Showing posts from May, 2016

Sanders, Trump and the challenge to parties

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A month or so ago it looked as if the Republican convention would be the best spectacle for those who love a bit of political anarchy.  With Donald Trump marauding his way through the Republican primaries, faced by establishment opponents who clearly loathe him, what would have been better than a convention which tried to overturn the popular vote and insinuate a more acceptable candidate.  This would be a better spectacle even than Ronald Reagan's attempt to usurp the nomination of sitting president Gerald Ford in 1976.

Yet in such a short space of time the Republican conflict appears to have died down in the face of a pretty well invulnerable Trump candidacy and it's the Democrats who look like hosting at least a fractious, if not fully contested convention.  While Republican leaders accept the inevitable and start looking to make their peace with the candidate they desperately didn't want, the Sanders campaign for the Democratic nomination stride…

"We're nicer than you" - the Leave campaign's misleading siren shout

It’s always interesting to see how groups regard themselves.  It is not unusual for any sort of group to take a rather positive view of itself and, by contrast, demean other groups.  Nowhere is this more likely than in the tribal bear-pit of politics.  Political parties have long had a rather favourable view of themselves which doesn’t seem to have been readily passed on to anyone outside their nicely insular organisations, and now the two sides of the European referendum campaign are at it too. 
The loudest bleaters seem to be the Out campaign.  Barely a week of the campaign goes by without a slew of Outers complaining about the tone and attitude of everyone else.  There was a particularly concerted campaign today to claim that they themselves were all lovely, decent people while the mean old Remainers are unpleasantly attacking them.  In particular, various Leave partisans professed to be wounded and upset by the terrible attacks launched against their de facto leader, Boris Johns…

An evening at the asylum

I went with at least a partially open mind when I attended the premier of “Brexit: The Movie” with friends last night.  Whilst believing that a vote to remain in the EU is probably best for the UK’s future, I’m nonetheless familiar enough with arguments about a democratic deficit and trade strangulation to be swayable on the crucial issue of our continuing membership of that flawed body.  So I was attending the IEA sponsored movie in the hope of hearing some of the rational arguments that appeared to have been missing from the campaign trail so far.
Alas, such optimism was terribly mis-placed.  First of all, it was apparent that what we were attending was less a general audience viewing of a carefully established case, and more a sort of rally for the committed Brexiteers.  There they all were, bow-tied up to the nines, greedily clutching champagne glasses on entry, double chins wagging away in righteous sympathy with each other at the Odeon Leicester Square.  I hadn’t come across su…

Is Hillary's lack of the "vision thing" a real problem?

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There is an interesting article up on Politico, strikingly headlined "How Hillary could win the election and lose the country".  Writer Todd Purdum considers the problem of a centrist, status-quo candidate becoming president (Hillary) in a year when all of the drive and momentum has been on the side of the radical, change-politics-now candidates.  Not unreasonably, he points out Hillary Clinton's lack of a clearly articulated vision and essentially postulates the idea that she might win the election by default - in that the Republicans will choose a virtually unelectable candidate in either Trump or, less likely, Cruz - but then fail to appease a country seething with discontent once she's in office.

It is an alarming thesis but one that may also be giving too much credence to the noise coming from the energised masses of left and right.  It is in the nature of democracies to go through regular convulsions, and for the reporting media to annou…

The politicians we deserve

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We are a democracy, and so we get the politicians we deserve.

If we derive our news from personality-obsessed newspapers who fail to do even basic grunt-work to hold our representatives to account, well so be it.

If we look out onto the world of politics and simply sigh that they're all corrupt, and politics is boring in any case, well that's our right but don't then complain that nothing better is available.

If we are angry or annoyed that the campaign on one of the most important issues in a generation - the EU referendum - is being somehow trashed on both sides by outrageous, emotive, headline-hunting rhetoric, well we might just want to reflect on who the well-paid campaign leaders and researchers are aiming at.  Us, the voting public.  And they've mastered enough polling and marketing material to believe that their campaign is the very one we respond most to.  Had they bombarded us with information, boring but rational argument, a carefu…