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Ten questions Andrew Marr could have asked Obama but didn't, from Mehdi Hasan

The US president gives his only British interview ahead of his state visit to the UK.

Andrew Marr landed the big interview with the US president, Barack Obama, ahead of his state visit to Britain this week. He covered Osama Bin Laden, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Israel but there are so many other things he could have asked. Off the top of my head, here are ten questions Marr could have asked but didn't:

1) You've doubled the number of drone strikes in Pakistan that Bush ordered and civilian casualties are up, year on year. Do you have any regrets? Or remorse?

2) Why is Bradley Manning being held 23 hours a day in solitary confinement and denied access to underwear at night? Is that humane?

3) You promised to stop extraordinary rendition before you were president; but you haven't. Why?

4) Do you think the US can be a disinterested broker of peace in the Middle East, given the $5-6bn of annual support you give to Israel?

5) Why did you instruct your ambassador to the UN to veto a UN resolution endorsing official US policy against illegal Israeli settlements?

6) Given that you've intensified the war in Afghanistan and kicked off new war over the skies of Libya, do you think on reflection that you were the right man for the Nobel Peace Prize?

7) Will you be sticking to your original pledge to start pulling troops out of Afghanistan in July of this year?

8) Why isn't Gitmo shut yet? Who's to blame?

9) Do you believe in a "special relationship" with the UK? What's it based on? (And do you regret the jibe about "British Petroleum"?)

10) What's your response to those people who say you should have arrested an unarmed Bin Laden and brought him to trial?

Mehdi Hasan is a contributing writer for the New Statesman and the co-author of Ed: The Milibands and the Making of a Labour Leader. He was the New Statesman's senior editor (politics) from 2009-12.

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The public like radical policies, but they aren't so keen on radical politicians

Around the world, support for genuinely revolutionary ideas is strong, but in the UK at least, there's less enthusiasm for the people promising them.

You’re probably a getting a little bored of the litany of talking head statistics: trust in elected officials, parliament, the justice system and even democracy itself has been falling steadily for years and is at record lows. Maybe you’ve seen that graph that shows how people born after 1980 are significantly less likely than those born in 1960 to think that living in a democracy is ‘essential’. You’ve possibly heard of the ‘Pasokification’ of the centre-left, so-named the collapse of the once dominant Greek social democratic party Pasok, a technique being aggressively pursued by other centre-left parties in Europe to great effect.    

And so, goes the logic, there is a great appetite for something different, something new. It’s true! The space into which Trump et al barged leaves plenty of room for others: Beppe Grillo in Italy, Spanish Podemos, Bernie Sanders, Jean Luc Melanchon, and many more to come.

In my new book Radicals I followed movements and ideas that in many cases make someone like Jeremy Corbyn seem positively pedestrian: people who want to dismantle the nation state entirely, use technology to live forever, go off grid. All these ideas are finding fertile ground with the frustrated, disillusioned, and idealistic. The challenges of coming down the line – forces of climate change, technological change, fiscal crunch, mass movements of people – will demand new types of political ideas. Radical, outsider thinking is back, and this does, in theory at least, offer a chink of light for Corbyn’s Labour.

Polling last week found pretty surprising levels of support for many of his ideas. A big tax on high earners, nationalising the railways, banning zero hours contracts and upping the minimum wage are all popular. Support for renewable energy is at an all-time high. According to a recent YouGov poll, Brits actually prefer socialism to capitalism, a sentiment most strongly held among younger people.

There are others ideas too, which Corbyn is probably less likely to go for. Stopping benefits entirely for people who refuse to accept an offer of employment is hugely popular, and in one recent poll over half of respondents would be happy with a total ban on all immigration for the next two years. Around half the public now consistently want marijuana legalised, a number that will surely swell as US states with licenced pot vendors start showing off their dazzling tax returns.

The BNP effect used to refer to the problem the far-right had with selling their ideas. Some of their policies were extremely popular with the public, until associated with the BNP. It seems as though the same problem is now afflicting the Labour brand. It’s not the radical ideas – there is now a genuine appetite for those who think differently – that’s the problem, it’s the person who’s tasked with delivering them, and not enough people think Corbyn can or should. The ideal politician for the UK today is quite possibly someone who is bold enough to have genuinely radical proposals and ideas, and yet appears extremely moderate, sensible and centrist in character and temperament. Perhaps some blend of Blair and Corbyn. Sounds like an oxymoron doesn’t it? But this is politics, 2017. Anything is possible.

Jamie Bartlett is the head of the Violence and Extremism Programme and the Centre for the Analysis of Social Media at Demos.

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