Elizabeth Warren says she is “not running” for president, but hasn’t ruled it out. Photo: Getty
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Why Elizabeth Warren should take on Hillary Clinton and run for the US presidency

Simply by running, Warren will drag the centrist Clinton to the left and put the causes she cares about – financial reform, fairer taxes, income inequality – at the centre of the 2016 presidential election.

Can you imagine Ed Miliband giving the following speech?

I hear all this, you know, ‘Well, this is class warfare, this is whatever.’ No. There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own – nobody. You built a factory out there? Good for you. But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything . . . Now, look, you built a factory and it turned into something terrific, or a great idea. God bless – keep a big hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.”

If only, eh? The centre left in the UK tends to recoil from using such stridently populist language. Miliband, in particular, is sensitive to the tabloid charge of being “Red Ed”. But the centre left in the US? It’s got Elizabeth Warren: senator, former law professor and darling of the Democratic Party base.

It was Warren who delivered that rousing address in Andover, Massachusetts, in August 2011, a month before announcing her candidacy for the US Senate. (Spoiler alert: she won.) Her audience applauded wildly; the video of her speech went viral, amassing more than a million views online.

Here, it seemed for the first time, was an unashamedly left-wing US politician who could tell stories and capture the public mood; who could tailor a message for both middle-class and working-class voters; who was confident and unapologetic, rather than defensive and cautious.

In an age of Occupy Wall Street and Thomas Piketty, of growing public concern over income inequality and rising anger towards the big banks (including among supporters of the Republican Party), Warren has become a progressive superstar. Her memoir, A Fighting Chance, has been on the New York Times bestseller list since it was published in April. In the book, she recalls a dinner she was invited to in April 2009 with President Obama’s then chief economic adviser, Larry Summers. “Late in the evening, Larry leaned back in his chair and offered me some advice,” she writes. “I could be an insider or I could be an outsider. Outsiders can say whatever they want. But people on the inside don’t listen to them. Insiders, however, get lots of access . . . [but they] also understand one unbreakable rule: they don’t criticise other insiders. I had been warned.”

The warning didn’t work. Four years later, Warren led the Senate Democrats’ campaign to prevent Summers from being nominated to run the US Federal Reserve. Hers is a no-nonsense, take-no-prisoners approach. In February 2013, at her first appearance on the Senate banking committee, Warren skewered a gaggle of top regulators by asking when they had last prosecuted a major bank. Again, the video of her remarks went viral. So, too, did her July 2013 clash with a CNBC cable news host over whether or not to break up the big banks – it was viewed online more than a million times.

Will Warren dare to run against Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination for the presidency? She repeatedly tells reporters that she is “not running” for president, but hasn’t ruled it out. She is 64. If Clinton runs, wins and serves two terms, there won’t be a White House vacancy until 2024, when the Massachusetts senator will be 75.

It’s 2016 or never. Can she win? Junior senators with a single term on Capitol Hill, a lack of foreign-policy experience and an opponent called Clinton can’t win, right? I mean, er, just ask Obama.

Like Hillary Clinton, Warren is a feisty female with a national profile and a knack for fundraising: she secured $40m for her Senate race, more than half of it online. Unlike Clinton, who gave two paid speeches to Goldman Sachs in 2013 alone, Warren does not have to rely on the big banks for financial support: eight out of every ten contributions to her Senate campaign were less than $50.

Then again, whether she wins or not isn’t the issue. Simply by running, she will drag the centrist Clinton to the left and put the causes she cares about – financial reform, fairer taxes, income inequality – at the centre of the 2016 presidential election. A Warren candidacy would not just be “Hillary’s nightmare” – to quote the headline of the New Republic’s cover story on Warren last November – it would be Wall Street’s.

Ed Miliband tells friends he’s an admirer of Warren but he hasn’t yet been able to emulate her style, passion or rhetoric. (The only videos of Miliband that go viral involve him either robotically repeating himself or trying to eat a bacon sandwich.)

There is still time. On paper, Warren, lest we forget, is as wonkish as Miliband, if not more so. The Labour leader may sound professorial; Warren was a professor. There is no reason why the Labour leader, if he eschews the triangulating tendencies of some of his aides, stops giving dense speeches and takes a much stronger stance against Big Finance, can’t rediscover his own inner populist. He has done so before: on those brief occasions when he stood up to Rupert Murdoch or when he challenged the “big six” energy companies.

Forget the hapless Hollande or the opportunistic Obama: Elizabeth Warren’s way should be Ed Miliband’s way. You never know – he may even end up paying her a visit at the White House.

