Thursday, September 26, 2002

Peter, oh, Peter Good, if long interview with Peter Mandelson in today's Guardian. For those interested in colour pieces, it does a lot t unlock a notoriously private man.

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Leak reveals Lib Dem strategy on Tories

Matthew Tempest
is given a paper which he describes as a startegy for winning over Tories. Doesn't seem like much of a stategy to me (ooh, let's encourage defections and do some campaigning!), I have to admit, but it's interesting nonetheless.

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Labour's new HQ

Millbank was a looming, threating domineering piece of brutality. Now Labour's got a new home and they want to stop being so tough and nasty. Rachel Sylvesterseems to think it's working.

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Wednesday, September 25, 2002

Polly Toynbee trips up over herself

Remember when the recall of Parliament to discuss Iraq was an urgent need, vital to the future of the nation? Remember when the relentless inquisition of our MP's would cause the anti-Iraq case to collapse under the weight of its own hypocricies?

Polly Toynbee doesn't. Oh no. You see now Tony Blair made his case, and more or less silenced his critics, things have changed.

"This sabre-rattling phase was not the right time for parliament to hold this debate, when every reasonable person wants to show Saddam that he must comply. "

This is not so much changing the goalposts as pretending there wasn't a game on.

However, Ms Toynbee does have a point later on in her piece, when she notes how the Bush team's incredible unpopularity in Europe is changing the political dynamic over here. I asked a friend (a very moderate fellow, mot given to strong political opinions) last night why George Bush was so unpopular. His response was revealing

"Perhap's it's because he's a far right wing, militaristic half-wit, a man who wants to force the world to act the way he wants, who lectures the world on democracy but who wasn't even elected in the first place"

I backed away from the conversation pretty quickly after that.

I've never known an American President generate responses like this. Not even at the height of the 1980's cold war.

Ms Toynbee is right in her observation that:

"Whatever reconciliation is patched together, overnight Schröder shattered a European taboo: others may now find it easier to turn away from an America whose present regime is abhorrent to an essentially social democratic continent. Schröder's desperate electioneering ploy may start a surprising new spirit of European independence. That would trigger an angry US review of Nato, forcing the EU to forge a useful common defence capability and a more united foreign policy."

Typically though, she gets the conclusion entirely wrong.

"Is that over-optimistic, since Blair and Schröder's positions could hardly diverge further at this moment?"

It's not over-optimistic at all. It's a downright disaster. If the US doesn't realise how much it is alienating European public opnion, and European leaders do not manage their populaces resentment more adroitly than they have to date, the very foundations of Western stability and security could be threatened.

It's not too late. It looks like Germany is trying to mend fences. America, angry, is rebuffing them. It's time to realise what is at stake here.

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Wait till '08! On a related note, I thought Gore's speech on Iraq was superb. I still don't like the guy's voice, but jesus, he had a coherent argument, a recognition of the risks of alienating allies, a strategy for tackling terror first, and a sober assessment of the risks to the USA of Terror and Iraq in that order.

Anyway, this site is suposed to about British political tactics, not weighty issues of war and peace. I'll try and struggle back on topic by asking how this might affect Gore's chances for '04.

I think getting ahead of public opnion might damage Gore for 2004, as the US political debate is not currently a rational, cool one, but rather a patriotic, anger driven, what side are you on debate (before I get e-mails about being a typical Euro snob, this is an observation, and frankly how could it be different, given what happened?).

This means, that barring international disasters, Bush should be a lock for 2004.

Also, Look at the history. Plenty of presidents have won only one term. However, few parties have won only one term. One term presidents tend to be inheritors. Bush, Ford, Johnson (though to be fair he did win as an incumbent), Hoover, Taft. They all inherited their presidencies from same party incumbents.

The only exception this century is Carter, and I'd argue that his election was heavily influenced by the Nixon backwash.

So as I've said before (on a previous, shortlived, unread and now deleted blog) , Gore should wait 'till 08, whatever his desire for a rematch.

I'm working on the basis that '04 is a lock for Bush. He's fighting a war, he's a first term president for a first term party, there's no recession (yet), and he's a very smart political operator.

'08 on the other hand is still in play. War may be dragging on by then, (and the war against Terror is likely to prove about easily won as the war against drugs) republicans will be infighting over the succession, deficits will be rising.

In addition, Gore could look good by some other loser crashing and burning in 04. If someone like Edwards (or better, Vermont's Dean) gets creamed by Bush, and really, who can imagine anything other happening? Gore's 2000 result begins to look a little less tainted.

In addition, Gore won't look bitter, if he waits out 2004. He'll kill all the rematch rhetoric, and be able to rebuild his base in the party. Gore will also be ablke to point out at every opportunity the correctness of his 2000 positions. By waiting 4 more years, Gore won't look bitter just right in 2000.

