Tag Archives: election

Change We Can’t Believe In

Who on earth does John McCain have advising him? The pundit in the video who says this isn’t a contest about speech making is dead wrong – 2004 proved that without much doubt. Bush’s and Kerry’s natures were laid bare before the electorate, and perhaps more than on the issues or perceived issues they chose the man they preferred. Kerry did know better, was smarter and more experienced but came across like Lurch from the Addams Family; Bush was folksy and came across as the oft-referred-to ‘guy you could have a beer with’.

With that in mind much of this general election contest is likely to hinge around the likability of these two men. Yet McCain followed up his appalling performance on the Ellen Show (who told him that was a good idea?) with this disaster of a speech, looking wooden, insincere and uncomfortable. He looked decrepit, couldn’t read the autocue, had no idea how to deliver a speech he clearly hadn’t written, which itself was cheap and nasty despite his protestations to the contrary. Contrast that with the speech which most of the world saw:

One of those men is behaving like a President. I wonder if the right man will win in November this time. We can only hope.

No To Hillary as VP!

Now I started out this process as a fervent Hillary Clinton supporter, but as the primaries rolled on it became abundantly clear that she didn’t just have serious problems as a campaigner, but she also was seriously problematic as a candidate. The ‘3am ad’ was a mean thing to do, and although it brought in immediate dividends, it really was a tactic out of the Karl Rove play book and further damaged her reputation in the contests which followed. I fully accept the argument that as a woman she has had to fight harder and harsher than her male counterparts in order to get even this far, but I can’t help but wonder if it’s true that even that lacked imagination on her part. In a year when Washington insiders, regardless of their experience and other positive qualities, have not been popular with voters, she portrayed herself as the consummate insider. Whilst mixing those two qualities was clever in almost forcing Obama and others to risk a charge of misogyny in attacking her at all, the voters really didn’t care. Obama offered a changed mood, a changed atmosphere, a new look and a new approach. In return Clinton, McCain and Fox News offered Jeremiah Wright, so far proving unsuccessful, with a clear majority of voters at this stage indifferent to the behaviour of a key mentor whom he’s now cut himself off from entirely (although he took far too long to do so).

Obama is now the de facto Democratic candidate for President in November, and despite my earlier naysaying, his chances right now are surprisingly good. And although Hillary no doubt feels she should be on the ticket, considering the huge proportion of the party and electorate who voted for her, I would beg to differ. It’s true that she has strength to take on McCain and give him the real bashing which Kerry was unable to inflict on Bush in 2004. She knows the Republican attack machine well, indeed knows how to counter it and isn’t afraid of it. But increasingly I don’t think Obama is either. He’s faced a two pronged attack from Bush and McCain already, and come out shining, entirely by sticking to the message which has served him well since he arrived on the scene. As the ‘change’ candidate he defeated the Washington insider Clinton – both of them really considering how ruthlessly Bill campaigned against him – and the same has been true so far against McCain. The GOP candidate is clearly out of touch, worryingly doesn’t realise it, and regularly sounds both like Bush and worse than him, at a time when even the Republicans can’t stand Bush anymore. All Obama has had to do so far is point this out to gain the upper hand – he hasn’t needed Hillary and I don’t think he’s going to. Just look at McCain’s discomfort merely on his own last night, crashing and burning almost as badly as he did on the Ellen show. Even the right wing press dismissed him.

I think for VP he could do worse than pick Jim Webb. Webb has astutely already seen how he could fit in with the Obama narrative, and solve the electoral mathematics problem which Hillary thinks she would solve but wouldn’t. Obama’s chief vulnerability in November is often mooted to be his weakness in the white working class male vote, which Webb on the ticket would appear to address:

Black America and Scots-Irish America are like tortured siblings. They both have long history and they both missed the boat when it came to the larger benefits that a lot of other people were able to receive. There’s a saying in the Appalachian mountains that they say to one another, and it’s, “if you’re poor and white, you’re out of sight.” …

If this cultural group could get at the same table as black America you could rechange populist American politics. Because they have so much in common in terms of what they need out of government.

See? No need for Hillary, and this combined narrative uniting ethnic groups and presenting a unified approach to addressing the absence of opportunity in the United States, could well prove unstoppable. Webb’s distinguished military record could also blunt McCain’s ‘war hero’ tag, and his experience in not just government but a Republican government could seal the deal.

Bush arguably has committed the greatest strategic blunder in modern memory. To put it bluntly, he attacked the wrong target. While he boasts of removing Saddam Hussein from power, he did far more than that. He decapitated the government of a country that was not directly threatening the United States and, in so doing, bogged down a huge percentage of our military in a region that never has known peace. Our military is being forced to trade away its maneuverability in the wider war against terrorism while being placed on the defensive in a single country that never will fully accept its presence.

