Exit Rahm Emanuel. Enter "Mr Fixer"

Obama must do without the man he used to start and end his day with.

He was the tactician-in-chief who's had a hand in almost every aspect of Democratic politics at the highest level for the last four years. But now Rahm Emanuel is stepping down as White House chief of staff, as he returns to the rather different rough and tumble of big-city Chicago politics -- chasing what he's called his "dream job" as the city's next mayor.

Emanuel last held elected office back in 2002 -- when he represented Chicago's 5th district in Congress -- rising so rapidly he was chosen to head up the Democratic effort to recapture a majority in the House in 2006 which they managed, winning some 30 seats. But from the heady heights of chairing the House Democratic caucus, a complete gear change when Barack Obama offered him the job of chief of staff.

His style could hardly have been more of a contrast to his aloof, rather academic boss: this was a political street-fighter who was as well known for his profanity as his consumate strategic skills.He amassed a vast experience in political campaigns, from raising money to managing the team -- and from the start, he was integral to Obama's decision-making.

As White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said in Thursday's briefing: "The president starts his day with a meeting with Rahm and ends it with a meeting with Rahm. ...there's not an important thing that has happened in this administration that we've been able to accomplish for the American people that has not involved heavily his signature"

Of course Emanuel had plenty of political foes, inside the Democratic party and beyond: not least liberals who blame him for the decision to abandon the public option in the health care reforms, and forcing Democrats in the House to make key concessions to their Republican rivals. Because of him, they claim, any wider progressive vision was sacrificed to the pragmatic minutiae of political deals. In fact his relationship with House Democrats has not been particularly smooth: although Nancy Pelosi did announce yesterday that she would be endorsing his bid for Chicago mayor.

For the White House, it'll clearly be a huge loss with other key members of the Obama team set to announce their departures too, not least communications guru David Axelrod, who'll be taking charge of the 2012 re-election campaign.

It could leave the President somewhat bereft at this crucial moment in the presidency - or it could offer him a chance to reshape the West Wing, But the appointment of "Mr Fixer" Pete Rouse as acting chief of staff could send out a number of messages: he's clearly another insider, dubbed the "101st senator" -- with three decades of experience on Washington's political scene.

A profile in the New York Times described him as "a measured, discreet and skillful problem solver with a knack for navigating bureaucracy". All of which could come in handy if Obama finds himself having to deal with a Republican House.

It'll certainly be a quieter, politer West Wing - the cat-loving Rouse is also known for barely raising his voice - a man who fights his battles for the long term rather than any instant political gain. But beyond his interim tenure - there's a certain amount of pressure on Obama to find someone from outside his inner circle who could bring a new perspective and a different kind of energy to his team.

As for Rahm Emanuel he's now plunging into a rather crowded field back in Chicago with victory far from certain.

One city politician, Rep Bobby Rush, told the New York Times there would be no coronation: "He's a very viable and smart politician, but he's got as many challenges as everybody else."

So after today's high profile send off from President Obama, he'll be hitting the streets with a "listening tour" of city neighbourhoods trying to build a winning coalition before the primaries in Feburary next year. His spokesman, Rick Jasculca said the tour would be "very retail in its feel", trying to build "a one to one connection with people where they live and where they work." But he's already appointed political consultants (David Axelrod's old firm, as it happens) -- and there's a handy $1.2m left over from the campaign fund dating back to his Congressional days. He clearly knows how to run a successful campaign.

And a little of the old Obama magic, if he can find it, wouldn't go amiss either.

Felicity Spector is chief writer and American politics expert for Channel 4 News.

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The English left must fall out of love with the SNP

There is a distinction between genuine leftism and empty anti-establishmentarianism.

After a kerfuffle on Twitter the other night, I am all too aware that writing something even mildly questioning of the SNP government is the British equivalent of approaching a lion pride on a kill. Nevertheless, seeing the almost hero-levels of mental gymnastics tweeted by Mhairi Black, in the week of the Hillsborough inquiry whereupon Nicola Sturgeon posed with a copy of The Sun endorsing her re-election, prompted me once more to consider just how spectacular the distance has become between the SNP that stood against Ed Miliband versus the SNP today and in government.

