By Andrew Coyne - Tuesday, August 23, 2011 - 24 Comments
Andrew Coyne on the facile explanations being used to explain the London riots
What can explain it? How to account for such a fit of collective madness? Do we blame the schools? The parents? Perhaps it was a cry for help, the bitter fruit of lives without meaning or hope? Whatever may be the cause, we can see the results, the single largest outburst of journalistic nonsense in a generation: swarms of unhinged pundits running wild through the op-ed pages, leaving a trail of broken syllogisms in their wake. Such mindless mindlessness can only be condemned in the strongest terms…
But of course the same thing happens every time, doesn’t it? Wherever and whenever some outrage or atrocity occurs, there is always an army of “root-cause” rationalizers close behind, ready to supply the deeper meaning of it all. And though the explanations vary, the one constant is to shift the blame from those who commit the crime to other, more politically useful villains. Marc Lépine was no mere nutter with a grudge: he was a product, or at least an extreme example, or at any rate a symbol, of a generalized male hatred of women. Jared Loughner was not, as he claimed, chiefly concerned with the power of grammar to control the mind, but rather was the inevitable outgrowth of hot-headed Republican rhetoric. And so on.
With something as widespread as a riot, let alone the cascade of riots that spread across Britain, we are more obviously dealing with a genuinely social phenomenon. Though every individual is ultimately responsible for the choice to do good or to do ill, when so many people make the wrong choices at the same time, there is clearly a wider context to be considered: they can’t all be mad. But there’s a key word in there. Maybe you’ve spotted it: considered. Many of the instant analyses I read expressed a certain peevishness toward dissenters, as if the failure to adopt their own pet theory was a rejection of thinking itself. Well, no. It’s a rejection of simplistic, reductionist thinking. It is one thing to attempt to understand why people do what they do. It is another just to draw up a list of everything that’s been bugging you about society for years, then scrawl QED under it. Thus, if you are on the left: consumerism, individualism, poverty, Thatcher, unemployment, Thatcher. And if you are on the right: gangsta rap, Jamaican patois, multiculturalism, liberal elites.
By Leah McLaren and Patricia Treble - Sunday, August 14, 2011 at 6:30 PM - 4 Comments
What role did social media play in the violence?
What began as a peaceful public vigil outside a north London police station last Saturday rapidly morphed into several days of rampaging protests—a frightening flashpoint in a season of increasing unrest in the British capital. By midday Monday, more than 200 protesters had been arrested in skirmishes that left scores of officers injured and several down-at-heel neighbourhoods severely damaged by fire and theft. And there was no end in sight. By Monday evening, riot police were busy in Oxford Circus, and BBC commentators were advising Londoners to stay indoors—meanwhile, violence had erupted in Birmingham, Liverpool and other large cities.
How did it all start? The initial protest in Tottenham, a socio-economically depressed and ethnically mixed district in the city’s north end, was organized in response to the shooting earlier last week of Mark Duggan. The local man lived in a nearby housing project and was, depending on which sources you believe, either a peace-loving family man or an active gang member. There are reports that he was carrying a weapon, allegedly a starter’s pistol converted to fire live ammunition; Duggan’s death came after a minicab he was in was stopped during a pre-planned police operation.
What’s inarguable is that police were involved in the shooting, though it’s still not known who actually killed Duggan. Why the protest turned violent is similarly murky: at least one witness claimed it all began when a 16-year-old girl was viciously attacked after throwing a champagne bottle at officers, yet others blamed unsubstantiated rumours circulated on Twitter and BlackBerry Messenger claiming that Duggan was murdered in an unprovoked, execution-style shooting.
By Jenn Cutts - Friday, June 17, 2011 at 11:40 AM - 8 Comments
The Archbishop of Canterbury is at odds with PM David Cameron’s vision for Britain
Touching off a decidedly old-school debate, the head of the Church of England took Britain’s coalition government to task last week, accusing it of imposing “radical policies for which no one voted” on its electorate. In an article titled “The government needs to know how afraid people are” in last week’s issue of the New Statesman, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, criticized reforms to health, education and welfare being implemented by the government led by Prime Minister David Cameron. The PM shot back in a news conference: “The Archbishop of Canterbury is entirely free to express political views,” but “I profoundly disagree with many of the views that he has expressed.”
