Election 2010 Lookahead: Wednesday 5 May

The who, when and where of the campaign.

With one day to go, here is what is happening on the campaign trail:

Labour

Gordon Brown will visit 13 constituencies on the eve of the election, covering London, north Wales, the north-west and Yorkshire, before heading up to his home seat of Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath, where he will remain on polling day.

 

Conservatives

David Cameron will continue his 24-hour campaign tour of the UK, meeting people working night shifts and early mornings, such as bakers and florists. Earlier today he was at Darwen (12.45am), Wakefield (3.15am) and Grimsby (5.30am), and will later visit Calverton (9.15am), Dudley (11.45am) and Montgomeryshire (2.30pm), before finally addressing a campaign rally in Bristol (6pm).

 

Liberal Democrats

Happy birthday, Nick Clegg -- who was elected to parliament this day five years ago. He continues his series of early-morning press conferences at the Work Foundation in London (7.30am). He will then attend a public rally at Western Lawns on King Edward's Parade in Eastbourne with the local Lib Dem candidate, Stephen Lloyd (11am), before heading north to attend a Q&A with students at the University of Durham (Pemberton Building, Palace Green, 4pm). He will round off the day with an election rally at Barker's Pool in Sheffield (6.45pm).

 

Other parties

The Scottish National Party leader and First Minister, Alex Salmond, will rally the troops at SNP headquarters in Edinburgh (10am). The SNP is hoping to win 20 seats in the House of Commons this year.

 

The media

BBC2's The Daily Politics: 2010 Election Debates will feature the deputy Labour Party leader and House of Commons leader, Harriet Harman, the Conservative shadow Commons leader, George Young, the Liberal Democrat equality spokeswoman, Lynne Featherstone, and the Plaid Cymru MP Adam Price in "The Trust in Politics Debate" (2.15pm). Andrew Neil and Jo Coburn will be asking the questions.

 

Away from the campaign

Nominations for the five-year post of professor of poetry at Oxford University (annual salary: £6,901) close today. It's an election battle that surely makes the other pale into insignificance. Last year the process was disrupted when one of the nominees, Derek Walcott, pulled out over allegations of sexual harassment, followed by Ruth Padel, who admitted she had told the press about the allegations. Some of those hoping to make it this time are Geoffrey Hill, Paula Claire, Sean Haldane and Roger Lewis.

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Leader: Trump and an age of disorder

Mr Trump’s disregard for domestic and international norms represents an unprecedented challenge to established institutions.

The US presidency has not always been held by men of distinction and honour, but Donald Trump is by some distance its least qualified occupant. The leader of the world’s sole superpower has no record of political or military service and is ignorant of foreign affairs. Throughout his campaign, he repeatedly showed himself to be a racist, a misogynist, a braggart and a narcissist.

The naive hope that Mr Trump’s victory would herald a great moderation was dispelled by his conduct during the transition. He compared his country’s intelligence services to those of Nazi Germany and repeatedly denied Russian interference in the election. He derided Nato as “obsolete” and predicted the demise of the European Union. He reaffirmed his commitment to dismantling Obamacare and to overturning Roe v Wade. He doled out jobs to white nationalists, protectionists and family members. He denounced US citizens for demonstrating against him. Asked whether he regretted any part of his vulgar campaign, he replied: “No, I won.”

Of all his predilections, Mr Trump’s affection for Vladimir Putin is perhaps the most troubling. When the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, warned that Russia was the “number one geopolitical foe” of the US, he was mocked by Barack Obama. Yet his remark proved prescient. Rather than regarding Mr Putin as a foe, however, Mr Trump fetes him as a friend. The Russian president aims to use the US president’s goodwill to secure the removal of American sanctions, recognition of Russia’s annexation of Crimea and respect for the murderous reign of the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad. He has a worryingly high chance of success.

Whether or not Mr Trump has personal motives for his fealty (as a lurid security dossier alleges), he and Mr Putin share a political outlook. Both men desire a world in which “strongmen” are free to abuse their citizens’ human rights without fear of external rebuke. Mr Trump’s refusal to commit to Nato’s principle of collective defence provides Mr Putin with every incentive to pursue his expansionist desires. The historic achievement of peace and stability in eastern Europe is in danger.

As he seeks reconciliation with Russia, Mr Trump is simultaneously pursuing conflict with China. He broke with precedent by speaking on the telephone with the Taiwanese president, Tsai Ing-wen, and used Twitter to berate the Chinese government. Rex Tillerson, Mr Trump’s secretary of state nominee, has threatened an American blockade of the South China Sea islands.

Mr Trump’s disregard for domestic and international norms represents an unprecedented challenge to established institutions. The US constitution, with its separation of powers, was designed to restrain autocrats such as the new president. Yet, in addition to the White House, the Republicans also control Congress and two-thirds of governorships and state houses. Mr Trump’s first Supreme Court appointment will ensure a conservative judicial majority. The decline of established print titles and the growth of “fake news” weaken another source of accountability.

In these circumstances, there is a heightened responsibility on the US’s allies to challenge, rather than to indulge, Mr Trump. Angela Merkel’s warning that co-operation was conditional on his respect for liberal and democratic values was a model of the former. Michael Gove’s obsequious interview with Mr Trump was a dismal example of the latter.

Theresa May has rightly rebuked the president for his treatment of women and has toughened Britain’s stance against Russian revanchism. Yet, although the UK must maintain working relations with the US, she should not allow the prospect of a future trade deal to skew her attitude towards Mr Trump. Any agreement is years away and the president’s protectionist proclivities could yet thwart British hopes of a beneficial outcome.

The diplomatic and political conventions embodied by the “special relationship” have endured for more than seven decades. However, Mr Trump’s election may necessitate their demise. It was the belief that the UK must stand “shoulder to shoulder” with the US that led Tony Blair into the ruinous Iraq War. In this new age of disorder, Western leaders must avoid being willing accomplices to Mr Trump’s agenda. Intense scepticism, rather than sycophancy, should define their response.

This article first appeared in the 19 January 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The Trump era