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The new battle in British politics is how to be most like Obama

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T_i_B Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-24-09 03:31 AM
Original message
The new battle in British politics is how to be most like Obama
http://www.spectator.co.uk/the-magazine/features/327596...

David Cameron and Gordon Brown would not be human if they had not felt a little jealous on Tuesday night. They will never give a speech like Barack Obama or draw a crowd as big as his. To rub salt in the wound, Obama had just achieved without knowing it what they have spent their adult lives trying to do: he had reorientated British politics.

Obama is the new lodestar of our politics. He is at least for now the arbiter of where the centre is, what is good policy, whats in and whats out. After years in which a cheap shot at the American president was the easiest way to get a round of applause on Question Time, effusive praise is now the order of the day. The new President is, after all, box office: newspapers that usually avoid politics clear the front page for him, glossy magazines venerate him as the Celebrity in Chief and books on and by him unlike their British counterparts dominate the bestseller tables in bookshops. He has gripped the publics imagination in a way that no leader has since Blair.


Psychologically, it is important for both sides to think that Obama is in their corner. For Labour, worn down by 11 years of government, Obama being one of them is proof that they are still the party of progress. Obamas support would reaffirm Bridget Joness dictum that it is perfectly obvious that Labour stands for the principle of sharing, kindness, gays, single mothers and Nelson Mandela. For the Tories especially the younger ones a connection to Obama is proof that they are no longer the nasty party but are now the party of future. He also offers reassurance that a novice can steer a course through the raging storm of the present. Those Tories who were in Iowa, Denver and at the inauguration were as swept along in the moment as anybody else. Camerons chief of staff, Ed Llewellyn, even flew specially to Washington for the inauguration and then straight out again.

The intensity of both Brown and Camerons desire to claim Obama for their cause was on full show when he came to London in July. Brown, whose leadership was at that point under threat, was desperate for a charisma injection from Obama. Protocol dictated that Brown could not greet Obama on the steps of Number 10 as he had not met the Republican nominee John McCain there when he came to pay his respects earlier in the year. So instead there were photos of Brown visibly straining to impress and Obama together in the Downing Street garden and on Horse Guards Parade. A video was shot of a slightly startled Obama paying tribute to the Prime Minister, which was then used as the highlight of the film introducing the leaders speech at the Labour conference. Cameron, meanwhile, tried to play the generational card. He gave Obama a selection of his favourite music and rushed out a web video with him gushing about the meeting that was heavily promoted via Google ads. The Tories were privately delighted that a cameramans microphone accidentally picked up some relaxed but supposedly private chit-chat between the two men. However, the spin over who was on better terms with Obama didnt end there. A New Statesman story in December claimed that Obama thought Cameron was a lightweight. The Conservatives were relieved that the Obama camp moved quickly to crush this speculation, which seems to have originated in Whitehall rather than Washington.

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Peace Patriot Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-24-09 06:38 AM
Response to Original message
1. I love British political writers! They are so, um, cheeky, spirited (all that mead!)
even raucous, even madmen--and all in the Queen's English!

I do have to cringe at this, though...

"(Obama) has gripped the publics imagination in a way that no leader has since Blair."

Eeks! Is Obama a total fraud? A poodle? A liar? A mass killer? What does this mean?

The writer's thesis, however, is that British politicians are frauds and liars in relationship to American politicians (who generate the ideas):

"Britains political class has always had a bit of an inferiority complex when it comes to America, regarding US politics as both sexier and more consequential than our own. Both British parties go on scouting trips to the US and return obsessing about the latest idea. The Potomac flows so far up the Thames that the 2005 Tory leadership election was dominated by the trading of lines and ideas from Bushs 2000 election campaign and Gordon Browns conference speech last year was built on the rhetorical foundations that Obama and Hillary Clinton had laid down during the Democratic primaries."

This is a very funny article...

"Ambitious Westminster politicians like to mimic the American trappings of power as seen on The West Wing. At the Labour conference in Manchester, David Miliband, who was then a rising star, was accompanied everywhere by a West Wing-style entourage. On the Tory side, the quick-witted policy banter of George Osbornes staff sounds like it could have been scripted by Aaron Sorkin.

"When John Spencer, who played the White House Chief of Staff Leo McGarry in The West Wing, came to London during the Blair years he was invited to Number 10. Spencer later told a reporter that I had British politicians coming up to me saying, 'I dont want to gush too much but I think meeting you could be one of the greatest moments of my life.' Obama, being real, has had an even greater effect on them."


