Posts Tagged ‘Barack Obama’

Of course we need to support those 3,000 Syrian children looking for a home. We helped put them there

27/04/2016, 06:05:27 PM

by Rob Marchant

There are some times when Labour and the Tories divide on party lines, not because merely they are whipped differently – or that they have dark and evil hearts, see Uncuts passim – but simply because they have fundamentally different ways of looking at the world.

What might seem a no-brainer to ordinary folk – the desperate plight of children alone in the world and bearing no responsibility whatsoever for their fate – becomes a point of immovable principle to a pig-headed Tory party caught in a moment of blind, anti-immigration frenzy. And it is sadly difficult to think this is unconnected to the current turbulence within the party over its perennial, navel-gazing obsession, the EU. Along with Labour MPs, a few noble souls defied the Tory whip, but mostly the vote was a shabby affair on the part of the governing party; the parliamentary equivalent of a mumbled excuse.

No, if you need an example of why this country needs a Labour government, it was given to you on Monday night without too much fuss.

The Parliamentary Labour Party, having suffered a rather difficult few months, largely paralysed over how to respond to its politically disastrous new leadership, finally showed what it was made of and supported Lord Alf Dubs’* amendment. An amendment requiring the government to accept the 3,000 homeless, stateless and unaccompanied Syrian children into the country.

Bravo, PLP. Bravo. It was a good thing you did on Monday night, even if it ended in honourable defeat. We should, however, just remember one, painfully ironic thing.

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Jeremy Corbyn is energising politics

16/08/2015, 10:41:24 PM

by Brian Back

After hearing so much about it, I finally witnessed the Jeremy Corbyn phenomenon for myself, at a meeting in Cardiff. And, believe me; phenomenon is the right word.

I have previously attended meetings in Cardiff with both Liz Kendall and Andy Burnham, which had audiences of up to around 300 people.

Corbyn’s meeting had over a thousand, with all seats taken and almost as many squeezed in, standing at the back, as were sitting down.

The audiences for the other candidates were polite, respectful and interested.

Corbyn’s audience was passionate and enthusiastic, at times bordering on fanatical. When Corbyn walked onto the stage, the whole crowd rose to its feet; whooping, cheering, clapping and shouting- giving him the kind of welcome normally reserved for rock stars. His speech was interrupted after every sentence, by the crowd cheering and applauding his statements, in the same way that they would cheer for their favourite song played by their favourite band at a concert or festival.

It was fascinating and amazing to watch.

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Remember how Clinton sealed the deal for Obama last year? Blair could do that for Miliband

17/06/2013, 08:00:16 AM

by Dan McCurry

I was once in a rock band for whom stardom beckoned. We were 16 years old and practiced in the music room at school, playing ‘60s music. The lead singer, John O’Dea, was a mod whose hobby was to beat up punks and skinheads. He was quite embarrassing. The reason he had something to prove was that back in ‘80s, the mods had a reputation for being soft.

One day John wrote some lyrics to a song called “Bollocks to a tramp”, and although we didn’t want to encourage him, the words were good so we added a guitar riff and it rocked.

Up the west end every Saturday,

The Mods, Punks and Skinheads all come out to play,

They really make me sick,

I could hit ‘em with a brick,

Say bollocks to a tramp,

Bollocks to a tramp,

Punks and Skins are tramps,

Say BOLLOCKSSSSSSSSS!!!

We got our first gig at a Mod all-dayer at the Ilford Palais. The crowd went crazy with 2,000 mods cheering at every line, and we were invited everywhere. Unfortunately the band fell at the first hurdle when the bass player got jealous and wanted to take over the vocals, so arranged for O’Dea to be kicked out. At the next gig, we opened with the bass player singing Bollocks to a tramp, and the audience sat all the way through, then clapped politely at the end of it. The magic was gone and the band soon split.

When Labour got rid of Tony Blair, I reflected on the sacking of John O’Dea. Even though I was politically closer to Gordon, I didn’t think it was a good idea to make the bass player into the Prime Minister when we had a star singer in Tony Blair.

