By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, October 4, 2012 - 0 Comments
The quote in question seems to have inspired former British prime minister Gordon Brown as well.
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 Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, December 1, 2010 at 9:19 AM - 43 Comments
The Prime Minister gets drawn into the Wikileaks drama, seemingly as a result of French pity.
Levitte began by explaining the French decision not to invite the Germans to the June 6 D-Day commemoration. “It’s my fault,” said Levitte, who said that President Sarkozy had initially been keen to invite German Chancellor Merkel to participate. “I pointed out to the President that if Merkel came, then Sarkozy would be obligated to invite the heads of state of Italy, Poland, and the Czech Republic as well.” Moreover, all of those leaders would have to be given an opportunity to speak as well, which would lengthen an already long ceremony. The cases of the UK and Canada were exceptional, he added, because both Gordon Brown and Stephen Harper were in such political trouble at home that the survival of their governments was at stake.
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 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 John Geddes - Friday, July 2, 2010 at 8:00 AM - 58 Comments
After the G20, the PM’s reputation on the international stage is at least temporarily enhanced
The buildup to the G20 summit in Toronto promised a clash of titans. In one corner, the Europeans, backed by host Canada, fighting for a pledge to shrink government deficits and debts to meet hard targets. In the other, the United States, along with some key developing countries, battling for continued stimulus spending to shore up the unsteady global economic recovery.
But the heavyweight bout failed to materialize at the summit table, though street protesters outside did their utmost to provide quite another sort of conflict. “It’s a mistake,” said British Prime Minister David Cameron as the G20 closed, “to think this summit has been about a different approach between the Americans and Europeans.”
By Aaron Wherry - Saturday, June 26, 2010 at 2:22 PM - 4 Comments
Interesting observation from the Prime Minister near the conclusion of this news conference today.
“I’ve never been at a summit where leaders seemed to more deeply feel the necessity of common action and common purpose. Why is that? Some of it may be some of the personalities around the table and the generational change that’s taken place in the G8 over the past few years.”
There is perhaps something to this.
Mr. Harper succeeded Paul Martin in 2006. Since then, in roughly this order, Nicolas Sarkozy has replaced Jacques Chirac, Dmitry Medvedev has filled the spot of Vladimir Putin, Silvio Berlusconi has returned to power in Italy, Barack Obama has succeeded George W. Bush, David Cameron has succeeded Gordon Brown and Naoto Kan has replaced Yukio Hatoyama. Of the eight leaders who attended the Prime Minister’s first G8, at St. Petersburg in 2006, only Mr. Harper and Germany’s Angela Merkel remain. And of the new arrivals, five—Harper, Obama, Cameron, Sarkozy and Medvedev—are 55 years old or younger.
By macleans.ca - Friday, June 4, 2010 at 8:00 AM - 0 Comments
Ozzy Osbourne channels a Canadian farmer, M.I.A. feuds with the New York Times, and there’s a new Gadhafi in town
Out of the horse’s mouth
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi doesn’t believe he has any more power than wartime dictator Benito Mussolini—a comparison his critics might not argue with. Berlusconi was lamenting his powerlessness when he quoted from the Fascist leader’s diary in a speech this week: “They say I have power. It isn’t true. All I can do is say to my horse: go right or left.” This new humility, if that is what it is, could be linked to Berlusconi’s falling popularity. It turns out that while Italians tolerate Berlusconi’s trademark gaffes and ability to dodge criminal trials, they aren’t fond of his new fiscal austerity plan.
By Mitchel Raphael - Thursday, May 27, 2010 at 10:20 AM - 18 Comments
Tory MPs are sexiest, Gord Brown still has a job to do in Canada, and Gift certificates for the troops
Tory MPs are sexiest
When the Hill Times came out with its annual “Politically Savvy, Stylish and Sexy Survey,” Montreal Liberal MP Irwin Cotler was disappointed to discover he’s tied for the worst-dressed male MP on the Hill, with Yukon Liberal MP Larry Bagnell. “I know I am not the best-dressed MP,” noted Cotler. “But I don’t think I am one of the worst.” He confessed to Capital Diary, however, that his family agreed with the Hill Times survey. Vancouver Liberal MP Hedy Fry, known for her fashion flair and commitment to ensuring animal prints never become endangered, said that Cotler is clearly “the best-dressed professor” on the Hill. What about Liberal leader and professor Michael Ignatieff? Fry joked, “Well, he has people around him.” And professor Stéphane Dion? “His wife [Janine Krieber] has excellent taste,” she quipped without missing a beat. The survey named Tory Maxime Bernier the best-dressed male MP. Sexiest male MP went to Defence Minister Peter MacKay, leaving Justin Trudeau in second place. Public Works Minister Rona Ambrose was voted sexiest female MP, followed by NDP MP Megan Leslie. Transport Minister John Baird cleaned up in two key categories: “Most Inﬂuence in Cabinet” and “Best Cabinet Minister in Question Period.”
