CommentPlus: pick of the papers

The ten must-read pieces from this morning's papers.

1. Nick Clegg to win the General Election? Has someone put something in the water supply? (Daily Telegraph)

Mayor of London Boris Johnson argues that the current madness for all things Liberal Democrat is media driven and cannot last. Nick Clegg is the beneficiary of cunning Labour spin, emphasising the third party to take the shine off the Tories.

2. And for the Lib Dems' next trick? Electrify the foreign debate (Guardian)

Nick Clegg will squander his gains if he shies from a row on Europe, Iraq and Afghanistan, says Jackie Ashley, looking ahead to this week's leaders' debate on foreign affairs. He should go on the offensive to open up a serious and nuanced debate.

Read the CommentPlus summary.

3. The Conservatives' dilemma is even worse than Labour's (Independent)

David Cameron is reluctant to attack the Lib Dems along traditional, right-wing lines for being "soft" on crime and immigration, as he could alienate the socially liberal voters he has courted. But, says Donald Macintyre, the polls may leave him little option.

Read the CommentPlus summary.

4. Nick Clegg's rise could lock Murdoch and the media elite out of UK politics (Guardian)

Taking a different look at the surge in Lib Dem support, former Sun editor David Yelland says that if the party actually won the election -- or held the balance of power -- it would be the first time in decades that Murdoch was locked out of British politics.

Read the CommentPlus summary.

5. Immigration needs a New York state of mind (Times)

All three main political parties are illiberal on immigration. Bill Emmott argues that bureaucratic controls will only deny Britain the benefits it has reaped from foreign workers over the years.

6. Wall Street beware: the lawyers are coming (Financial Times)

Frank Partnoy discusses the fraud suit against Goldman Sachs, saying that this will open the litigation floodgates for more suits based on subprime mortgage fraud. It also shows how litigation can fill gaps regulation will miss.

7. Wall Street 2 (Times)

The Goldman Sachs case is a devastating blow for the entire financial system, says the leading article. We are entering the next chapter of the financial crisis, in which the banking sector will have to explain itself.

8. Cameron, beware. Cake baking and sports clubs can't fix inequality (Guardian)

Madeleine Bunting looks at an east London estate which offers a potent picture of the Big Society. But there is a big gap in Cameron's big idea -- it needs a decentralised economic power to work.

9. America and Europe meet midway (Financial Times)

Republicans accuse Barack Obama of trying to turn the US into Europe. But, Clive Crook points out, there are many different Europes. What if America should converge on the wrong one?

Read the CommentPlus summary.

10. Is there any way that some 'outsiders' might get a look-in? (Independent)

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown bemoans the Lib Dems' lack of black or Asian candidates in winnable seats. If politicians want more voters to come out, they need to widen the debates and engage with issues they are ignoring.


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Daniel Hannan harks back to the days of empire - the Angevin Empire

Did the benign rule of some 12th century English kings make western France vote Macron over Le Pen?

I know a fair amount about British politics; I know a passable amount about American politics, too. But, as with so many of my fellow Britons, in the world beyond that, I’m lost.

So how are we, the monolingual Anglophone opinionators of the world, meant to interpret a presidential election in a country where everyone is rude enough to conduct all their politics in French?

Luckily, here’s Daniel Hannan to help us:

I suppose we always knew Dan still got a bit misty eyed at the notion of the empire. I just always thought it was the British Empire, not the Angevin one, that tugged his heartstrings so.

So what exactly are we to make of this po-faced, historically illiterate, geographically illiterate, quite fantastically stupid, most Hannan-y Hannan tweet of all time?

One possibility is that this was meant as a serious observation. Dan is genuinely saying that the parts of western France ruled by Henry II and sons in the 12th century – Brittany, Normandy, Anjou, Poitou, Aquitaine – remain more moderate than those to the east, which were never graced with the touch of English greatness. This, he is suggesting, is why they generally voted for Emmanuel Macron over Marine Le Pen.

There are a number of problems with this theory. The first is that it’s bollocks. Western France was never part of England – it remained, indeed, a part of a weakened kingdom of France. In some ways it would be more accurate to say that what really happened in 1154 was that some mid-ranking French nobles happened to inherit the English Crown.

Even if you buy the idea that England is the source of all ancient liberties (no), western France is unlikely to share its political culture, because it was never a part of the same polity: the two lands just happened to share a landlord for a while.

As it happens, they didn’t even share it for very long. By 1215, Henry’s youngest son John had done a pretty good job of losing all his territories in France, so that was the end of the Angevins. The English crown reconquered  various bits of France over the next couple of centuries, but, as you may have noticed, it hasn’t been much of a force there for some time now.

At any rate: while I know very little of French politics, I’m going to go out on a limb and guess the similarities between yesterday's electoral map and the Angevin Empire were a coincidence. I'm fairly confident that there have been other factors which have probably done more to shape the French political map than a personal empire that survived for the length of one not particularly long human life time 800 years ago. Some wars. Industrialisation. The odd revolution. You know the sort of thing.

If Daniel Hannan sucks at history, though, he also sucks at geography, since chunks of territory which owed fealty to the English crown actually voted Le Pen. These include western Normandy; they also include Calais, which remained English territory for much longer than any other part of France. This seems rather to knacker Hannan’s thesis.

So: that’s one possibility, that all this was an attempt to make serious point; but, Hannan being Hannan, it just happened to be a quite fantastically stupid one.

The other possibility is that he’s taking the piss. It’s genuinely difficult to know.

Either way, he instantly deleted the tweet. Because he realised we didn’t get the joke? Because he got two words the wrong way round? Because he realised he didn’t know where Calais was?

We’ll never know for sure. I’d ask him but, y’know, blocked.

UPDATE: Breaking news from the frontline of the internet: 

It. Was. A. Joke.

My god. He jokes. He makes light. He has a sense of fun.

This changes everything. I need to rethink my entire world view. What if... what if I've been wrong, all this time? What if Daniel Hannan is in fact one of the great, unappreciated comic voices of our time? What if I'm simply not in on the joke?

What if... what if Brexit is actually... good?

Daniel, if you're reading this – and let's be honest, you are definitely reading this – I am so sorry. I've been misunderstanding you all this time.

I owe you a pint (568.26 millilitres).

Serious offer, by the way.


Jonn Elledge edits the New Statesman's sister site CityMetric, and writes for the NS about subjects including politics, history and Daniel Hannan. You can find him on Twitter or Facebook.

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