Williams was particularly critical of Cameron’s “Big Society” policy—a plan to have volunteer and charity groups play a crucial role in delivering social services—insisting that key questions about how it would work remain unanswered and calling the slogan itself “painfully stale.” Cameron was unmoved: “I’m absolutely convinced that our policies are about actually giving people greater responsibility and greater chances in their life, and I will defend those very vigorously.”
By Julia Belluz - Wednesday, April 27, 2011 at 10:10 AM - 0 Comments
These are not the best of days for Britain’s beleaguered junior coalition leader
As if Nick Clegg hadn’t taken enough of a political beating of late. Last week, Britain’s embattled deputy prime minister had a run-in with the bulldog pensioner from Rochdale, England, Gillian Duffy, who became Gordon Brown’s scourge during the general election last year when the then-Labour PM was overheard calling her a “bigoted woman.” As Clegg, her most recent victim, entered a factory on a visit last week, Duffy—a Labour supporter—accosted him about whether he was happy with his Liberal Democrat-Conservative coalition government’s policies.
Unlike “Bigotgate,” though, when Brown forgot that he was still wearing a microphone, Clegg was genial to the grandma and managed to get away unscathed. Sort of. Duffy’s question continued to resonate because what’s happening with the coalition government has brought Clegg to what may be the nadir of his political life, and his party to near single-figure lows in the opinion polls.
Quite a turn from Clegg’s arrival in his post. The Lib Dem leader rolled into the position on a wave of Cleggmania, seeing his poll ratings surge after emerging as the undisputed champion of the televised general election debates a year ago. He cheered the British electorate with calls for a “radical, reforming government,” adding that the Lib Dems would deliver something different from the “old parties.” Planting the seeds of future disappointment, he told them, “I believe the way things are is not the way things have to be.”
By John Geddes - Tuesday, April 19, 2011 at 6:54 PM - 442 Comments
I suppose it was a tactical error for Michael Ignatieff to describe the way the parliamentary system works in his interview today with CBC’s Peter Mansbridge.
You might imagine it wouldn’t be all that risky to display a rudimentary understanding of the conventions of the House of Commons, as inherited by Canada from Britain. But there you’d be wrong. This will be treated as big campaign news, and the Conservatives are naturally all over it.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, April 12, 2011 at 4:03 PM - 4 Comments
In light of tonight’s debates, it is probably worth revisiting the advice Patrick Muttart, a top advisor to Stephen Harper, once provided to British Tory leader David Cameron.
In the documents, Mr Muttart says Mr Cameron should ‘practise staring down Brown while the camera is focused on the moderators, other leaders. Makes your opponent feel uncomfortable’. But he adds that when Mr Cameron is ‘attacking/rebutting’ he should ‘look at his opponent’s shoulder and not his face. Facial reactions can be distracting/destabilising’.
Personal attacks, meanwhile, should be ‘well-timed and well-constructed’ but used infrequently ‘for the biggest impact’. Most of Mr Muttart’s advice is listed under a section entitled ‘key presentation points’. It states: ‘Ensure Cameron has room-temperature water. Cold water (with ice) tightens the throat. You should control his water – not the TV studio. ’When Brown/Clegg is addressing Cameron he should not write notes. To viewers it looks rude.’
He also urges Mr Cameron to ‘use viable, easy-to-understand solutions versus abstract ideological musings’.
By Leah Mclaren - Tuesday, March 15, 2011 at 10:52 AM - 10 Comments
PM David Cameron wants to remake Britain. Critics say his plan will end up destroying the United Kingdom.
It’s been a difficult few weeks for David Cameron’s much vaunted Big Society.
The concept behind the British prime minister’s plan to rejuvenate the economy is either the great hope for modern Britain or a puff of political hot air, depending which side of the debate you fall on. As the initial round of deep public spending cuts approaches later this spring—the first of a planned $130 billion through 2015—some former champions are backing away from the notion of what Cameron calls the “plan to dismantle Big Government and build the Big Society in its place.”
