Everyone grovels at the court of Queen Theresa


The Observer 11 December 2016

The Downing Street press office has given selected journalists “exclusive” interviews with our new prime minister. By one of those million-to-one coincidences that must make spin doctors believe a supernatural power watches over them, every journalist they graced with their favours interviewed Theresa May on bended knee.

“It must be hard for someone so reserved and modest to become one of the most public figures in the world,” gulped the reporter from the Sunday Times, as her head ducked so low, onlookers must have feared whiplash injuries to the neck. “How do you steel yourself for making tough decisions?”

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If liberals want to stop losing, they must change


The Observer 12 November 2016

When respectable commentators tell us the crisis will blow over, they are usually right. Most of the time, the shock passes and the status quo reasserts itself. Most of the time, men of the world can lie back in their comfortable chairs and guffaw at the Chicken Lickens who thought the sky was falling down.

But most of the time is not all of the time. And it most certainly is not our time. In the revolutionary years of 1914, 1917, 1929, 1933, 1939, 1979, 1989 and 2008, those who said we would soon be back to normal were history’s fools. This year is a revolutionary year for the radical right. It is at once predictable and extraordinary that authoritative voices are telling us to keep calm and carry on.
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Only true liberalism can thwart the demagogues


The Observer 24 September 2016

When underdogs become overdogs, everything changes. They are the masters now, however much they try to pretend otherwise. Their power to change and ruin lives demands relentless and unforgiving scrutiny.

The hangover from the long age of globalisation has hidden the existence of a new elite, let alone the need to hold it to account. The neoliberal order began from the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, perhaps earlier with the elections of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan in 1979/1980. You have to be in your 50s to remember another time. It ended with the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008. Its death was disguised because no new system stepped forward to replace it.

Now its successor is shambling into view, like a figure from a bad dream you hoped you had forgotten. Continue reading

How “Dr” Liam Fox got into bed with Azerbaijan’s kleptocrats

2418The Observer 7 August 2016

In 2013, Dr Liam Fox – he insists on the “Doctor” – published a book on the challenges of globalisation, which read as if he had dictated into his phone between meetings. Rising Tides was a meandering work. It took a long time to say little and did as abysmally as you would expect. Nielsen International, which monitors book sales, told me the English edition had sold a mere 1,723 copies in the UK and 1,876 copies in the English-speaking foreign markets it watches. (Most were probably in the US, where Dr Fox has a small following in America’s raging right wing.)

In 2014, Dr Fox received news that he was the beneficiary of a stroke of good fortune. Our new secretary for international trade may be hopelessly unqualified to deal with the dangerous pass he helped bring Britain to by agitating for Brexit, but he can trade on his own account.

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Christopher Hitchens was defiant to the last


The Observer 5 June 2016

Only a particular species of creep could persuade me to write to the son of a friend and ask him to describe the death agonies of his beloved father. I typed that he must say “I would rather not talk about it” if he wished, then sent an email to Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchens.

I sat back, feeling dirty and not expecting a reply. I would not have troubled Alexander had not journalists at the nominally serious Times and BBC promoted the claim of a strange, spiteful book that Christopher Hitchens was “teetering on the edge of belief” as he lay dying from cancer of the oesophagus.
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Malicious and stupid, Labour’s far left can only destroy


The Observer 17 July 2016

Seumas Milne remains on the staff of the Guardian and Observer while Labour pays him to work as its director of strategy. As a colleague on leave, he has the right to be treated with a gentleness journalists would not usually extend to spin doctors who do not enjoy his advantages. I therefore write with the caution of a good corporate man and the cheeriness of a co-worker when I say Milne could not do a better job of keeping the Tories in power if rogue MI5 agents had groomed him at Winchester College, signed him up at Oxford University and instructed him to infiltrate and destroy the Labour party.

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