Mehdi Hasan is a contributing writer for the New Statesman and the political director of the Huffington Post UK, where this column is crossposted

Mehdi Hasan is a contributing writer for the New Statesman and the co-author of Ed: The Milibands and the Making of a Labour Leader. He was the New Statesman's senior editor (politics) from 2009-12.

This article first appeared in the 11 June 2014 issue of the New Statesman, The last World Cup

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Five things Hillary Clinton’s released emails reveal about UK politics

The latest batch of the presidential hopeful’s emails provide insight into the 2010 Labour leadership contest, and the dying days of the Labour government.

The US State Department has released thousands of Hillary Clinton’s emails. This is part of an ongoing controversy regarding the presidential hopeful’s use of a private, non-governmental server and personal email account when conducting official business as Secretary of State.

More than a quarter of Clinton’s work emails have now been released, in monthly instalments under a Freedom of Information ruling, after she handed over 30,000 pages of documents last year. So what does this most recent batch – which consists of 4,368 emails (totalling 7,121 pages) – reveal?
 

David Miliband’s pain

There’s a lot of insight into the last Labour leadership election in Clinton’s correspondence. One email from September 2010 reveals David Miliband’s pain at being defeated by his brother. He writes: “Losing is tough. When you win the party members and MPs doubly so. (When it's your brother...).”


Reaction to Ed Miliband becoming Labour leader

Clinton’s reply to the above email isn’t available in the cache, but a message from an aide about Ed Miliband’s victory in the leadership election suggests they were taken aback – or at least intrigued – by the result. Forwarding the news of Ed’s win to Clinton, it simply reads: “Wow”.


Clinton’s take on it, written in an email to her long-time adviser, Sidney Blumenthal, is: “Clearly more about Tony that [sic] David or Ed”.

Blumenthal expresses regret about the “regression” Ed’s win suggests about the Labour party. He writes to Clinton: “David Miliband lost by less than 2 percent to his brother Ed. Ed is the new leader. David was marginally hurt by Tony's book but more by Mandelson's endorsement coupled with his harsh statements about the left. This is something of a regression.”
 

Peter Mandelson is “mad”

In fact, team Clinton is less than enthusiastic about the influence Mandelson has over British politics. One item in a long email from Blumenthal to Clinton, labelled “Mandelson Watch”, gives her the low-down on the former Business Secretary’s machinations, in scathing language. It refers to him as being “in a snit” for missing out on the EU Commissioner position, and claims those in Europe think of him as “mad”. In another email from Blumenthal – about Labour’s “halted” coup against Gordon Brown – he says of Mandelson: “No one trusts him, yet he's indispensable.”

That whole passage about the coup is worth reading – for the clear disappointment in David Miliband, and description of his brother as a “sterling fellow”:


Obsession with “Tudor” Labour plotting

Clinton appears to have been kept in the loop on every detail of Labour party infighting. While Mandelson is a constant source of suspicion among her aides, Clinton herself clearly has a lot of time for David Miliband, replying “very sorry to read this confirmation” to an email about his rumoured demotion.

A May 2009 email from Blumenthal to Clinton, which describes Labour politicians’ plots as “like the Tudors”, details Ed Balls’ role in continuing Tony Blair and Gordon Brown’s “bitter rivalry”:


“Disingenuous” Tories “offending” Europe

The Tories don’t get off lightly either. There is intense suspicion of David Cameron’s activities in Europe, even before he is Prime Minister. Blumenthal – whose email about a prospective Cameron government being “aristocratic” and “narrowly Etonian” was released in a previous batch of Clinton’s correspondence – writes:

Without passing "Go," David Cameron has seriously damaged his relations. with the European leaders. Sending a letter to Czech leader Vaclay Klaus encouraging him not to sign the Lisbon Treaty, as though Cameron were already Prime Minister, he has offended Sarkozy., Merkel and Zapatero.

He also accuses him of a “tilt to the Tory right on Europe”.

In the same email, Blumenthal tells Clinton that William Hague (then shadow foreign secretary), “has arduously pressured for an anti-EU stance, despite his assurances to you that Tory policy toward Europe would be marked by continuity”.

In the aftermath of the 2010 UK election, Blumenthal is apprehensive about Hague’s future as Foreign Secretary, emailing Clinton: “I would doubt you’ll see David again as foreign secretary. Prepare for hauge [sic, William Hague], who is deeply anti-European and will be disingenuous with you.”

Anoosh Chakelian is deputy web editor at the New Statesman.