So what exactly is the “big society” anyway? In the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition agreement, it is described as a plan to “take power away from politicians to give it to people.” Labour MP Ed Balls, on the other hand, has dubbed it “the big con.” Three points are certain: it seems to involve less government, more civic engagement, and the PM is very, very excited about it.
Others less so. Lord Wei, a consultant tasked by Cameron with pushing the Big Society agenda, revealed last month he would be scaling down the amount of time he devotes to the project (the irony of having a key volunteer abandon the volunteering bandwagon has been giddily noted in the country’s left-wing press). And in the same week, Liverpool city council, which was a test case council for one of four pilot volunteer schemes, announced it was pulling out and no longer supports the Big Society, as a direct result of the Tory-led government’s funding decisions.
By macleans.ca - Monday, March 14, 2011 at 10:06 AM - 0 Comments
Prince Andrew’s friends in all the wrong places, Natalie Portman just can’t win, and adios, Glenn Beck?
Dancing all the way to freedom
Following in the delicate footsteps of the great Mikhail Baryshnikov, who slipped away from his Soviet handlers during a ballet performance in Toronto in 1974, five Cuban ballet dancers appear to have defected to Canada following a performance in Montreal last month. Four are taking classes in Toronto with the National Ballet of Canada, while the fifth is in Montreal. Elier Bourzac, one of the lead performers of the National Ballet of Cuba, told the Montreal Gazette his reasons for leaving his troupe had more to do with artistic freedoms than escaping a Communist regime. It’s the same reason, virtually word-for-word, that Baryshnikov gave during his first post-defection interview at the height of the Cold War.
Time to pay le piper
For more than 20 years, former French president Jacques Chirac avoided prosecution for misusing public funds in order to fuel his rising political star. Between 1977 and 1995, while mayor of Paris, investigators say, the 78-year-old misused city money, having 28 phantom jobs on the payroll at city hall. Protected by presidential immunity until the end of his second term in 2007, he will now be tried in the courtroom in which Marie-Antoinette was sent to the guillotine. If he’s found guilty, his sentence would be lighter: a fine, up to 10 years in prison, or a 10-year ban on holding office. For now, the trial is delayed by three months, following an objection from the defence.
A blow for reform in Pakistan
News that Shahbaz Bhatti, Pakistan’s only Christian cabinet minister, had been assassinated on March 2 hit Jason Kenney hard. On a visit to Ottawa in February, Bhatti had told the Canadian immigration minister he expected to be killed for advocating changes to Pakistan’s harsh blasphemy laws, which are used as a pretext to persecute religious minorities. Kenney told Maclean’s Bhatti even asked Canada to help his family when he was dead. In a strange twist, while Kenney was in Pakistan to attend Bhatti’s memorial service, his staff broke parliamentary rules by issuing a partisan fundraising letter on his ministerial letterhead—resulting in calls for Kenney’s resignation.
By Erica Alini - Tuesday, February 15, 2011 at 3:26 PM - 13 Comments
Some British retirees living in Canada are receiving just 40 per cent of the pension they would get if they hadn’t emigrated.
Retired British war veterans living in Canada have threatened to publicly return their medals to the U.K. government if it doesn’t agree to enrich their pensions. Unlike pensioners living in Britain, retirees living in Canada don’t have their pensions indexed to the cost of living—some in Canada are receiving just 40 per cent of what they would get if they hadn’t emigrated. The Canadian Alliance of British Pensioners (CABP), which represents over 158,000 retired Britons in this country, has been fighting against the status quo for years. Britain does not index pension benefits for emigrés in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Canada, which don’t have reciprocal agreements with London, leaving it up to those governments to supplement the income of its impoverished pensioners. That’s costing Canada around $330 million a year, and Ottawa has long been eager to resolve the issue, but London always turned a deaf ear, according to Brian Lechem, CABP’s chair.
