Saturday, August 30, 2008

Yes, We Are "P*ssed Off", Darling

You have to read it a couple of times to believe it, but yes, he did say the P-word. And his candid comments made international news. In an interview with the Guardian, chancellor, Alistair Darling, said that voters were "pissed off" with Labour's handling of the economy, which is the worst it's been for 60 years.

One would have thought a senior government minister would have been a little more circumspect with his language. Clearly someone has rattled his cage. And 60 years? That takes us back to the end of WW2, when the economy was on its knees. Thanks for the confidence-boost, Darling.

Using strong language, Darling finally acknowledged what voters have been saying for a long time. And raised the question whether New Labour ministers are too busy in-fighting rather than looking after the economy. 

In the interview, the chancellor admitted the government had failed to get the message across.

Now that's coming from the man who has been presiding over the economy for the last year and whose predecessor was in charge of the economy for the last ten. 

Darling reveals the huge rift in the Labour Party and open warfare and chaos in the government.

The Guardian interview reports: "Darling does not name names, but he says some people want his job and have been trying to undermine him. Many in the Treasury believe that Ed Balls, the schools secretary, has been less than supportive."

"There's lots of people who'd like to do my job. And no doubt," he adds, half under his breath, "actively trying to do it."

Asked why Brown has not communicated New Labour's mission, Darling falters, according to the Guardian as he says: "Er, well. Well, it's always difficult, you know ... But Gordon, in September, up to party conference, has got the opportunity to do that. And he will do that. It's absolutely imperative."

It's hard now to know who to believe. One the one hand, Darling is telling us the economy is at its worst for 60 years. On the other hand, Brown tells us we are weathering the storm.

Reaction to Darling's frank and forthright comments was swift. Shadow chancellor, George Osborne, wanted to know: "Who is telling the truth at the top of government?"

LibDem treasury spokesman, Vincent Cable, agreed: "Until very recently there was a state of denial. Now suddenly we've lurched into Apocalypse Now, the return of the Great Depression."

It seems, according to Darling, we'll have to wait until the September Labour Party conference before we're told quite clearly what the government is up to and what Brown plans to do. 


Palin Reality Or Obama Illusion?

Today, it was all McCain, and his new running mate, Alaskan governor, Sarah Palin, the first woman to appear on a presidential ticket in 24 years. McCain's pick of the 44 year-old, is a direct challenge to Obama and his old-timer, Joe Biden, to face down Obama's grand illusions. 

As noted by the Orange Party here yesterday, part of the McCain strategy is to attack the myth of Obama.

Robert Tracinski, of TIADaily, writing in Real Clear Politics, believes Obama offers a "beautiful packaged lie":

"But there is a way to defeat Obama. His whole campaign is a beautifully presented illusion, and the way to defeat it is to keep hammering on the difference between illusion and reality. Because the more grandiose the illusion, the more thoroughly it will be rejected when it is revealed as a lie."

With Palin, McCain has injected a large does of reality into the race for the White House.

Republicans, quoted on the US political web-site, Politico, describe Palin variously as:

"She's down to earth, a hunter and a fisherman, really connects with the people of Alaska. She's really the new face of the Party." ... "She's a strong, pro-life, supply side, drill-drill-drill ethics reformer."

Palin, a self-styled "hockey mom", has been the governor of the State of Alaska for less than two years but her lack of Washington experience more than matches that of Illinois senator, Obama.

She's also got something else going for her, which will appeal to voters - she's a working mum with five children. A point not lost on Fox News analyst, Kirsten Powers, writing in the New York Postwho reckons McCain has set a "brilliant trap" for the Democrats.

Three years younger than Obama, Palin was an unexpected choice. But the reality is, she could attract Clinton supporters and cross-over delegates who feel let down and bitter after Obama snatched the nomination from her.

Regarded as a social conservative and reformer, Palin is the first woman to appear on a presidential ticket since Walter Mondale picked Geraldine Ferraro as his running mate 24 years ago. 

And, her strong pro-life stance will chime with the reality of a huge US anti-abortion lobby. 

While the Democrat convention was running, polls didn't show the expected 'Biden bounce', that should have given Obama quite a few points lead. Instead it was McCain who edged ahead. 

The tracking poll jury is still out on Obama's convention performance and the McCain veep choice.

Obama's anointment at the 'Temple of Obama' is yesterday's news. As the Washington Post put it - more pageantry than politics.

Events move fast in US presidential elections. McCain now has a woman, youth and reality on his side.

Weather permitting, next week should see the start of the Republican GOP convention (the Grand Old Party). The Obama-Biden ticket has some catching up to do.