----------------------------

I am no longer amused. Good Christ, read this. I mean, READ IT:

"Far more dramatic than Afghanistan, though, could be Iran. Obama is in favour of direct diplomacy with Tehran. But Hillary Clinton made clear at her confirmation hearing that the incoming administration shares the Bush view that an Iranian bomb is unacceptable and that no option is off the table. Of course, what we dont know is which the new administration regards as worse: a nuclear Iran or bombing Iran. But there is reason to think that it might well be the former: a nuke would transform Tehran into the regional hegemon and create a nuclear arms race in a critical and unstable region of the world.

"It was always highly unlikely that having seen what Iraq did to Blair, Brown would have backed Bush over a strike on Iran. But under President Obama the situation looks different. There will be at least the possibility of persuading the public, and the Commons, that action is necessary. If Brown is not faced with this dilemma, Cameron might well be early in his first term. He would be forced to choose between criticism at home or jettisoning his chance of a seat at the table for the rest of the Obama presidency."


Casual as a breeze in May, he proposes that Obama may go one worse than Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld. He may actually nuke Iran! Am I dreaming? Is this the British view--that this would even be conceivable for Obama? Didn't we dodge that bullet? Is this tongue-in-cheek? Is it a foreign service game (to spook Iran)? What? I am flabbergasted. And for the first time--after many shocks from Obama over the last few months, mainly wretched appointments--I am appalled.

Pinch me! Okay, this is just a writer, his view, his 'reading' of Hillary, his effort to score points against both sides in England, and to mock Obama a bit as the Second Coming. The article is not a serious discussion of foreign policy. It is a romp. But it sounds genuine, like he really thinks this is possible. And I can't think of anything--ANYTHING!--that would be more disastrous than Obama attacking Iran.
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muriel_volestrangler Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-24-09 10:53 AM
Response to Reply #1
2. It's 'bomb', not 'nuke' Iran; but bear in mind this is a RW magazine
the writer (I hadn't heard of him before; he's their 'web editor') seems right wing too. He too may be projected his own foreign policy hopes onto his idea of Obama. But his basic point, that everyone in the UK would like to claim Obama as being close to them, is true.
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nxylas Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-24-09 11:16 AM
Response to Reply #1
3. Believe it or not, Blair had much in common with Obama when he was first elected
He was relatively young, charismatic and defeated a discredited conservative government in a landslide victory. He acted as the figurehead for a wave of social change (anyone remember "Cool Britannia"?) That's why those of us who were living in Britain at the time can't help feeling a little nervous about Obama's supposed sell-outs to the right. But Blair's record shows that he has always had a conservative heart, whereas there's reason for optimism that Obama is just wrapping a progressive package in conservative wrapping in order to make it an easier sell.
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T_i_B Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jan-26-09 08:16 AM
Response to Reply #1
6. A few things,
First of all this is a RW writer in a RW magazine, and as such he's trying to spin the situation so it looks positive for the Conservative party. The trouble here is that Obama does not have a Tory agenda so the only thing that the Tories can do at the moment to try and ride on Obama's coat-tails is to try and claim that they represent "change" from Labour.

As for Labour, their agenda is more in line with Obama but they have been in power a long while, and Labour is still dominated by the Blairite wing of the party, who are closer to the likes of Joe Lieberman then Obama.

Besides, Obama has won office by running a grassroots campaign. This is anathema to many in Labour who have come to to regard top-down Blairite triangulation as the only way to gain power. Labour has tried in recent weeks to try and relaunch themselves in the blogosphere but they seem to be making the same old mistakes as before I'm afraid.

All in all I can see that British politicians might want to ride on Obama's coat-tails but I can't see any of them pulling that one off convincingly.

And I said it when he won the election so I might as well repeat it. Obama's popularity right now does bear a resemblance to Blair's popularity back in 1997. Hopefully Obama does not got the same way as Tony Blair.
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Doctor_J Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-24-09 11:30 AM
Response to Original message
4. Careful. Blair started out trying to be Clinton and ended up as Bush
Edited on Sat Jan-24-09 11:30 AM by Doctor_J
better to cut out your own path.
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Still Sensible Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-24-09 12:09 PM
Response to Original message
5. If you remember
in the mid-90s the British were looking for someone like Clinton, too.
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