The International Consortium of British Pensioners, of which CABP is part, initially brought the battle to the courts, but after losing appeals in both the U.K.’s supreme court and the European Court of Human Rights, it’s now turning the fight political. While the former Labour government never paid much attention to the issue, Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democrats and deputy prime minister in the Conservative-led government of David Cameron, has traditionally been a supporter of the cause. With a friendlier government in charge, “we’re pushing like mad,” says Lechem. That also included leaving a book at 10 Downing St. about war veterans with non-indexed pensions. But with London on a financial austerity crusade, the odds may once again be against Canada’s British seniors.
By Nancy Macdonald - Wednesday, February 2, 2011 at 12:40 PM - 0 Comments
The Pope’s surprise move, Russia’s Mata Hari makes her prime-time debut, and the queen of all TV revels
The greatest skate
To say Patrick Chan blew away the competition as he skated to his fourth straight national men’s title is a gross understatement. It was, according to the Vancouver Sun, “inarguably the greatest skate ever by a Canadian.” Chan didn’t so much as wobble as he laid out two back-to-back quads—the calling card of the sport’s greats—and went on to shatter the world record score for a male skater. “Brian Orser? Kurt Browning? Elvis Stojko? All great on any number of days,” wrote Cam Cole. “None as great as Chan was, on this one.” The spellbound crowd in Victoria brought down the house as Chan, finally, slowed to a stop. “That was the reaction I wanted at the Olympics,” said the Toronto native. “That’s what I dreamed about every night when I went to bed. And I finally got it.”
Attack of the former presidents
The dust has barely settled after former dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier’s arrival in Haiti, and another name from the country’s past is attempting a return to the homeland. Former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who’s been living in exile in South Africa since being forced from office in a 2004 coup, is eager to return, he said this week, to serve his “Haitian sisters and brothers as a simple citizen in the field of education.” “Baby Doc” Duvalier, meanwhile, whose lavish life in exile in France was abruptly halted by a pricey divorce, says he’s returned “to help”—not, as is widely suspected, to lay claim to a frozen Swiss bank account. Now that he’s there, investigators are building a fresh case against him over the alleged theft of $120 million—what they describe as a “gigantic fraud . . . from one of the poorest populations on Earth.”
Alas, poor Andy
British PM David Cameron’s embattled communications chief Andy Coulson stepped down on Friday amid continued questions about his possible involvement in the illegal hacking of celebrity voice messages when he was editor of the News of the World—making him, as Britain’s Independent cheekily reported, “the first person in history to resign twice for something of which he knew nothing.” In lesser political disgraces, a British MP was interrupted mid-speech by his own musical tie, whose tinny tune was picked up by his mike. Baffled MPs hunted for the source, until Tory backbencher Nadhim Zahawi realized who was to blame. “I apologize,” he said. “It is my tie to support the campaign against bowel cancer.” “Perhaps next time the honourable gentleman will be more selective in the ties he wears in the chamber,” said deputy speaker Dawn Primarolo.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, January 18, 2011 at 11:30 AM - 39 Comments
In his chat with Mr. Mansbridge, the Prime Minister again asserts a rule for coalition government.
Of course, and David Cameron’s an interesting example because they had that debate there, and what I think the public concluded was undemocratic and not really legitimate was the coalition of parties that lost an election. Mr. Cameron won the election. And then was able to form a coalition.
It’s unclear if Mr. Harper intends this judgment of legitimacy to be applied to the governments of Israel, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, not to mention the Liberal government that oversaw the province of Ontario between 1985 and 1987.
By macleans.ca - Thursday, December 9, 2010 at 10:00 AM - 0 Comments
Along with Crosby, a number of other former Newsmakers make their return to our list
How long does it take to be named Maclean’s Newsmaker of the Year?
For Sidney Crosby, it took about four seconds. That was all Crosby needed to beat Team U.S.A. defenceman Brian Rafalski to the puck along the boards, poke it to Team Canada teammate Jarome Iginla, break for the net, corral the give-and-go back from Iginla and shoot the puck underneath goaltender Ryan Miller’s outstretched stick and between his legs.