Fianlly, Gore would get a chance for a new conventional wisdom to take hold. One did not posit him as a ego driven, values free loser. Simply by not runing for President, he'll make a whole lot of friends.

Gore shouldn't do a shall not seek, will not accept until as late as possible. He wants to be a player. In the end though, he should smile nicely and say, Look, I had a chance against Bush, now it's someone else's turn. How can I help?

It worked for Nixon.

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The Guardian Law

I admit it. I'm getting worried. I'm not part of the commentariat, but I'm beginning to sound like them. Martin Kettle's piece in the gurdian expresses many of the thought's I have over the German/US issue.

Of course, I fear that this puts me beynd the pale for many bloggers. The Guardian Law sems to be a related to Godwin's Law. It seems to hold that "If the Gurdian take an editorial position close to that you have previously expressed in your blog, you views are automatically invalidated."

So where does that leave me? Well, I'm just glad it wasn't Robert Fisk.

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Tuesday, September 24, 2002

I was right...

Mystic spin eh. First I get the result right in Germany, then I am almost exactly right when I said only 50 Labour MP's would vote against the adjournment today. In the end, it was slightly more (around 55) but well short of the 100 plus some reporters were pushing over the weekend.

Any readers who would like me to guess their lottery numbers can do so by e-mailing me.

note to Alice Mahon
: If you're going to rebel, publicly underestimate your support. Most reporters haven't got a clue about the disposition of the PLP on issues like this, and when you beat your target, you look strong, not vaguely irrelevant, the way you do now.

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Monday, September 23, 2002

How George Bush could have got Stoiber elected

*it is last Friday.

Ladies and Gentlemen, The President of the United States.

Q: How do you react to the rhetoric of German Chancellor Schroeder, who is claiming that he will not support any attack on Iraq?

*knowing chuckle from the President*

Well, he's got his view and we've got ours, and he's free to express them, we both live in democracies.

Obviously, he's in an election campaign, so I'm not going to interfere. Elections means politicians make fiery speeches, that's one of the downsides of them.

I've read Herr Schroeders statements, and I'm delighted to see that he's left a lot of room to suppport action against Saddam Hussein in the future.

We've had a lot of close conversations about the post-election period, conversations that haven't made the news or been used for rhetoric, and because of those private conversations, I'm confident that whoever is elected tomorrow, our relations with Germany will remain friendly and close and We'll work together to remove Saddam Hussein from power, so he can't torture or murder any more innocent people.

Saddam Hussein is an evil dictator, and I know both parties there recognise that. We recognise it too, and I'm confident that no matter what is said in the heat of the moment, the German Government will work closely with us, as they've said they would, as soon as the election is out of the way"

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A reply.

As a member of the urban metropolitian elite club. (Membership card number 211170 if you must know, I joined after the Groucho got passe). I feel duty bound to respond to the marchers who trooped through the capital the other day, bringing the wonderful sights and sounds, and the less wonderful smells, of the country to my patch of urban blight yesterday.

I would like to apologise. I'm so sorry. So very sorry. Little did I know that in buying tuna or rice or corn or sun dried tomatoes, I was destroying a great British lifestyle. Blame Delia, not me. I was only following chattering classes orders.

How could I know that the taxes that prop you up were simply not enough and that you need me to pay more for my milk so you can live better and not sell your mansion.

I thought it was a good thing. I was led astray. I thought I was doing what you wanted.

You've never seemed to mind when other people were being thrown out of their jobs and losing their unique cultures because they worked in unproductive primary industries with cheaper foriegn competition. So you can see where I went wrong.

When you voted for politicians who talked about market economics, I thought you wanted to be paid what the market would bear for your goods. It isn't me that's throwing you off the land, it's the invisible hand. I didn't mean to hurt your feelings.

When you said you wanted the end to the nanny state, I should have known you didn't mean the state that built cheap houses for your nanny.

I'm so sorry, please forgive me. I thought you would like me for it.

I was so foolish.

I forgot that you are a mystical guardian of our sacred realm, I forgot that you have a right to all this, and much much more, because you are stewards of the land you own.

I forgot that I am merely a creeping cockroach, unfit to be scraped off the mightly boot of our ruddy country folk. I failed because I did not know how deeply, deeply corrupt and decadent I am.

How dare I question you. I don't understand the details of rural life. I don't get subsidies, I don't send my children to private schools, nor drive Range Rovers, nor have land with a rateable value of over £300,000 and at least 50 acres, how can I even dare to displease you, you great big direct blood descendent of the Yeomenry you.

Please, take it, take my taxes. I didn't need a school for my kids in the blighted inner city any way. Please, you're so much more deserving than me.

On a serious note, something jarred in Charles Moore's piece today. (I was one of those fools who thought that The Daily Telegraph was edited in urban London, but clearly it is pieced together by traditional methods in wessex or somewhere). There's something in these two paragraphs that gives the game away about all the "real voice of Britain" stuff that's been doing the rounds anongst the right of centre commentariat.