By Andrew Coyne - Thursday, May 13, 2010 at 4:00 PM - 29 Comments
David Cameron has been forced to earn the confidence of the House, not just assume it
Presumably the Tory press can now stand down. In the immediate aftermath of last week’s inconclusive British election, the headlines were filled with dread. “Now for the Shabby Deals,” the Daily Mail prophesied. When it seemed, some days later, Gordon Brown’s resignation might yet allow Labour to strike a power-sharing agreement with the Liberal Democrats to keep the Conservatives out, the tabloids’ worst fears appeared to have been confirmed. “This Shabby Stitch-up,” the Daily Express fumed, while the Mail was forced to reach for a new adjective: “A Squalid Day for Democracy.”
But now the Lib Dems have changed partners, the Tories are in, and all is well. Still, those of a less partisan bent were left with a bad taste in their mouths. The Globe and Mail’s Jeffrey Simpson, for one. “What a miserable spectacle is unfolding in Britain,” he wrote at the height of the drama, aghast that “a party that won nine per cent of the seats” should wield such power, not only to pick the prime minister, but even to insist on reform of the electoral system as the price of their support. Yet wasn’t the past week the best advertisement against it? Should the Lib Dems get their fondest wish, he warned, and persuade the British public to switch to proportional representation, this sort of deal-making would become the norm.
By Mark Steyn - Thursday, May 13, 2010 at 8:00 AM - 285 Comments
MARK STEYN: Here’s what you get when the state hauls nobodies off to jail for quoting the Bible
At the time of writing, I have no idea who’s won the British general election. At the time of reading, you probably have. But, whatever the result, I doubt it will make much difference to the fate of the United Kingdom, which is in the fast lane of the not-so-slow-burn bonfire of the liberties consuming much of the Western world.
The official “defining moment” of the campaign was Gordon Brown’s unguarded post-photo-op dismissal of Gillian Duffy as a “bigoted woman.” Mrs. Duffy, a plain-spoken working-class granny and lifelong Labour voter, had made the mistake of asking Mr. Brown, her party leader, a very mild question about immigrants from eastern Europe. He got back in his car and wrote her off, forgetting he was still miked. So she’s a “bigot.” He’s not. That’s why he makes all the decisions for her, and she just makes the best of them. What part of that don’t you understand?
By Andrew Coyne - Monday, May 10, 2010 at 12:40 AM - 107 Comments
Three days after the British election, the situation is as murky as ever, with three parties negotiating over possible power-sharing agreements and any number of factions within each party weighing in with their views. Meanwhile, the party leaders, Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg, are struggling to maintain control of their parties after an election that it is widely agreed all three lost. Here’s a quick guide to the leaders, the bargaining positions, and the stakes:
- Brown: the biggest loser in the election, the one whose position is most exposed, and therefore the one most desperate to make a deal. He’s in a position to offer a referendum on electoral reform to the Lib Dems to stay in power, where Cameron is not, since reform would probably not hurt Labour as much as it would the Conservatives. But many members of his own party want him out, as evidently does Clegg. How long could such a rickety “coalition of the losers,” propped up by a ragtag band of nationalist parties, stay in power? And if Brown were replaced at its helm? Then instead of a Prime Minister who had just lost an election, Britain would have one who had not even contested it.
- Cameron: the closest thing to a winner of the election, the only one to increase his seat count, and by the largest number of seats for any Conservative leader since 1931, he is nevertheless in a curiously weakened position, having fallen short of the majority that seemed within reach before the campaign. Cameron’s Tories took the biggest hit from Clegg’s rise after the first debate, and his failure to deliver a majority, having watered down or played down the more Thatcherite policies of his predecessors, has emboldened his critics within the party. He therefore has limited room to manoeuvre in negotiating with the Lib Dems, most particularly on the issue of electoral reform, which most Tories believe would end of their party’s hopes of ever governing again.