Crosby’s gold-medal-winning overtime goal was the perfect ending to a tremendously successful 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics—itself an event 14 years in the making, as Games organizing committee CEO John Furlong notes in this week’s Maclean’s Interview. The Games brought all Canadians together and were the capstone event of the year. We celebrated our ability to put on a show and proved we could compete against the best that the world has to offer. We demonstrated our organizational skills and hosting talents, as well as a fiercely competitive streak that, as a nation, we often keep under wraps. We mourned as a nation with figure skater Joannie Rochette over the death of her mother, Thérèse, and marvelled at her courageous bronze-medal performance, the epitome of grace under pressure.
By Michael Petrou - Tuesday, December 7, 2010 at 9:20 AM - 7 Comments
He has partnered with the left, but Cameron has a radical, conservative, vision for England
If insanity can be defined as doing the same thing again and again and expecting different results, British Prime Minister David Cameron, and the Conservative Party that made him its leader, aren’t all that innovative—merely lucid. And yet, for most of a decade before Cameron was elected party leader in 2005, Conservative Party members pinned their hopes on a succession of men who campaigned on issues, such as crime and suspicion of the European Union, that resonated with the party’s base but failed to expand its reach. In 2002, party chair Theresa May said the Conservatives were perceived as the “nasty party.” The term stuck, probably because she was right. “We were in danger of becoming an elderly debating society,” one Tory city councillor told Maclean’s.
David Cameron knew Conservatives had to change to win. He convinced the rest of the party with a speech at the Tory leadership convention, promising to fight for a “modern, compassionate conservatism,” and beating out the presumed favourite, veteran MP David Davis. Cameron then set about trying to decontaminate the Conservative Party brand nationwide by focusing on issues like the environment and letting old Tory obsessions such as fox hunting fall away. Riding his bike to work—albeit trailing a limousine carrying his briefcase—was transparent and hokey, but didn’t hurt.
The Conservatives entered the May 2010 general election with 140 fewer seats than the governing Labour Party. They made significant gains, but still fell 20 seats short of the 326 needed for an overall majority. David Cameron was therefore forced to form a coalition government with the third-place, and left-leaning, Liberal Democrats.
He no doubt would have preferred to be governing with a majority, but Cameron has used his ostensibly weak position of forced co-operation to his advantage. The Liberal Democrats provide Cameron’s Conservatives with ideological cover. “It gives that sense that it’s a national government,” says Charlie Beckett, director of Polis, a think tank at the London School of Economics. The Tories need only point to their supposedly left-wing partners to demonstrate their own moderation.
The deal hasn’t worked out so well for the Liberal Democrats, and for Nick Clegg, the party’s leader and Britain’s deputy prime minister. Many who voted for the Liberal Democrats see its partnership with the Tories as a betrayal and are abandoning it. Support has plummeted since the election. “That’s kind of good news for Cameron,” says Beckett, “because it means Nick Clegg won’t cause too much trouble.”
He certainly hasn’t so far. Cameron has made a few compromises, such as agreeing to a referendum to change Britain’s voting system, but Cameron is clearly the dominant partner. He’s using that position to its fullest by making deep and broad cuts to government spending on everything from defence to welfare. Britain is in debt and its economy is wobbly. Cameron is therefore driven in part by a simple desire for fiscal restraint. But there’s more to it than that. Cameron believes in decentralizing power and wants citizens to take responsibility for jobs normally handled by the state—a goal he’s accomplishing by giving citizens greater influence over local schools and police, for example.
It’s part of what Cameron describes as a “Big Society,” in which power is shifted from “elites in Whitehall to the man and woman on the streets.” “The Big Society,” he said, describing the idea in a speech in Liverpool this summer, “is about a huge culture change where people in their everyday lives, in their homes, their neighbourhoods, and their workplace don’t always turn to officials, local authorities or central government for answers to the problems they face, but instead will feel both free and powerful enough to help themselves and their own communities.”
