Palin is coming to London

Palin says that she hopes to visit London soon to meet with Margaret Thatcher.

Following her One Nation bus tour of the US East Coast, Sarah Palin is hoping to take her pre-presidential campaign international with a visit to London. A lull before the bus tour resumes in Iowa, where the first Republican primary will be held, means that Palin will have an opportunity to brush up on her geography.

She told the Times (£): "I love London and England ... We hope to be able to visit soon. I'd like to meet with Margaret Thatcher." But an aide for Thatcher cast doubt on whether the Iron Lady would meet with Palin. He told the Independent: "Nowadays, the Lady rarely meets people at all. If a meeting went ahead it would be very much low-key, and would very much depend on how things were on the day. We don't make firm appointments for this sort of meeting."

Palin reportedly expressed no desire to meet David Cameron, something that is likely to come as a relief to the Prime Minister. But, as my colleague Sophie Elmhirst noted in her piece on the rise of Palin's "mama grizzlies", several of Cameron's MPs are keen admirers of the former Alaska governer.

Nadine Dorries declared: "I think Sarah Palin is amazing. I totally admire her", while Louise Bagshawe hailed Palin as a "remarkable figure": "I watched her acceptance speech at the Republican party conference and it seemed to me that it was a glorious moment, a birth of a new political star."

Palin, who once mistakenly assumed that Africa was a country, not a continent, is hoping to stop in London on the way to Sudan in July.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Jeremy Corbyn's Labour conference speech shows how he's grown

The leader's confident address will have impressed even his fiercest foes. 

It is not just Jeremy Corbyn’s mandate that has been improved by his re-election. The Labour leader’s conference speech was, by some distance, the best he has delivered. He spoke with far greater confidence, clarity and energy than previously. From its self-deprecating opening onwards ("Virgin Trains assure me there are 800 empty seats") we saw a leader improved in almost every respect. 

Even Corbyn’s firecest foes will have found less to take issue with than they may have anticipated. He avoided picking a fight on Trident (unlike last year), delivered his most forceful condemnation of anti-Semitism (“an evil”) and, with the exception of the Iraq war, avoided attacks on New Labour’s record. The video which preceded his arrival, and highlighted achievements from the Blair-Brown years, was another olive branch. But deselection, which Corbyn again refused to denounce, will remain a running sore (MPs alleged that Hillsborough campaigner Sheila Coleman, who introduced Corbyn, is seeking to deselect Louise Ellman and backed the rival TUSC last May).

Corbyn is frequently charged with lacking policies. But his lengthy address contained several new ones: the removal of the cap on council borrowing (allowing an extra 60,000 houses to be built), a ban on arms sales to abusive regimes and an arts pupil premium in every primary school.

On policy, Corbyn frequently resembles Ed Miliband in his more radical moments, unrestrained by Ed Balls and other shadow cabinet members. He promised £500bn of infrastructure investment (spread over a decade with £150bn from the private sector), “a real living wage”, the renationalisation of the railways, rent controls and a ban on zero-hours contracts.

Labour’s greatest divisions are not over policy but rules, strategy and culture. Corbyn’s opponents will charge him with doing far too little to appeal to the unconverted - Conservative voters most of all. But he spoke with greater conviction than before of preparing for a general election (acknowledging that Labour faced an arithmetical “mountain”) and successfully delivered the attack lines he has often shunned.

“Even Theresa May gets it, that people want change,” he said. “That’s why she stood on the steps of Downing Street and talked about the inequalities and burning injustices in today’s Britain. She promised a country: ‘that works not for a privileged few but for every one of us’. But even if she manages to talk the talk, she can’t walk the walk. This isn’t a new government, it’s David Cameron’s government repackaged with progressive slogans but with a new harsh right-wing edge, taking the country backwards and dithering before the historic challenges of Brexit.”

After a second landslide victory, Corbyn is, for now, unassailable. Many MPs, having voted no confidence in him, will never serve on the frontbench. But an increasing number, recognising Corbyn’s immovability, speak once again of seeking to “make it work”. For all the ructions of this summer, Corbyn’s speech will have helped to persuade them that they can.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.