Shooting Michael Ancram?

Owen Walker's round-up of the best of the politics blogs finds arguments to the left and arguments t

In a week where Gordon Brown stood legs akimbo across the centre ground and declared his admiration for Margaret Thatcher, stalwarts from both sides of the political spectrum let off time bombs within their own ranks.

George Galloway began by sending out a document to Respect’s National Congress members which argued for "re-evaluating" the party’s relationship with the SWP. It can be read in full here.

This sparked a series of debates on the comments boards of various blogs. David Osler began one debate by asking: "Why has the SWP made all this public at such an early stage, instead of trying to keep word of the document under wraps? Does this indicate that this is more than a minor spat?"

In another, John Gray stated: "I reckon that Galloway is gambling that the SWP will back down and let him run the show. The present leadership of the SWP have invested heavily in Respect. Also, frankly there is nowhere else for them to go."

On to the Right side. Following Patrick Mercer and John Bercow’s decision to accept advisory posts offered by Gordon Brown, former Tory chairman Michael Ancram launched an attack on the modern party which drew outrage from the Young Turks.

Antony Little was livid with the trio (Mercer, Bercow and Ancram – which Mike Ion pointed out sounds like an accountancy firm): "Don't they see that they are been used as a stage-managed tool by the Brown government (in the case of Bercow and Mercer) or just giving ammunition to our opponents (Ancram ... who should know better). Activists up and down the country must have their heads in their hands."

While, Caroline Hunt sees the problem as being endemic within Conservative ranks: "I have learnt in the last year that a vast number of Tory party members would rather live under a Labour government indefinitely and instead stick the knife into their own party rather than attack this woefully dishonest and inept government."

Over at Our Kingdom, Anthony Barnett has written a neat piece about what he sees as a class war within the Tory party. This, he states, is the reason for much of the backlash against Ancram’s open letter.

This was partly based on criticism from Iain Dale, who asked for contributions for the top ten reasons why Michael Ancram should be taken outside and shot (which Dale was keen to stress – for those lacking a sense of humour – was “done in the style of David Letterman's Top Ten Lists, which are funny, sardonic and often ironic”). The pick of the bunch were: “Number 10: So he knows how the grouse feel; Number 9: Because we need to discourage the aristocracy from overbreeding; and Number 1: Because shooting him inside would mean that you'd have to repaint the walls.”

Owen Walker is a journalist for a number of titles within Financial Times Business, primarily focussing on pensions. He recently graduated from Cardiff University’s newspaper journalism post-graduate course and is cursed by a passion for Crystal Palace FC.
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Donald Trump's inauguration signals the start of a new and more unstable era

A century in which the world's hegemonic power was a rational actor is about to give way to a more terrifying reality. 

For close to a century, the United States of America has been the world’s paramount superpower, one motivated by, for good and for bad, a rational and predictable series of motivations around its interests and a commitment to a rules-based global order, albeit one caveated by an awareness of the limits of enforcing that against other world powers.

We are now entering a period in which the world’s paramount superpower is neither led by a rational or predictable actor, has no commitment to a rules-based order, and to an extent it has any guiding principle, they are those set forward in Donald Trump’s inaugural: “we will follow two simple rules: hire American and buy American”, “from this day forth, it’s going to be America first, only America first”.

That means that the jousting between Trump and China will only intensify now that he is in office.  The possibility not only of a trade war, but of a hot war, between the two should not be ruled out.

We also have another signal – if it were needed – that he intends to turn a blind eye to the actions of autocrats around the world.

What does that mean for Brexit? It confirms that those who greeted the news that an US-UK trade deal is a “priority” for the incoming administration, including Theresa May, who described Britain as “front of the queue” for a deal with Trump’s America, should prepare themselves for disappointment.

For Europe in general, it confirms what should already been apparent: the nations of Europe are going to have be much, much more self-reliant in terms of their own security. That increases Britain’s leverage as far as the Brexit talks are concerned, in that Britain’s outsized defence spending will allow it acquire goodwill and trade favours in exchange for its role protecting the European Union’s Eastern border.

That might allow May a better deal out of Brexit than she might have got under Hillary Clinton. But there’s a reason why Trump has increased Britain’s heft as far as security and defence are concerned: it’s because his presidency ushers in an era in which we are all much, much less secure. 

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