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Showing posts from 2016

Neither bad nor good. Just human. Goodbye 2016

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There’s a tendency in some of the reviews of 2016 which are finding their way online to praise the year as a great one.It’s the usual form of contrariness to the oft stated maxim that 2016 has been such a terrible year, and it comes from the right of the political spectrum of course.Because it has been a good year for “right-wingers”, no doubt about it.

But of course 2016 is neither a terrible nor a great year.It is a year the memory of which is entirely dependent on the individual living it.Citizens of Aleppo, or Syria generally (other than its wretched president) haven’t had a great year.People who have suffered family or close friend bereavements haven’t had a great year.On the other hand, weddings and births will have continued to bring pleasure to many too.In a more general sense, citizens of western democracies are likely to have had a better year than the citizens of poor authoritarian countries such as Russia.

The purpose of a brief blog review therefore can’t …

The importance of a vanishing class: the party member

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Political parties are the heart and soul of our democratic system.  They are the crucial interface between voters and professionals, providing the space for hard-pressed volunteers who may not wish to become professionally involved in politics to nonetheless become active agents in the body politic.  They have also been facing significant decline over many years.  While there has been a slight recovery in the UK since 2013 – especially for Labour and the SNP – the overall figures are depressing. 
The website Democratic Audit estimates that only 1% of the UK population is a member of a political party.  In the 1950s, parties famously calculated their members in the millions.  The Conservatives were dominant with their 3 million or so members, but Labour garnered some 1 million too. 
Labour is now the dominant party with half of their 1950s figure – 515,000 members according to a House of Commons Library briefing.  The Conservative figure is more difficult to get hold of – many of th…

Fakery and Bullshit - some Trump reading

It won't be dull with President Donald Trump in the White House, with even the transition period providing plenty of comment.  Here's a few reads to keep up to date.

At the UCL Mishcon Lecture last night, Jonathan Freedland of the Guardian gave the liberal tour-de-force warning of the appalling times to come under President Trump.  More on that below, but one article he recommended is the Tony Schwartz one from the New Yorker.  Schwartz ghost-wrote the Trump book "Art of the Deal", and in a fit of buyer's remorse, as Freedland put it, came clean about the real Donald Trump.  The New Yorker piece is here.

Trump has tried to re-awaken the memory of the Republicans' favourite president of recent years, Ronald Reagan, but how good was Reagan really?  An article in Salon suggests Reagan was the most ill-informed president to ever take office, and slept through much of his presidency - read it here.  Some may indeed be wanting Trump to sleep throughout most of his …

Live Blog - After 3!

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0445  There's no actual winner, but - in the old Nixon phrase - if present trends continue, Donald Trump will be president of the United states tomorrow.  It's not the most elevating of thoughts, but it is democracy.


0406    Has Hillary given up? (https://twitter.com/HillaryClinton/status/796169187882369024?lang=en)


0358  Michigan has been Democratic for 20 years, and tonight The Donald, our Donald, looks to end the reign. Currently ahead by over 40,000 votes, this will be a big win for Trump if he pulls it off. Ever divided, the room is buzzing with debate reminiscent of that between rival sports fans. Thobiyas and Smitho are still supporting Clinton to her last breath (although morale is low), and us deplorables are loving every second. Trump still looks more certain to be the President with every update.

Alex and Ben M

0356  Election night carries on at SGS. Our very own Smitho is in the first stage of grief - denial. Currently staring sadly at the MSNBC news stream, when a…

Live Blog

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1158pm Of course as the clock strikes 12 Trump has gained access to his twitter, after repeated bans by his campaign team. What is he complaining about this time? Muslims, Mexicans, The poor? This time however, he has practically admitted defeat with his unsurprising allegation of voting fraud. It seems once again that if things aren't going Trump's way he shall complain again and again.

Yacoub

1202  I wouldn't be so sanguine at the moment, given Trump's apparent strength in New Hampshire according to exit polls.  Still time for a big upset, 2016 style!

GM

1210  The Donald currently polling ahead in New Hampshire, suggesting Trump may yet pull ahead. First time the Republicans will win the state since 2000. Let’s go lads. Kentucky and Indiana are also looking promising, with Rand Paul winning his senatorial seat in Kentucky.

Alex and Ben M




Trump currently behind in Virginia, a vital state for a Trump victory. Hopefully he can pull it out of the bag, but this is worrying fo…

Tonight's the kind of night where everything may change

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We're there.  Finally.  One of the most controversial and divisive presidential elections in American history is drawing to a close, and tomorrow could be the apocalypse, or just business as usual.

