Tuesday, 24 June 2008

The Right Way  


Many would say that, with George W. Bush and his Republican Party holding onto power for the past two terms, Silvio Berlusconi regaining power (despite all the charges of corruption and incompetence which mired his previous sojourn in the top job) as the Prime Minister and even the Labour Party in the UK moving inexorably to the right, that the right of politics has finally been victorious. Indeed, despite all the excitement generated by Barack Obama's nomination as the Democratic candidate, the strongest lobbying groups in the United States remain those of the religious right - all of whom are likely to make more vociferous efforts than ever top elect a Republican considering that the alternative is a black liberal.

Politicians in the United States - even the most liberal of Democrats - avoid saying that they are liberal. The word liberal is now a dirty word and the replacement, 'Progressive' has been used in such a negative way by the right wing media such as Fox News (and particularly the infamous Bill O'Reilly) that it too has become a dirty word. Equally, across Europe (even France where Sarkozy has tried to dramatically alter France's traditionally left wing perspective) countries are moving more and more towards the right, even if they themselves are governed by supposedly left wing parties.

Part of the reason for this, particularly in Europe, is immigration. The rather melodramatic view of the right wing is that it thrives on fear. To a certain extent right wing politicians do thrive on the results of fear even if they themselves rarely engender it (I believe that the vast majority of right wing politicians are as much influenced by fear as those people they choose to represent). There is a situation where far more people are emigrating to other countries and this, in the richer Western countries, is causing the sort of xenophobia and fear that (unfortunately) seems to always arise when people are faced with what is different. Equally, the threat of terrorism, however much it is exaggerated to a ridiculous degree does mean that the right will gain more votes than the left. Frankly, pacifists are less likely to vote and the general populace seem to want revenge and security and all the things that the right promise them with hard line speeches.

The left, particularly in America, faces the twin problem that the right wing voters are always likely to vote and that the left wing voters are far less likely to vote. As such, if it is a rainy day Democrats stay at home whereas the Republicans, spurred on by their churches flock to the polls. It may well be the case that Barack Obama is far more popular than John McCain in opinion polls, but when it comes to the actual election he needs people to turn up. The right often see elections in America as a mission - a God-given mission - and that they have a duty to vote.

However, there are two last remaining hopes for Liberals in Western nations. In America it is that the Republicans, having made such an awful mess of the past eight years in power, that they have damaged the country's economy and foreign policy to such an extent that the general populace rise up and actually turn up to vote. This is a real possibility and could also be the case in Berlusconi's Italy. However, in the majority of the other European states (particularly France, Germany and the UK) the left can only see its own demise and its only hope is that it will bring the right with it.

The most powerful of the European nations are also those who are ignoring their politics the most. The British in particular have managed to elect a relatively right wing Labour Party and could soon a relatively left wing Conservative Party. In reality they are both centralist parties who share more ideologies and even policies than they would care to mention. Ultimately the left and the right are dead in these countries and there is only left that which is popular/electable. It will be a shame to see the end of true political ideologies and differences between political parties, but when a party's sole goal is to be elected it is understandable that they would rid themselves of anything that could hinder their election (such as a clear identity).

I would personally say that the American situation is preferable as at least there is a clear choice. Europe is old and tired and has lost its will for political fighting and, perhaps, for all his narcissism, corruption and frightening nationalism we need more people like Silvio Berlusconi - even if it is just as a reason to reject him with all our hearts.

Sunday, 15 June 2008

Lost Anything Lately?  


OK, so I have to admit to being a little absent minded. In fact the amount of umbrellas I have left over the period of my life on various trains, buses and in bars and restaurants could fill an entire train carriage.

However, I cannot remember a time (nor can I imagine a time) where I have either:

a) Taken out and read sensitive documents (admittedly I do not tend to read such documents very often)

b) Subsequently left said sensitive documents on the train, failed to get them back, to only find where the documents are when they have been reported by the media

Okay, so I do not work in the civil service and I am unlikely to be in this position. But surely the debacle of the top secret information passed onto the BBC by a train passenger should not have been repeated within days? Surely when there has been one huge embarrassment other civil servants would take special care not to leave their paperwork on a train?

It is true that, as Geoff Hoon recently stated, the last batch of paperwork did not include secret information. However, that is not really the point - no paperwork should be left behind on a train, particularly so soon after some secret information has been left on a train!

Whoever the person is who left the 'BBC Papers' on a train should, of course, be fired. These documents should not even have been out of their office. However, it is the Heads of the department, both Civil Service and elected, who should be held to account for these failings in security. It is unlikely that these people will face any repercussions, but the government as a whole is likely to find that this is another nail in a coffin that has long since been buried.

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Finally the Democrats Have a Nominee  


It has lasted longer, and more money has been spent on it, than many democratic government's entire periods in power, but finally it looks like the Democrats will select Barack Obama as their nominee.

Few would have given Clinton any hope of securing the nomination, but she resolutely stayed on, hoping that the party's 'Super Delgates' influence the vote in her favour. However, it has in fact been the opposite, as the Super Delegates have sought to elect Obama if not for any other reason because they want the whole, farcical affair drawn to a close.

Indeed Clinton has now, apparently, made it clear that she is open to becoming Obama's running mate, meaning that Obama will get many of the Hispanic votes that were reserved for Clinton when it comes to the Presidential election.

If this story is true, the these two Democratic heavy weights can truly make a play for the White House. McCain should be concerned, even if he can use the negative politics used by each of the Democrats to his own advantage.

It is true that this campaign, more than any other for a nominee for the White House, never mind a President, has been particularly vitriolic (on both sides, but particularly from the Clinton camp). Equally, it is true that the degree of waste (this time the Obama camp is very much the culprit), and the hideous amount of money and time are, for a European living in a Parliamentary system, frankly distasteful.

However, the system is what it is and it has certainly made for epic entertainment, even if, as with so many attempts at epics, it could have done with being a little shorter and much less melodramatic.

Let us now hope that the Democrats can sort themselves out and push themselves on. Obama, despite his often irritating overuse of it, is right to use the phrase 'America needs change'. It does, and the Democrats appear to be finally selecting two people who have the personalities to become good Presidential and Vice Presidential nominees. It doesn't matter what they are like when they actually get into office - just look at Bush's abysmal record - it only matters that they sell themselves to the American people. With the Republican party out of office there would be real hope that the Evangelical Church and the Hawks will have to spend at least 4 years away from the seat of power and that, finally, the world can start to live up to its name again.