Bill Clinton was another star. It’s questionable as to whether Obama would have won last year’s election without his help. Tony Blair could do the same thing for Ed Miliband, but Miliband wants to put space between Labour’s past and present.

Economic consensus has changed since the time of Clinton and Blair. We used to agree that aspiring to owning a house would lift people out of poverty. Even George W. Bush saw sub-prime mortgages as a way of ending poverty. The idea was that people instilled with aspiration lifted themselves up.

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Obama’s campaign started going wrong at the DNC

30/10/2012, 07:00:37 AM

by Jonathan Todd

My most recent visit to the USA coincided with the two weeks of the Democrat and Republican national conventions. This was an immense treat. I could flick through the TV channels and find opinions to suit any taste. Every evening ended with a big speech forming the next chapter of the election.

My standard patter came to be that president Obama needs to do three things to retain power:

First, define Mitt Romney before he defines himself. Second, defend his record in office. Third, own the future.

These are hardly earth shattering insights. They are the components of almost any successful political campaign. But my understanding of the race is formed by thinking them through.

Romney made it absurdly easy for Obama to define him in terms that favoured the incumbent. Romney is a religious man in a religious country who won’t talk about his religion. He is also a successful businessman who struggles to talk about his business career in convincing terms.

Just as military hero John Kerry was traduced to swift boat John Kerry in 2004, so too CEO Romney regressed to a tax dodging embodiment of the one percent. The key strengths of the challenger were decapitated and inversed by a brutal onslaught by the president.

Romney’s heavy use of TV advertising was important to him finally securing the Republican nomination in a race defined by the party flirting with any candidate other than the unloved and wooden Romney. He got a taste of his own medicine when David Alexrod targeted him in TV adverts on behalf of Obama. So successful was this phase of the campaign that it appeared Obama might win comfortably by not being Romney. And, ultimately, this may yet be just enough for Obama.

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US campaign diary: Three reasons for Democrats to be calm about tonight’s debate

16/10/2012, 07:00:23 AM

by Nikhil Dyundi

It’s nearly here. Two frustrating weeks since president Obama phoned in his performance in the Danville debate, he has the opportunity to make amends.

Across the nation, Democrat nerves will jangle and nails will be bitten. The more volatile will fear disaster at the end of every sentence while even the most confident will feel anxious.

But, in spite of the unavoidable tumult of emotion, rationally Dems should be calm. There are three reasons the result in New York tonight should be more to our liking: expectations about Romney’s performance, his weaknesses and the format

First, Romney is facing a tough fight in the media expectations game. He won last time out and won big. Anything less than a comparable result will have journalists writing about a drop in his level of performance.

The swing of the media pendulum is as predictable as it is exaggerated. The last fortnight gave them the opportunity to write a Romney rebound into reality. An avalanche of gushing pieces about the GOP candidate’s performance has changed the prism through which the public view the race and inevitably shifted the polls.

But that story has been written.

Barring a similarly pallid non-performance from Obama as in the first debate, a passable showing from the president will spawn a wave of comeback pieces.

A presidential fightback will give the media the new angle they need to churn through the next six days until the final debate. There will be review pieces on the performance, tick tock pieces on the minutiae of how the campaign prepared Obama and impact pieces looking at how it played in the battlegrounds.

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US campaign diary: a poor debate performance from Obama but Romney needs a lot more to change the game

05/10/2012, 04:29:37 PM

by Nikhil Dyundi

So Mitt Romney did well and president Obama phoned in his performance. It was unexpected and the Republicans are good for their positive headlines, but is it a game changer?

Simple answer: no.

There was no defining exchange, no zinger and no nightmare flub that can recast a candidate in an instant. We’ve already had one of those this electoral cycle. Rick Perry is a case study in what makes for one of those defining moments and unless I missed something, President Obama didn’t end up saying “oops” as he forgot one of his central policies.

If anything, the debate was just boring. Too many words from both candidates, too few answers, just charges repeated ad infinitum while the chair palpably failed to drive the exchanges with the vigour and verve that would have made for good TV.

