Tucker Carlson's new toy

Will the Daily Caller be the HuffPo of the right?

Marching into the online magazine world today comes the Daily Caller, a new website from Tucker Carlson, former TV personality for CNN, MSNBC and Fox News. It has, like any serious political media outlet should, a picture of a group of scantily clad women on its front page today. Excellent.

Tucker, once famous for wearing a jaunty bow tie -- that graceful accessory of many a right-wing pundit -- claims the following for his creation:

This is primarily a news site. We see our core job as straightforward: Find out what's happening and tell you about it. We plan to be accurate, both in the facts we assert and in the conclusions we imply.

So, we can expect an unbiased, non-partisan guide through the complexities of US politics? Only if you ignore long comment pieces like this from Tom Price, member of Congress and chairman of the Republican Study Committee, entitled How the GOP gets its mojo back and extolling the "energy, enthusiasm and commitment" of the Tea Party movement. Oh, and this from Andrew Breitbart:

The launch of the Daily Caller is a necessary step toward creating ideological parity in the all-too-clearly biased mainstream media. It is a good thing that you, Tucker, are admitting that you come to the table with certain ideological baggage, and my new site Big Journalism will be there to watch your back when the well-funded, organized left's knives come out to try to discredit and attempt to destroy you. Believe me, they will.

Some might argue that bringing up the ideological baggage on day one rather blows the straight news sell out of the water. But still, let's give the DC a chance.

On the name -- it's subtly there to remind us of where it lives, deep in the hub of Washington, tapped into all that news. Although, as one commenter put it on HuffPo: "Of all the possible combinations that would result in the desired "The DC", was the Daily Caller the best he could come up with?"

Sophie Elmhirst is features editor of the New Statesman

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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.