- Clegg: the surprise loser, having dominated the middle part of the campaign, he was unable to deliver the votes on election day that most polls said his party was headed for. He is wary of a deal with Labour, yet is limited in his ability to deliver his party in negotiations with the Tories — not only by the suspicions of his party’s left wing, whose natural affinity is more with Labour, but by party rules requiring him to obtain the membership’s approval. On the other hand, a deal with the Tories is more likely to hold, and comes with less peril of offending public opinion. He probably cannot get electoral reform from the Tories, but can get some of his party’s platform enacted, plus some juicy cabinet posts.
So: does Clegg roll the dice on Labour’s promise of a referendum on electoral reform, one that could permanently transform the Lib Dems electoral chances, at the cost of propping up a party that has just been roundly rejected at the polls? Or does he take the safer, more limited route of a coalition with the Conservatives, at the cost of passing on perhaps the best shot he will ever have at electoral reform?
Answer: probably neither. The risks of a deal with Labour are too great. And there is likely too much opposition within both the Conservative and Lib Dem parties to a formal coalition, especially given their differences over electoral reform. Clegg will be mindful of the history of coalition governments: the smaller partner rarely emerges the better for it. For their part, many Tories would prefer to strike off on their own with a minority government, Canadian-style, calculating that the option of a Labour-LibDem coalition is safely off the table. Some Tories would even prefer the party remain in opposition, reasoning that any coalition of the other two parties would inevitably fail, amid much unseeemly horsetrading and acrimony, making them look steadfast and principled by comparison.
But the most probable outcome is a limited electoral pact known as “confidence and supply.” In exchange for some relatively minor concessions on policy, the Lib Dems would agree to support the Conservatives (or at least not vote against them) on supply (money) bills and on confidence motions — that is, they would not support any move to bring the government down, for some fixed interval. That allows both parties to keep a respectable distance from each other, while ensuring a period of stable government, of the kind needed to tackle the country’s mounting fiscal crisis and calm financial markets.
Anyway, we’ll know soon enough — possibly as early as this morning.
UPDATE: Gordon Brown has just taken one for the team, offering to stand down as Labour leader by September. Formal talks are now to begin on a Lib-Lab coalition. Presumably this improves Lib Dems’ negotiating position with the Conservatives, though only if a) it’s perceived they would actually go through with it, and b) it is not anticipated to be a disaster. How will the Conservatives respond?
UPPERDATE: The Conservatives have offered a referendum on the so-called Alternative Vote, which is something short of proportional representation, though it is an improvement on the present system. Voters mark their ballots in order of preference, rather than an x; if no one has a majority on the basis of first choices, then the last-place candidate is knocked out, and their second choices are distributed amongst the remaining candidates; this continues through successive rounds until one candidate crosses the 50% threshold. It’s like the Single Transferable Vote, on which British Columbians voted last year, only with single-member ridings rather than multiple. So whoever wins the riding at least can claim the support of a majority of voters, rather than a mere plurality, as under first-past-the-post. But they still get 100% of the representation, which is why it’s not a proportional system.
Labour, for their part, are apparently promising to implement AV without a referendum, arguing that it is not so substantial a change as to justify a referendum.
By Andrew Potter - Sunday, May 9, 2010 at 8:41 AM - 7 Comments
At one time, grumpy and misanthropic was close to a job description for British PMs: Thatcher and Churchill were cheerful?
“To be sincere,” said Oscar Wilde, “is such a difficult pose to keep up.” Just ask Gordon Brown.
According to the experts on these things, the turning point in the just-ended British election campaign was the moment when the Labour leader and (for the time being) prime minister sat back in his Jaguar and, with his television lapel microphone still live, berated his staff for sending him on an agonizing meet-and-greet in the northwestern English town of Rochdale. He was particularly irritated by his chat with a local widow named Gillian Duffy, a long-time Labour voter who had pressed him on his government’s policies on economics and immigration. “That bigoted woman,” he called her.
The ultimate effect of the encounter on Brown’s political fortunes remains to be seen (polling at press time had the race too close to call), but what is certain is that it marked the full and final emergence of British politics into a political realm that we in North America have long known as bulls–t. Today’s successful candidate is less interested in telling the truth than in being seen as sincere, as he tries desperately to provide the best possible representation of himself to his audience.
