By Gideon Rachman
What should western politicians be most worried about: growth, inequality, the environment, education? To judge from today’s discourse, the answer seems to be none of the above. Instead, in the past month, both Barack Obama, US president, and David Cameron, UK prime minister, have made big speeches on immigration. At the weekend Swiss voters rejected a proposal virtually to end the flow of incomers to their country. But anti-immigration parties have made strong gains in a variety of other European nations, including Sweden and Italy, in the past year.

Nicolas Sarkozy is back as leader of France’s centre-right UMP party. The stage is set for him to run for the presidency in 2017. Given the dreadful opinion-poll ratings of President François Hollande, Mr Sarkozy must surely now be considered the favourite to be France’s next president.

But it is not all good news for the former and would-be future president. His victory margin in the UMP poll was a relatively narrow 64.5 per cent. That will probably not be enough to deter potential challengers for the UMP nomination in 2017 – including credible alternatives such as Alain Juppé. Read more

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What does Podemos want?
It is, without doubt, the question that has occupied political analysts and commentators in Spain more than any other in recent weeks.
The country’s new anti-establishment party has gone from an idea to a mass movement in just ten months.

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All smiles: foreign ministers of the six world powers at the nuclear talks in Vienna. Getty

The failure to meet this week’s deadline for a definitive nuclear deal between Iran and the so-called P5+1 (the US, UK, France, Russia and China, the permanent members of the UN Security Council, plus Germany) is ominous. True, the negotiations, already extended once after the interim agreement a year ago, have been given a new deadline of June next year. But musings of the glass half full, glass half empty variety under-represent just how difficult it will be now to close a deal, and how much is at stake if this chance to bring the Islamic Republic in from the cold slips away. Read more

US foreign policy after Chuck Hagel’s resignation
This week Chuck Hagel stepped down as US defence secretary at a time when doubts are growing about the administration’s ability to manage growing threats in the Middle East and Europe. Gideon Rachman discusses what the resignation means for American foreign policy with Geoff Dyer and Ed Luce.

  • Magnus Carlsen retained his crown as world chess champion without the aid of supercomputers or a huge team of assistants – reinforcing the view that he is the best player the game has ever seen
  • Foreign travellers are returning to the pyramids in Giza and Cairo’s ancient markets as Egypt’s tourist industry picks up, a sign that the country’s broader economic picture may be improving
  • “Lung washing tours” are the new thing in Chinese tourism, as smog drives mainland tourists into novel migration patterns to escape the worst days of autumn
  • As China increasingly uses its state-owned television network as an arm of the law, not only are its journalists embarrassed to wear its logo in public – they don’t even believe the things they report (Foreign Policy)
  • Mumbai gangsters have returned to targeting Bollywood celebrities in an effort to find a “new business model”, police in India’s commercial capital say (Guardian)

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By Gideon Rachman
For centuries European navies roamed the world’s seas – to explore, to trade, to establish empires and to wage war. So it will be quite a moment when the Chinese navy appears in the Mediterranean next spring, on joint exercises with the Russians. This plan to hold naval exercises was announced in Beijing last week, after a Russian-Chinese meeting devoted to military co-operation between the two countries.

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Another week, another sign of political upheaval in Spain.

Monday brought a fresh poll showing that Podemos, the upstart anti-establishment party, is now the most popular political movement in the country. The survey, published in the El Mundo daily, gave Podemos 28.3 per cent of the vote, two points ahead of the ruling Popular party and more than eight points ahead of the opposition Socialists. Not bad for a party founded just 10 months ago by a group of political scientists

It was not the first time that the new party has come first in an opinion poll. But the latest survey made clear that the Podemos surge is no statistical aberration. Fuelled by wide-spread disdain for Spain’s political class and a festering social crisis, the new party appears to be on course to shatter Spain’s established two-party system – and render any prediction as to who might govern the country after next year’s general election obsolete. Read more

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IAEA inspectors at Natanz nuclear power plant earlier this year

It all seems so simple: Iran’s aggressive expansion of its – officially – civilian nuclear programme has brought it within months of being able to enrich enough uranium to make an atomic bomb. The world has punished the Islamic republic with sanctions and now nobody is happy. So, as per an agreement last November called the Joint Plan of Action (JPOA), the world’s big powers (the five members of the UN security council plus Germany, or P5+1) want to reduce Iran’s bomb making potential – the so-called breakout time – in return for sanctions relief.

Briefly put: the P5+1 want Iran’s breakout time to go from under 6 months to at least 12. Iran wants to export its oil and use the world’s banking system. And there the simplicity ends.

Beyond the stated goals is a fiendishly complex jigsaw of negotiating positions, all complicated by questions of transparency and trust. Below is an outline of some of the technical terms that may help to understand what is being discussed. Read more

A breakthrough in the fight against climate change
The US and China surprised the world last week with an outline agreement in which both countries agreed to limit emissions of greenhouse gases. Gideon Rachman is joined by Pilita Clark, FT environment correspondent, and Paul Bledsoe, senior fellow on climate and energy in the German Marshall Fund in Washington, to discuss how big a breakthrough it is.

The announcement of closer Russian-Chinese military co-operation is a striking sign of how geo-political competition is hotting up – as both Russia and China look to push back against a US-dominated world. Read more

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I never had much time for the Greenham Common women. As a mildly reactionary student of the 1980s, I regarded them – and their protest camp outside a British nuclear-weapons base – as silly and misguided. After all, decades of experience taught that nuclear deterrence worked.

The crew that was dead set against raising consumption tax in Japan will be feeling vindicated. The economy unexpectedly fell back into recession in the third quarter, contracting 0.4 per cent quarter on quarter, or 1.6 per cent on an annualised basis. That makes it highly unlikely that prime minister Shinzo Abe will push ahead with a second round of VAT hikes, from 8 per cent to 10 per cent, after the first increase from 5 per cent in April. At least for now.

Here are seven charts showing the worrying side of Abenomics, and some reasons to be hopeful. Read more