Palin lacks “gravitas”, says Rove

Former Bush strategist questions if Sarah Palin is suitable to stand for president.

The senior party strategist Karl Rove has suggested that the former Republican vice-presidential candidate and Alaskan governor Sarah Palin lacks the "gravitas" needed to win the American people's votes, reports the Telegraph.

In an interview, Rove stresses the importance of candidates giving voters the confidence that "they are up to the most demanding job in the world" and argues that Palin needs to prove she is up to the job.

In relation to Palin's upcoming Discovery Channel reality-TV show, in which she is to explore the Alaskan wilderness, Rove says he is "not certain how that fits in the American calculus of 'that helps me see you in the Oval Office' ". He points out that the programme's promotional material, which features Palin saying she "would rather be doing this than in some stuffy old political office", could be particularly problematic for any presidential campaign.

Rove, who was deputy chief of staff under George W Bush, also implies that Palin may struggle in the presidential primaries, which begin in the new year, noting: "It's going to be blood, it's going to be sweat and tears and it's going to be hard effort."

Palin is a divisive figure for Americans, and Rove suggests that, despite strong grass-roots support for her, the race for the Republican primaries is wide open. "Outside of the true believers", he says, most Republican primary voters are still undecided and open to persuasion.

Early indications are that Palin does indeed intend to run for the presidency. She has recently given a speech in Iowa, site of the first caucuses, and is reported to have been gathering both money and staff.

As the race for the Republican presidential nomination tightens, more heavyweights will weigh in on the contest, with potential dividing lines emerging between established figures such as Rove and newer, more divisive candidates with substantial popular support.

Photo: André Spicer
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“It’s scary to do it again”: the five-year-old fined £150 for running a lemonade stand

Enforcement officers penalised a child selling home-made lemonade in the street. Her father tells the full story. 

It was a lively Saturday afternoon in east London’s Mile End. Groups of people streamed through residential streets on their way to a music festival in the local park; booming bass could be heard from the surrounding houses.

One five-year-old girl who lived in the area had an idea. She had been to her school’s summer fête recently and looked longingly at the stalls. She loved the idea of setting up her own stall, and today was a good day for it.

“She eventually came round to the idea of selling lemonade,” her father André Spicer tells me. So he and his daughter went to their local shop to buy some lemons. They mixed a few jugs of lemonade, the girl made a fetching A4 sign with some lemons drawn on it – 50p for a small cup, £1 for a large – and they carried a table from home to the end of their road. 

“People suddenly started coming up and buying stuff, pretty quickly, and they were very happy,” Spicer recalls. “People looked overjoyed at this cute little girl on the side of the road – community feel and all that sort of stuff.”

But the heart-warming scene was soon interrupted. After about half an hour of what Spicer describes as “brisk” trade – his daughter’s recipe secret was some mint and a little bit of cucumber, for a “bit of a British touch” – four enforcement officers came striding up to the stand.

Three were in uniform, and one was in plain clothes. One uniformed officer turned the camera on his vest on, and began reciting a legal script at the weeping five-year-old.

“You’re trading without a licence, pursuant to x, y, z act and blah dah dah dah, really going through a script,” Spicer tells me, saying they showed no compassion for his daughter. “This is my job, I’m doing it and that’s it, basically.”

The girl burst into tears the moment they arrived.

“Officials have some degree of intimidation. I’m a grown adult, so I wasn’t super intimidated, but I was a bit shocked,” says Spicer. “But my daughter was intimidated. She started crying straight away.”

As they continued to recite their legalese, her father picked her up to try to comfort her – but that didn’t stop the officers giving her stall a £150 fine and handing them a penalty notice. “TRADING WITHOUT LICENCE,” it screamed.


Picture: André Spicer

“She was crying and repeating, ‘I’ve done a bad thing’,” says Spicer. “As we walked home, I had to try and convince her that it wasn’t her, it wasn’t her fault. It wasn’t her who had done something bad.”

She cried all the way home, and it wasn’t until she watched her favourite film, Brave, that she calmed down. It was then that Spicer suggested next time they would “do it all correctly”, get a permit, and set up another stand.

“No, I don’t want to, it’s a bit scary to do it again,” she replied. Her father hopes that “she’ll be able to get over it”, and that her enterprising spirit will return.

The Council has since apologised and cancelled the fine, and called on its officials to “show common sense and to use their powers sensibly”.

But Spicer felt “there’s a bigger principle here”, and wrote a piece for the Telegraph arguing that children in modern Britain are too restricted.

He would “absolutely” encourage his daughter to set up another stall, and “I’d encourage other people to go and do it as well. It’s a great way to spend a bit of time with the kids in the holidays, and they might learn something.”

A fitting reminder of the great life lesson: when life gives you a fixed penalty notice, make lemonade.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.