Admittedly, everything looks good for Hillary, but predictions in this year of all years are fragile things, to be blasted away by iconoclastic forces.  Who's to say whether or not the utterly devoted Trump supporters don't turn out in such numbers as to give him Florida and the rust belt states?  Maybe Hillary is a far greater turn off than her supporters and admirers would concede.  We could know how far into the lunatic fringe America is heading, or how much she intends to stay in the realm of normality, in about seven hours.

I have made no secret in the last few blog posts of how much I think Trump is a monstrous, appalling abomination of a candidate, or how I think Hillary's poor standing significantly under-sells her formidable strengths as a po…

The Observer's Clarion Call for Sanity

The Observer used to be a fine campaigning newspaper, although it has become a little subsumed within its Guardian embrace in recent years.  Nevertheless, its editorial today provides the best, most vigorous response yet not only to the anti-High Court hysteria of last week, but also of the wider threat posed by a constitutionally blind right-wing movement across Europe.

In its dissection of the British constitution and its evolution, the editorial provides AS politics students with a masterly and concise overview.

In its attack on "the lie factories of Fleet Street", it offers a well executed broadside against the lethal exercise of power without responsibility that the mainstream press still has.

In its defence of the role of parliamentary sovereignty, it offers an articulate case for the virtues of that particular system.

In its linkage to the wider world of right-wing political extremism, from Donald Trump to the authoritarian clampdown of Turkey's President Erdogan…

What did the Brexiters actually want then?

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It was a commonplace amongst Brexit campaigners that they wanted a return to the sovereignty of the British parliament.  They wanted British laws judged by British courts.  What they didn’t tell us was that they only wanted that if it agreed with them. 
An independent judiciary and the separation of courts and political partisanship have long been held to be the foundation stones of healthy democratic societies.  So long as courts remain above the fray then political acts can be called to account and subjected to an impartial judgement.  Politicians can too, if the need arises.  We have a strong legal system because it protects us.  We have it because we, the people, deserve that protection against the unbounded ambitions of our political leaders. 
Parliament offers up a different level of protection, but one that is no less crucial to the well-being a state’s citizens.  With proper parliamentary scrutiny, a government – the executive – cannot get away with arbitrary rule or unchec…

This election belonged to Trump and his supporters, whoever wins

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This has been an extraordinary presidential election.  In its outsize anger, ugliness and insurgent appeal it has beaten every modern presidential election into a grey shadow of virtual irrelevance.  For some presidential historians you have to go back to 1828, the culmination of a four-year long populist campaign by General Andrew Jackson against the Washington establishment led by President John Quincy Adams, to find a similar one.  Even then Jackson did at least have some concrete public achievement behind him. 
The reason it has been so outsize, and so ugly, is of course entirely down to just one of its candidates – Donald J Trump.  Everything one says about this election, one is really saying about Donald Trump himself.  He has dictated the discourse of the campaign.  He has consistently dominated the media coverage.  He is the outlier, the leader of an angry, often ugly movement of alienated citizens who just needed someone to take their irrational hatred onto a higher platform…

Trump's "rigging" claim would have more validity if made by Democrats

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Part of Donald Trump's slash and burn electoral strategy is to claim that the election is rigged.  The only way to prove, in Trumpland, that it isn't rigged is for him to win.  Trump's claims of rigging are ludicrous, but they are taken seriously by the nearly 40% of voters who are firmly in his column.

Politico notes that the Trump strategy could have serious repercussions for American democracy after the election, especially if Republican leaders keep the same silence on the result that they've been keeping about the campaign itself.  Trump cites media coverage as his main "evidence", but let's just consider for a moment the other case - that the election is rigged against Hillary Clinton.

If you were Hillary, and you had the same political nihilism as Trump, you could cite the following:

1.  The consistent hacking of Democrat emails by Wikileaks and possible (though only alleged) Russian agencies.  Wikileaks has emerged firmly in the Trump camp, and ha…

The 2nd Round Draw

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A few quick takeaways from tonight's Trump v Clinton debate.

1.  Hillary Clinton is not great at being able to take down a great hulking target standing right next to her.  Perhaps she's wary because of the various scandals attached to her own person, but such scandals are in no way equivalent to the host of issues suggesting Trump is unfit for high office.

2. Trump really has no use for his vice-presidential running mate.  Rarely has a No 2 been so publicly humiliated as Mike Pence was tonight when Trump dismissed his views with the words "He and I haven't spoken and I disagree".  If Pence had any dignity left he would leave the ticket.  He hasn't and he won't.

