Alain Juppé: the cold, septuagenarian Conservative may be the best option For French progressives

Alain Juppé à Québec

This article was published in The Huffington Post

“I was the king in the family,” Alain Juppé claimed about his pampered upbringing. On a school trip to Lisbon, pleased to have escaped the family bubble, he was surprised to discover upon arriving that his overprotective parents had made the journey as well to check he was alright.

Now 71, Juppé is running to be the presidential nominee for the centre-right Republicans; he first became a minister over 30 years ago. He once declared that in French politics “only physical death counts, otherwise there is always the possibility of resurrection” and is the living proof of the statement’s veracity. Continue reading Alain Juppé: the cold, septuagenarian Conservative may be the best option For French progressives

Falling away

London Mar 15 2008 Stop the War protest AB 8

It is a pretty dire time to be on the centre-left in Britain. The Conservatives won an unexpected outright majority fifteen months ago. Labour was wiped out in Scotland at the hands of the SNP, which, however progressive it seems, is first and foremost about nationalism. Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats were reduced to just eight MPs. Continue reading Falling away

Book review: The Wellness Syndrome by Carl Cederström and André Spicer

wellness-955796_1920.jpgFor anyone who has ever harboured doubts about the benefit of wearing a Fitbit or adopting the Paleo diet (where you only eat food eaten by early humans) this is the book for you. Carl Cederström and André Spicer explore the ‘wellness syndrome’. It has become a moral obligation, they argue, to constantly strive towards wellbeing. It is a never-ending task, leading to “anxiety, self-blame and guilt”.

The underlying philosophy of wellness programmes is that the individual has the power to overcome obstacles in their personal and professional life through thinking and acting differently. As examples in the book demonstrate, this is presented as the solution for challenges ranging from dealing with cancer to becoming rich. Continue reading Book review: The Wellness Syndrome by Carl Cederström and André Spicer

What causes someone to become a terrorist? The French debate.

Paris Shootings - The day after (22593744177)

“France is at war,” declared François Hollande, after last November’s attacks in Paris. Since then, he has had to declare it several more times. It is a strange sort of war. France fights not against a coherent, well-defined enemy, but against a pervasive ideology. The front line is now not just the streets of Paris but provincial cities and even the French countryside. Continue reading What causes someone to become a terrorist? The French debate.

To claim Corbyn is failing because he is unelectable is to miss the point

Jeremy Corbyn No More War crop

This article was published on Backbench

He is an honest and principled man, goes the refrain, with fresh ideas, but he’s just not a good enough leader. It’s not his ideas or his principles, just his inability to show more competence and do better in the polls. This has been Labour MPs’ critique of Jeremy Corbyn. The implication is that if there were a strong far-left leader who could get closer to winning, the soft left would support him. Continue reading To claim Corbyn is failing because he is unelectable is to miss the point

Book review: This is London by Ben Judah

UK Border, Heathrow

This article was published on Backbench

The arguments made in the media for and against low-skilled immigration normally come from the well-heeled opinion-forming professions, rather than from immigrants themselves. Thus there is a tendency to romanticise or demonise immigrants and their plight: the benefit scrounger, the job stealer, the self-made chaser of a British version of the American Dream. We rarely hear from those who constitute these supposed categories. The main strength of Ben Judah’s This is London is that it gives them a voice. Each chapter involves meeting one or more immigrant, from all over the world and in all sorts of jobs, from beggars to tube workers to carers. The point hammered home, from the title onwards, is that London is now a city of immigrants (the book tells us in the first few pages that at least 55% of Londoners are not ethnically British and that nearly 40% of Londoners were born abroad). Continue reading Book review: This is London by Ben Judah

Spain votes again

This article was published on Backbench

For a small impoverished region in the north-west of Spain, Galicia has a record of producing strong political leaders. Francisco Franco, dictator of Spain from the end of the country’s civil war in the 1930s until his death in 1975, hailed from Ferrol on the north-western tip of the region. Manuel Fraga, a Franco minister and later long-time First Minister of Galicia, was a fierce Galician. Current Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy was born in the region, as was the father of Cuba’s Fidel and Raúl Castro.

A more familiar stereotype of Galicians is that they are indecisive, and it is this characteristic which has extended across the Spanish electorate – if not the politicians – today. All the talk going into last December’s election was about the effect of two insurgent parties: far-left Podemos (“We Can”) and centre-right Ciudadanos (“Citizens”). Set up in the last few years, these parties threatened to break the stranglehold on Spanish politics – since the 1980s the centre-right Partido Popular (Peoples’ Party) and the centre-left PSOE (Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party) have swapped power every decade or so. Continue reading Spain votes again