Posts Tagged ‘bill clinton’

A warning from 2008: Do not assume Corona leads to a new progressive moment

08/04/2020, 10:03:58 AM

by Jake Richards

Keir Starmer has been elected leader of the Labour Party amidst crisis. His priority, rightly, is to show that the country now has a credible and coherent Leader of the Opposition who is willing to work with the Government during the outbreak of Covid-19. However, Starmer and the newly appointed Shadow Chancellor Anneliese Dodds, will already be beginning to assess how the crisis will affect the broader political environment.

It is tempting to assume the zeitgeist of the corona outbreak will be progressive. A Conservative government has embraced the most interventionist state economic programme since the war, essentially nationalising a closed-down economy, whilst rough sleeping has been wiped out and hospitals created seemingly overnight. Images and videos of the public applauding our NHS workers have gone viral. A new appreciation for ‘key workers’ in the ‘real economy’ — rubbish collectors, those in the food supply chain, delivery drivers — has emerged. The sense of community spirit combined with the anger at examples of scurrilous businesses taking advantage of taxpayers or employees is more evidence that this is a ‘moment of the left’.

Already, articles by left-wing thinkers are heralding ‘capitalism’s gravest challenge’, the transformation of the private sector and a new popular outcry for ‘big government’.

There was a similar sense after the 2008 financial crash and government intervention around the world ended an ideological reverence to self-correcting markets. In the 12 years since, the Conservatives have won four General Elections, the UK has left the European Union, and in America, India, Brazil and Russia (and elsewhere) we have witnessed the rise of a nationalist populism many thought was confined to the 20th Century. Indeed, although the immediate response to Covid-19 has been statist in a progressive sense, it is easy to envisage a reactionary, isolationist response developing in relation to our borders and trade soon developing.

Whilst a new active state during the crisis offers Labour an array of policy options, the new leader should proceed with caution. Labour has just suffered a devastating defeat on a platform arguing for a massively expanded Government — with nationalisation of key industries, free broadband for all and the development of a universal basic income. Focus groups and polling undertaken after the election revealed voters simply did not believe many of Labour’s policies (however popular on paper) were realistic or welcome as a package. The unpopularity of a universal basic income was striking — suggesting a deep reverence to personal responsibility and work, and a suspicion of ‘free handouts’.


Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Hillary Clinton’s damaged goods. It was madness for the Democrats to choose her

16/09/2016, 10:27:26 AM

by Kevin Meagher

It’s safe to say the Clintons have cast a long shadow over the Labour party.

A generation of political professionals have imbibed the campaigning techniques that propelled Bill to the presidency in 1992 and 1996, with two ambitious young Labour frontbenchers sent over to learn from the master at close quarters.

The lessons Tony Blair and Gordon Brown brought back with them have pretty much shaped everything Labour has done since. Rapid rebuttal. ‘It’s the economy, stupid.’ Triangulation. New Labour was born in that war room in Little Rock.

But now the Clintons have had their day. Bill was a good domestic president, focusing ‘like a laser beam’ on the economy; balancing the budget, creating jobs and presiding over a decade of prosperity.

But he is also venal and morally-corroded. A Vietnam draft-dodger who, while Governor of Arkansas, notoriously sent a mentally-disabled man to his death, just so he didn’t look weak on the death penalty, (the issue that hobbled Michel Dukakis’s 1988 tilt at the White House).

Never mind that impeachment business.

Despite his many good works as president, a trail of slime followed the Clintons throughout their time in the White House. As people, Bill and Hillary make Frank and Claire Underwood in House of Cards look like Tom and Barbara from The Good Life.


Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Will we ever see the likes of Blair again?

30/07/2014, 09:56:25 AM

by Jonathan Todd

We are now too cynical to entertain the idea of a leader who defeats all, reconciles all and ultimately encompasses all, Janan Ganesh concluded following Tony Blair’s Progress speech. We won’t see his like again. And in their absence, Ganesh observes, Labour seeks a squeaked victory on a left-wing platform, while the Tories devote all campaign resources to 40 seats that they are trying to retain and 40 more that they aspire to gain.

Given the seeming lack of traction for a Blair-like big tent, the two largest parties battle a war of attrition, both closer to their voting and ideological citadels than Blair preferred.

Is the centre ground, which Blair dominated, so drained of potency that neither of the largest parties is best served by squarely holding it?