3.  Trump could have been a nightclub bouncer; his body language was tense and uneasy throughout and he wouldn't sit down, preferring to loom ominously over the set.

4.  Trump got off lightly over the video of his sexist comments - or virtual endorsement of sexual harassment - and shoudn'…

Is it better for the Democrats if Hillary loses?

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I doubt there are many Democrats who would want to entertain the thought of Donald Trump winning on November 8th.  That's traditional, long-time registered Democrat voters rather than the more recent, brash, Sanders insurgency supporting youth who so nearly upset the convention.  And yet there may be a case - which some hard-core Sandersites have long endorsed - for suggesting that a Trump win would be the better option for the long-term future of liberalism in America.

If Hillary Clinton wins the presidency then her very tenure will reinvigorate the Republicans in Congress, united in their bid to frustrate her at every turn.  It will likely give Paul Ryan, the House Speaker, an even higher profile and a leading role in not only refurbishing the Republican image - something he is desperate to do - but also in running for the presidency in four years time.  A Clinton presidency will also leave the substantial army of Trump supporters wholly unsatisfied, and ready to back either Tr…

Hillary wins the debate, but not necessarily the people

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Plenty of keyboards have already been called into action to provide quick analyses of last night's stormer of a presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.  To give just a flavour of some of the more prescient online commentary, this is the Washington Post take from Dana Milbank; Howard Kurtz gives a pretty balanced view from the right of the spectrum on Fox News; while the liberal viewpoint is most articulately expressed by Michelle Goldberg on Slate.  Politico meanwhile remains a forcing house of regular and detailed commentaries.

The commentariat consensus is that Hillary won - and unequivocally so.  Even Trump surrogate Rudy Giuliani admitted as much in a tweet he sent.  But Giuliani's tweet also offers - unusually - a proper cautionary note for the Clintonites.  She may win the debate and the plaudits of political insiders, as well as those voters who are more politically switched on than their peers.  Whether the debate will have translated that into a…

The Trump campaign is beyond all reason and is taking America with it

Donald Trump has reached a position of such demagogic lying that no truth will be able to bring him and his campaign back to the realms of sanity.  And the alarming fact is that his supporters will stay with him all the way.

In any rational political campaign Trump should have been finished when he slandered a judge on the grounds of his ethnicity.  The case awaiting that judge's ruling - over the failure of Trump University to adhere to its published prospectus - should also have rebounded firmly against Trump.  This man who parades himself as the saviour of white American working class citizens wilfully conned many of them out of hard earned savings with the false promise of riches through his "university" set-up.  And yet he went on to seize the Republican nomination and runs Hillary close enough in polls to suggest he may well win in November.

Trump's racism and bizarre political headline - to build a wall along the Mexico border - should also have holed him bene…

Obama's poetry called into action one last time

Barack Obama came to public attention through the power of his oratory, and then won the presidency on the back of its soaring, uplifting, optimistic cadences.  He called it into action again, after eight years as the nation's preacher in chief where his ability to persuade a nation and articulate its public and hidden feelings has often been stretched to the limit but rarely found wanting.  His speech to the Democratic Convention wasn't just about supporting the woman he wants to be his successor, or damning, with his customary crisp, light yet lethally wielded authority, her opponent.  It was also about ensuring the longevity of his own legacy.  It was about whether the presidency stays in the hands of someone with intellectual rigour, passion and nuance, or whether it passes to the vulgarian instincts of a self-regarding demagogue.

It was a tremendous speech, a reminder of what it's like to be governed in poetry.  And in defending the character of Hillary Clinton, a wom…

Trump's disastrous convention doesn't matter

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This year's Republican convention has been a mess.  A delightfully anarchistic mess for those of us who do not wish him well, but a mess nonetheless.  Although he is unchallenged as the Republican nominee, he still faced a floor challenge to his candidacy.  In previous conventions - and you have to go back to 1976 for this - you at least had to have another candidate to rally round, but not this time.

Donald's wife gave a speech that had significant elements plagiarised from Michelle Obama's 2008 convention speech, which gave us the excellent spectacle of hardened Trumpites loudly applauding the sentiments of the current First Lady.

The principal speakers at the convention have all shown clear signs of madness.  Rudy Giuliani, once a respected New York mayor, tried to be Donald Trump on acid.  Chris Christie, once a governor who briefly looked as if he could reach across partisan divides, played his role as chief witch-hunter (prosecuting chief wi…