think of a moment when relationships at the top were so harmonious. In fraught circumstances, that is of inestimable value.
I did rather like Telegraph blogger David Knowles' tweet earlier -
Ed Miliband: "I will not be Ramsay MacDonald". Very true. Ramsay MacDonald was Prime Minister of three governments.
And that, in the end, is the dilemma for Ed Miliband; for all his preternatural calmness, is he capable of leading Labour to victory?