Out in the country, opinions have already been formed. Nothing on Wednesday makes Mitt Romney less of the vulture capitalist. It’s impossible to undo weeks of dreadful headlines and little attempt was made by Romney to even address his negatives with voters.

The full impact of the debate will take time to percolate through the rolling 3 day samples of the tracker polls, but the one pollster who did a post-debate tracker –Ipsos Reuters – seems to validate this view.

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US campaign diary: the O-team is playing at a different level to the Romney campaign

20/08/2012, 07:00:10 AM

by Nikhil Dyundi

Want to see some smart politics?

On Friday, Jim Messina, Obama’s campaign manager wrote to his Romney counterpart, Matt Rhoades, with an offer:  a pledge not to pressure Romney to release more than five years of tax returns if the Republican nominee would disclose that much information.

Romney had previously stated that one of the reasons he was not releasing further returns is that Democrats will always call on him to put out more than he has (if he releases three years, they’ll want six, etc.)

Naturally, Romney refused. In the grand scheme of things it was a minor skirmish, but the thought process behind the Obama offer shows how Chicago are playing this game at a wholly different level to Romney’s team.

Turn the clock back to Thursday morning, and run through the O-team logic.

First, the audience: it sure as hell wasn’t Matt Rhoades and the Romney campaign. The main audience wasn’t even the voters. No, the primary target was the presidential media pack.

That reliable bell-whether of the conventional press wisdom, Politico, recently ran a piece on media whining about the tone of the race. Setting aside the short memories of these delicate reporters who seem to think the swift-boating of John Kerry to be a high point in campaign history, this type of background chatter provides the prism through which all reporting is projected.

Messina’s offer was designed to demonstrate bi-partisanship: a gentlemanly proposal raising the tone and seeming to give an opportunity to draw a line under the tax return issue.

For the grumbling press pack, the act of making the offer did two things: created a new campaign event about Romney’s returns to report and re-positioned the Obama campaign on the moral high ground.

The response to the offer, whatever it was going to be, would then open up new opportunities for the Obama campaign.

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Sunday News Review

11/09/2011, 06:33:19 AM

10 years on

On this 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of ­September 11, 2001, we remember that 9/11 was not only an attack on the United States, it was an attack on the world and on the humanity and hopes that we share. We remember that among the nearly 3,000 innocent people lost that day were hundreds of citizens from more than 90 nations, including 67 from the United Kingdom. They were men and women, young and old, of many races and faiths. On this solemn anniversary we join with their families and nations in honouring their memory. We remember with gratitude how 10 years ago the world came together as one. Around the UK, entire cities came to a standstill for moments of silence. People offered their prayers in churches, mosques, ­synagogues and other places of worship. And we in the United States will never forget how the people of Britain stood with us in ­solidarity in candlelight vigils and among the seas of flowers placed at our embassy in London. We are touched that the UK will honour the victims again today – including by breaking with protocol and flying the Union Flag at half-mast at its ­embassy and consulates in the United States. – Barack Obama, the Mirror

Manhattan is always a hectic place. It is frequently gridlocked and its citizens are used to hustling their way through crowded streets and subways. But on Saturday it was different. As New York prepared to mark the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, a new terror alert provided a grim reminder that a decade of war and struggle has not removed the threat. The visible evidence was all over New York. In the wake of an unconfirmed but scarily specific threat that three terrorists, likely to be aiming to use a car or truck bomb, had entered the country to attack the Big Apple, the city went into a kind of security lockdown. Yet, through it all, New Yorkers were urged to keep calm and carry on. “If you do lock yourself in your house because you’re scared, they’re winning,” Bloomberg said on his weekly radio show. Most people seemed to agree. Even with a wary eye on the security efforts, people seemed to feel it was still business as usual. “They look like they know what they are doing. I’m going to keep acting normal,” said Izzie Garcia as she arrived in Manhattan’s Union Square for an early start to a morning of shopping in her favourite stores. Bloomberg was also leading by example. It was he who had appeared on the nation’s TV screens to give the first official public details of the new terror threat. At a press conference in New York he had warned of the dangers and had urged New Yorkers to keep taking the subway. – the Observer

