Swinging doors

Andy Coulson’s appointment shocks the blogosphere

Two men given top appointments this week share the fact that one of them was forced out of their last job and the other is replacing someone who was forced out. They are Andy Coulson and Robert Zoellick. The blogosphere asked: "Any similarities?"

News of Andy Coulson’s appointment as director of communications for the Conservative party shocked the blogosphere.

Yes, this is the guy who took “ultimate responsibility” for the illegal phone tapping of more than 600 mobile phone messages by one of his reporters when he was News of the World editor.

Guido thinks: “He'll bring a more robust tabloid headline sensitive approach that is more likely to connect with people than an Oliver Letwin speech.”

Mr Coulson certainly knows the newspaper industry like the back of his hand so will no doubt be directed to liaise with editors to drive the Tory party machine to possible victory at the next general election.

Anthony Little, at Little’s Log, said: “I was amused by the triumphant fanfare” over the announcement, but I’m not quite sure what amused him so much.

Labour blogger Tom Watson said Mr Coulson was quite good company. He added: “He is out of the work. The Tories are in disarray. So why not?”

But perhaps most insightful of all, the Lib Dem Norfolk blogger, asked: “What does this tell us about David Cameron?” Comments are welcome.

According to Benedict Brogan’s Daily Mail blog, Mr Cameron's office is describing Coulson's departure from the News of the World as "honourable" following the phone-tapping case.

Honourable is certainly not a word many would use to describe his departure.

But could “honourable” be used to describe the new boss of the World Bank, Robert Zoellick. Awaiting the inevitable approval from its board, Mr Zoellick, a former US trade representative, will be sworn in. He replaces Paul Wolfowitz who was forced to resign after suspected nepotism.

Over at Lenin’s Tomb a succinct summary of Mr Zoellick makes for vital reading. He said: “He wants efficient American power, and keeps his eye decidedly on the welfare of American capital.”

If you watch closely in the new film Black Gold about the injustices of coffee industry, Mr Zoellick can be seen looking very unsympathetic about a producers co-operative in Ethiopia whose farmers’ families are starving.

But I’m sure Mr Zoellick is shrewd and bright, as has been said of Mr Coulson. Both men are clearly now at the top of their respective games. Can they cut the mustard?

Adam Haigh studies on the postgraduate journalism diploma at Cardiff University. Last year he lived in Honduras and worked freelance for the newspaper, Honduras This Week.
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Theresa May missed an easy opportunity on EU citizens' rights

If the UK had made a big, open and generous offer, the diplomatic picture would be very different.

It's been seven hours and 365 days...and nothing compares to EU, at least as far as negotiations go.

First David Davis abandoned "the row of the summer" by agreeing to the EU's preferred negotiating timetable. Has Theresa May done the same in guaranteeing the rights of EU citizens living here indefinitely?

Well, sort of. Although the PM has said that there have to be reciprocal arrangements for British citizens abroad, the difficulty is that because we don't have ID cards and most of our public services are paid for not out of an insurance system but out of general taxation, the issues around guaranteeing access to health, education, social security and residence are easier.

Our ability to enforce a "cut-off date" for new migrants from the European Union is also illusory, unless the government thinks it has the support in parliament and the logistical ability to roll out an ID card system by March 2019. (It doesn't.)

If you want to understand how badly the PM has managed Britain's Brexit negotiations, then the rights of the three million EU nationals living in Britain is the best place to start. The overwhelming support in the country at large for guaranteeing the rights of EU citizens, coupled with the deep unease among Conservative MPs about not doing so, meant that it was never a plausible bargaining chip. (That's before you remember that the bulk of the British diaspora in Europe lives in countries with small numbers of EU citizens living in the UK. You can't secure a good deal from Spain by upsetting the Polish government.) It just made three million people, their friends and their families nervous for a year and irritated our European partners, that's all.

If the United Kingdom had made a big, open and generous offer on citizens' rights a year ago, as Vote Leave recommended in the referendum, the diplomatic picture would be very different. (It would be better still if, again, as Vote Leave argued, we hadn't triggered Article 50, an exit mechanism designed to punish an emergent dictatorship that puts all the leverage on the EU27's side.)

As it happens, May's unforced errors in negotiations, the worsening economic picture and the tricky balancing act in the House of Commons means that Remainers can hope both for a softer exit and that they might yet convince voters that nothing compares to EU after all. (That a YouGov poll shows the number of people willing to accept EU rules in order to keep the economy going stretching to 58 per cent will only further embolden the soft Brexiteers.)

For Brexiteers, that means that if Brexit doesn't go well, they have a readymade scapegoat in the government. It means Remainers can credibly hope for a soft Brexit – or no Brexit at all. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.

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