Posts Tagged ‘Putin’

David Cameron’s vulgar obsession with image

10/11/2010, 09:02:41 AM

by Tom Watson

It was Vladimir Dmitrievich Nabokov who wrote “complacency is a state of mind that exists only in retrospective: it has to be shattered before being ascertained”.

When the history of the Cameron-Clegg administration is written, Andy Parsons will be a footnote to the coalition chronicles, a fleeting fact in a wider story of ultra-pragmatism and opportunity. He will feature more prominently on photographic bookplates than amid the text.

And yet, in the last week of the sixth month of this unique political construct, Mr Parsons has come to symbolise something more than the unbounded personal ambition of Messrs Cameron and Clegg.

He is an expression of the super-ego of the Prime Minister. And as any Zen Buddhist will tell you, the ego, unlike an Andy Coulson bad news day, is hard to extinguish. (more…)

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Chris Bryant reports from the Khodorkovsky trial

24/09/2010, 09:58:59 AM

Russia can often seem surreal. Layer upon layer of history. Ivan the Terrible, Peter the Great, Lenin, Stalin, Yeltsin – and now Putin/Medvedev.

For all the oligarchic bling in all the shops, the red stars on the top of the Kremlin towers suggest Communism is still alive and the very walls of the fortress themselves seem to invite kremlinology. Who really pulls the strings? Is it the President, Medvedev, who is organising the probably accurate smearing of the Moscow mayor, which has dominated the state-run media for the last two weeks? Or is it Putin? And why are they doing it now, when mayor Luzkhov’s term runs out soon and he is barred from standing again? All too often, the labyrinthine political chicanery and the extraordinarily tight circle of the very well-heeled elite reminds one of communism, but without the ideology.

At the heart of the parabola of surrealism lies the legal system. Torture is endemic according to Amnesty International. Many prisons would be better termed ‘penal colonies’ or indeed ‘gulags’. Thousands are infected with HIV and have little or no medical care. And the criminal justice system is regularly used to settle political scores.

I went to see one such case this Monday.  The courtroom, on the third floor of a tired Moscow building, was tiny, panelled with cheap varnished plywood, its parquet flooring scuffed by decades of rearrangements of the furniture. At the front, a dais with the double-headed Romanov eagle and the flag of the Russian Federation limply hanging from a thumb tack and a piece of sellotape. To the left a sort of tank, made of reinforced glass and chunky steel, in which stood the two defendants, Platon Lebedev and Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

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