In America they speak of the “lost decade”. The moment it began is obvious: the morning of 11 September 2001, when the world’s lone superpower fell victim to the most devastating terrorist attack of modern times. Its end, however, is harder to date. One answer is 1 May this year, when a team of Navy Seals tracked down and killed Osama bin Laden at his hideaway in Pakistan. A circle was complete; after almost 10 years of frustration, false leads and continuous war, the master planner of 9/11 had finally paid for his crime. But look at it another way and the answer is not so obvious. In these 10 years America has lost much, in terms of lives, treasure and reputation. Most of all, perhaps, it has lost its illusions. One, that its home territory was invulnerable, beyond the reach of hostile foreigners, vanished on that terrible Tuesday morning. But a decade on, another no less cherished illusion has disappeared as well: the certainty that whatever happened in the world beyond, America was a place of infinite opportunity and ever-growing prosperity. – the Independent

New Scottish Labour

The Scottish Labour Party has put in place the first building block for its fightback in Scotland. It decided that Iain Gray’s successor as leader will not, as now, just be leader of Labour’s MSPs but leader of the whole party in Scotland. The review group recognised that for an individual to have the authority to lead Labour in Scotland all sections of the party must be involved in his/her selection and know their views will count. So the base from which a future leader can be drawn has been expanded. No longer will a candidate have to be an MSP, instead any Labour parliamentarian will be free to stand – MPs, MSPs and MEPs. However, it will be clear that whoever becomes leader will be Labour’s candidate for First Minister of Scotland. Expanding the gene pool from which a future leader is drawn is a first but insufficient step. The basic building block of Labour Party organisation has always been its Constituency Parties (CLPs). These are based on Westminster boundaries. The consequence has been that gearing up to fight a general election has been much easier than preparing to fight a Scottish Parliament election. Often MSPs or candidates have had to deal with two, three or even four CLPs, wasting time, effort and money on internal organisation when their time would have been more productively spent linking into their local communities. The new organisational base for Labour in Scotland will be based on Scottish Parliamentary boundaries reflecting our determination to have an organisation fit for purpose to fight the Scottish Parliament elections in 2016. – Scotland on Sunday

Proposals by MP Jim Murphy will go before their ruling executive committee today which could “transform” the party. The blueprint is the result of a four-month review led by Murphy and MSP Sarah Boyack following Labour’s crushing defeat in the Holyrood election. Insiders who have seen secret presentations by the pair say the plans amount to Labour’s biggest shake-up since 1918. But some changes could prove so controversial with sections of of the party that there are no guarantees the committee of MPs, MSPs, union leaders, local party bosses and others will give their approval when they meet in Glasgow today. Under the radical plans, Scottish Labour would: Loosen ties with the UK party, Appoint a Scottish leader – who might not be an MSP – with unprecedented powers to shape policy and plan strategy north of the Border, Kick out long-serving MPs and MSPs and train a new generation of “top notch” candidates, Reconnect with the business world and Haul themselves into the 21st century by using social media for campaigning. – Daily Record

Don’t cut the 50p rate

One of the biggest names in British business has told the government not to scrap the new 50p rate of income tax. The former head of Marks & Spencer, Sir Stuart Rose has not only said he opposes the move but is happy to pay more tax to help the country out of its current financial difficulties. Rose is the biggest name so far to oppose the move which has been backed by a group of 20 economists on Wednesday, who feel the levy is hurting the UK’s competitiveness. Rose told BBC Radio 4’s Hard Talk yesterday: ‘I don’t think that they should reduce the income tax rate. How would I explain to my secretary that I am getting less tax on my income, which is palpably bigger than hers, when hers is now going down?’ Rose’s comments are in stark contrast to former Conservative Chancellor Nigel Lawson who urged George Osborne to axe the 50p top rate of income tax, warning it is ‘dangerous’ and ‘foolish’ to leave it in place. – Daily Mail

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YourKen: can a website really change the game?

27/08/2011, 12:24:47 PM

by Adam Richards

This week marked a big step forward for Labour in London and Ken Livingstone’s campaign to win back City Hall, with the launch of his campaign volunteer website, YourKen.org.

