Defamatory DD comment?

Liberty XXX

It was the great foreign secretary Austen Chamberlain who claimed that our diplomats in China had often heard the curse “may you live in an interesting age”. And what a cursed age it is for our nation’s political classes – as Liberty chief Shami Chakrabarti (and as blogger Sadie has it, “winsome khol-eyed heroine”) threatened to sue a Labour Minister for flippantly suggesting that she had used her feminine wiles to win over grizzled trained killer, David Davis.

Sunny Hundal on Liberal Conspiracy summarised the by-election dilemma for liberal-lefties - but with Labour joining the Lib Dems in ruling themselves out of the race, did it really matter? Shiraz Socialist believed so, and saw the situation as a microcosm of the “wider realignment in politics,” pitching those who see the law as a “guarantor of freedom” against those who regard it as a “giant behaviour regulator”.

In other news, NS political editor Martin Bright issued a clarion call for a real liberal to step forward and make the by-election worth running and Rachel North asked readers whether she should pound the streets for Davis. Recess Monkey was pre-occupied with the ethnic backgrounds of the freedom lovers cluttering DD’s website. That’s profiling, and it’s wrong.

Hamassive step forward?

The cross-community e-zine Bitter Lemons, which provides unparelled coverage of Middle Eastern politics, this week presented a fascinating range of perspectives on the Israel-Hamas ceasefire. Palestinian Ghassan Khatib reflected on what he regards as the folly of excluding Islamists from the dialogue of peace, and of continuing Israeli settlement in East Jerusalem. Summing up, he wrote:

“This is the only way to empower the peace camp in Palestine and reverse the trend of radicalization, thus creating an atmosphere conducive to reunifying the Palestinian territories under the leadership of that peace camp.”

Meanwhile, Israeli Yossi Alpher explained why it is crucial for his government to change the basis of its negotiation with Hamas.

Closer to home, analysis was on offer at Harry’s Place, where guest blogger ‘SO Muffin’ took a cool look at the situation, and reckoned that while the Holy Land’s future was not an intractable problem, matters may deteriorate into violence again before any breakthrough is achieved.

What have we learned this Week?

Many of us are glumly observing Euro 2008 from our sofas, cans of supermarket lager resting on our guts, deciding which teams we hate most - and cheering on whoever they happen to be playing.

But Commissioner Mandelson’s old adviser Benjamin “Oofy” Wegg-Prosser sees an upside. The erstwhile Downing Street web guru, now based in Moscow, tells us in his LiveJournal that he is enjoying the tournament “without being racked with nerves about England's next match”.

Across the Pond

Michelle Obama, wife of presidential hopeful Barack, is increasingly proving a source of obsession to media commentators and bloggers across the States. This week she thanked the First Lady for her comments defending Mrs O’s patriotism; sparking off a new wave of online chatter. Hat-wearing Californian Zachary Paul Sire longed for a feisty presidential consort, and wondered who would want a pacified Michelle, or a “Laura Bush 2.0 who whips up casseroles and touts abstinence in a haze of nicotine patch-induced ennui”.

Video of the Week

In these days of triangulation and Cameroon wet ascendancy, it’s good to take a trip down memory lane, to the days when Tories were Tories. Rowan Atkinson’s famous “I am a golfer” speech from Not The Nine O’Clock News contains language which now, as then, is likely to be considered offensive.

Quote of the Week

“She also pointed out that it was thanks to Tony Blair we were there at all (She's a LibDem). I clapped.”

Iain Dale on his sister Sheena’s speech at his civil partnership to partner John. All good wishes and every happiness to them both!

Paul Evans is a freelance journalist, and formerly worked for an MP. He lives in London, but maintains his Somerset roots by drinking cider.
Photo: Getty
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Can Philip Hammond save the Conservatives from public anger at their DUP deal?

The Chancellor has the wriggle room to get close to the DUP's spending increase – but emotion matters more than facts in politics.

The magic money tree exists, and it is growing in Northern Ireland. That’s the attack line that Labour will throw at Theresa May in the wake of her £1bn deal with the DUP to keep her party in office.

It’s worth noting that while £1bn is a big deal in terms of Northern Ireland’s budget – just a touch under £10bn in 2016/17 – as far as the total expenditure of the British government goes, it’s peanuts.

The British government spent £778bn last year – we’re talking about spending an amount of money in Northern Ireland over the course of two years that the NHS loses in pen theft over the course of one in England. To match the increase in relative terms, you’d be looking at a £35bn increase in spending.

But, of course, political arguments are about gut instinct rather than actual numbers. The perception that the streets of Antrim are being paved by gold while the public realm in England, Scotland and Wales falls into disrepair is a real danger to the Conservatives.

But the good news for them is that last year Philip Hammond tweaked his targets to give himself greater headroom in case of a Brexit shock. Now the Tories have experienced a shock of a different kind – a Corbyn shock. That shock was partly due to the Labour leader’s good campaign and May’s bad campaign, but it was also powered by anger at cuts to schools and anger among NHS workers at Jeremy Hunt’s stewardship of the NHS. Conservative MPs have already made it clear to May that the party must not go to the country again while defending cuts to school spending.

Hammond can get to slightly under that £35bn and still stick to his targets. That will mean that the DUP still get to rave about their higher-than-average increase, while avoiding another election in which cuts to schools are front-and-centre. But whether that deprives Labour of their “cuts for you, but not for them” attack line is another question entirely. 

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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