Don't Panic
  • Return of the king?

    In his book ‘A Journey’, Tony Blair describes his horror at the thought of being compared with Neville Chamberlain, the PM who chose to appease Hitler by conceding the Sudetenland region - a policy seen as displaying a lack of foresight when war appeared inevitable.

    But since the Iraq war, a more suitable comparison with Blair is that of Anthony Eden, the PM who - despite displaying capability in domestic policy - is remembered for an abortive military intervention at the Suez Canal in Egypt. This move ended his premiership and damaged his reputation for years to come.

    Little wonder then, that Blair, a Prime Minister who never lost an election, who engineered the Good Friday Agreement, devolved the Welsh and Scottish parliaments and who oversaw unprecedented public service reform - may feel his legacy is sorely misrepresented.

    A return to front-line politics would not only give him a chance to ‘set the record straight’, but also bolster a Labour Party who, despite a five point poll lead,

    Read More »from Return of the king?
  • It’s been a tough week for the Tories on Twitter. First, the Chloe Smith Newsnight debacle saw the social network platform go wild with memes, retweets and, of course, links to the video itself. Then there's Louise Mensch’s new debating chat room, Menshn, which has been roundly attacked as an unnecessary vanity project.

    So with this in mind, let’s take a look at some of the most entertaining and informative tweeters from the Westminster Village.

    John Prescott / @johnprescott

    John Prescott - king of the tweeters

    The 74 year old made his name as an overtly combative but ultimately conciliatory deputy PM. In many ways, he was the buffer to Tony ‘Third Way’ Blair’s open flank on the left of the party.

    As a tweeter, the former trade union activist is now prolific, often micro-blogging 30 times in one day and seizing upon any chance to bash the Tories with a mixture of bombastic cheer, old school Labour rhetoric and shameless self-promotion.

    Here’s his spin on this week’s Chloe Smith/Newsnight interview:

    Read More »from Top political tweeters in the UK
  • In the final scenes of David Lean’s 1962 classic, Lawrence of Arabia, the Arab rebel fighters are wrapped up with internal, petty squabbles in Damascus as the great powers manoeuvre for the future of Syria.

    Nearly a century after the events depicted in that film, there is a similar situation playing out in the Middle Eastern state.

    Since the start of the Arab Spring, the international community has been shocked and angered by continuing violence. Much of it seems to be at the hands of the President Bashar al-Assad, and his removal has become a priority. Military intervention seems like the next step.

    A protestor holds a sign during a women demonstration against the Bashar al-Assad regime crackdown on pro-democracy protests, outside the Syrian embassy in central London (Picture: AFP)

    But, as we’ve found out with other Middle Eastern conflicts, we are dealing with a tremendously complex society; simplistic solutions by armchair generals won’t solve it. It’s imperative that the international community is not intoxicated by a perception of success in Libya, when the reality is that the formerly Gaddafi-controlled state is far from stable.

    One problem with the argument for

    Read More »from Why Britain is right to hold fire on Syria
  • This week ceremonies took place in the Falkland Islands to mark Liberation Day - the 30th anniversary of the end of the conflict between Argentina and Great Britain.

    But, as recent events have shown, the dispute is still far from settled.

    In a speech David Cameron told the Argentinian government there would be 'absolutely no negotiation' over the sovereignty of the islands, which lie some 300 miles off the South American coast.

    Little wonder then that the UK and Falklands governments have decided to hold a referendum on the islands to 'eliminate any possible doubt' that the islanders wish to remain British. The vote should take place early next year.

    Argentina continues to accuse Britain of colonialism of an archipelago that London has controlled since 1833. The UN Decolonisation Committee met in New York on Thursday, with the Argentine President Cristina Kirchner lobbying for UN support.
    'We are not asking anyone to say yes, the Malvinas belong to Argentina,' Ms. Kirchner said, using

    Read More »from The far from resolved dispute over the Falkland
  • After all the pomp and pageantry the boats are now moored, the uniforms are gone and the bunting has been taken down.

    Queen Elizabeth with Prince Philip at the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant

    Will the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee bounce us out of our economic gloom? Maybe not, but it was - at the very least - a welcome distraction from the grim familiarity of government indecision and double-dip recession.

    So what has the Jubilee taught us about the monarchy and our relationship with it? First, the royal family seem capable of creating a genuine sense of national unity; opinion polls consistently give the monarchy at least two-thirds popular support, better than any political party in history.

    Second, affection for the Queen possibly supersedes the love felt for the monarchy itself.
    In an age of reality television, philandering sports stars and Etonian politicians, the Queen’s character remains indistinguishable to that of the UK itself. We don’t really know who she is as a person, and as such can project onto her whatever we like. The Diamond Jubilee was a

    Read More »from Diamond Jubilee: What did the Queen ever do for us?
  • It’s been a gruelling week for Jeremy Hunt. On Thursday the Culture Secretary spent six long hours giving evidence to the Leveson inquiry, revealing the extent of his relationship with key players in News Corp's bid for BSkyB. For now, his position is safe but should he seek pastures new we imagine, in a light-hearted manner, possible contenders for the role once dubbed 'minister for fun'. 

    1.Duke of Edinburgh

    Prince Philip - loved by some, loathed by some, but tolerated by all - was a keen sportsman in his youth, enjoying sailing, polo and flying, and while the ‘media’ element remains to be proven, he has, perhaps unrivalled experience in dealing with different cultures.

    2.David Bowie

    This polymath has over 24 studio albums, 25 film credits as well as countless TV and stage appearances to his name. He turned down a knighthood, and remains, unlike many of his contemporaries, a bastion of singular vision and non-conformity.
    He is a cultural icon. So for this reason, Bowie is probably the

    Read More »from The (slightly implausible) alternatives for Culture Secretary
  • This month, Queen Sofia of Spain declined an invitation to lunch at Windsor Castle to mark the Diamond Jubilee amid renewed tensions over the British territory of Gibraltar.

    Queen Sofia of Spain snubbed the Queen in a row over Gibraltar (Picture: PA)

    The lunch was the largest gathering of royals from around the world in over 50 years, with 24 kings and queens in attendance.

    The snub came days before a fishing rights dispute off the coast, where Spanish fishing boats, under protection from police, were forced to leave the area only after a Royal Navy vessel intervened.

    The Gibraltar government says fishing with large nets there is illegal because of an environmental law but Spain, who claim sovereignty over the peninsula, said Madrid would continue to dispatch police boats to protect Spanish fishermen in the area.

    These are troubling times for Anglo-Spanish relations. The simmering row flared up last week when Spain's foreign ministry issued a formal complaint to Britain's ambassador over the planned visit of the Earl and Countess of Wessex to Gibraltar – Read More »from What Spain’s Diamond Jubilee snub says about Gibraltar
  • This week, Mitt Romney asserted that “marriage is a relationship between one man and one woman”, which is reassuring from a politician whose religion tolerates polygamy.

    Mormon Romney Woos Key US Bible Belt Voters

    His decision to position himself on the side of traditional American family values is part of a culture war deeply woven into the fabric of American politics. Issues such as gay marriage will be a key influence on voters in November’s presidential election, and figures suggest Romney has much to gain here.

    A Gallup poll revealed that 23 per cent of independent voters, whose ballots are expected to be decisive in November’s general election, were now less likely to vote for Barack Obama, while 11 per cent said that they were more likely to back him.

    So, given this, it is perhaps surprising that Romney has stayed relatively quiet on the issue. But there are two main reasons.

    The first is that Romney is, in the eyes of many Republicans, inconsistent in his opinion towards homosexuality.

    He supports “domestic partnerships”

    Read More »from Mitt Romney, Barack Obama, swing voters and gay marriage
  • When Messrs. Cameron and Osborne committed the UK to ‘the age of austerity’ three years ago, they hoped to batten down the hatches, reign in spending, empower the private sector and use thrift to eventually attain growth. A Europe-wide commitment formed; austerity, rather than stimulus, was seen as the best way to avoid a double-dip recession.

    Much of Europe is undergoing a changing of the guard

    Though it may be a five year plan, hard numbers suggest this is not working.

    Across Europe the state has shriveled; interest rates have been slashed, yet unemployment and deficits continue to soar. The election of François Hollande has not only opened up the chance of a change of direction in France, but also in Athens, Brussels and Berlin.

    Revolt against austerity is now widespread and the message of long term opponents like Paul Krugman, Henry Blodget, David Blanchflower and the shadow chancellor Ed Balls is gaining traction.
    The question is simple: ‘Austerity now?’ or ‘stimulus now and cuts later?'.

    To an electorate who have seen pay freezes, Read More »from The Rise of Europe’s Extremes?
  • As France goes to the polls, there is a strong possibility the British and French governments will find themselves in very different ideological camps once the results are known. What are the implications for France's relationship with Britain and Europe if Nicolas Sarkozy clinches a second term? Will his rival François Hollande re-assess the Entente Cordiale if the French electorate votes him in? Let's take a look at the outcomes of what is proving to be a battle royal.

    A combination of pictures shows French presidential candidates Nicolas Sarkozy (L) and Francois Hollande during their electoral rallies in Toulouse and Paris respectively April 29, 2012. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer (L) and Charles Platiau (R)

    In the blue corner is incumbent President Nicolas Sarkozy, who boasts a strong international record but a domestic track record that has failed to convince large swathes of the electorate.

    In the red corner is François Hollande, inexperienced at government level but playing a classic insurgent campaign against an increasingly battle-weary incumbent.

    In his five years in power, Sarkozy has committed himself to the austerity measures that have swept Europe, but his involvement in stabilising the Eurozone has failed to

    Read More »from Nicolas Sarkozy v Francois Hollande: What happens when the dust settles?


(105 Stories)