There is no historical precedent for taking such action when our country was not being directly threatened. The reckless course that Bush and his advisers have set will affect the economic and military energy of our nation for decades.

They both even speak with the same voice about Iraq, whilst appealing to different sections of the electorate. Obama/Webb to win in November, with Hillary Senate Majority Leader.

John McCain and the Mad Foreign Policy

I find it highly amusing that John McCain tries time and again to damage Barack Obama by citing his foreign policy ‘inexperience’, yet his own foreign policy is nothing short of crazy. I pointed out in an earlier post that on social policy McCain is already far to the right of Bush, and the same is true here. Where Obama suggests an equal partnership in the Atlantic ‘special relationship’, McCain is talking about obviating the United Nations.

We should go further and start bringing democratic peoples and nations from around the world into one common organization, a worldwide League of Democracies. This would not be like the universal-membership and failed League of Nations’ of Woodrow Wilson but much more like what Theodore Roosevelt envisioned: like-minded nations working together in the cause of peace. The new League of Democracies would form the core of an international order of peace based on freedom. It could act where the UN fails to act, to relieve human suffering in places like Darfur. It could join to fight the AIDS epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa and fashion better policies to confront the crisis of our environment. It could provide unimpeded market access to t hose who share the values of economic and political freedom, an advantage no state-based system could attain. It could bring concerted pressure to bear on tyrants in Burma or Zimbabwe, with or without Moscow’s and Beijing’s approval. It could unite to impose sanctions on Iran and thwart its nuclear ambitions. It could provide support to struggling democracies in Ukraine and Serbia and help countries like Thailand back on the path to democracy.

This idea of a ‘league of democracies’ is nothing short of insanity, and makes Bush look like the wimp his father was derided as. Let’s just sidestep the UN eh, and invade where we want, impose our will where we want and just ignore China and Russia. Of course they’ll just stand aside and let us do that, and not start their own parallel league of autocracies themselves…

It’s completely crazy. The entire point of the United Nations has been to demand consensus, so surely if the organisation isn’t functioning properly it needs to be reformed? Yes the Chinese and Russians are abusing the will of the security council – but the current Russian resurgence has hardly come out of nowhere, and it’s not as if the United States hasn’t used its muscle abusively before. Iraq anyone? And surely it’s Iraq itself which demonstrates the most salient point – any country or coalition unilaterally imposing its will in the 21st century cannot hope to succeed; in days where communications, cultures, allegiances and weapons transcend borders, unilateralism couldn’t be less practical. Shashi Tharoor is right – the neocon mantra that democracy and ‘freedom’ are everyone’s bottom lines whether they know it or not ignores the practical and pragmatic lines which many such ‘democracies’ have to walk; believing all nominally democratic states would join in is ridiculous. But the scariest part of this story is the rumour that the idea is also supported by Barack Obama. I hope it’s not true – firmly opposing it would continue the so-far successful narrative he’s driving that McCain is Third Term Bush.

Obama 1; GOP 0

Barack Obama has moved past the Democratic endgame and into the Presidential election, even before formally defeating Hillary Clinton, and how appropriate that he should do it in my home town of Portland, Oregon. It’s noticeable that the frames of reference in this election have suddenly changed. Where just a few weeks ago both Obama’s and Clinton’s chances were increasingly doomed by their unwinnable contest, McCain is now in decline, losing campaign staff left, right and centre as their connections to lobbyists come to light. And whilst stumping for the Oregonian primary, Obama broke a record, pulling in 75,000, seemingly with ease. His theme seems also to have been in play that day too:

“John McCain has decided to run for George Bush’s third term,” he said to a deafening roar.

It’s an excellent slogan, and one which defines his initial foreign policy battle with the Republicans. As Michael Tomasky points out, last week W defined “some” Democrats Neville Chamberlain-style appeasers, whilst addressing the Knesset in Jerusalem. Within hours McCain joined in, the Republican attack machine launching a vicious, two-pronged attack, which until now in recent presidential politics has been completely successful. But Obama launched a press conference of his own, not just firmly rebutting all the attacks on him, but he played to his unique strengths. He took the Republican foreign policy of the last 8 years apart, identifying the party’s lies over Iraq, and offered a different path. Of course it’s excellent politics to pursue in contrast with Hillary – it’s a good point that Tomasky raises when he suggests that Hillary’s bluster in threatening to nuke Iran makes voting for her as a Democrat somewhat perfunctory. Seeing as that’s Republican policy already, why jump ship? And by lumping Bush and McCain together, he paints McCain as the heir to Bush; noone but noone wants that.