We might attach personnel or structural explanations for neither Labour nor Tory rushing to do so.

“Tony Blair,” according to a Labour strategist quoted by George Eaton, “was doing an impression of Bill Clinton, and David Cameron was doing an awful impression of Tony Blair. Ed has no interest in doing an impression of David Cameron.” If we conclude that Cameron and Miliband lack the capacities of Blair and Clinton, we might explain their non-centrist strategies in terms of personnel.

There is, however, a British leader seeking to command the same terrain as held by Blair, Nick Clegg, which has led John Rentoul to diagnose the paradox of centrist politics. This is that elections are supposed to be won in the centre ground, but the one party that occupies precisely that territory is facing damnation – meaning to be cut by about half – in next year’s election.


Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

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,


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.


Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Sunday Review on Monday: Bill Clinton at policy network

19/11/2012, 07:00:52 AM

by Jonathan Todd

In the closing stages of the US presidential election Joe Klein voiced “the frustration that many informed voters have had with this race: Romney’s proposals for the next four years are ridiculous; the President’s are nonexistent … The vast majority of people in the vast majority of states are irrelevant to the process. The campaigns brag about their ability to microtarget voters. That is precisely what we’ve gotten: a whole lot of micro at a time when macro is sorely needed.”

Now that the Republicans have thrown all they could at Barack Obama, securing less popular votes for Mitt Romney than John McCain managed after the nadir of George W Bush and failing to deny the Democrats another four years in the White House, it seems almost churlish to revisit Klein’s moans.

But Bill Clinton brought them to mind last Thursday night at Policy Network and Global Progress’ launch of a major programme of transatlantic political dialogue. While full of praise for Obama’s hyper-efficient machine, which “knew the names of all undecided voters, the names of their children and their TV viewing habits”, Clinton stressed the continued importance of the macro vision that Klein felt was lost this year.

He argued that tough economic conditions set Obama a testing re-election challenge, meaning that he had to utilise every advantage, including micro-targeting of voters so precise as to outdo the slickest corporate campaigns. Progressives should, however, seek to hold the centre, as this will deliver a majority of support, irrespective of micro-targeting.


Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Advice for Ed: Bill Clinton’s lessons for Ed Miliband

29/09/2012, 01:00:43 PM

by David Talbot

There are many legacies of the Bill Clinton presidency, not all of them, admittedly, particularly advisable, but two should influence Ed Miliband most of all as he strides across the platform in Manchester to deliver his third speech as Labour leader.

Turning the clocks back 19 years, a newly-elected Bill Clinton already faced the most daunting task of his fledging presidency. He had ridden a wave of optimism, with a degree of luck, to easily defeat rival Democrats for the nomination and sweep George H. W. Bush from the White House with consummate ease. But his campaign pledge of “fighting for the forgotten middle class” with tax cuts, investment in education and a new health care plan was immediately in danger upon his inauguration with the realisation that the deficit had to be attacked in order to ensure the long-term health of the economy.

The president was faced with the unenviable situation of being forced into delivering economic pain now so that growth could return years later – just in time for his successors. The first few months of the administration was a fight for the mind of the president as to which strategy to honour.

It was the most important legislative issue of the Clinton presidency. Clinton chose a budget of tax rises, spending cuts and a clear commitment of rein in the deficit. It cleared Congress by two votes and the Senate by a single vote. Enactment of the legislation was viewed at the White House as essential to Clinton’s ultimate success as president.

Seven years later, 21 million jobs and the longest economic expansion in US history, it is fair to say Clinton got it right. The US enjoyed its first budget surplus in nearly 30 years as incomes rose on successive years. It was, though, painful. The president broke a direct campaign pledge and personally paid a heavy price on his political conscience.

The similarity with Clinton in 1993 and Miliband in 2012 are stark. Just as then, the economy is a mess. Unemployment is rising; the deficit is enormous, personal debt frighteningly high, the property market in freefall. The economy is going to be central to the struggle for Downing Street in 2015, just as it was for Clinton’s White House bid in 1992.

The first legacy Miliband should take from this past president is one of fiscal responsibility – that of appealing to those voters who consider themselves conservative on debt and deficit issues. At this present time, whether the Labour party likes it or not, that means three quarters of the British public. The second is that it may be appropriate to break campaign promises, or to go directly against the ideological grain of a party’s thought, because of changing political circumstances.

