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Four more years

So the mud-slinging is over for now, in the US at least, with President Barack Obama winning a second term, defeating Republican challenger Mitt Romney by gaining more than the 270 votes needed to win.

In general that means that Europe will be waking up this morning with a general sigh of relief.   Opinion polls have always shown President Obama to be more popular than Governor Romney – but for most governments continuity in Washington is better than a changing of the guard.   The US Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, as well as the President himself, has been closely involved in discussions on the eurozone.   Added to that, the EU is so embroiled in its internal debates on the eurozone crisis that it doesn’t want any external distractions.   The EU has also been working closely with the Obama administration on a variety of foreign policy issues – Iran in particular.   Even if some of the key personnel change in a second Obama term, the President’s victory means there will be no dramatic change of course for us to deal with.

But what about the loser?  What ought to pain Republicans most about Obama’s victory is that 2012 was entirely winnable for them.   In European elections over the past few years, voters have thrown out leaders who were in charge during the worst of the financial crisis, whether those leaders deserved the blame or not.  That Mitt Romney lost nonetheless is in part a tribute to his own weaknesses as a candidate.   The Obama campaign put Romney on the defensive early about his work at Bain Capital, and left him there.   The Republican nominee made any number of horrendous gaffes and never found a way to talk about himself or his agenda in a way that middle class voters could relate to.

But even a clumsy candidate might have beaten Obama if he’d played his cards right.  Romney is not a right-wing extremist.  To win the nomination, though, he had to pretend to be one, recasting himself as “severely conservative” and eschewing the reasonableness that made him a successful, moderate governor of the country’s most liberal state. He had to pass muster with his party’s right-wing base on taxes, immigration, climate change, abortion, and gay rights. Many of his statements on these issues were patently insincere.   His pandering to the base made it possible for the Obama campaign to portray him as a right-wing radical from the start of the campaign.  According to exit poll results, Romney won men as expected, but lost among women by 11 points—too large a gender gap to be overcome.

So we have President Barack Obama for another 4 years, saying “I have never been more hopeful”.

But perhaps Doyle McManus of the Los Angeles Times sums it up best: “If we’re lucky, we will find that we elected a different Obama from the one who won four years ago – not just a grayer Obama but a wiser one too.”

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Cracks are appearing in the glass

The term Glass Ceiling refers to “the seen, yet unbreachable barrier that keeps minorities and women from rising to the upper rungs of the corporate ladder, regardless of their qualifications or achievements.  The Glass Wall – Refers to the phenomenon of high rates of women advancing to executive positions but only in certain industries.

Throughout history women have become aware of the strains being put on them and have begun to fight it. An example of this would be Hillary Clinton’s run for presidency, which is often seen as the highest glass ceiling in America.  While many women have already broken these barriers and have successfully become CEO’s of companies, putting a woman in the White House remains the ultimate challenge.

It was with delight, and not a little amazement, therefore to discover that the TUC, which throughout its 200 year history has always been “also known as the Men’s Movement”, has chosen a woman, Frances O’Grady, to be its new leader. 

Ms O’Grady (age 52) has been an active trade unionist and campaigner all her working life.  As Deputy General Secretary of the TUC since 2003, she led on winning the 2012 Principles of Co-operation Agreement with the Olympic Authorities, guaranteeing on-site minimum standards for local jobs, health and safety and the London living wage.  Ms O’Grady has also led on industrial policy arguing the case for a strategic approach to rebalancing the economy in the wake of the financial crash. Fair pay remains a core ambition and she represents the TUC on the Low Pay and the High Pay Commissions, and on the Resolution Foundation’s Commission on Living Standards. Frances is a strong believer in protecting the public service ethos, opposes privatisation and leads the TUC campaign to save the NHS.

There is no questioning her credentials or her suitability for this role.  A little part of me can’t help but think though that they thought they were appointing a Francis instead of a Frances – nudge, nudge, wink, wink!

Beckham for PM?

Another exciting week in the world of football!

On Monday night, the return of the King – Thierry Henry!

For those who thought it was a joke that Arsenal were turning to Henry, well, the old ones are the best.  So much for the legacy being tarnished.  So much for him losing his touch in the MLS.  It had to be Henry scoring here, recording his 227th goal for Arsenal. The script was written, the stage was set. It just needed Henry to rise from the bench, replacing the disappointing Marouane Chamakh, whose shocking form was another reason why Arsenal need the man on loan from New York Red Bulls. No wonder Arsène Wenger wants to extend the loan to the maximum eight weeks.

For those lovers of symmetry, Arsenal’s No 12 struck his 12th goal in 12 appearances against Leeds 12 minutes from time. At the final whistle, as a fourth-round tie against Aston Villa was secured, Henry almost did not want to leave his field of dreams. The Leeds centre-half, Tom Lees, requested his shirt, but Henry was not in the mood for giving away such precious souvenirs. This was one for the private collection.

Then on Tuesday we hear the news that Jason Euell is returning to Wimbledon on a loan deal from Charlton Athletic.

Jason might not stir the imagination like Thierry Henry but the veteran forward can expect an enthusiastic welcome on his competitive return to Wimbledon 11 years after he left south-west London.

So what about the latest headlines where it has been claimed that Eric Cantona is in the running for the French presidency?  Even as the news was announced, igniting hope in his fans and a host of bad jokes, it felt like a dream. In the end, it was a sort of mirage.

Cantona had written a letter in the French newspaper Libération which seemed to state his intention to gather 500 signatures, the symbolic number needed to launch a campaign for the presidency. He described himself as “very much aware of our times” which he argued offer “limited opportunities” to the young and generate “violent” and “systematic” injustices.  It sounded like the perfect platform from which a man most famous for a swift piece of retributive justice – that kung-fu kick – could launch an equally fiery and passionate campaign to unseat the current French president Nicolas Sarkozy.

It prompted much excitement and some excellent comments on Twitter, including many along the lines best expressed by the BBC presenter, Jeremy Vine, who tweeted: “Cantona wants to be the next president of France. Oh yeah, and Thierry Henry is going to play for Arsenal again and score the winner on his debut.” 

But then the excitement crumbled just as rapidly as the current Manchester United frontline in the second half against City last Sunday.  Cantona had played a blinder, sold a dummy, feinted in front of goal: pick the bad football pun of your choice.  The paper’s deputy editor explained that the letter was not a presidential bid as such, but rather a call to get 500 mayors to sign a petition about the French housing crisis for the charitable Abbé Pierre Foundation.

Despite being voted as Manchester United fans “Player of the Century” last year, this is surely a stunt too far.  Whatever will we see next?  Beckham for Prime Minister or maybe even Sir Alex as Scotland’s next First Minister?  Stranger things have happened I suppose.

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