Friday, August 29, 2008

McCain Picks First Woman Veep In 24yrs

McCain has picked a fresh new face, Alaskan governor, Sarah Palin, as his running-mate, in a direct challenge to Obama and his ticket with old-timer, Joe Biden. Palin, 44, a self-styled hockey mum, has been an Alaskan governor for less than two years and is already drawing praise from Republicans as an 'electrifying choice'. 

The news had been running on Associated Press wires since late afternoon. A formal announcement was made when McCain and Palin appeared on stage at a rally in Ohio.

Palin, three years younger than Obama, is an unexpected choice, but could attract Clinton supporters who feel let down and bitter after Obama snatched the nomination from her.

Regarded as a reformer, Palin is the first woman to appear on a presidential ticket since Walter Mondale picked Geraldine Ferraro as his running mate 24 years ago.

The US political website, Politico, quotes MSNBC's Larry Kudlow: "She's a strong, pro-life, supply side, drill-drill-drill ethics reformer ... and would electrify everyone if this choice pans out."

Another Rebublican is quoted as saying: "She's down to earth, a hunter and a fisherman, really connects with the people of Alaska. She's really the new face of the Party."


Snacks Fall Foul Of Food Police

What have a Torquay power-boat skipper and a Hull mum got in common? They've both fallen foul of the food police. 

First up hungry skipper, Pete, who sailed into stormy waters when he took a bite from a sandwich given by a passenger on a pleasure trip. 

That's payment in kind, said the harbour authorities and you don't have a licence to carry fee-paying passengers. 

Then up to Hull and mum, Sarah, who gave her hungry toddler, Chloe, a piece of sausage roll which fell on the pavement and was devoured by pigeons. But not before eagle-eyed council officials had swooped down on her and slapped a fine for littering.

The skipper pleaded guilty to being a bit peckish and promised not to do it again. The mum stood her ground and had the case thrown out by local magistrates.

"There were safety issues and the law's there for a reason - otherwise every Tom, Dick or Harry (and presumably Pete) could turn up and take people out. We don't want to be killjoys but the point is they didn't have a licence to carry passengers," said harbour spokespeople.

Apparently the power-boat owner and harbour authorities didn't fall out over it. 

Not so in Hull, where a spokesperson for the city council said: "The council's zero-tolerance approach aims to reduce the feeling of neglect and lack of respect within the neighbourhoods and to help improve the quality of people's lives."

Please make it stop.

(Thanks to the Daily Telegraph for putting both stories together on the same page and the headline: 'Sandwich scuppers round-the-world skipper')


Obama's Not The Messiah, Just A Very Clever Boy

By the end of the day, Obama Superstar's anointment at the Mile High stadium will be yesterday's news. As the Washington Post puts it, 'more pageantry than politics'. News moves fast in presidential elections and by November, the Democratic convention could go down as one of the biggest political disasters in US history. 

After last night's Obama Superstar performance, the Republican target just got a whole lot easier. 

It boils down to two words. 'Hubris', of which Obama has a lot and 'Change', of which there was little evidence at the convention or in his speech, which had the familiar ring of Democrat speeches from the past. 

McCain knows that, the Clintons know that. Both are waiting for Obama to fall off his perch. And both words will figure in the election battle which now starts in earnest.

It's hard to know what the Democrats were thinking, as they were taken in by the hype of the Obama campaign and its theme of "Change". 

After returning from his "Audacity of Hype" tour, speaking to the multitudes in Berlin, the Chosen One headed to Hawaii for a vacation and became the "presumptuous, presumptive candidate". But that didn't matter to his slick marketing team.  

Then onto the convention first night. While the banners read the candidate of 'Change', it was dominated by homage to Edward Kennedy, who ran for president in 1980. 

Obama allowed the second night to be dominated by the candidate he defeated for the nomination in the Primaries and whose supporters felt bitter and cheated. Hillary Clinton, who has been on the political stage since 1992, gave the best speech of her political career.

No change either with Obama's selection of running mate, silver-haired loser, Joe Biden, who's been a senator for 35 years. 

While the convention was running, polls showed the expected 'Biden bounce' didn't happen. That should have given Obama quite a few points lead but instead it was McCain who edged ahead. 

Obama allowed the third night to be dominated by the charisma of former president Bill Clinton, who's been around since 1988. Again, just where is the change?

Even after he knew he'd clinched the nomination, Obama allowed the Clintons to take over the convention and neither gave Obama their outright blessing as commander-in-chief. 

Throughout the four day Obamafest, words like hubris, arrogance and 'narcissistic celebrity candidate' were not too far behind. What's more, there are elements of Obama that voters are uneasy with. Like his house deal with Chicago crook, Tony Rezko. 