He can be persuasive. But critics who say Cameron is simply dressing up the knife he’s using to eviscerate Britain’s public sector have a point. Regardless of how they’re sold, the cuts will hurt. Cameron likes to say that he admires former Conservative prime minister Margaret Thatcher but isn’t like her. He’s right in the sense that Thatcher was more openly partisan. Cameron, however, is pursuing an equally radical agenda.
What’s working in Cameron’s interest, at least for now, is the belief that the cuts are necessary. “He’s taking some bold steps that have to be made,” said Margaret Barnes, a bookstore owner in Cameron’s home riding of Witney. “We need someone to grab hold of the problems and get them sorted.”
Not everyone agrees, of course. Tens of thousands of students recently demonstrated in London to protest government plans to cut funding to universities, and to allow universities to almost triple tuition fees, from $5,400 to $14,750 a year. Some stormed a downtown building housing the Conservative Party headquarters, smashing its windows.
Still, many Britons are willing to give Cameron a chance and take the lumps that are coming in the hopes they might be worth it. Most polls show the Conservatives up slightly since the election—though also even with Labour, which has benefited from the Liberal Democrats’ collapse.
“We’ll go through, probably in the next two or three years, some tough times,” Mary Macleod, a newly elected Conservative MP told Maclean’s. “And then we’ll pull out of that. So it will be a rocky road and a difficult journey along the way. I think the change we deliver at the end of it will be as large as there’s ever been.”
By Kate Lunau - Monday, November 29, 2010 at 3:20 PM - 0 Comments
Lord Young of Graffham’s bout of foot-in-mouth disease came just one month after the government announced its deepest public spending cuts
A top British Conservative and adviser to Prime Minister David Cameron was forced to quit his post last week after claiming that, in this “so-called recession,” most Britons have “never had it so good.” Lord Young of Graffham’s bout of foot-in-mouth disease came just one month after the government announced its deepest public spending cuts since the Second World War, slicing about $134 billion through 2015. But speaking to the Daily Telegraph, Lord Young opined that, when they look back on spending cuts, “people will wonder what all the fuss was about,” arguing that a drop in mortgage rates had actually left many better off.
It’s not the first time a Tory has made such a verbal faux pas. In February, for example, long-standing MP Sir Nicholas Winterton (who’s since retired) sparked outrage after saying that MPs should be allowed to travel first class on trains to avoid the masses. “They are a totally different type of people,” he said. Even before he was appointed in May, Cameron worked hard to make the Tories seem less elitist. The prime minister was quick to distance himself from Lord Young’s comments, saying, “I think he’ll be doing a bit less speaking in the future.”
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, November 23, 2010 at 10:05 AM - 10 Comments
David Eaves lauds David Cameron’s new commitment to transparent accounting.
After a brief video announcement from Prime Minister David Cameron about the importance of the event, Francis Maude, Minister of the Cabinet Office, and Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, announced that henceforth the spending data for every British ministry on anything over £25,000 (about $40,000) would be available for anyone in the world to download…
For the British Conservative Party, this is a strategic move. Faced with a massive deficit, the government is enlisting the help of all Britons to identify any waste. More importantly, however, they see releasing data as a means by which to control government spending. Indeed, Mr. Maude argues: “When you are forced to account for the money you spend, you spend it more wisely. We believe that publishing this data will lead to better decision-making in government and will ultimately help us save money.”
By Leah McLaren - Friday, November 19, 2010 at 1:00 PM - 1 Comment
Britain reacts with enthusiasm to news of the impending wedding
After eight long years, the wait is finally over. This week, Clarence House announced that, after months of speculation and years of on-and-off dating, Prince William will marry his long-time girlfriend, Kate Middleton, in 2011. And in Britain, the reactions were, for the most part, ecstatic. Prince Charles told the press he was “thrilled, obviously,” as the couple, who are both 28, had been “practising for long enough.” Charles’s mother, the Queen, said she was “absolutely delighted” about the news. Camilla, duchess of Cornwall, leaving the Wicked Young Writers’ Award ceremony, joked that the news was “wicked!”
