Libya: the best of the blogs

The week’s five must-read posts on the uprising against Muammar al-Gaddafi.

1. Popular army to march on Tripoli

Juan Cole's Informed Comment blog has the latest round-up of events in Libya, including news that 10,000 soldiers in the east have defected and are preparing to march on the capital.

2. A regime in mortal free fall

Lenin's Tomb describes Gaddafi's determination to hang on to power at all costs, and points out the way in which he has been propped up in the past by UK and US governments.

3. Weighing intervention in Libya

Over at openDemocracy, two international relations analysts argue that sanctions, a criminal investigation and enforcing a no-fly zone are necessary to stop Gaddafi killing civilians. They also note that the strongest calls for action are coming not from the west, but from Arab populations.

4. Libya's "African mercenary" problem

The Africa specialist Tomathon identifies a strain of racism in claims that sub-Saharan African mercenaries hired by Gaddafi are responsible for the worst violence against Libyan protesters.

5. Arab uprisings mark a turning point for the taking

Peter Hallward on Comment is Free argues that the events in Libya and across the Middle East represent a challenge to the reigning world economic order.

Don't miss Olivier Roy's exclusive essay on the Arab uprisings in this week's New Statesman.

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Can Philip Hammond save the Conservatives from public anger at their DUP deal?

The Chancellor has the wriggle room to get close to the DUP's spending increase – but emotion matters more than facts in politics.

The magic money tree exists, and it is growing in Northern Ireland. That’s the attack line that Labour will throw at Theresa May in the wake of her £1bn deal with the DUP to keep her party in office.

It’s worth noting that while £1bn is a big deal in terms of Northern Ireland’s budget – just a touch under £10bn in 2016/17 – as far as the total expenditure of the British government goes, it’s peanuts.

The British government spent £778bn last year – we’re talking about spending an amount of money in Northern Ireland over the course of two years that the NHS loses in pen theft over the course of one in England. To match the increase in relative terms, you’d be looking at a £35bn increase in spending.

But, of course, political arguments are about gut instinct rather than actual numbers. The perception that the streets of Antrim are being paved by gold while the public realm in England, Scotland and Wales falls into disrepair is a real danger to the Conservatives.

But the good news for them is that last year Philip Hammond tweaked his targets to give himself greater headroom in case of a Brexit shock. Now the Tories have experienced a shock of a different kind – a Corbyn shock. That shock was partly due to the Labour leader’s good campaign and May’s bad campaign, but it was also powered by anger at cuts to schools and anger among NHS workers at Jeremy Hunt’s stewardship of the NHS. Conservative MPs have already made it clear to May that the party must not go to the country again while defending cuts to school spending.

Hammond can get to slightly under that £35bn and still stick to his targets. That will mean that the DUP still get to rave about their higher-than-average increase, while avoiding another election in which cuts to schools are front-and-centre. But whether that deprives Labour of their “cuts for you, but not for them” attack line is another question entirely. 

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

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