US press: pick of the papers

The ten must-read opinion pieces from today's US papers.

1. The never-ending Cold War (New York Times)

Two decades after the end of the cold war, Mitt Romney still considers Russia to be America's "No. 1 geopolitical foe," says this editorial.

2. We're not France, yet (Wall Street Journal)

Democracies always begin in liberty, but they don't always keep it. France is in economic decline today because the structure of its government is so severely centralized, says Daniel Henniger.

3. Ousting Syria's Assad through a "soft landing" (Washington Post)

It's a moment for realpolitik: The West needs Russia's help in removing Assad without a civil war, and Russia needs to broker a transition to bolster its future influence in the Arab world, writes David Ignatius.

4. Big labor in Little Italy (Wall Street Journal)

Mario Monti's proposed reforms to Italy's 1970 Workers' Charter would supposedly deliver a labor market so liberalized that it would be "not European, but American..." Even applying the standard political-rhetoric discount, these are overstatements, writes Anne Jolis.

5. Obamacare and the character question (Washington Post)

I wish Santorum would finally tell us exactly how he and his family get health coverage themselves -- the coverage he would perversely deny to millions of others "on principle," says Matt Miller.

6. Obama's "tax" lapse (LA Times)

To avoid the stigma of the word "tax," they included a requirement that everyone obtain health insurance or pay a penalty, writes Doyle McManus.

7. Romney's wrong about Russia (Politico)

Together, we fight international terrorism, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and human trafficking, writes Rep. Gregory Meeks.

8. World poverty in retreat (Chicago Tribune)

Economic growth, not redistribution, has been the surest cure for poverty, and economic freedom has been the key that unlocked the riddle of economic growth, says Steve Chapman.

9. Public deserves televised access to the constitutional fight over health care reform (Oregonian)

It's time for the court to follow its own lofty advice about transparency and openness. The justices can't hide forever behind a curtain, expecting citizens to be satisfied with televised sideshows instead of the real thing, says this editorial.

10. Time to re-regulate the airlines (USA Today)

We need a regulatory regime that provides balanced, reasonably priced service to metropolitan areas that don't happen to be hubs, writes Phil Longman.

Mitt Romney. Credit: Getty Images
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The Fire Brigades Union reaffiliates to Labour - what does it mean?

Any union rejoining Labour will be welcomed by most in the party - but the impact on the party's internal politics will be smaller than you think.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has voted to reaffiliate to the Labour party, in what is seen as a boost to Jeremy Corbyn. What does it mean for Labour’s internal politics?

Firstly, technically, the FBU has never affliated before as they are notionally part of the civil service - however, following the firefighters' strike in 2004, they decisively broke with Labour.

The main impact will be felt on the floor of Labour party conference. Although the FBU’s membership – at around 38,000 – is too small to have a material effect on the outcome of votes themselves, it will change the tenor of the motions put before party conference.

The FBU’s leadership is not only to the left of most unions in the Trades Union Congress (TUC), it is more inclined to bring motions relating to foreign affairs than other unions with similar politics (it is more internationalist in focus than, say, the PCS, another union that may affiliate due to Corbyn’s leadership). Motions on Israel/Palestine, the nuclear deterrent, and other issues, will find more support from FBU delegates than it has from other affiliated trade unions.

In terms of the balance of power between the affiliated unions themselves, the FBU’s re-entry into Labour politics is unlikely to be much of a gamechanger. Trade union positions, elected by trade union delegates at conference, are unlikely to be moved leftwards by the reaffiliation of the FBU. Unite, the GMB, Unison and Usdaw are all large enough to all-but-guarantee themselves a seat around the NEC. Community, a small centrist union, has already lost its place on the NEC in favour of the bakers’ union, which is more aligned to Tom Watson than Jeremy Corbyn.

Matt Wrack, the FBU’s General Secretary, will be a genuine ally to Corbyn and John McDonnell. Len McCluskey and Dave Prentis were both bounced into endorsing Corbyn by their executives and did so less than wholeheartedly. Tim Roache, the newly-elected General Secretary of the GMB, has publicly supported Corbyn but is seen as a more moderate voice at the TUC. Only Dave Ward of the Communication Workers’ Union, who lent staff and resources to both Corbyn’s campaign team and to the parliamentary staff of Corbyn and McDonnell, is truly on side.

The impact of reaffiliation may be felt more keenly in local parties. The FBU’s membership looks small in real terms compared Unite and Unison have memberships of over a million, while the GMB and Usdaw are around the half-a-million mark, but is much more impressive when you consider that there are just 48,000 firefighters in Britain. This may make them more likely to participate in internal elections than other affiliated trade unionists, just 60,000 of whom voted in the Labour leadership election in 2015. However, it is worth noting that it is statistically unlikely most firefighters are Corbynites - those that are will mostly have already joined themselves. The affiliation, while a morale boost for many in the Labour party, is unlikely to prove as significant to the direction of the party as the outcome of Unison’s general secretary election or the struggle for power at the top of Unite in 2018. 

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.