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In a week dominated by the sad early death of Ivan Cameron, the eulogies have been plentiful. Gordon Brown for once managed to find the right words in his address to the Commons on Wednesday, when he said that “the death of a child is an unbearable sorrow no parents should have to endure”.

Among the shower of memorial articles produced since Wednesday morning, Matthew D’Ancona’s piece for the Spectator – written late on Tuesday night – has a special resonance. He pointed out, as others have, that Brown and Cameron are now bound by the tragic human bond of both having lost a child. He added:

In most cases, one finds that there is a formative event that moulds a political leader and acts as the fulcrum of his or her life. In Mr Cameron’s case, there is no doubt that the birth of Ivan, the challenges that followed, and the deep love he felt for his elder son had a tremendous impact upon his public as well as his private life.

Dominic Lawson’s piece in the Sunday Times today is also worth a read.

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Elsewhere, Lindsay Duncan’s portrayal of a magically slimmer, better looking and generally less insane Margaret Thatcher has sparked a raft of retrospectives.

The New Statesman dedicated this week’s issue to a ‘trial’ of Thatcher by recollection.

Among the memories the great and good have of her resignation – Paddy Ashdown recalls the entire departure lounge of Glasgow Airport erupting in euphoria – is this lovely vignette from former Labour MP Oona King years later:

On one occasion I was accompanying Gordon Brown after a meeting at Westminster with MPs. As we drove slowly through the House of Lords car park, we passed an old woman struggling to get out of a passenger seat. Gordon was nearest to her, but was rifling through papers for his next meeting. The old woman seemed to stand to attention at the sight of the car and waved almost bashfully towards us, evidently assuming we might stop and speak to her. When Gordon didn’t look up, her eyes slipped past his and, momentarily, locked on mine.

“Gordon,” I said, still surprised to have looked so closely into those eyes, “you’ve just blanked Margaret Thatcher.”

He seemed uncomfortable.

I bet he did. Also looking uncomfortable this week was Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman, who took a seat opposite Andrew Marr after a long week of briefing and counter-briefing over whether or not she is manoeuvring to succeed Gordon Brown.

Harman gave dull scripted answers to questions on British complicity in the torture of terror suspects and the proposed part-privatisation of the Post Office. The interesting bit came when Marr pressed her outright on whether there was any truth to the rumour of her party leadership ambitions:

Absolutely not a shred, not an iota of truth in it. None whatsoever.

Brown’s allies have never seen Harman as a serious threat, despite the fact she snatched the deputy leadership election from stronger candidates. Compare the careful ostracisation of David Miliband last year with the outright thuggery of the whispering against Harman this week. Her on-the-record denial of ambition to Andrew Marr should mark a short, sharp end to the affair.

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harrietharmanqofhearts-703443 What an awful week it’s been for the women once dubbed Blair’s Babes. Now grown up, they’re taking a battering from all sides. Since the Mail on Sunday ‘outed’ Jacqui Smith over expenses for a second home two weeks ago, she’s had to face the embarassing prospect of an investigation led by John Lyons.

Tessa Jowell’s estranged husband, meanwhile,  has managed to clock up a four and a half year spell in an Italian clink for accepting the modest ‘gift’ of $600,000 from Silvio Berlusconi.

And then the Daily Telegraph heaped more bile on the female cast of the cabinet today with an excoriating assault on Harriet Harman.

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Headlined ‘Britain’s most deluded woman?’, Andrew Pierce’s piece quoted some off-the-record Brownite heavies who rubbished Harman’s ambition to lead Labour and described her as as a “deluded woman” who “has really lost it”.

Pierce went on to quote one of these aides making a “typically icy observation” about Harman’s plans for a women’s conference in the run-up to the G8 summit in April:

I expect she thinks Michelle Obama will pop in for a girlie cup of tea and a photoshoot.

The tone of the piece was remarkably savage. It was also another example of the thuggery of Brown’s confidantes, who have to have won ‘bitchiest briefing of the year’ with this little effort.

Thanks to Alex Hughes for the playing card images.

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The tedium of bankers’ bonuses dominated the front pages today: according to Politics Home, 75% of political stories were dominated by the theme in some way or another. The fact George Osborne and Alistair Darling managed to sound remarkably similar on the Andrew Marr Show – both pointing out banks like RBS would no longer exist without taxpayer support – just goes to show how little scope there is for real discussion on the question of bonuses, especially after Obama’s $500k salary cap for financiers.

I thought Osborne came across better than usual in a slightly chastened form, less the snarling aristocrat and more the balanced politican, although I wouldn’t go to the rhapsodising lengths of rightwing bloggers like Daily Referendum. Having just said there seems to be cross party agreement on taking actions against disproportionate City bonuses, Nick Clegg managed to take it a step further:

The government’s response has been pathetic. We do not need an inquiry to answer the question of whether bankers should receive bonuses – the right answer is no.

Anyone on the boards of the banks, the executives, should not take bonuses. In future they should not get cash bonuses at all.

The Telegraph and Independent both splashed on bonuses; the Sunday Times linked Glen Moreno, the private sector whizz tasked with overseeing the government’s £37bn banking stakes, to a Liechtenstein bank infamous for exploiting tax loopholes.