YourKen.org is clearly inspired by the success of Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, my.barackobama.com which did so much of the mobilising of his support during the Democrat primary contest, and to a lesser extent the SNP’s campaign during the recent Scottish elections.

The website is built on the same technology from the US-based company, NationBuilder. The founder, Jim Gilliam, talking about his tools said ‘too often, online efforts are seen as a sideline to the offline efforts of a campaign’.

The success of NationBuilder is bringing online and offline communities’ together, empowering volunteers and energising campaigns. And it works. One example makes the point. Thanks to an ingenious system 50 SNP party supporters instantaneously signalled on Facebook their “like” for a speech by Alex Salmond during the buildup to the Scottish elections; simultaneously a video of the speech appeared on their Facebook news feeds. That clever device meant that 60,000 people instantly became aware of the speech and had the opportunity to view it. Pretty powerful stuff.

The key theme that runs through YourKen.org is community  which is important to consider in light of recent events in London. Outside of the micro-community of the [extended] family the key next two obvious communities are those of interest and those of place- both in quite obviously in decline. Fewer people know their neighbours names now than in decades past, especially in London with its high levels of residential churn and population mobility.

In my view there is a third kind of community though, the most important- that of time-based, or temporal communities. These are communities that come together either intentionally or serendipitously, often as a one-off and to make a formal decision or declaration to take action at a moment in time. Like an election. (more…)

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Obama and Merkel can still make history, not be its victims

10/08/2011, 08:00:04 AM

by Jonathan Todd

People make their own history, as Karl Marx knew and Angela Merkel and Barack Obama cannot deny, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past. Over hundreds of years America has evolved to a fiercely divided, uncompromising polis wedded to a system demanding compromise. Over decades Europe has achieved monetary union. Thousands of years of history hang over its fiscal consummation, which is required to avoid collapse and further calamity. The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living.
One of the ironies of Marx is that communism was supposedly inevitable, but his tombstone declares that the point is to change the world, not interpret it. What’s to change if history’s terminus is already determined? What was the point of agitating publications like the Communist Manifesto if we were all, in spite of ourselves, destined for communism?

Such publications imply that Marx himself may not have seen communism as quite the iron certainty that rigid interpretations of his writing suggest. But one of the divisions between Marxism and much of the rest of the left concerns the extent to which we are prisoners of history. Parties such Labour predicate themselves on an assumption that the institutions of advanced capitalist democracies can be moulded to serve socially just ends. Ed Miliband’s father, of course, like other Marxists, thought this naive.

Recent economic events seem to vindicate Ralph Miliband. Political leadership seems oxymoronic when our nominal leaders appear only witnesses to events that they can barely fathom, let alone command. (In the non-economic sphere, our Tuscan prime minister is similarly bemused by the revenge of the lumpenproletariat). Nothing has happened to undermine James Carville’s famous wish to come back as the bond market and intimidate everybody. It’s these markets that are in the box seat and our political leaders that are cowered.

What they demand are credible plans from governments to repay their creditors. This isn’t unreasonable. I expect you’d want to see credible repayment plans before you leant non-trivial amounts of money. The governments of the third and fourth largest economies in the eurozone, Italy and Spain, seem increasingly unable to produce such plans. The downgrade of the USA, though unjustified, speaks to a similar lack of confidence in America’s ability to manage its debts.

While events seem to lead towards the largest country in the world that still professes to be communist, China, being an ever more dominant geo-political force, the Marxists should not be too triumphant. The markets are, of course, as powerful as James Carville’s wildest dream and Ralph Miliband’s bleakest nightmare. But they do not remain beyond the capacity of political leaders to have them becalmed. That is if political leaders do what it says on their tin; lead.
This doesn’t mean interpreting opinion polls as immovable. Germany, for example, could swing behind the full steps required to save the euro if Merkel articulated them well enough. It means seeing your electorate as intelligent beings capable of being won over by the force of your argument and your actions. Merkel and Obama can still do this. But only if they stop being intimidated not only by the bond markets but also by opinion polls, their political opponents and their own inevitable failure to hold in their minds every relevant fact and figure. (more…)

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