The villains in the Clinton struggle for his 1993 budget were militant Republicans and in particular Senator Bob Dole and Speaker of the House Newt Gringrich. The US people never forgot their intransigence, including the shutting down of the federal government  in 1995, and duly gave Dole a kicking in the 1996 presidential election and rewarded Gringrich with a mere 14% of the vote in the Republican primaries some seventeen years later.

The Labour leader needs to at long last detail a clear line on the deficit in his conference speech. The early days that ushered in the New Year where Miliband, with his Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls, sketched out a position of fiscal realism seem worryingly long ago.

Miliband has a choice. He can continue the fantasy that a new Labour government would return to the spending levels seen in the boom of the 2000s. Or he can accept, as Clinton did, the political and economic reality in which he now operates in.

Clinton didn’t become president to cut the deficit; but he realised it was a means to an end to achieve the political ambitions he held for himself, his party and his country.

David Talbot is a political consultant

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Lessons for Labour from Little Rock, Arkansas

25/01/2012, 08:33:24 AM

by Jonathan Todd

The main gallery of Bill Clinton’s presidential library in Little Rock, Arkansas, which I visited last month, contains sections on the various achievements of his presidency. The first three to greet visitors are on deficit reduction, crime and welfare. Too often, these are considered right-wing issues. But Clinton counts them amongst his proudest achievements.

His autobiography recalls that he was “always somewhat amused to hear some members of the press characterise (welfare reform) as a Republican issue, as if valuing work was something only conservatives did”. Peter Watt has recently reasserted on Uncut the value that Labour places on work, not avoiding work, which should be reflected in our approach to welfare. Those who can work should be incentivised to do so; those who can’t should receive the support they need. In other words, from each according to his ability, to each according to his need.

Rather than appealing to the slogans of Karl Marx, Clinton’s autobiography justifies his concern with welfare in terms of the real life experiences of Lillie Hardin. She had moved from welfare to work under a scheme introduced by Clinton as governor of Arkansas. He invited her to give evidence on her experience to a governors’ meeting in Washington and asked if she thought able-bodied people on welfare should be forced to take jobs if they were available.

“I sure do,” she replied. “Otherwise we’ll just lay around watching the soaps all day.” Then Clinton asked Hardin what was the best thing about being off welfare. Immediately, she answered, “When my boy goes to school and they ask him, ‘What does your mama do for a living’? he can give an answer”. Which Clinton claims is the best argument he has ever heard for welfare reform.


Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Will Rick Perry be the Republican Clinton?

24/08/2011, 12:53:57 PM

by Jonathan Todd

At the start of May I argued that President Obama was as vulnerable to a challenger emerging as the seemingly ascendant George W H Bush was at the same time in 1991. This view was then out of kilter with the beltway view of Obama as a two term president. Subsequently the US has suffered an unprecedented credit downgrade, its economy has continued to struggle and grumbles about Obama, most recently due to his holidaying at a “millionaires’ playground”, have got louder.

Republicans are increasingly confident that Obama is Jimmy Carter. But the election will be a choice, not a referendum on Obama. They need a more convincing choice to win. As the early Republican pacesetters have not convinced, the stage remains set for a Republican Bill Clinton.

To date, tea party favourite Michelle Bachmann has probably done the best job of appealing to Republicans with misgivings, such as Romneycare and Mormonism, about the frontrunner, Mitt Romney. There may be enough such conservative voters for Romney to be defeated in January’s Iowa caucuses. The former Baptist pastor Mike Huckerbee won in this first state to vote in 2008.

God isn’t calling Huckerbee to run this time. However, God is said to have called Rick Santorum and Rick Perry, as well as Bachmann. Either they are suffering crossed wires or God’s mind is yet to be made up. God wouldn’t be the only one. The Republican race is fluid.

While Rick Perry’s backing for the three-time married Rudy Giuliani in 2008 and rumours about his own marriage are concerns for some religious voters, his leading of vast prayer meetings enables him to pitch to the religious right. That 40 percent of new US jobs since June 2009 have been created in Texas, where Perry is governor, also creates the basis – though other aspects of Texas’ economy undermine this – for appeal to those (i.e. everyone) with economic worries. A candidate able to challenge Romney for his strongest card, economic competence, and rival Bachmann for the religious right vote has a shout of being the Republican candidate.

There are various ways that this could play out. (more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon