Keir Starmer may finally be leaning into the 'Lexit' argument
You could be forgiven for thinking that Labour’s new answer on Brexit — ‘Make Brexit Work’ — is anodyne, derivative and indicative that Keir Starmer would rather talk about anything else. Yet there are two different ways of understanding those three words that help us understand the current fork in the road that Starmer faces as leader of the Labour Party, and the strategic choice he must contend with.
The first interpretation is the technocratic one. ‘Make Brexit Work’ can be interpreted as a call for relatively minor technical tweaks to the existing UK-EU deal: for example a ‘Swiss-style’ veterinary agreement on Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) checks to reduce practical problems and friction on goods moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland. ...
Five charts illustrate how Joe Biden lost his advantage in one year
It’s exactly one year since the inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States.
But judging from the opinion polls it’s not a happy anniversary for either Biden or his party. Consider his approval ratings. Unlike Donald Trump, Joe Biden began the year with more people approving than disapproving of his Presidency. But by the end of the summer his ratings had turned negative.
Kamala Harris’s ratings have also turned negative over the course of the last year. If anything, the Vice President is even more unpopular than her boss:
There’s bad news for the Democrats as a party too. This week, Gallup published research that reveals a dramatic turn around during 2021. At the start of the year, the Democrats had a nine point lead on party identification/leaning. However, the Republicans then closed the gap and carried on going — finishing the year five points in front. ...
The hostage crisis in Texas was alarming because such events are so rare
The startling hostage situation at a Texas synagogue in mid-January has revived concerns in the US about anti-Semitism. Authorities continue to investigate the motives of alleged hostage taker Malik Faisal, a British national who was killed during the event.
Faisal reportedly demanded the release of Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist who is serving an 86-year-sentence related to an assault on U.S. personnel in Afghanistan.
It’s not clear why Faisal thought taking rabbi hostage would help him achieve his goal. With his death, we may never know exactly what was going through his mind. But the event serves as a reminder that the American far-Right hardly has a monopoly on anti-Semitism. Across the globe, some of the widest prevalence of anti-Jewish attitudes is found in Muslim-majority societies. Survey work by the Anti-Defamation League shows, for instance, that 68% of Egyptians say that “Jews don’t care what happens to anyone but their own kind” and 81% agree that “people hate Jews because of the way Jews behave.” Majorities across many other Muslim-majority countries hold similar views. ...
The president's EU Parliament speech is one of the most ambitious yet
On the 1 January France took over the rotating presidency of the European Union. It is a moment Emmanuel Macron has been waiting for. A self-declared Europhile — he gave his victory speech in 2017 at the Louvre to the sounds of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony the ‘Ode to Joy’, the European Anthem, and not the traditional Marseillaise — he will use the opportunity to pursue his European agenda, having already chalked up the notable success of the €750 billion post-pandemic recovery fund, which he will try to pilot.
‘Relaunch, power and belonging’ (relance, puissance et appartenance) is the slogan Macron has adopted for the presidency, which only comes around every 13 years (Nicholas Sarkozy was the last French president to hold it). ...
Pipeline politics have undermined Europe's strategic advantage over Russia
A pipeline of natural gas from Russia to the West is also, in effect, a pipeline of money from the West to Russia. Neither side can cut off supplies to the other side without cutting itself off.
It’s a co-dependent relationship that has helped to keep to peace for decades. Pipeline politics has been especially helpful to the countries between Russia and Germany — and, in particular, Poland and Ukraine.
A briefing from the Bruegel institute includes a map showing how key pipeline routes cross Polish and Ukrainian territory. In the absence of alternative routes, Russia wouldn’t be able to invade either country without running the risk of losing vital energy export infrastructure. This is especially important for Ukraine, which lacks the protection of NATO membership. ...
The Prime Minister's career started and ended on screen
Boris Johnson’s story is nearly over. It has been told so many times that it no longer makes any sense at all. New York, 1964. Father (philanderer); mother (depressive). They all — and it is all, for this is as much a clan as it is a family — have the same face. Scholarship boy at Eton. Learns to embody Wodehouse’s prose. This should unnerve people but they like it. Chums, debates, Oxford — upper second-class degree. Sacked from the Times for lying, but has the last laugh. His skill is making disaster work for him. Goes to Brussels, goes to the Spectator, goes to Henley. Marriages; mistresses; mayoralty. Takes Britain out of the European Union by accident — whoops! Prime Minister: not during peaceful years when he can write a book about Shakespeare, but during grimly austere plague years — cripes! ...
The Centre Party wants to be 'a serious conservative-social political force’
Germany’s oldest political party is back in parliament for the first time since 1957. Founded in 1870 to preserve Catholic interests, the Centre Party (Zentrum) is one year older than the German state itself and became a powerful political force in the newly unified empire. But it vanished into obscurity after the Second World War. Now that it has gained an MP in the Bundestag, it says the time is right for a renewed ‘conservative force’.
At first glance the news that Uwe Witt, formerly a member of parliament for Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), has joined a party of only 650 members does not seem to be news at all. He had been the leading candidate for the AfD in the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein and as such gained his seat last year — one of 83 won by the party in the election. In addition to Witt, two other AfD MPs have since left the party — nothing new as it had lost 8 members in the previous parliamentary term as well. ...
Covid is causing people to throw their principles out the window
The legal adage is that “hard cases make bad law.” Increasingly, it seems Covid cases make bad law, too: the moment covid is in scope, people start throwing principles out the window and implementing policies they would never consider for anything else.
Cutting sick pay for unvaccinated staff is the latest example. Morrisons has joined Ikea and Next in saying that unvaccinated staff who have to isolate after contact with a Covid case will have to get by on statutory sick pay, instead of whatever more generous wages vaccinated people get when they are off. I can understand why the companies came up with this: vaccinated staff don’t have to isolate, so it’s only the unvaccinated who have to take these long periods off work even when they’re not ill. Employees are making a choice not to be vaccinated, and that costs the company money. Of course the company finds that irritating. ...