By Colby Cosh - Friday, May 7, 2010 at 5:41 AM - 14 Comments
As I write these words, I’m about to enter my 13th hour of watching UK election coverage on the BBC (minus ninety minutes or so here and there for naps). Believe it or not, it has been a breeze. Really, the first two hours, when there are no results coming in and the various panellists have nothing to chew on but some detail-free exit polling, is the hardest part. From then on, it’s nothing but high-calibre entertainment: a grand soap opera full of naked emotion and characters of every imaginable kind from the sweet to the satanic. We have seen everybody from a pair of nigh-unintelligible he-and-she Yorkshire grocers to Joan Collins (a staunch Conservative, and still looking fabulous). As I see it, no living journalist can in good conscience miss an opportunity to see Jeremy Paxman, the Shakespeare of the short-form television interview, in action.
It is all crawling toward an uncertain conclusion, but the sanest guess I’ve heard, though also among the most counterintuitive ones, came from the historian Simon Schama at about 9 a.m. British Summer Time today. Schama did not put it quite this way, but he believes that Britain is about to become Canada—a country governed by a Conservative minority with the tacit support of the Liberals. He didn’t explain why, but here’s my theory. Continue…
By Paul Wells - Friday, May 7, 2010 at 12:05 AM - 38 Comments
The whole point of a Parliament is that outcomes depend on numbers and circumstance, and are settled by the MPs themselves, according to their lights and their politics. So the highly entertaining crowd of Hill rats who gathered at the UK High Commission on Elgin Street on Thursday were mistaken, if understandable, in their desire to use the UK election results as a chance to refight our 2008 coalition crisis. The two situations aren’t the same. The long night’s events in the UK offer few lessons worth applying to the last time things got weird in Ottawa. But maybe a few that can help everyone plan for the next. Continue…
By Colby Cosh - Wednesday, May 5, 2010 at 11:18 AM - 48 Comments
On the eve of the most exciting British general election in decades, it turns out to be surprisingly hard for a foreign observer to pin down precisely what sort of government might emerge from the maelstrom of a hung parliament. Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg has ostentatiously been keeping his negotiating options open. The one thing resembling a categorical condition he has advanced is that he will not cooperate to keep Labour in power under current PM Gordon Brown if Labour finishes third in vote share. Continue…
By Paul Wells - Wednesday, May 5, 2010 at 8:11 AM - 52 Comments
In a chaotic, heckler-interrupted speech to leftish political activists, Gordon Brown reminds everyone why he ever mattered in the first place:
It’s a performance from another era. It would seem less out of place on yellowed film stock from the 1960s. It’s a dark harangue, steeped in class-war rhetoric, and there is something glorious about it. The only time I heard Brown address a party rally, more than six years ago, I called him “more Old Testament than Old Labour.” That’s why he was such a torment to Tony Blair: during Labour’s great strategic shift, Brown kept sounding as though the old ways were better. That kind of message always has a ready audience in any party, maybe more than it should, but that’s just human nature.
One more thing: Passed in the polls by one and sometimes two other parties, facing the end of the only career he ever had with only hours to go, Brown offers barely a word about his opponents. “Please allow me to testify to you today to what I believe and to tell you who I am,” he says, and then he does just that.
I won’t much mind when political change comes to Britain on Thursday. Sometimes it’s just time, and the objective results of the Labour years are too mixed to withstand strong alternatives. But this is why I still like Gordon Brown: because there’s something real at the centre of him.
UPDATE: A Day later, using a TelePrompter and delivering a very different kind of speech:
Paul Martin never gave this speech, nothing like it, never once, not ever. In the end, at least, Gordon Brown embraces everything that happened while his party was in power, instead of denying what happened while his predecessor was Prime Minister. It may not save Labour, but it heals it.
By Michael Petrou - Tuesday, April 27, 2010 at 9:00 AM - 2 Comments
Can the U.K.’s Liberal Democrats really beat Labour and the Tories?
“Whatever else you think of Gordon Brown, his personal history in politics is one of the most fantastic resilience,” says Andrew Rawnsley, a British author and political journalist.
