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.

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Theresa May's "clean Brexit" is hard Brexit with better PR

The Prime Minister's objectives point to the hardest of exits from the European Union. 

Theresa May will outline her approach to Britain’s Brexit deal in a much-hyped speech later today, with a 12-point plan for Brexit.

The headlines: her vow that Britain will not be “half in, half out” and border control will come before our membership of the single market.

And the PM will unveil a new flavour of Brexit: not hard, not soft, but “clean” aka hard but with better PR.

“Britain's clean break from EU” is the i’s splash, “My 12-point plan for Brexit” is the Telegraph’s, “We Will Get Clean Break From EU” cheers the Express, “Theresa’s New Free Britain” roars the Mail, “May: We’ll Go It Alone With CLEAN Brexit” is the Metro’s take. The Guardian goes for the somewhat more subdued “May rules out UK staying in single market” as their splash while the Sun opts for “Great Brexpectations”.

You might, at this point, be grappling with a sense of déjà vu. May’s new approach to the Brexit talks is pretty much what you’d expect from what she’s said since getting the keys to Downing Street, as I wrote back in October. Neither of her stated red lines, on border control or freeing British law from the European Court of Justice, can be met without taking Britain out of the single market aka a hard Brexit in old money.

What is new is the language on the customs union, the only area where May has actually been sparing on detail. The speech will make it clear that after Brexit, Britain will want to strike its own trade deals, which means that either an unlikely exemption will be carved out, or, more likely, that the United Kingdom will be out of the European Union, the single market and the customs union.

(As an aside, another good steer about the customs union can be found in today’s row between Boris Johnson and the other foreign ministers of the EU27. He is under fire for vetoing an EU statement in support of a two-state solution, reputedly to curry favour with Donald Trump. It would be strange if Downing Street was shredding decades of British policy on the Middle East to appease the President-Elect if we weren’t going to leave the customs union in order at the end of it.)

But what really matters isn’t what May says today but what happens around Europe over the next few months. Donald Trump’s attacks on the EU and Nato yesterday will increase the incentive on the part of the EU27 to put securing the political project front-and-centre in the Brexit talks, making a good deal for Britain significantly less likely.

Add that to the unforced errors on the part of the British government, like Amber Rudd’s wheeze to compile lists of foreign workers, and the diplomatic situation is not what you would wish to secure the best Brexit deal, to put it mildly.

Clean Brexit? Nah. It’s going to get messy. 

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