Don't mention the Europeans

Palin fans found among the Conservative Christian bunch, really like to spread the word that voting

Don’t mention Europe anywhere near a Republican – it makes steam streak out of their ears.

Europe is another world to them, where medicine is “socialised” and all religion is banned. I heard one Republican apologise to the Today programme’s James Naughtie before laying into this part of the world: “We don’t want to be like Europe,” he said, in tones heavy with the emphasis that being European would be the stuff of his nightmares.

This is quite obviously why a good section of the Republican party like Sarah Palin - because she is nothing like Europe, and is a proper American. And that would be because she likes to carry a rifle around (hurrah), isn’t interested in anything outside her national borders (excellent), and has only just discovered what a passport is (who cares).

Those Palin fans found among the Conservative Christian bunch, really like to spread the word that voting Democrat would be a vote for being a bit more like Europe, or worst of all, France. France epitomises, for them, all that is wrong with the world, and that would be because France, a Republic set up in the late 18th Century, separates church and state, a bit like, err, the United States. Oh yes, but that would be something that founders got wrong.

So if you want to be rude to a Republican – and god knows why you should – then suggest they might look a little bit French.

What is it that European countries have that they don’t want? Well, first off, of course, there is the point that Europe is a cornucopia of countries, 27 in the EU, and others that aren’t; each with their very own culture.

However some things that some European countries have that US Republicans might hate: a lower teenage pregnancy rate; higher social mobility; health systems free at the point of use; contraception.

This anti-Europeanism strain is strong in middle America, where is mixes with a good soupcon of anti-elitism, which is why GW Bush’s Man from Midland act played so well. Very down-home, hogs and all. Maybe these two threads explain why Jimmy Carter was pushed so far out of the spotlight at the Democratic convention.

Carter, a Nobel Prize winner and a man with an in-depth understanding of foreign affairs, didn’t get a starring role with the Obama show. The Democrats don’t have many ex-presidents in their back pocket, but they certainly have found it convenient to forget this one. Carter, an elder statesman, who definitely knows where his passport is kept – keeps himself busy trying to build coalitions in the Middle East, and talking in liberal international relations terms that are frankly a bit too European for many Americans. Mix that with worries about alienating the Jewish lobby, which have been critical of Obama on Israel, but not as critical as they are of Carter on Israel – and the consequence is that the Obama team might be just a bit scared of getting Carter too close to their bandwagon.

If they wanted a bit more foreign policy knowledge – and who is to say they do – then the last person they would be dialling would be James Earl. Not now, not ever. No way.

Andrew Bell/Guardian (Jeremy Corbyn)
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Who’s who in Team Corbyn

Who are the key players in Jeremy Corbyn's team?

Kat Fletcher
Head of strategy and key aide

By coincidence, there are two unrelated Fletchers at the heart of the Corbyn operation (the other one is Simon: see below). Both come with experience of beating the Labour establishment – Kat was elected NUS president in 2004 against opposition from the more centrist Labour Students group. She has been close to Corbyn for close to a decade and was his agent in this year’s election. She is also a power player in Islington politics in her own right, rising to deputy mayor just two years after being elected as a councillor. Outside politics, she runs a small chain of gastropubs called Handmade Pubs.

Photo: Kat Fletcher

 

Seb Corbyn
Bag-carrier

No race for the Labour leadership would be complete without the presence of a Red Prince or two. The second of Corbyn’s three sons is a Cambridge graduate who has been pressed into service as a bag-carrier and all-purpose aide for this election. (His mother is Corbyn’s second wife, Claudia Bracchitta.) Seb, 25, was the author of a touching scene on the campaign trail when he patted his father’s hair down after both were caught in heavy winds in London. Beyond the campaign, he works for John McDonnell, another close ally of his father’s.

Photo: Carmel Nolan, Jeremy Corbyn and his son Seb

Carmel Nolan
Head of press

Corbyn’s press chief is a former radio journalist and veteran campaigner from Liverpool – and, like him, was a leading architect of the Stop the War coalition. She has described the Corbyn team as “a coalition of the willing and the available” and “like Stop the War with bells on”. Nolan, formerly known as Carmel Brown, is respected by Westminster hacks as a serious operator. In her spare time she researches the fates of Liverpool men who served in the Second World War.

Her daughter, Hope, is credited with coming up with the name for George Galloway’s anti-war party in 2004. Then aged just eight, she picked two names: one was the “Give All Your Sweeties to Hope Party”. The other was Respect.

 

Clive Lewis
MP who nominated Corbyn

Star of the distinctly left-wing clutch of 2015 Labour MPs, Lewis was one of Corbyn’s earliest and most vocal backers – Corbyn credited the new MP for Norwich South with getting his nomination “off the ground”.

Lewis, who worked for more than a decade as a journalist with the BBC, is tipped for a shadow cabinet position (Defence or Culture are rumoured briefs) if Corbyn wins the leadership. He called New Labour “dead and buried” in his victory speech in May 2015.

 

Simon Fletcher
Campaign chief

A veteran back-room operative, Fletcher spent eight years as Ken Livingstone’s chief of staff. In 2000, after Tony Blair ensured that Livingstone was not selected as Labour’s candidate for mayor of London, Fletcher took him to victory as an independent, masterminding a “Stand down, Frank” campaign against Frank Dobson.

Photo: Simon Fletcher

Fletcher originally met Livingstone through Socialist Action, the Trotskyist group, and the former mayor’s memoirs record his friend getting the highest First from City of London Poly in its history (he led a student occupation there) before working on Tony Benn’s archives. In 2009 Fletcher denounced Gordon Brown for “pandering to the BNP” over allocation of social housing. More recently, he was an aide to Ed Miliband, working as his trade union liaison officer from 2013 onwards. He is credited with renegotiating the unions’ relationship with Labour after that year’s Falkirk selection row.

 

John McDonnell
Campaign manager in the Parliamentary Labour Party

After two failed attempts at the Labour leadership (he was kept off the ballot both times), the Socialist Campaign Group chair chose not to stand again this year. Instead, having persuaded Corbyn to run, the Hayes and Harlington MP became his campaign manager. Since his election in 1997, McDonnell, 63, has been one of Corbyn’s greatest parliamentary allies – though some MPs see him as abrasive, unlike his endlessly courteous friend. It was recently reported that he has been promised the post of shadow chancellor, a claim Corbyn sources deny.

 

Jon Trickett
Ideas guru

The Yorkshireman is Jeremy Corbyn’s only supporter in the shadow cabinet. Having been a senior adviser to Ed Miliband, the 65-year-old Trickett was pressured by some to stand as the left’s candidate in the leadership contest but declined – leaving the field clear for Corbyn. Although some in Camp Corbyn regard him with suspicion because he served as a PPS to Gordon Brown, the Hemsworth MP and former Leeds City Council leader is in line for a big role in Corbyn’s front-bench team.

Photo: Jon Trickett

Richard Burgon
MP and supporter

Another high-profile left-winger in Labour’s 2015 intake, Burgon is of solid socialist stock: a trade union lawyer and nephew of the former Labour MP Colin Burgon, a long-term champion of Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez. A dedicated Corbynite, the Leeds East MP might shadow either the Justice Secretary or Chief Secretary to the Treasury. Like Corbyn, he is a republican; he swore an oath to the Queen on taking his seat but describes himself as “someone that believes that the head of state should be elected”.

This article first appeared in the 27 August 2015 issue of the New Statesman, Isis and the new barbarism