"Lots of posters lumped Mr Blair with Robert Mugabe, the only other world leader currently trying to take on white farmers.

"Unfair, of course, and yet, if I were Prime Minister, I would worry that I had established a reputation for persecuting the most viscerally British of my fellow countrymen."

White farmers, eh? Viscerally British? These persecuted white farmers are British "in their guts and their blood" in a stronger way than their urban counterparts? If I were a deconstructionist, I'd have a field day with this stuff, but I'm not.

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Well, I was right. George Bush cost Stoiber the election. The strength of the Greens in Germany proves it.

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Sunday, September 22, 2002

So what really matters in the news today?

The Barbour brigade marching? Naah, insignificant. People gorged on subsidies clamouring for more. Natural Tories demanding subsidies? Libertarianism? nah, just the demand for further indulgence of a long indulged industry demanding further, extended subsidy. I'll offer the Marchers a deal. Hunt all you want, if we can pull Farming subsidies and stop supporting non-economic activities just becasue of some mystical blood and soil connection.

The Clare and Robin Cabinet responsibility show? Nah, As I've written before, Robin Cook is voicing concerns in order to re-establish some left of centre conection with the party and preserve his career. It's interesting that his line in the sand is one that he knows won't be stepped over. Tough Guy Robin. Clare means it, but has a get out of jail free card, personally endorsed by the PM. She has inherited the Mo Mowlam mantle of cuddly rebel.

The Lib-Dems Conference? Don't make me laugh. Let me see, arty on verge of historic breakthrough, oh yes. More MP's than for 50 years, quite right, Now the effective opposition, how very interesting. So if they're a serious political party, how come their biggest announcement over the weekend was about Porn at 16? Bumbling idiots.

The Euro tedium? God, no. From Will Hutton's piece today it sounds to me like the pro-Euro's are getting desperate. It's not a case now, of "You must join", but "please join, please, we're desperate" Admitting your original economic policy for Europe was a massive failure might be admirable honesty, but it sure doesn't sound like a persuasive argument to me. Besides, the Commission might want the Central Bank to reform, but the Central Bank has a cast iron guarantee that Politicians can't ever interfere with it's work, so you have to ask, is it all a total mess over there, and why would we want to get into that?

No, it's Germany of course. Anyone with any interest in British Politics should be fascinated by this. It's an election being decided on Foreign Policy. It's an election that might give electoral legitimacy to A European leader openly hostile to George Bush. It's an election that will decide the economic strategy of Germany and hence, Europe. So given I personally suport Tony Blair and George Bush on Iraq, worry about the diverging paths of america and Europe, think European insititutions are awful and am concerned that the German economy is rapidly turning into Japan, you might think I want Stoiber to win.

Not a bit of it. I want Schroeder to win. There's no ideological or economic reason, It's purely political. American leaders need to realise how massively unpopular they are in Europe and how this unpopularity will damage their national interest. George Bush (may)cost Stoiber this election. Until Germans were given a choice between Schroeder and Bush, Stoiber was miles ahead. Bush created the space for Schroeder to exploit, Bush allowed Schroeder to escape with a single bound from his domestic contstaints. George Bush's leadership (may) cost America a secure and right wing Ally. That's no reason to want it to happen, but I want Schroeder to win because no matter how powerful the US is militarily or economically, it needs to realise that it needs to mobilise popular suport in Europe if it is not to turn Europe hostile. It's not even as if the price America was being asked was so awful. To go to the UN. Ouch. Sure, Germany wouldn't have sent troops (they never do), but George Bush managed to lose the money, lose the tacit support and end up going to the UN anyway. Brilliant. Makes Schroeder's oposition seem effective too.

On top of that, The US's election interefernce department needs some fine tuning. The US seems to think that the disapproval of Condi Rice, expressed publicly, might turn votes to Stoiber or away from Schroeder. Not at all. It'll benefit the SPD because there's nothing people hate more than being bullied and told off, even when they're wrong. Ever had someone you like attacked for a mistake by someone you don't know and dislike. What effect did it have? Did you abandon your friend or resent the lecture?

But this is just the start of a wave. With his Foriegn Policy, geroge Bush, amazingly has managed to make Europe anti-American and stop a historic rightward shift in European politics.

It's not too late though, a little softer with the whip, and Europe would go along easy. When it comes to Europe, this Presidency has been a disaster and now a price (may) will be paid. Unfortunately, I fear this might just be the start. Learn the lesson now, George, or learn more painfully later. I want Schroeder should win to wake u America to the dangers of it's Diplomatic mis-steps.

Of course, I'm going to look mighty stupid if Stoiber wins. Fair enough, that's the risk!

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So sorry...

Anyway, not posted for nearly 72 hours... not been at the Countryside Alliance day trip, just been having a life. Girls, cars, etc. Sadly more of the etc than the girls and cars but a boy can hope.

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