Sarah Palin and the LL Cool J saga

Real American Stories airs tonight!

The furore around Sarah Palin's new Fox vehicle, Real American Stories, has been well documented. Is LL Cool J in or out? Are any of the interviews real? Is it all a bit ironic that the show's title is Real American Stories?

But has anyone checked out the show's own website? Please do so here.

There are many wonderful things about this promotional vehicle. So I'm going to pick my top three.

1. The Palin introductory video. There's so much here -- the filmic soundtrack, the first line ("As Americans, we aspire to greatness." Really? All of you? How exhausting), the strange moment when she's talking about entrepreneurialism and a guy selling beetroot (?) pulls a funny face. But above all that there's a brilliant, brief moment of synchrony between words and pictures as Palin says "our love of country" and the film cuts to a shot of soldiers firing machine-guns as they pound through an unidentified desert war. It's one way of expressing the love, I suppose.

2. Chase Lucas. One of the videos submitted to Fox and hosted on the site. Wow. This is one patriotic child.

3. The comments. I can't believe they meant to leave the comment thread so enticingly open beneath the Palin film. A choice extract: "Biggest waste of television ever." To counterbalance: "You liberals are pathetic." Yup, there's some pretty hectic debate going on over there . . .

Sophie Elmhirst is features editor of the New Statesman

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Who will win in Manchester Gorton?

Will Labour lose in Manchester Gorton?

The death of Gerald Kaufman will trigger a by-election in his Manchester Gorton seat, which has been Labour-held since 1935.

Coming so soon after the disappointing results in Copeland – where the seat was lost to the Tories – and Stoke – where the party lost vote share – some overly excitable commentators are talking up the possibility of an upset in the Manchester seat.

But Gorton is very different to Stoke-on-Trent and to Copeland. The Labour lead is 56 points, compared to 16.5 points in Stoke-on-Trent and 6.5 points in Copeland. (As I’ve written before and will doubtless write again, it’s much more instructive to talk about vote share rather than vote numbers in British elections. Most of the country tends to vote in the same way even if they vote at different volumes.)

That 47 per cent of the seat's residents come from a non-white background and that the Labour party holds every council seat in the constituency only adds to the party's strong position here. 

But that doesn’t mean that there is no interest to be had in the contest at all. That the seat voted heavily to remain in the European Union – around 65 per cent according to Chris Hanretty’s estimates – will provide a glimmer of hope to the Liberal Democrats that they can finish a strong second, as they did consistently from 1992 to 2010, before slumping to fifth in 2015.

How they do in second place will inform how jittery Labour MPs with smaller majorities and a history of Liberal Democrat activity are about Labour’s embrace of Brexit.

They also have a narrow chance of becoming competitive should Labour’s selection turn acrimonious. The seat has been in special measures since 2004, which means the selection will be run by the party’s national executive committee, though several local candidates are tipped to run, with Afzal Khan,  a local MEP, and Julie Reid, a local councillor, both expected to run for the vacant seats.

It’s highly unlikely but if the selection occurs in a way that irritates the local party or provokes serious local in-fighting, you can just about see how the Liberal Democrats give everyone a surprise. But it’s about as likely as the United States men landing on Mars any time soon – plausible, but far-fetched. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.