Posts Tagged ‘Joe Biden’

The ripples from the US election and its aftermath could profoundly affect Labour’s journey from here

25/01/2021, 09:17:33 AM

by Rob Marchant

It should be uncontroversial at this point, for any (small-“d”) democrat, to say that the election of Joe Biden is immensely good news for the world in general. Following the final debacle of Trump’s disastrous presidency, the Capitol insurrection, the alternative in retrospect seems ever more unthinkable, because it is now clear that his open contempt for democracy could easily have led the US to a much, much darker place than happened on the 6th of January.

We are now at least in the happy position of going back to something resembling politics-as-usual. We can finally start to critique the new presidency as we would have done any other and, for us on the left, things mostly look very promising. But there are also some flaws, as we shall see.

But, at the risk of seeming a little parochial, what’s in it for us? What difference does it make to us, the Labour party, in its struggle to clean itself up and get back into power?

The good news is that, obviously, we will have an occupant of the White House who might be reasonably expected to prefer a Starmer-led government to a Johnson-led one (as indeed he would prefer an anyone-led government, if insider accounts of Biden’s dislike for our current PM is to be believed. One thing is clear: there will be a serviceable working relationship between the two leaders – there always is – but it will not be a chummy, personal one, like Clinton-Blair or Bush-Blair).

There are two caveats to this positive: first, Starmer needs not to do anything ill-advised. For example, this effect didn’t work so well with Ed Miliband, who was reportedly persona non grata in the Obama White House for some time, following his disastrous handling of the Syria vote in the Commons. Second, that this kind of “left-left” alignment is not usually much direct help anyway, although some occasional supportive noises from the president might help a little to build Starmer’s desired image as a PM-in-waiting.

And now to the bad news.

First, there will be things Starmer will want just as much as Johnson, which Biden may not help with, or even actively work against. On a post-Brexit trade deal, for example, all the signs are that Biden may well opt for Obama’s celebrated “back of the queue” position. Or that from this, the first president with Irish roots to win office in twenty-eight years, help in resisting what is likely to be increasing pressure towards Irish reunification seems unlikely to be forthcoming. These issues need to be handled with care.

Second, and perhaps more concerning, there are concrete things Biden has already done, and others he might do very soon, which can create a negative knock-on for Starmer. Why so?

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The Uncuts 2020 (part III)

01/01/2021, 09:52:21 PM

U-turn of the Year: Boris Johnson and the Northern Ireland Protocol

‘You turn if you want to,’ Margaret Thatcher famously declared at the 1980 Conservative conference, ‘the Lady’s not for turning.’

Only she was.

Having let ten republican hunger strikers go to their deaths a few months later, she quietly relented on their central demands to be treated as political prisoners.

And having promised Ulster unionists that she would not play footsie with Dublin, Thatcher foisted the Anglo-Irish Agreement on them out of the blue in 1985 – guaranteeing the Irish government a say over Northern Ireland’s affairs.

Following in his heroine’s footsteps, Boris Johnson has also pulled off a similar U-turn, with the smell of burning rubber still hanging in the air.

The Northern Ireland Protocol guarantees there is no hard border on the island of Ireland by introducing a border in the Irish Sea instead – a key demand from Brussels, with adroit lobbying from Dublin and a not-so-subtle intervention from US President-elect, Joe Biden.

It means that Northern Ireland effectively stays inside the ambit of the EU when it comes to the import and export of goods.

This is not, shall we say, what Boris Johnson promised when he addressed the Democratic Unionist Party conference in 2018.

Back then, he told delegates that special arrangements for Northern Ireland would mean consigning it to the status of an ‘economic semi-colony of the EU.’

This would be ‘damaging the fabric of the Union’ and mean regulatory checks and customs controls between Britain and Northern Ireland.

‘No British Conservative government could or should sign up to anything of the kind,’ he said.

You do not need a crystal ball to work out what happened next.

To say there is apoplexy among unionists and loyalists over Boris’s betrayal is an epic understatement. (And we are talking David-Lean-Lawrence-of-Arabia-epic).

Yet, there are fewer and fewer unionist sympathisers in Westminster and so no-one is particularly miffed on their behalf.

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The Uncuts: 2020 Political Awards (part I)

30/12/2020, 10:30:02 PM

Best International Politician: Joe Biden  

Our hearts may have entered 2020 longing for it to be last year of Donald Trump’s presidency. But our heads should have told us that one term presidents are rarely beaten, especially when benefitting from a growing economy and strong approval ratings for economic management.

In early February, Joe Biden secured a lower vote share at the Iowa caucus than Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg (we said, this time last year, he was one to watch and is now the President-elect’s nominee for Secretary of Transport).

Covid-19 transformed the Trump presidency and the Biden candidacy. It took a global pandemic to politically expose Trump’s inability to effectively run the federal government and make resonate Biden’s backstory of grief, resolve and decency.

