No-where man v Hero of fitness

Walk around NYC and you'd be forgiven for thinking the US election is already a done deal with Obama

To judge from the level of interest their city is giving the two candidates, New Yorkers could be forgiven for thinking the election is already over.

Everywhere you go, you'll find evidence of the rise of Barack Obama. His face is on t-shirts in shop windows, his name on banners on the side of buildings. At newstands, he can be seen smiling down from copies of The Source, Vibe, Newsweek, Rolling Stone, and (my favourite, this) Men's Health, where he's ranked as 'one of 20 'heroes of fitness'.

John McCain, meanwhile, is ... nowhere. No t-shirts, no magazines, no campaign posters. In two days the only oblique reference I noted was a sign on a building reading (and I quote) 'CON$ervative governMENt'.

Even among the city's conservatives, support for McCain is distinctly flaccid. John Martin is exactly the kind of guy who should be his natural constituency. He's a fiscal consevative, a Republican and a law student; he serves in the Navy reserve, and last year spent six months in Afghanistan.

Yet he's voting for the Democrat. What's more, he's campaigning for his fellow party members to do the same, under the label Republicans for Obama.

'The Republicans have created an environment in which people feel comfortable voting for a Democrat,' he says. 'Barack Obama doesn't demonise republicans - he has the same cross party appeal that Ronald Reagan had.'

Martin gives a couple of reasons for his support. Firstly, despite the Senator's liberal voting record, he's been impressed by his bi-partisan rhetoric, and his ability to work with conservatives like Tom Coburn; an Obama cabinet would contain plenty of Republicans, he thinks. Secondly, he likes his family values, citing his willingness to tell black fathers to take more responsibility for raising their kids, despite (or perhaps because) of the fact it brought steam shooting from Jesse Jackson's ears.

The biggest reason for his defection, though, is his anger at McCain for selling out to the Palin wing of the party. He's had hate mail since coming out for Obama; but even before that he had been called a 'Rino' (Republican in Name Only) and been made to feel distinctly unwelcome in the party. McCain had a chance to put a stop to that, reclaim the centre ground, by picking former Democrat Senator Joe Lieberman as his running mate. Instead, he picked Palin.

Martin isn't the only one that's riled up about this. Several defecting conservatives - among them Christopher Buckley and Colin Powell - have cited Palin as the reason they've thrown their support behind Obama. (As Buckley said, "I didn't leave the party - it left me.") In a bar on Saturday night, a friend of mine told me that the Palin pick had pushed his conservative hedge fund-employed wife firmly into the Obama camp. "She shored up the base," he said. "But it's killed him with the independents and moderates you need to actually win an election."

The more people like this that leave the Republican party - membership has dropped by a quarter in four years - the more it'll be dominated by its evangelical wing. That may make it ideologically purer. But it'll also make it harder to win.

Jonn Elledge is the editor of the New Statesman's sister site CityMetric. He is on Twitter, far too much, as @JonnElledge.

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Five things Hillary Clinton’s released emails reveal about UK politics

The latest batch of the presidential hopeful’s emails provide insight into the 2010 Labour leadership contest, and the dying days of the Labour government.

The US State Department has released thousands of Hillary Clinton’s emails. This is part of an ongoing controversy regarding the presidential hopeful’s use of a private, non-governmental server and personal email account when conducting official business as Secretary of State.

More than a quarter of Clinton’s work emails have now been released, in monthly instalments under a Freedom of Information ruling, after she handed over 30,000 pages of documents last year. So what does this most recent batch – which consists of 4,368 emails (totalling 7,121 pages) – reveal?
 

David Miliband’s pain

There’s a lot of insight into the last Labour leadership election in Clinton’s correspondence. One email from September 2010 reveals David Miliband’s pain at being defeated by his brother. He writes: “Losing is tough. When you win the party members and MPs doubly so. (When it's your brother...).”


Reaction to Ed Miliband becoming Labour leader

Clinton’s reply to the above email isn’t available in the cache, but a message from an aide about Ed Miliband’s victory in the leadership election suggests they were taken aback – or at least intrigued – by the result. Forwarding the news of Ed’s win to Clinton, it simply reads: “Wow”.


Clinton’s take on it, written in an email to her long-time adviser, Sidney Blumenthal, is: “Clearly more about Tony that [sic] David or Ed”.

Blumenthal expresses regret about the “regression” Ed’s win suggests about the Labour party. He writes to Clinton: “David Miliband lost by less than 2 percent to his brother Ed. Ed is the new leader. David was marginally hurt by Tony's book but more by Mandelson's endorsement coupled with his harsh statements about the left. This is something of a regression.”


Peter Mandelson is “mad”

In fact, team Clinton is less than enthusiastic about the influence Mandelson has over British politics. One item in a long email from Blumenthal to Clinton, labelled “Mandelson Watch”, gives her the low-down on the former Business Secretary’s machinations, in scathing language. It refers to him as being “in a snit” for missing out on the EU Commissioner position, and claims those in Europe think of him as “mad”. In another email from Blumenthal – about Labour’s “halted” coup against Gordon Brown – he says of Mandelson: “No one trusts him, yet he's indispensable.”

That whole passage about the coup is worth reading – for the clear disappointment in David Miliband, and description of his brother as a “sterling fellow”:


Obsession with “Tudor” Labour plotting

Clinton appears to have been kept in the loop on every detail of Labour party infighting. While Mandelson is a constant source of suspicion among her aides, Clinton herself clearly has a lot of time for David Miliband, replying “very sorry to read this confirmation” to an email about his rumoured demotion.

A May 2009 email from Blumenthal to Clinton, which describes Labour politicians’ plots as “like the Tudors”, details Ed Balls’ role in continuing Tony Blair and Gordon Brown’s “bitter rivalry”:


“Disingenuous” Tories “offending” Europe

The Tories don’t get off lightly either. There is intense suspicion of David Cameron’s activities in Europe, even before he is Prime Minister. Blumenthal – whose email about a prospective Cameron government being “aristocratic” and “narrowly Etonian” was released in a previous batch of Clinton’s correspondence – writes:

Without passing "Go," David Cameron has seriously damaged his relations. with the European leaders. Sending a letter to Czech leader Vaclay Klaus encouraging him not to sign the Lisbon Treaty, as though Cameron were already Prime Minister, he has offended Sarkozy., Merkel and Zapatero.

He also accuses him of a “tilt to the Tory right on Europe”.

In the same email, Blumenthal tells Clinton that William Hague (then shadow foreign secretary), “has arduously pressured for an anti-EU stance, despite his assurances to you that Tory policy toward Europe would be marked by continuity”.

In the aftermath of the 2010 UK election, Blumenthal is apprehensive about Hague’s future as Foreign Secretary, emailing Clinton: “I would doubt you’ll see David again as foreign secretary. Prepare for hauge [sic, William Hague], who is deeply anti-European and will be disingenuous with you.”

Anoosh Chakelian is deputy web editor at the New Statesman.