Gordon Brown, the British Prime Minister now fighting for his political life in a bitter and stormy election campaign, is a man who was rejected as a potential leader by the Labour Party establishment 15 years ago. That favour went to his friend and rival, Tony Blair, who most observers didn’t think was as skilled or experienced but who performed better on television. Brown then spent a decade as Blair’s chancellor of the exchequer, or finance minister, plotting and waiting for Blair to step aside and make way. When Blair finally did, after winning three majorities, Brown faced both an electorate that was tired of the Labour Party, and a vigorous opponent in the younger and flashier Conservative Party leader, David Cameron. The Liberal Democrats, Britain’s third-largest party, were weak and riven with infighting. It appeared, at the time, that they could be safely ignored.
By Colby Cosh - Friday, April 23, 2010 at 1:56 PM - 34 Comments
You’ve probably heard about the startling eleventh-hour rise in the polls that Britain’s Liberal Democrats have enjoyed since their leader Nick Clegg, a reformed skirt-chaser and unreformed atheist, leapt out of the tall grass to win an Apr. 15 televised election debate. It’s time Canadians started contemplating the domestic impact of a strong Lib-Dem performance in the May 6 vote.
Lately you can find individual UK polls that have the three major parties in almost every order except for those that have the ruling Labour Party at the top. Conservative leader David Cameron, until recently a heavy favourite to win the election and capture a majority, suddenly finds himself confronted with the possibility of a historic, 1964-Phillies-esque collapse down the stretch. Prime Minister Gordon Brown has been reduced to near-irrelevance on the hustings—but because of his Labour Party’s regional strength, his party is likely to control more seats than the Liberal Democrats even if Labour finishes third in the vote.
Punters at UK gambling site Betfair are currently forecasting better-than-even odds (57%) of a hung Parliament and a reasonable chance (fractional odds: 7-to-1) of someone other than Brown or Cameron becoming Prime Minister. Under such chaotic circumstances it is entirely possible that “someone other than Brown or Cameron” could end up being a coalition leader other than Clegg himself. And the price of the exotic “two elections in 2010″ prop bet has soared, implying a 27% chance of a quickie second vote. Also, dogs and cats have been spotted living together in Scunthorpe.
The Clegg boomlet may not end up changing anything in the long run. But even though the UK parties map awkwardly onto ours, it would appear to have relevance to Canada on at least a couple of fronts. The Lib-Dem moment is the very same one of which the New Democrats have been dreaming since the Winnipeg Declaration, and of which they caught a brief glimpse in ’88; to wit, voters finally get tired of the choice between Coke and Pepsi and start getting curious about Dr. Pepper.
I went to rabble.ca expecting to find a lot of excitement about this. More fool me. The online left is far too busy tilting at Zionist windmills and trying to win the All-Canada Summarize Chomsky Competition to pay any heed to the model for our democracy. But a strong electoral performance by Clegg would provide data for a future debate about the fate and usefulness of a social-democratic party that no longer believes in socialism—and one that, given the excess weight given to labour unions in its leadership balloting, arguably isn’t all that strong on democracy either. Recall that the “Democrat” half the Liberal-Democrat DNA derives from light-pink Labourites who got tired of trade-union bullying and wanted to build a non-militant home for the Left. Thatcher crushed the unions, Labour became neoliberal, and thirty years zipped by, but somehow the Lib Dems have recovered a raison d’être.
It seems highly speculative to imagine that such a thing could ever happen to the NDP. (I’m not aware that there exists some brand of “awareness of one’s own irrelevance” fairy-dust that can be sprinkled on NDP supporters.) Of more immediate concern to Canada is the possibility that a strong Lib-Dem result could a) create pressure for the adoption of proportional representation in the UK and b) bring about the conditions for its immediate adoption as the price of Liberal-Democrat participation in a governing coalition. If the three UK parties were each to get the exact same numbers of votes on May 6, with the regionally distorted riding-by-riding distribution remaining about the same, the seat distribution in the Commons would end up being roughly LAB 300-CON 200-LIB 100.
I don’t think there is necessarily a major ethical problem with this, particularly since what it practically amounts to is giving Scotland and Wales something more like an equal say in British government and protecting them from being demographically overrun. Only a crazed extremist for “democracy” in the strictest technical meaning of the term would argue that Scotland and Wales should have influence on Parliament not one iota greater than their nose count. The effect of “first past the post” in current British politics is much the same as that of the U.S.A. giving equal representation to the states in the Senate, and, by extension, giving smaller states a disproportionate say in the Electoral College.