Onto Thursday and the spectacle of the 'Temple of Obama', timed for the 45th anniversary of King's "Dream" speech. No stuffy convention hall full of Democrat delegates - it's outside to the Invesco Fields stadium, a theatrical extravaganza before an adoring throng of more than 75,000 Obama faithful.

Democrats started to become decidedly uneasy and queasy that yesterday's outdoor spectacle may backfire. The opinion poll jury is still out on that one.

Pictures of 200,000 mesmerised followers in Berlin didn't help Obama's campaign. Older voters don't like all that celebrity stuff. An expensive theatrical stage-set in Denver doesn't work with working class voters. 

How does he get away with it? He's got the majority of the Main stream media on his side, that's how. 

Never mind the voters, never mind the opinion polls, this all makes great TV and great pictures - and they're happy to run with it. 

Last night's gut-wrenching spectacle was missing just one thing. You'd expect Terry Jones to run on stage shouting - "He's not the Messiah he's just a very clever boy." 

And that concludes Act One in the Life of Barry.


Thursday, August 28, 2008

Miliband Gives Schoolboy History Lesson

After going AWOL over Georgia, foreign secretary and Blair-apparent, David Miliband, popped up in the Ukraine, looking every inch the schoolboy, to give a major foreign policy speech - to a bunch of Ukrainian students in a classroom.

Just what his media managers were thinking about beggars belief. This was supposed to be sabre rattling and setting out the stall for UK foreign policy, picked up by the world media. Instead he just looked rather silly.

Rattling the old Cold War rhetoric is not the way to improve east-west relations and giving a schoolboy Cold War history lesson is not the way to do it. 

Miliband should listen to Robert Skidelsky writing in today's Times and stop playing with fire:

"If politicians, including our own, want a new Cold War, they will get one. But the fault will lie as much with us as Russia."

After a performance like that, the heir-to-Blair should stick to his day job.


Obama 'Temple' Takes Shape In Denver

A massive temple-like structure is taking shape in Denver (top), to mimic the Lincoln Memorial, as the setting for  Barack Obama's anointment. The coronation is set to coincide with the 45th anniversary of Martin Luther King's historic "I have a dream" speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial (bottom). 

Pictures of the Denver football stadium set, in the New York Post, show a backdrop with a grey column-like structure, suggesting Washington classical architecture or a Greek temple.

The McCain camp has been quick to launch attack ads, labelling the construction "The Temple of Obama", a theme taken up by the New York Post

After striking a deal with the Obama campaign team, Clinton finally released her delegates and cut short the roll-call vote at the Democrat convention, to pave the way for Obama's nomination by acclamation.

Obama will finally have a chance to sell his soap powder 'dream' to a 70,000 strong crowd at the Invesco Fields Stadium and a prime-time TV audience later today, accompanied by a fireworks and confetti spectacle.

Washington Post writer, George Will, puts it, 'The Devils in his Details':

"When Barack Obama feeds rhetorical fishes and loaves to the multitudes in the football stadium Thursday night ... it is necessarily formulaic and abstract, vague enough for any time and place, hence truly apposite for none."

Political commentators are questioning whether the Obama campaign team is taking the hyped-up theatrical setting too far and playing into the hands of opponents of the Democrats 'narcissistic celebrity candidate.'


Brown Spin Costs Us A Fortune

Gordon Brown came to No 10 promising an end to spin but figures reveal his government has spent more on media management than Blair. Official figures show the government spent £391 million on advertising, marketing, PR and other presentational work in 2007-08. Up by £53 million on the previous year - a rise of almost 16 per cent.

The latest spending figures are revealed by the Daily Telegraph in the annual report of the Central Office of Information.

It was Brown who, in his very early days as PM, promised an end to the emphasis on spin and presentation and promised to cut back on the number of special advisors and media spin doctors.

Earlier this year, the annual wage bill for the prime minister's special advisers was estimated to have risen by more than £350,000 to £1.75 million - roughly the same as when Blair was at No 10.

The Telegraph reports the latest figures show the government spent £167 million on advertising, as well as £29 million on PR and sponsorship and £12 million on "strategic consultancy".

The newly revamped No 10 website was highlighted by the Orange Party here as just the tip of the publicity iceberg and has become a vehicle for Brown's  personal publicity machine, rather than a government information service.

Greg Clark, shadow cabinet office minister, said the figures showed Brown's talk of a "new politics" had been a sham.

He told the Telegraph: "At a time when families and businesses are having to cut back, Gordon Brown is increasing spending on promoting himself and his government." 


Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Fat Is A Political Issue

Politicians like to seize on obesity every now and then to make political capital out of it. Ministers tried it on recently with a ridiculous idea to give kids a fat report letter to be sent home to parents. Now it's the turn of the Tories who are getting some flack by putting the boss of processed food giant, Unilever, as chair of its new fat working group. 

