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12.11.13

Survival skills

I have this in the November edition of Progress magazine.

As leader of the Labour party, Tony Blair was keener than his predecessors to align his party with the idea of aspiration. This was both a conviction that background should not limit anyone and a pitch for the support of the striving middle classes, so important in many marginal seats.

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03.09.13

Ed gets it: the red line matters – but so does international legitimacy

This is what I wrote on Labour Uncut about the Syria vote in the Commons before it happened.

Daniel Finkelstein in the Times yesterday quoted Andrew Tabler, a Syrian expert, as saying: “What happens (in Syria) will not stay there.” Which makes it imperative that as large an international coalition as possible is built behind the evidence that the Assad regime used chemical weapons against its own people, constituting a violation of international law that must be punished.

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26.03.13

Preview: Tony Blair’s speech on Europe

I had this on Labour Uncut last November.

While Andrew Rawnsley reports that Ed Miliband’s speech to the CBI on the EU “leant heavily against a referendum”, Peter Mandelson recently wrote in the Financial Times that a referendum is “inevitable”. Today Tony Blair will deliver a speech in which he will argue for Britain “to be at the heart of the EU”.

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07.09.10

The challenge for the new shadow chancellor

I wrote for Labour Uncut today on the challenge for the new shadow chancellor.

The Labour leadership election will, finally, end on 25 September. But the identity of the shadow chancellor will be unknown until 7 October, when the results of the shadow cabinet election are announced. 13 days after this the new leader and shadow chancellor will lead our response to the comprehensive spending review. “It is”, as a leadership contender has said, “an incredibly tight timetable for the new leader and their shadow chancellor to map out a policy that might yet determine how we are viewed for the rest of the parliament.”

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01.09.10

Cameron’s House Party and public servant bashing

Philip Stephens makes a striking observation in the FT noting the harshness of the coalition’s rhetoric on the public sector and public servants:

“The government’s tone of voice is one that suggests all public spending is wasteful, and all those working in central or local government are on the make or take. Perhaps, given his goal of a smaller state, this is Mr Cameron’s intention. If so, it is neither sensible nor politically astute. It also happens to be unfair.”

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07.11.09

Coverage of AIFM Directive report

A report that I co-authored for the European Parliament on the proposed Alternative Investment Fund Managers (AIFM) Directive has been picked up by the Financial Times, Reuters and Wall Street Journal.

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03.06.09

China and contested modernity

I think I am noticing something of a theme in the Economist of late. On 28 May they noted:

“How times change. When George Bush’s treasury secretaries first visited China, Wall Street was booming, America’s economy was growing and the president’s emissaries routinely lectured their Chinese hosts on the need for freer financial markets and a more flexible yuan. But as Tim Geithner, the current treasury secretary, prepares to make his maiden trip to Beijing on May 31st, Wall Street is synonymous with greed and failure, America’s economy is on its knees and it is the Chinese who have been doing the lecturing. With America’s budget deficit soaring and the Fed’s printing presses running at full speed, China is complaining loudly of the risks that inflation and depreciation pose to its huge stash of dollars, and arguing for an alternative to the greenback as the world’s reserve currency”.

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03.03.09

Washington via Brussels

There is a big, fat hint on today’s FT comment page for Gordon Brown.

Philip Stephens concludes his piece, thus:

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30.01.09

The immense power of human vanity

Lionel Barber, FT editor, thinks that one of the most underrated events of the past year was “the G20 summit in Washington featuring the leading industrialised nations as well as Brazil, China, India, Russia and Saudi Arabia”, because it “lay bare the new political constellation in the world, with power shifting to east of the Euphrates”. This video gives a funky illustration of this power shift and the exceptional nature of our times. Faceback is citied in the video as an illustration of the role of technological innovation in making our times exceptional. Mark Zuckerberg of this social networking site has been described by Barber as the person that he most admires in the media. “He is cool, understated, and possessed of a brilliant business focus and an understanding of the power of human vanity”. To what extent is the eastwards political power shift driven by technology and to what extent is technology driven by human vanity?

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30.01.09

The immense power of human vanity

Lionel Barber, FT editor, thinks that one of the most underrated events of the past year was “the G20 summit in Washington featuring the leading industrialised nations as well as Brazil, China, India, Russia and Saudi Arabia”, because it “lay bare the new political constellation in the world, with power shifting to east of the Euphrates”. This video gives a funky illustration of this power shift and the exceptional nature of our times. Faceback is citied in the video as an illustration of the role of technological innovation in making our times exceptional. Mark Zuckerberg of this social networking site has been described by Barber as the person that he most admires in the media. “He is cool, understated, and possessed of a brilliant business focus and an understanding of the power of human vanity”. To what extent is the eastwards political power shift driven by technology and to what extent is technology driven by human vanity?

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10.01.09

Paradise regained?

Halldór Laxness, the Icelandic winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1955, once wrote a novel called Paradise Regained. But the past twelve months seem to have been more of a case of paradise lost for Iceland. The news coming out of the island, roughly as big as Ireland with a population about the size of a London Borough, remains unremittingly grim. Indeed, The Financial Times has called Iceland “the land that Christmas forgot“. However, I found Reykjavik as eager to celebrate the dawn of 2009 as would be expected from a people that lost a paradise in 2008. Nightclubs jumped, many fireworks exploded and good times were had. But will Iceland be able to regain their paradise over coming years?

It would be wrong to underestimate the economic challenge facing a country where massive national debts mean that GDP is expected to fall by 10 per cent and unemployment to triple this year. Nonetheless, when in Iceland I found my mind wandering back to a report on the competitiveness of London that I worked on last year for the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI). This report placed much stress on the importance of an innovative workforce; with quality of life issues becoming increasingly economically important as the premium grows to attracting highly skilled, though, in an age of high speed broadband and transport networks, very mobile workers.

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27.11.08

Be Icelandic Now

iceland

Fantastic reportage in the FT on Iceland and the credit crunch. Financial convolutions may have been unprecedented here but this reportage beautifully details why and how they have provoked an existential crisis in the Icelandic spirit. It notes that one man, who waited for six hours in a bank as his life savings were counted out in front of him, exclaimed, “I feel like an innocent man dragged from his bed, put in a barrel and hurled over the Gullfoss!” Indeed, the whole country must feel like it has just been thrown off the majestic 100ft waterfall that is the Gullfoss.

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