Posts Tagged ‘Election 2010’

Jon Snow on the birth of a coalition

Posted 02 Jun 2010 — by Jonathan
Category Politics

Apologies for just quoting an entire blog entry verbatim, but I think this is interesting enough to be worth posting on its own without my own gloss. Over at his (excellent) Snowblog, Jon Snow has posted an interesting hypothesis about the early seeds of Cameron and Clegg’s political partnership.

In full, then:

At the height of the MPs expenses scandal, the then Commons Speaker Michael Martin – himself under siege – agreed a meeting with the three main Westminster party leaders.

Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg met in a crisis session with the Speaker in his Commons rooms.

Senior Tory sources have disclosed that when the meeting convened, Gordon Brown offered what we now know to have been his stock-in-trade.

He immediately produced his papers listing in large bold letters his own multi point system for redeeming the reputation of the Commons.

As was his wont, Brown would brook neither questioning nor challenge to his edict. Exasperated, Clegg and Cameron found themselves cast in alliance against the bulldozing Brown.

My sources say that this was the first time that they began to forge coherent political co-operation and in conversations afterwards realised that they had enough in common to do some serious talking.

Will history one day judge that the intransigent over-bearing Brown became the unwitting midwife of the eventual birth of coalition politics in Britain?

Very interesting.

Siblings and risk taking

Posted 29 May 2010 — by Jonathan
Category Politics

I’ve written on Assistant Blog before about my interest in siblings. As an only child I’m entirely happy with being sibling-less, and never once considered the thought that I was in any way missing out when I was younger. Nevertheless, it remains a fascination for me, and I find myself endlessly attracted to books, songs, news stories about brothers and sisters. At work this week this came up in some discussion or other, and I successfully bullied Deb into saying she’d be my sister. Not sure it counts though.

Anyway, regular readers of my blog will not be surprised to hear that I’m getting quite excited and involved in the Labour Leadership debate – I could never celebrate Labour’s departure from power and the subsequent Tory-liberal coalition which replaced it, but I do cautiously welcome the opportunity for Labour to rediscover its priorities. I’m far from convinced that the current candidates will produce the debate we need (in fact I wonder if the battle for Labour’s London mayoral candidate, which could well involve not just Ken Livingstone and Oona King but also Peter Mandelson, might be bolder), but I’m hopeful that Labour party members will keep an open mind for as long as possible and think radically about how the direction that the party needs to evolve.

I was always going to be interested in the leadership election, but the fact that the two frontrunners are David and Ed Milliband is particularly fascinating for me. There isn’t, in ideological terms, much between them – I sense that Ed is slightly less bound by Labour’s record than David’s, but that’s a happy coincidence for him, having only entered the House of Commons in 2005, rather than an indicator of a radical streak. So what seems to be separating them in their campaigns is their approach, rather than their values (I’m wholly opposed to this being a choice taken on ‘personality’ but I do recognise that approach is important – and I’m unsure how that can be assessed without taking a long look at personalities. Yes, contradiction). My instinct, early on, is that Ed – the younger brother – is the man best placed to relaunch Labour; he seems more conversational, more engaged, more down to earth, and slightly less cautious.

Interestingly, this fascinating blog post by Ian Leslie seems to bear that notion out, although does so by way of some rather circuitous speculation. It’s very very interesting though. Prompted by research by the evolutionary psychologist Frank Sulloway, Ian takes a look at evidence which points to the importance of birth order in determining character traits. The question Ian asks is ‘which brother will be more likely to take bold risks as Labour leader?’. By examining a huge data set of information about successful siblings through the ages, Sulloway’s observations are very interesting. Ian quotes the New Yorker:

In the family, firstborns identify more strongly with power and authority than their siblings do, they employ their superior size and strength to defend their special status and frequently “minimize the costs of having siblings by dominating them.”In their relations with siblings, firstborns are more assertive, jealous, and defensive than laterborns. They also tend to be more self-confident, and are overrepresented among Nobel Prize winners and political leaders, including American Presidents and British prime ministers. Churchill, Washington, Ayn Rand, and Rush Limbaugh might be taken as illustrative.

As the underdogs of the family, laterborns are more inclined to identify with the downtrodden and to question the status quo-sometimes to the point of becoming revolutionaries. They are more open to experience, because this openness aids them, as latecomers to the family, in finding an unoccupied niche. Their openness tends to make them more imaginative, creative, independent, altruistic, and liberal. From their ranks have come the bold explorers, the iconoclasts, and the heretics of history. Joan of Arc, Marx, Lenin, Jefferson, Rousseau, Virginia Woolf, Mary Wollstonecraft, and Bill Gates typify the behavior of laterborn siblings.

Sulloway’s latest research has focused on sporting siblings, and the frequency in Baseball in which the younger brother ’steals bases’ (a bold tactical manouvre). The results echo the conclusions reached above – the younger sibling, in 90% of scenarios, takes more risks.

This is fascinating stuff – please do go over to Ian’s post and have a proper read. Incidentally, he doesn’t mention Obama, strangely (given that he authored a terrific book about the US election) – but that can be easily explained. Obama has eight half-siblings; that’s way too complicated for this discussion…

A doorstep romance

Posted 12 May 2010 — by Jonathan
Category Politics

There’s a marvelous analysis of the nauseating Cameron-Clegg doorstep handshake episode up on the New Statesman blog; so good I’m just going to quote it verbatim. Apologies for the laziness. Here’s the original, by Sophie Elmhirst.

Have you ever seen so much hand action in your life? To start with, there’s the classic handshake plus arm-grab from Nick Clegg. Solid, friendly, keen. Then the handshake hardens, becomes immobile, as though they’re both playing chicken – neither willing to let go first. I bet someone had a finger crushed at this point (although neither really seem the finger-crushing type). There follows the genial back-tap by David Cameron, a classicly patronising movement. But just when we’ve got used to the formation, up go their arms! It’s like a Siamese wave! Or synchronised swimmers! They must have practised – that kind of perfect execution doesn’t come for free – so symmetrical, balanced, rhythmic. And both, if you look closely, wearing that same clenched smile – the one that says “Yup. Here we are. Pretty big day. And I’m responsible and serious, and ready to run this goddamn country, in case you were wondering.”

Quickly, and tellingly, we’re back into competition – neither wants to bring their arm down first, like two kids in a breath-holding contest, suffering agony in order to claim victory. And then the wonderful, clinching double-back-clap-and-wave manoeuvre, so often attempted, so rarely achieved. They really excel themselves here. And yet still that element of competition – if you clap my back, I’ll clap yours just that much harder; I am the greater statesman, and this back-clap proves it once and for all!

Who wins? Well, it’s clear isn’t it. Cameron swings back in with that final back-tap which develops, outrageously, into a back-clasp, hardly ever attempted on these shores. He hasn’t let go by the time the film ends – I imagine they’re still locked in that position as they embark on their first meeting, Cameron awkwardly refusing to surrender his puppet-holding clutch on Clegg’s jacket.

Who would have thought 20 seconds of film could essentially tell you all you need to know about our new government?