Mhairi tweeted: “So Kezia wants to put up the taxes of Scottish people to subsidise Tory cuts that her party supported in Westminster?”. Confused? So am I.

This follows in a series of SNP revisionism on what austerity is and the excuses the SNP has hidden, not quite so conspicuously, up its sleeve to not act on its new tax powers, so as not to break its bond with Middle Scotland. They insist that Labour’s plans for a penny tax are not progressive, and have framed it in such a way that an anti-austerity plan has now become a subsidy for cuts Labour actually haven’t supported for more than a year now. Just like that, the SNP is a low-tax mimicry of Toryism.

But it isn’t ‘just like that’. The SNP have governed from an economically cautious stance for seven years. For a brief period, they borrowed Ed Miliband’s clothes. But once the Red Wedding had been completed, they returned back to where they started: as successors to New Labour, though that is hardly fair: they are far, far less redistributive.

So why is it, in the 2015 election, and even today, many of us on the left in England still entrust our faith in SNP rhetoric? Still beat the drum for an electoral ‘progressive’ coalition with a party that doesn’t seem very happy to embrace even the concept of higher taxes?

My theory is that the SNP have successfully, indeed more successfully than any party in Britain, adopted the prime hobby of much of the Left: ‘againstism’.

‘Againstism’, clumsy I admit, is to be against everything. This can include a negative framing of being anti-austerity but not pro-anything in its place. But in this instance, it means to be anti-establishment. The latter, the establishment, is what Labour as a party of government always has aspired to be in competing to be the national government in Westminster - which is why elements of the Left will always hate it and will always vote against it. In a way, some of the left is suspicious of governance. This is occasionally healthy, until it prevents real progressivism from ever being elected.

While in government, Labour could be seen as sell-outs, rightly or wrongly, because they became the establishment and had no one but themselves to blame. The SNP are the establishment, in Scotland, but can nevertheless exercise ‘againstism’, even with new tax powers. They always will so long as Westminster exists, and so long as their main motivation is independence. This is why the bogeymans that sustain nationalism are not natural allies of social democracy; to achieve social democracy would be to remove the bogeyman. This means that the Lesser New Labour tradition within which they govern will continue to go unnoticed, nor be doomed to eventual death as New Labour itself suffered, nor be looked back on as an era of neoliberalism. The SNP can just avert attentions back to the Westminster establishment. ‘Againstism’. Paradoxically, the way the SNP have managed to come to exploit this is because of New Labour's devolution. Devolution has created, for the first time, the perfect environment for an establishment in one part of the country to blame the establishment in another. It has allowed for the rise of an incumbent insurgent. The SNP can campaign as insurgents while still being incumbents. It is a spectacular contradiction that they alone can manage.

Insurgency and anti-establishment politics are not, of themselves, a bad thing. We on the Left all dip our toes in it. It is a joy. It is even more fun for us to be successful. Which is why the celebratory mood that surrounded the SNP gains in Scotland, a paradigm shift against one incumbent for another, is, objectively, understandable. But these insurgents are not actually insurgents; they are the illusion of one, and they have had the reigns of power, greater now for the Scotland Bill, for seven years. And they have done little radical with it. The aim of an anti-establishment politics is to replace an establishment with something better. All the SNP have done is inherit an establishment. They are simply in the fortunate position of managing to rhetorically distance itself from it due to the unique nature of devolution.

This is why some of the Left still loves them, despite everything. They can remain ‘againstists’ regardless of their incumbency. They do not have the stench of government as a national Labour government did and inevitable would have. So the English Left still dream.

But now, with this mounting evidence and the SNP’s clumsy revisionism, it is up to the English Left to distinguish between genuine leftism and empty anti-establishmentarianism, and to see the establishment -via governance- as something to define for itself, to reshape as something better, rather than something to be continuously against. This is, after all, what Attlee's government did. The SNP have not defined the establishment, they have continued someone else's. It's up to us to recognise that and fall out of love with the SNP.