Here is a short sharp piece from the FP Passport web-site, essentially pointing out that Obama’s foreign policy is a bit of a smoking ruin. I would love to be able to pick it apart. But I can’t really. It’s depressingly accurate. Enjoy – if that’s the word.
Pascal Lamy, the head of the World Trade Organisation, is fond of saying that the predicted surge of protectionism in the wake of the Great Recession never happened. I hope he didn’t speak too soon. Things are getting pretty tense in US-Chinese trade relations. If they get seriously out of hand, the WTO will be handed a massive political problem that will threaten the very future of the organisation. Read more
Next week sees the retirement of the man described by Barack Obama as “the most popular politician on earth”. President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil, known simply as Lula, steps down after eight years in office, with a stratospheric approval rating of about 80 per cent. As a result, the Brazilian presidential election on October 3 will be a celebration of the past, as much as a signpost to the future. The almost certain winner will be Lula’s hand-picked successor, Dilma Rousseff.
David Miliband gave a dignified speech at the Labour Party conference today, in which he didn’t cry once. But I wish Ed Miliband, the new Labour leader, would stop emphasising how much he “loves” the brother whose career he has just destroyed. It’s all very schmalzy and unBritish.
On the other hand, if Ed insists on taking this line, he should really go for it in tomorrow’s leader’s speech. Here is a suggested line – “I love David. I adore him. (Dramatic pause). But that is why I had to destroy him. (Thumps lectern, tear trickles down his cheek). I hope you understand.” Read more
I’m sitting in the lobby of the Midland hotel at the Labour Party conference, here in Manchester. The atmosphere is much more subdued than at previous Labour conferences I’ve been too. I was wondering why until – duh – the obvious fact struck me: these guys don’t matter any more. They’re out of power. At every conference since 1997, Labour brought with them all the buzz, money, crowds and excitement that comes with proximity to power. That’s all gone. Instead, there is the flattening realisation that the long slog of opposition is beginning.
Yesterday, Labour made its single most important decision about how it will conduct itself in opposition. It chose a new leader – Ed Miliband. I have to say, I think they made the wrong call. It’s not that he’s the “red Ed” of the tabloids’ imagination or bad at public presentation. About half an hour ago (its now eight pm), I saw the new leader give a short, fluent speech to a bunch of Labour youth activists in the lobby of the conference. He was impressive in his way. Relaxed, confident, charming, fluent, self-deprecating in the prescribed British manner. A little bland, but clearly able. Watching him I thought – “What an impressive young guy.” (He’s 40) But I didn’t think – “This man could be prime minister tomorrow.” Read more
The far right in Sweden, arms in the Middle East and China’s relationship with Japan
In the podcast this week: Hints of a change at the top in North Korea, a surge in arms sales to the Middle East, the rise of the far right in Sweden and tensions between China and Japan. Presented by Gideon Rachman with Richard McGregor and David Blair in the studio, Andrew Ward in Stockholm and Christian Oliver in Seoul. Reports on North Korea and Sweden by Helen Warrell and Fiona Symon respectively. Produced by LJ Filotrani
It takes a lot to make life in Luxembourg feel uncomfortable. And yet, on a brief visit to the Grand Duchy, I have found the Luxembourgeoisie distinctly unnerved by a row with their large neighbour to the West, otherwise known as France. It all kicked off with the dispute between President Sarkozy of France and Viviane Reding, the EU commissioner from Luxembourg, over the French treatment of Roma migrants. Sarko’s supporters were so affronted by being cheeked by a commissioner from tiny Luxembourg, that Philippe Marini, a Senator in Sarko’s ruling UMP party, told a French radio audience this week that the world might be better off without Luxembourg. Read more
I find it hard to believe that, at this late stage, the organisers of the Commonwealth Games really will pull the plug on the plan to hold the games in Delhi next month. It is fairly routine to read panicky reports ahead of a major sporting event that the facilities are not ready – think of the Athens Olympics.
Still, the news coming out of Delhi does sound unusually damning. There were already fears about security and about an outbreak of dengue fever. Now the inspection committee has condemned the rooms for athletes as filthy and insanitary and a footbridge near the stadium has collapsed. Read more
The European Union has plenty to worry about: soaring debts, wobbling banks, declining influence, a war in Afghanistan. But at their most recent summit, EU leaders took a break from the serious stuff to have a blazing row about the fate of Europe’s gypsies.
I have just come back from a lunch at All Souls College, Oxford, to mark an important moment in the university’s history. Oxford has just recieved a £75m endowment from Len Blavatnik, an American industrialist, originally from the Soviet Union. It is using the money to set up the Blavatnik School of Government on new premises in the centre of the city. The intention is to challenge the monopoly of the leading US universities on the post-graduate education of future political leaders and administrators. The Blavatnik school is essentially Oxford’s answer to the Kennedy school at Harvard and the Wilson school at Princeton – although the Oxonians insist that the education they provide will be a little different and more rounded by, for example, including a compulsory science course. The new school is intended to get off to a fast start. It will admit its first students in 2012. Read more