Sarah Palin to meet Margaret Thatcher

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Sarah Palin has revealed on her Facebook page that she plans to meet Margaret Thatcher (whom she affectionately refers to as "the Iron Lady") on a possible trip to the UK:

Following an article in a British publication on Sunday, I've received questions about a possible trip to the United Kingdom. I have received an invitation for a visit to London, and part of that invitation included the offer of arranging a meeting between myself and one of my political heroines, the "Iron Lady," Margaret Thatcher. I would love to meet her and hope I'll be able to arrange the trip in the future.

As I wrote last year when I offered her birthday wishes, Baroness Thatcher's life and career serve as a blueprint for overcoming the odds and challenging the "status quo." She started life as a grocer's daughter from Grantham and rose to become Prime Minister -- all by her own merit and hard work. I cherish her example and will always count her as one of my role models. Her friendship with my other political hero, Ronald Reagan, exemplified the Special Relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom.

There are lots of brilliant things about this. According to the "British publication" she mentions, the Daily Mail, it was actually Palin's team who made the approach (which seems more realistic -- I somehow can't see Thatcher desperately checking Palin's schedule, waiting for her moment to swoop in and arrange that meeting she's been waiting for).

The Mail also quotes someone "involved with the talks", saying of Palin's team: "Their main interest is getting a picture of her with Lady Thatcher. I'm not sure they know who David Cameron is."

The thread beneath Palin's post is well worth a read, with the comments ranging from "Sit at her feet and learn from her as she is an example of strength and preserverance which you were also given by our Creator" to "Please don't come here!".

Believe it or not, Palin has actually been compared to Thatcher before. After Palin's vice-presidential nomination, the Conservative US commentator Larry Kudlow asked whether "we're not witnessing the western frontier version of Margaret Thatcher". Slightly oddly, Michael Reagan, the adopted son of the late president, said of the same speech that "I saw my dad reborn; only this time he's a she. And what a she!"

I digress. Back to the meeting of the century -- what will they talk about? There is always the shared distaste for unions and penchant for slashing spending, but I can't help thinking that that's where the similiarities end. And, of course, there is Russia . . . the woman the Soviets called the "Iron Lady" talking to the woman who can see Russia from Alaska. Oh, to be a fly on the wall.

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Samira Shackle is a freelance journalist, who tweets @samirashackle. She was formerly a staff writer for the New Statesman.

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Benn vs McDonnell: how Brexit has exposed the fight over Labour's party machine

In the wake of Brexit, should Labour MPs listen more closely to voters, or their own party members?

Two Labour MPs on primetime TV. Two prominent politicians ruling themselves out of a Labour leadership contest. But that was as far as the similarity went.

Hilary Benn was speaking hours after he resigned - or was sacked - from the Shadow Cabinet. He described Jeremy Corbyn as a "good and decent man" but not a leader.

Framing his overnight removal as a matter of conscience, Benn told the BBC's Andrew Marr: "I no longer have confidence in him [Corbyn] and I think the right thing to do would be for him to take that decision."

In Benn's view, diehard leftie pin ups do not go down well in the real world, or on the ballot papers of middle England. 

But while Benn may be drawing on a New Labour truism, this in turn rests on the assumption that voters matter more than the party members when it comes to winning elections.

That assumption was contested moments later by Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell.

Dismissive of the personal appeal of Shadow Cabinet ministers - "we can replace them" - McDonnell's message was that Labour under Corbyn had rejuvenated its electoral machine.

Pointing to success in by-elections and the London mayoral election, McDonnell warned would-be rebels: "Who is sovereign in our party? The people who are soverign are the party members. 

"I'm saying respect the party members. And in that way we can hold together and win the next election."

Indeed, nearly a year on from Corbyn's surprise election to the Labour leadership, it is worth remembering he captured nearly 60% of the 400,000 votes cast. Momentum, the grassroots organisation formed in the wake of his success, now has more than 50 branches around the country.

Come the next election, it will be these grassroots members who will knock on doors, hand out leaflets and perhaps even threaten to deselect MPs.

The question for wavering Labour MPs will be whether what they trust more - their own connection with voters, or this potentially unbiddable party machine.