On the bustling streets of central London, the air was abuzz with news of the biggest—and happiest—royal event in three decades. The British media, which has been awash for months in stories of deep budget cuts and economic gloom, leapt on the story with gusto. “Engaged!” and “Will gives Kate Di’s ring” blazed tabloid headlines on the newsstands as commuters rushed to grab copies and pore over the emerging details on the tube ride home.
By Jane Switzer - Thursday, November 18, 2010 at 11:00 AM - 0 Comments
The British withdrawal may have a huge impact on local economies
The British are leaving Germany. British Prime Minister David Cameron recently announced his intention to remove the last British troops, after 65 years on German soil, by 2020—15 years earlier than expected. The decision comes amidst the U.K. government’s struggle to tackle its budget deficit and restructure its army, which has maintained a presence in Germany since the Second World War. An estimated 20,000 soldiers and 23,000 dependants and British civilians currently work at 12 bases in North Rhine-Westphalia and Lower Saxony, many of them living as part of the local communities, and married to Germans.
The early withdrawal could be a blow to the German economy, which draws in an estimated $1.8 billion from the British presence each year. The town of Bergen is preparing for what Mayor Rainer Prokop calls a devastating situation. Prokop estimated the population of 16,000 would drop by a third once the British troops left, and between 20 and 40 per cent of local business could go under. “This is the most severe upheaval for us since the Second World War,” Prokop told the German news website The Local.
By Leah McLaren - Friday, November 12, 2010 at 3:00 PM - 1 Comment
David Cameron’s wife brings style and mystery to the PM’s residence
Samantha Cameron might just be the perfect political wife. Serene, stylish, shrewd and hard-working, during the Conservative campaign last spring she was unveiled as “the Tories’ secret weapon,” and has been described by party insiders as “Dave’s best look.” The fact that she was luminously pregnant at the time with the couple’s fourth child (a girl, Florence, born three weeks premature a few months after her husband David’s Tories took power) only added to her photo-op appeal.
But Samantha’s easy smiles and effortless style conceal hidden depths of character. Those who know her say she is unflappable, impeccably mannered and also genuinely warm—a woman of “famously even temperament,” according to a recent profile in the Sunday Times. It’s a quality that has held her in good stead in the last year and half, an exceedingly turbulent period that’s included the death of her oldest child, the birth of another, the death of her father-in-law and the not insignificant matter of her husband becoming Prime Minister. Oh yeah, she works for a living, too.
By Stephanie Findlay - Thursday, November 11, 2010 at 8:00 AM - 1 Comment
“Valuable forest being sold to private developers, will be an unforgiveable act of environmental vandalism”
In an attempt to raise billions in funds for Britain’s “Big Society,” David Cameron’s government is allegedly planning to sell half of Britain’s government-owned forests–including the stomping grounds of Robin Hood and Maid Marian: Sherwood Forest. The land will be sold to private companies that will build holiday villages, golf courses, and begin commercial logging operations: legislation that governs protection of the forests, some of which dates back to the Magna Carta of 1215, will likely be changed to grant private firms the right to log.
The Telegraph reports that a third of the land would be transferred to private ownership between 2011 and 2015, and the rest would be sold by 2020. The revenue from the forest sales will be directed toward government departments that were worst hit by Britain’s new austerity program, under which government spending is to be cut by 19 per cent. Opposition to a forest sell-off is mounting: “If this means vast swathes of valuable forest being sold to private developers, it will be an unforgiveable act of environmental vandalism,” said Green MP Caroline Lucas.
By Michael Petrou - Thursday, September 30, 2010 at 10:00 AM - 0 Comments
David and Ed Miliband have been fighting for control of the Labour Party. One wants the party to keep reaching out. The other calls for a return to Labour’s socialist roots.
It is six o’clock on a Wednesday evening in north London, and despite the rush-hour traffic, the streets around the Edgware Road subway station are nearly deserted as people seek shelter from a cold and miserable rain. Inside the King Solomon Academy, a non-denominational neighbourhood school, one of two men closing in on the leadership of Britain’s Labour Party is making his pitch to the 200 people who have packed the school’s auditorium.
