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Sunday, 20 April 2008

Pick of the Commentators

In the Independent on Sunday today:

John Rentoul: Mr Brown is out of touch and out of control

Angus McLaren: Blackmail isn't what it used to be, but it still sets the pulse racing

Katy Guest: The stagflation index is at an all-time high

Joan Smith: J K Rowling and the quest for fair pay

Geoffrey Lean: The real green candidate is Ken

Best of the rest:

There's real danger to Obama in a cry of 'snob' - Michael Crowley, Observer

So, change Gordon Brown and all is well? Oh, please - Andrew Rawnsley, Observer

Labour can learn from a momentous day in social history - Roy Hattersley, Observer

Every city needs a Ken v Boris show - Simoon Jenkins, Sunday Times

We’re all fagged off with nanny - India Knight, Sunday Times

Stop the CO2 scare, before it's too late - Christopher Booker, Sunday Telegraph

The lost speech

By John Rentoul

Finally read Gordon Brown's 5,500-word Kennedy Memorial lecture that he delivered in Boston yesterday. I can see why he is irritated with the British media for giving so much more prominence to his difficulties over the 10p income tax rate. It is a good speech, if too long and characteristic of him (47 sentences beginning with "And", 12 more beginning with "So"), and he plainly worked hard on it.

Saturday, 19 April 2008

Who is Meghnad Desai?

By John Rentoul

Who is Lord Desai, author of some of the most stinging and quotable comments about the Supreme Leader? Well, he is a character, that's for sure. Check out this autobiographical profile of him in The Times of India from 2004.

Blocker Brown

By John Rentoul

Ed Balls, in his forceful defence of Gordon Brown in yesterday's Times, gives three reasons why Labour should rally round the Prime Minister:

Anybody who has the strength and conviction to take the tough decisions he did on public spending in his first two years, resist pressure to go into the euro and deal with fears of recession in 1998 and 2001 shows that he knows how to handle difficult times.

I'll give him the first, and the third is just a strange way of saying that independence for the Bank of England was a good idea.

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Have Your Say: Israeli army's reign of terror

20080419_p1_big Today The Independent reports on the shocking testimonies from Israeli soldiers that reveal abductions, beatings and torture visited on the Palestinian inhabitants of Hebron. What should Israel do about the soldiers' claims? Let us know what you think

Friday, 18 April 2008

Pick of the Blogs

Challenges of the Grand Coalition Part 1(guest post) - Kenyan Pundit

A losers' summit? - Coffee House

Chinese arming Mugabe regime? - Pickled Politics

Zimbabwe notes - Normblog

Pick of Overseas Comment

Isn't That Special? The state of the special relationship – Dana Milbank, Washington Post

We have a government, but who’s the sheriff around here? - Lucy Oriang', Nation (Kenya)

Can humanity still be saved? - Koichiro Matsuura, Nigeria Guardian

Talking about a Kevolution - Annabel Crabb, Sydney Morning Herald

Book of the Week

Chancellors_tales By John Rentoul

This is a book that was published a couple of years ago, but it comes into its own as the economic situation becomes stickier. The Chancellors' Tales is a collection of chapters written by past chancellors of the Exchequer, originally delivered as speeches in October and November 2004, with their answers to questions.

It's a surprisingly accessible read. Denis Healey, Geoffrey Howe, Nigel Lawson, Norman Lamont and Kenneth Clarke are all clever and witty politician-journalists, who settle old scores with some brio. Howe has a go at the 364 economists who wrote to The Times in 1981 condemning monetarism; Lawson restates his view that "there is nothing special about manufacturing", and that trying to resist change is "silly".

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Hope on Zimbabwe's independence day

By guest author, Zimbabwean blogger Sokwanele

It is Zimbabwe’s Independence Day today, but rather than living in a state of freedom and independence, Zimbabweans are trapped in an interregnum. These elections are different from all the previous elections that have been rigged by Mugabe because we know, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that we have proof we have won. We also know that most of the world believes we have won too. 

The international legitimacy that Mugabe craves and needs to economically survive has been lost to him forever. The political dynamic has shifted into a different phase. For the first time, the freedom loving forces in our country visibly have the upper hand, and it is Zanu PF and Mugabe who are scrabbling, violently, to retain control.

Our twilight period is banded at both ends with the faint glow of hope: the hope we felt when we cast our ballots and the hope we still have for the future we have voted for.

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Let's get real about the presidential race

By guest author, Greg Palmer

The Independent was kind enough to ask for my thoughts on this week's debate between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, but I've got to confess - I didn't watch. The American news media - especially television - has become so vapid and devoid of information that I didn't see the point, and the reviews of the debate prove me right.

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Italians will be to blame when Berlusconi fails

By Michael Savage

There have been some wide-ranging views on Berlusconi's re-election this week. It was actually more comfortable than some had thought - there were fears that the two houses may be split, which would have hamstrung Italian politics even further. But while many have now criticised Berlusconi for his various shortcomings, one cannot say he has not been consistent in his disappointment as a leader.

It is, of course, entirely up to the Italian people who they want to see in power. But they cannot say they have not been warned. Electing him once was a gamble. Electing him twice was eccentric. But returning him to office for a third time is madness. And with Italy's economy on the ropes, the lessons of Berlusconi's past should have weighed more heavily on the minds of the Italian electorate than they have.

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To whose advice does Gordon listen?

By John Rentoul

I've already commented on Gordon Brown's interview with Katie Couric for CBS on Monday, but have just come across another interesting line. (It has taken me a while to read the transcript, partly because I have been standing in for Steve Richards this week.) Couric asked him about being "in the unenviable position of following in Tony Blair's footsteps", and he said:

After ten years of one party in government, you've obviously got to be able to respond to people saying, "Why is it not time for a change?" ... What I have got to show is that the challenges that this country has to meet in the future, not too dissimilar from the challenges that America has to meet - how you have energy security, how you can build a stronger economy in competition to China and India, how people can secure higher standards of living, better healthcare and education, a better and cleaner and greener future - you have to show people that you own the future.

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