While Covid-19 upended the presidential race, Biden deserves immense credit for fighting it on his own terms – not allowing himself to be goaded by Trump into spats on Twitter or elsewhere, failing to provide an easy target for Trump’s attacks on “radical socialism”, and maintaining consistent message discipline throughout the campaign.

Now this message – building back better for all Americans – needs to be made real. In a deeply divided country, with a political system grounded in bipartisanship, this will not be easy. But is a fight that Biden must win to overcome Trumpism, even if his victory over Trump makes him one of 2020’s heroes.

Political Self-Harm Award: Jeremy Corbyn.

In an unrivalled act of foot-shooting the former leader decided, after explicitly being asked not to undermine in any way the results of the EHRC report into anti-Semitism, did exactly that, declaring that said anti-Semitism had been “dramatically overstated for political reasons”.

For his trouble, he earned himself a suspension of the PLP whip and his party membership, suspensions which the party reportedly had not remotely planned to impose until his unwanted intervention.

While the party’s existing and undeniably flawed disciplinary procedure allowed his reinstatement as a party member, Keir Starmer informed him that the PLP whip, which was a matter for the leader personally, would not be reinstated and that Corbyn would sit for the present as an independent in the Commons.

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President Biden: a great victory for America, the world, and the left

08/11/2020, 10:39:13 PM

by Jonathan Todd

Benjamin Netanyahu has been prime minister of Israel for longer than anyone else in the history of the state. Vladimir Putin is Russia’s longest-serving leader since Stalin. Silvio Berlusconi served as prime minister of Italy for longer than anyone since World War II.

America has done well to rid itself of its right-wing populist president in only four years – especially when set against the infrequency of one-term US presidents and the advantages bestowed on the Republicans by the Electoral College.

It seems, more than anything else, his shambolic handling of a pandemic that has now killed approaching 240,000 Americans undermined President Trump. The departing president has had an uneasy relationship with scientists, like Dr Anthony Fauci, that advise on Covid-19.

Rather than being beheaded, as Trump’s former adviser, Steve Bannon, suggested, Fauci will be empowered under President Biden. While no heads appeared on pikes outside the Trump White House, he went further than any other US president to normalise violence as a political tool – recently, for example, failing to condemn his supporters who blocked Biden’s campaign bus.

The transition to Biden is a step away from aggression and grievance, towards compassion and reason. America has turned a page. With more votes than other candidate in American history and the highest vote share of any challenger since FDR in 1932, Biden will win the popular vote by more than four million.

Polls prior to the election indicated that the Democrats would win the presidency, Senate and House so decisively that Biden would enjoy the latitude to introduce a programme of reform as ambitious as that introduced by FDR with relative ease. Sadly, America did not quite so comprehensively turn the page. But Biden enters the White House with the need for such transformative legislation much more widely recognised – including, it might be suspected, by the incoming president himself – than when his most immediate Democratic predecessors, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, did so.

Having campaigned in poetry, there is a desperate need for Biden prose big enough to meet America’s deep problems. However, notwithstanding the opportunity afforded in January by two elections in Georgia to salvage Democratic control of the Senate, such ambitions likely depend upon Republican Senate votes.

Biden represents change, the persistent importance of Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate, continuity. Perhaps, given the sand that McConnell threw in Obama’s wheels, bitterly so.

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What story has Starmer come to tell Britain?

21/09/2020, 08:15:07 AM

by Jonathan Todd

At a recent meeting of the PLP, Kevin Brennan congratulated Keir Starmer on, “getting us from the carousel at Katmandu airport to base camp at Everest, in good shape for the long climb ahead.”

While Labour party conference should digitally pat itself on the back for six months of progress under Starmer, the challenges ahead remain daunting.

Harold Wilson won four general elections. Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair both won three. Absorbing what these different characters had in common might help Starmer.

“At their peak,” writes Steve Richards in his wonderful study of modern prime ministers, “they were all political teachers. They sought to make sense of what they were doing or what was happening around them. This was especially the case with Thatcher and Blair. Thatcher was an instinctive teacher, making complex ideas and contentious policies become reassuringly accessible.”

Thatcher came along at about the same time as Reagan, as Blair overlapped with Clinton, and Johnson with Trump. As if there is some Atlantic ideological synchronicity.

“In the competition with the USSR,” which Reagan won with the support of Thatcher, “it was above all the visible superiority of the western model that eventually destroyed Soviet communism from within,” writes Anatol Lieven in October’s Prospect magazine. “Today, the superiority of the western model to the Chinese model is not nearly so evident to most of the world’s population; and it is on successful western domestic reform that victory in the competition with China will depend.”

The global sense that quality of life was greatest in the west, which the Reagan and Thatcher era exuded, morphed into a hubris that left weaknesses within the west unaddressed during the Clinton and Blair epoch, so much so that the focus of the magazine in which Lieven writes is whether democracy can survive the Trump and Johnson years.

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