Still, this election may provide a tough, maybe destructive test of tolerance for that arrangement—particularly in the light of ever-louder murmurs of English nationalism and English awareness of the West Lothian Question. (The existence of Welsh and Scottish assemblies considerably weakens the argument that Parliament can never revise constitutional arrangements in a manner contrary to the interests of Wales and Scotland, and the argument isn’t totally decisive anyway.) A fiasco for first-past-the-post would be bad news for its future here; its abandonment in the UK as part of a power-sharing deal would make us stick out like a sore thumb. Even pro-FPTPers can’t deny that.
By Aaron Wherry - Saturday, March 27, 2010 at 8:30 AM - 58 Comments
Greetings from Montreal, where, for the next three days, we’ll be hanging around the Liberal party’s Canada 150 conference. Herein a running diary of the proceedings. Day 1′s diary is here.
8:29am. Good morning. Montreal is chilly and quiet. In a few moments we will be roused by the dulcet tones of David “The Dodge” Dodge, former governor of the Bank of Canada.
8:36am. For those of you scoring at home, the colour of the lights today is orange. And the subject is Families.
8:45am. This conference was apparently the most tweeted subject in Canada yesterday. The Liberals are immensely proud of this. Continue…
By Mark Steyn - Thursday, March 4, 2010 at 7:00 AM - 43 Comments
MARK STEYN: If he rages naked at his aides it’s because he can do nothing about anything that matters
In the old days, I used to wake up to the morning paper, neatly folded on a silver salver and presented by my valet along with the kedgeree and the brace of grilled quail. Now I wake up to an inbox of Internet stories forwarded by readers that cumulatively feel like the front page from some bizarro kingdom cooked up for an unpersuasive dystopian satire. For example, a headline from the Washington Examiner:
“Transsexual Cabaret Performer Vomits on Susan Sarandon.”
An accident? Or the pilot for a hot new reality format? In other news, the London Evening Standard reports:
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, March 3, 2010 at 1:29 PM - 2 Comments
The leaders of the three biggest parties in England have agreed to a series of three debates in the next election. Alex Massie astutely raises some concerns, all of which are entirely applicable to our particular situation.
A Brown vs Cameron contest is all very well and good but it turns the election into a contest between competing personality cults. That being so, far from strengthening parliament (a good idea!) it weakens it by giving the Prime Minister an even greater “mandate”.
All this is perhaps inevitable and the debates are, in this sense, simply a recognition of the way the wind is blowing. Only a handful of voters will have the chance to vote for either Cameron or Brown but the debates will encourage all voters to ignore the competing claims of their local candidates and endorse instead the party, not the man (or woman). This is not the way to improve the quality of MPs.
In other words, whatever is useful (and entertaining) about the debates is countered by their drawbacks as we move towards the curious situation of electing a quasi-President via a parliamentary election. Britain will, of course and as is traditional, muddle through but the more Presidential politics becomes, so the case for rather more wide-ranging reforms becomes stronger.
By Aaron Wherry - Sunday, February 21, 2010 at 2:24 PM - 6 Comments
Conservative guru Patrick Muttart sends British Tory leader David Cameron unsolicited, and perhaps ultimately dismissed, advice.
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.’
By Andrew Coyne - Tuesday, February 2, 2010 at 9:20 AM - 101 Comments
Prime Minister Gordon Brown has announced he will seek parliamentary approval for a referendum to ditch the first-past-the-post voting system for Westminster elections.
Mr Brown said that the switch to the Alternative Vote system could be part of a “new politics” which would restore public trust in Westminster in the wake of last year’s expenses scandal.
In a wide-ranging package of planned reforms, he also confirmed that a draft Bill to create a democratically accountable House of Lords will be published within the next few weeks.
And he gave his backing to parliamentary reforms to give MPs more power over the running of the Commons, new avenues for public petitions to be submitted for debate in the House and the swifter release of official documents under Freedom of Information laws…
It is thought that the Commons will vote on the issue before it rises for its half-term break next Wednesday, and Mr Brown’s spokesman this morning insisted that enough parliamentary time remains for it to reach the statute book ahead of the election, which must take place by June 3.
Mr Brown confirmed that he will campaign for a move to AV – under which voters rank candidates in numerical order, rather than simply placing an X on the ballot paper – in the referendum, which he said should be held by October 2011.
So that’s reform of the upper house, more power for MPs, and electoral reform, in one go. Must be nice to live in a country that can, you know, do things.