I wonder how this will play out – November is still a long way away. And there are many other factors in play.

Buck Foris

Boris Johnson has taken office as Mayor of London.

I would like to thank first the vast multitudes who voted against me – and I have met quite a few in the last nine months, not all of them entirely polite.

I will work flat out from now on to earn your trust and to dispel some of the myths that have been created about me.

There is nothing you can do to earn my trust you idiot. You’ve already lied about your transport policy, you’ve shown disinterest, dislike and ignorance about diversity, and offered policies on crime which were just plain stupid. How do you think you can earn my trust, when the ‘myths’ have to a number already been proven to be true? When you’ve written in an outright homophobic manner for years and then when you have the opportunity to explain your platform’s contradictory support for gay Londoners you refuse – when you say you were against Section 28 but still support the point of it, what are we supposed to think?

Where there are neglected opportunities we will seize on them, and we will focus on the priorities of the people of London: cutting crime, improving transport, protecting green space, delivering affordable housing, giving taxpayers value for money in every one of the 32 boroughs.

Putting metal detectors in schools and tube stations to weed out those carrying metallic weapons is economically impossible. It’s also impossible in terms of manpower, and is hardly a step towards tackling the reasons for why knives and guns are being used by young people to kill one another with. Improving transport won’t be done by attempting a no-strike deal with unions ideologically opposed to you, with clout no central government would currently dare stand up to for long.

And I hope that everybody who loves this city will put aside party differences to try in the making of Greater London greater still.

You are an Old Etonian who hasn’t as an MP voted for the best interests of London. Put aside party differences? Are you completely mad? Your sponsors the Evening Standard went through the whole gamut – from saying Ken’s campaign was being managed by suicide bombers to claiming he was setting up a socialist cabal in City Hall – maybe you’re the one guilty of negatively inflating party differences.

To the young people who voted for the goofball celebrity of Have I Got News For You, to the self-loathing gay Tories who voted for a man who hates you, to the ungrateful taxi drivers who voted down the man who inflated your fares well past the point of reason, to the racists and homophobes who took their opportunity to stab London’s minorities in the back, I say thank you. Thank you for making London look as stupid as the United States. We now have no political capital to expend in attacking the Americans for voting for a hateful, ignorant and stupid buffoon as their leader. Where they voted him in anyway for his affability, it seems London just did too, proving once again that most people really are stupid.

Mayor BoJo

I’m aghast.

Was Ken brought down by Gordon Brown’s poisonous effect on the Labour Party? Was it the £25 4×4 congestion charge? Was it a backlash against his embracing of London’s diversity or his meeting Yusuf Al-Qaradawi? Was it his support for Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez or his failure to get the tube running properly? Was it his support for the corrupt Sir Ian Blair, or the street crime which spiralled out of control, despite the figures the Metropolitan Police lazily fell back on? Worse still was it Brian Paddick’s failure to direct his supporters’ second votes to go to Ken?

Boris Johnson isn’t a fan of ethnic minorities, homosexuals, poor people or London for that matter, yet London has just voted him Mayor. London elected someone with the right attitude and experience for two terms, then reflected and decided “he’s been in the job too long” and supplanted him with a bumbling oaf of a man, who’s never prioritised London’s affairs as an MP, and doesn’t support measures such as the congestion charge which have already been proven to improve London’s environment. Seems a bit bonkers doesn’t it? But whilst extremely upsetting and worrying, it was actually quite predictable.

The diversity agenda quite simply doesn’t operate in a straight line. Livingstone came in with the creation of the job in 2000 promising genuine change, and he delivered. More than anything he set about breaking the disproportionate privilege previously only held by the white middle-class – the funding of ethnic minority groups, the congestion charge, the promotion of ethnic and subcultural events like Pride by City Hall – Trafalgar Square has never been busier, more educational or diverse – these have all acted to raise the profile and power of London’s minorities. Except a) now there’s more of a level playing field they’re all flexing their muscles in ways previously unthinkable and b) the middle classes will never overwhelmingly support the championing of policies, approaches or attitudes which act in others’ best interests.

So Ken was in large measure a victim of his own success. But the Guardian is also right I think – a perception of arrogance, being above what the voters might want – also did him in. Was the Oliver Finegold affair his Monica Lewinksy moment? Maybe, in that it didn’t reflect badly on him in his job, but was a distraction he could have done without, and:

(whilst) every success brought acclaim (it) also seemed to erode his sense of humility. The line between self-belief and arrogance can be a thin one. Self-belief was a essential component of the construct Livingstone had so successfully sold to the public over almost 30 years. Arrogance, descending all too frequently into shows of petulance, only served to degrade it.