Five months ago, David Miliband was foreign secretary in then-prime minister Gordon Brown’s cabinet. Now he, like the rest of the Labour Party, is out of power and facing a long road to get it back. Labour earned its second-lowest share of the vote since universal suffrage in the May election, and in David Cameron it confronts a popular prime minister who leads an unexpectedly functional coalition government with the Liberal Democrat party.
By Michael Petrou - Sunday, September 19, 2010 at 9:00 AM - 0 Comments
The Prime Minister is changing the way politics work in Britain
In the spring of 2001, an aspiring politician scheduled a visit at the Witney and District Museum in England’s Oxfordshire County to drum up support among local residents for an election expected later that year. Stanley Jenkins, a curatorial adviser at the museum and a Labour Party supporter, made a brief note in the daybook: “Tory twit coming.”
The twit was David Cameron. He had a long association with the Conservative Party, including as a strategist and adviser at the Treasury and Home Office during the party’s last years in office. But he had failed to win a seat during the most recent election in 1997. He arrived at the Witney museum on a bleak and rainy day when it had few visitors. The party official who was supposed to be escorting Cameron around deserted him, leaving him alone with museum staff and time to kill.
By macleans.ca - Friday, September 3, 2010 at 8:00 AM - 0 Comments
Björk versus Canada, Microsoft’s founder sues just about everyone, and Brian Orser exacts sweet revenge
He plays for Queen and country
Taking a page from Vladimir Putin’s playbook, a buff British PM David Cameron went body boarding during holidays in Cornwall. He’d urged Britons to aid tourism by vacationing at home. While en vacances, his wife, Samantha, delivered their fourth child, Florence, another economic boost.
By Jonathon Gatehouse - Thursday, September 2, 2010 at 11:43 AM - 0 Comments
And dealing with the royals after Diana died
Tony Blair ranks high on the list of Britain’s most successful prime ministers, having led his Labour Party to three consecutive majorities. But by the time he left office in 2007, after a decade in power and two major wars, he was also among the country’s most divisive. His new memoir, A Journey, published this week by Knopf Canada, charts the ups and downs of a political life.
Q: A few weeks ago you announced your intention to donate the profits from this memoir, and I gather the advance money as well, to the British Legion to help wounded veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. Why?
A: I wanted to honour the commitment and show my respect to people who I think have done the most amazing job. Those from my country, the U.K., the U.S. and Canadian armed forces, all of those who have been in the front line of this battle. I wanted to donate to the Royal British Legion in order to try to help, and in particular prepare, those who have been injured to either go back to front-line service or civilian life. It’s a worthy cause, but I had actually decided to give the money to a charity connected to the armed forces before I had even written the book.
Q: It’s a decision that has been lauded by some, and dismissed as a calculating PR move by others. But in the book, you do refer to the emotional toll the deaths and casualties took on you. How has that burden changed you?
A: You wouldn’t be human if you didn’t feel both a sense of responsibility and a deep sadness for those who have lost their lives. That responsibility stays with me now, and will stay with me for the rest of my life. You know, I came to office as prime minister in 1997, focusing on domestic policy and ended up in four conflicts—Sierra Leone, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq. And it does change you, and so it should.
By Peter Shawn Taylor - Thursday, August 12, 2010 at 11:00 AM - 0 Comments
The new PM wants to change the relationship between government and the public, with more local participation
British Prime Minister David Cameron has gone to great lengths to convince voters he’s taking his country’s massive $250-billion deficit seriously. Among his more symbolic austerity measures, he abolished limousines for cabinet ministers and, when he visited U.S. President Barack Obama last month, he flew commercial. Cameron is, however, allowing himself one grand, legacy-style project out of his election platform. But he plans to pay for it with found money.
“Big Society” is an intriguing attempt by Cameron to alter the relationship between government and its public by putting a greater emphasis on local participation and problem-solving. “For years there was the basic assumption at the heart of government that the way to improve things in society was to micromanage from the centre. But this just doesn’t work,” he said last month in launching his Big Society plans. “Over the past decade many of our most pressing social problems got worse, not better. It’s time for something different.”