The Wisdom of Young Speechwriters


The problem with anyone young is that they have all sorts of positive qualities: energy, fresh thinking, ambition, confidence and so on. But they (necessarily) don’t have the experience that comes from knowing lots of things. From seeing how things play out over time. For grasping the deeper dynamics of any negotiation. From understanding relationships in all their baffling complexity. From grasping what the Serbs call duh situaciji – the spirit of the situation.

Continue reading The Wisdom of Young Speechwriters

Obama v Putin – a New Realism?

Barack_Obama_addresses_the_United_Nations_General_AssemblyThe prospect of Russia fighter jets and special forces setting about ISIL with gusto and no mercy whatsoever warms the cockles of Western leaders’ hearts. And maybe some grimy deal that keeps Assad afloat for the time being is better than Syria collapsing completely and all those refugees banging on the door. Plus shared progress here might lead to shared progress over Ukraine. Continue reading Obama v Putin – a New Realism?

Borders and Identity

LE_Eithne_Operation_TritonGermany is now realising that it cannot make such an apparently open-ended offer, so is pressing hard for other EU countries to share the burden through some sort of mandatory quota system. Poland, Hungary and some other states are resisting. They have spent long decades if not centuries grappling to assert their national and linguistic identity under different imperial powers, and are determined not to see their hard-won independence eroded. Continue reading Borders and Identity

Clinton and Corbyn: The Fine Old Art of Dissembling

At the No More War event at Parliament Square in August. A Creative Commons stock photo. You don’t hear the verb ‘to dissemble’ so much these days, although Edgar Allan Poe knew just when to use it. Its synonyms include pretend, deceive, feign, masquerade, sham, bluff, pose, and counterfeit. It’s all about projecting a false if not dishonest impression, with a view to misleading.

Dissembling may have drifted towards desuetude, giving way to the more robust idea of ‘lying’, but the practice is alive and well. This week sees momentous examples from two ambitious politicians on either side of the Atlantic, both with a problem. How to deflect public attention from what they have really been doing, as their doings look embarrassing when subjected to closer scrutiny? Continue reading Clinton and Corbyn: The Fine Old Art of Dissembling

Ed Miliband: Not Clint Eastwood

Clint_Eastwood-Rawhide_publicityOne of the best quotes about politics and democracy is attributed to US Senator Russell B Long: Democracy is like a raft. It won’t sink, but your feet are always wet.

Here in the United Kingdom our “first past the post” voting system produces some amazing anomalies.  For example, people not familiar with the Splendour that is Westminster Democracy might think it superficially unreasonable that the UK Independence Party received nearly 4,000,000 votes but won only one parliamentary seat, whereas the Scottish National Party received 1,500,000 votes yet won 56 parliamentary seats. Continue reading Ed Miliband: Not Clint Eastwood