That’s a really strong analysis I think. He was right to battle the disgusting Evening Standard, but it was a pointless battle. He was right to bid for the Olympics, but London wanted to hear he wanted it for community and sport, not merely for the development money (which was, after all, a prime priority for his position). He may have championed gay rights with his partnership register (the precursor to civil partnerships), but his open support of Islamist cleric Yusuf Al-Qaradawi compromised a key component of his support from the gay community. Was he right in saying the right wing tabloids didn’t represent Al-Qaradawi’s views fairly? Probably. But he also refused to acknowledge that the cleric might have misrepresented his real views to him too. And then he really backed the wrong horse with Sir Ian Blair (whom Boris now needs to fire from chairing the Metropolitan Police Authority, as promised). Supporting a Metropolitan Police Commissioner who remained more concerned with saving his own neck following his corrupt attempt to block the investigation into the Met’s murder of Jean Charles de Menezes was just bananas. With people’s experience of street, knife and gun crime escalating out of control in Ken’s last term, he could then never say he was the Mayor of law and order.

It’s the worst result we could have expected – London even now has the BNP in the Assembly. I hope at least that a London which has become more political than at any time since the 80s will still have the courage to ignore the Evening Standards of this world and hold this new bunch forcefully to account. But given how stupid certain elements in London have been this last week – voting for an unqualified, elitist, celebrity (George W anyone?) idiot because it’s “time for a change” – things don’t look positive. At least the 2012 Olympics, which most of us believe will be a shambles will be presided over by a shambles. Just don’t forget what this man really thinks of diversity, Ken’s championing of which was chiefly responsible for winning the bid and putting London back on the map:

Of London, Elections and Police

Controversy is raging tonight – is the Metropolitan Police Authority witholding publication of its report into the killing of Jean Charles de Menezes for political reasons or not? The Evening Standard (who, remember hate Ken Livingstone’s guts, and Ken is Sir Ian Blair’s biggest political patron) says:

Today, however, the Metropolitan Police Authority admitted publication of the report had been delayed because of “political sensitivities” surrounding the mayoral and London Assembly elections.

A spokesman said the report into the 2005 shooting had still not been completed but had been held over because of the election “purdah“. The spokesman added that there was the possibility of “people making political capital out of it”

Could it be that the report is damning towards the Met’s behaviour and their apologist leader at a time when Ken Livingstone is fighting for his political life? Wouldn’t withholding publication at such a vital time be pretty shady? But wait, that’s not all that’s going on. Another spokesman (the same one? A different one? A *cough cough* real one?) contradicted the normally *guffaw* reliable Standard, saying:

“It is a gross misinterpretation to allege that the MPA Stockwell scrutiny report has been delayed because it is critical of the Commissioner, or for political reasons.”

“The scrutiny was set up to look at lessons learnt and new processes put in place to prevent such a tragedy happening again. It is not specifically about the Commissioner.”

“Scrutiny panel members have not seen a draft report and therefore it is completely misleading to make any assumptions about the contents.”

“The timetable for completion of the report has slipped due to the huge volume of evidence presented to the panel and the meticulous analysis required to complete the report. The panel members unanimously decided to extend the timetable for the production of the report.”

“The report is not yet written, work is ongoing and we will present the report to the full Authority before the summer. The report will be publicly available.”

But the damage is done. Lib Dem Brian Paddick (who has ruthlessly attacked Ken Livingstone), has used the story to further his platform of demanding the ousting of Blair and his unconditionally supportive patron Livingstone. In an election where the issues of crime and accountability of the Metropolitan Police are significant, the timing of this report (whatever the truth is) couldn’t be worse for Blair. We can only hope, despite the target of the Standard’s attack having been Livingstone. Whatever the truth is, Brian Paddick is right when he says:

“Londoners deserve to know the truth. If this report has been withheld for political purposes, this proves there is need for radical change in the way London and the Metropolitan Police Authority are led.”

There’s need for it anyway. The Metropolitan Police is anything but accountable, in very large measure because of Sir Ian Blair’s failure in reforming the service, stemming directly because of his dishonest behaviour in trying to block the initial investigation into Jean Charles de Menezes’ murder, and Ken Livingstone’s refusal even to criticise him one iota. The elected London Assembly tried to impeach Blair, but the MPA voted against a motion of no confidence in him shortly afterwards. Brian Paddick and Boris Johnson have both said if they win they will chair the MPA themselves; Johnson saying he would remove Blair, Paddick already voicing putative successors’ names. I hope that, should Ken yet win, he’s listening, but there’s no indication of anything but unconditional support for a force and Commissioner which are failing Londoners.