Launching plans for a 'Responsibility Deal', shadow health secretary, Andrew Lansley, said it was time to "take away the excuses so that overweight people started exercising and eating more fruit and vegetables." 

That's all well and good but he shot himself in the foot by defending his choice of Unilever chairman, Dave Lewis, to head up the group.

“Who better to work with than one of Britain’s leading food manufacturers?” he said. “Business is not trying to make people fat - business is trying sell good food products.”

Now that is really talking food crap. Business is about making profits.

Get to the heart of the matter - it's processed food that makes us fat - and, as reported by the Orange Party here, in particular a nasty little fat called trans-fat. That's why the nation's getting fat. That's why heart disease and diabetes are so high.

Trans-fats are used because they're cheap. They bulk-up products and give processed foods a longer shelf-life. They are used for frying and baking and turn up in all sorts of processed foods and ready-made mixes.

New York City recently banned trans-fats from foods. So has Philadelphia and Seattle. California has become the first US state to ban restaurants and food retailers from using trans-fats.

Over here Denmark and Switzerland have banned them. In the UK, some supermarkets have banned them from own label foods.

But the government and opposition's main response to processed foods and trans-fats is to do nothing much. 

At the end of the day it's still left to people to turn into the food police. To hunt down the ingredients in tiny print on the packaging and take pot-luck with our pot noodles. 


Et Tu, Hillary?

She came, she saw, but she did she conquer or did she just try to knife Obama in the back? Clinton had no choice but to put up a public display of 'unity' at the Democrat convention in Denver. After all, she's didn't want to go down as the one who split the Democrats. 

Public support was all she gave, in one of the finest speeches of her political career. 

Not once did she talk up Obama as the commander-in-chief. Not once did she single out Obama as the best person to lead America out of the economic gloom. Not once did she actually come out and say Obama would make the best president. And the omissions have already been seized on by the McCain attack ads. 

Michael Tomasky makes that point well in today's Guardian Comments - the things Hillary didn't say rather than what she did say. 

And, as Ben Smith from the US Politico website puts it, "Clinton did little to sell Obama's personal characteristics, his qualities or ability as commander in chief. She mentioned Obama 12 times, McCain 12 times."

She did her duty and she did it well. But she never came to Denver to praise Obama - she still expects her supporters to bury him. 

For the first time a Gallup daily tracking poll is showing McCain edging ahead (McCain 46%-Obama 44%), with no evidence of a 'Biden bounce'. 

It leaves Clinton's 18 million strong support base open to make up their own minds. 

The anger and frustration from Clinton supporters is boiling over in Denver, with an estimated one quarter hinting they'd rather vote for McCain than Obama. 

With both Clinton and Obama's name on the roll-call vote for nomination, normally there would be a long drawn out and very public show of support for either candidates. 

But the Obama campaign has a tight grip on this convention and the spectacle of each State declaring is unlikely to happen. 

There's speculation that the roll-call will be made by secret ballot behind closed doors with just a token public vote in the convention hall.

Nothing will get in the way of Obama's big day tomorrow - August 28 - the 45th anniversary of when Martin Luther King gave hope to the world with his historic "I have a dream" speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

Tomorrow, 45 years to the day, Obama will sell his soap powder 'dream'. And no one will be allowed to rain on that parade. 


Monday, August 25, 2008

Debbie Does Denver For McCain

How can the McCain camp rain on Obama's parade and divert attention away from the Democratic convention (DNC) in Denver and keep up a presence in the media? What they came up with is a cross-over ad and a stroke of genius. 

By exploiting the growing tension between the Clinton and Obama camps and the rift between delegates at the DNC, with a cross-over ad from one of the delegates. 

Debra Bartoshevich, a Wisconsin DNC Delegate, opposed Obama's nomination and was under fire from her own party for her criticism of the Chosen One.

This is how she appears in the McCain ad, which has already notched up more than 100,000 hits on YouTube.

There's growing anger that the Democratic leadership has blatantly ignored a large part of the party and alienated Clinton supporters.

As he prepares to sell his 'dream', packaged up like soap powder, tensions are boiling over between the two camps, with the Politico website, among others, reporting the mistrust and resentment.

The frictions will come to a head with the thorny issue of Clinton's name down on the roll-call vote for nomination and whether she'll release her delegates to Obama on Wednesday. 

And, looming in the background, is a US lawsuit, filed by a Clinton supporter, designed to halt Obama's bid for the presidency and nomination. 

Reports surfaced last week that Debra Bartoshevich, had told the Wisconsin Journal she would vote for Clinton at the convention and McCain in November. The Republicans didn't waste any time as the presidential campaign is increasingly being fought on the internet.