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The Mail on Sunday raised some questions about Jacqui Smith’s parliamentary expenses, claiming she raked in £116,000 annually for a second home despite “effectively lodging with her sister”. Whoever said politics wasn’t glamorous?

Interestingly two rightwing pundits, Peter Oborne and Matthew D’Ancona, reckon sleaze could be the banana

skin on which either party slips at the next election. D’Ancona reckons there are increasing parallels between Brown and John Major. Although it’s been said many a time before, he argues Clarkson’s “One eyed Scottish idiot” jibe marks a new low in personal insults directed at the PM.

Finally, it’s worth comparing d’Ancona’s piece with Andrew Rawnsley. The Spectator man argues that David Miliband was fundamentally right to withhold publication of certain details of Binyam Mohamed’s trial; Rawnsley thinks it’s an extension of Blair’s “great moral failure”.

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The Sunday Times definitely trumped the rest this week. Grace Mugabe showed it’s not just D-list celebrities who can lose their temper with photographers after apparently lashing out at a Sunday Times snapper; Margaret Beckett found herself in hot water, echoing Baroness Vadera’s strife earlier in the week by saying she could see signs of recovery in the housing market; and Roman Abramovich has reportedly been getting bored with the giant train set that is Chelsea, and is trying to offload the club to Gulf investors.

The Observer went with the fragile Gazan ceasefire and a story about the ‘rise of mixed-race Britain’ which claims, among other things, that “some distinct ethnic groups – starting with Caribbean – will virtually disappear” according to the Institute of Social and Economic Research at Essex University.

The Telegraph’s front page follows the twists and turns of a financial week that saw 25 per cent wiped off the value of Barclays shares in an hour with news that the government could put up to £200bn of toxic debt on public books. The Mirror and the News of the World plumped for the joys of Boy George and Jade Goody respectively, while the Mail on Sunday had a similar £200bn toxic debt story to The Telegraph and suggestions that naughty Tesco staff have been posting rude comments about customers on the net.

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Clearly the mother of all stories lurking behind the small fry is Obama’s ascension to the White House, commanding double page spreads a-plenty and dominating the comment pages. Andrew Rawnsley notes the hubristic nods to Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt in Obama’s pre-inauguration whirlwind but points out that if ever there was a time to set pessimism aside, it’s now. On the Independent’s newly reworked blogspot John Rentoul amusingly points out that the communist Weekly Worker magazine has already branded Obama the world’s number one terrorist. There’s also chat about the Tories’ resurgence in the polls – they’re up nine points to 42 per cent, according to ComRes – and Andrew Grice rounds off last week’s political coverage with a mention of the Commons’ attempts to censor TV footage of a heated exchange involving John McDonnell MP.

Martin Ivens is taken up with the (quickly becoming interminable) topic of Ken Clarke and his possible return to the shadow cabinet. He aptly compares the prospect of a fourth Labour term as another series of an increasingly dreary sitcom.

My personal pick of the week goes to Ruth Sutherland in the Observer for a piece suggesting the credit crunch was the result of testosterone driven patriarchs high in the glittering towers of Canary Wharf and Wall Street, and looking at the effects of the downturn on women – who she argues will be hardest hit. Just when you thought every possible angle had been taken on the recession, up pops the old gender divide.

Finally, Frost/Nixon is out at the end of January and promises to be a timely look at the only president whose calamitous exit from the White House can rival Dubya’s shambolic departure.

Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger was in a contemplative mood when he gave a talk at Oxford University last week. Against the backdrop of industry malaise, and despite predictions that the coming year will see a “harvesting of local newspapers”, Rusbridger managed to strike an upbeat note about the Guardian’s growing onrusbridger2line audience on the other side of the Atlantic.

This is the liberal hour in America, and it is the Guardian’s opportunity given its website and liberal style.

We’ve never spent a penny marketing it anywhere outside the UK. The audience came to us.

Rusbridger described the US’ leading papers as “amazingly parochial” and said that journalistically, America was withdrawing from the world.

He referred to American papers’ initial reaction to the Mumbai massacre, which they gave scant coverage.

The only problem at the moment is the fact search engines soak up the lion’s share of advertising revenue on the web. “They have got in between us and the advertisers,” Rusbridger said. “At some point there is going to be a sorting out of rules of trade between Google and content providers.”

He’ll need a strong latte before that meeting.

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 As the euphoria around Barack Obama’s barnstorming election victory subsides, a good degree of introspection has set in on this side of the Atlantic.

The crispness of Obama’s victory speech and the graciousness of McCain’s concession contrast rather too starkly with the mucky infighting that’s surrounded UK politics in the past few months.

People instinctively want an injection of the excitement and promise Obama has given to US politics. The New Statesman is already putting its money on Chuka Ummuna, a 30-year-old lawyer and the Labour Party’s prospective candidate for Streatham in south London, who is being tipped for big things by his colleagend_gr_chukaumunna1ues:

Chuka Ummuna is a bold young politician with an easy public presence. If he wins the Streatham seat he will be fast-tracked into what is likely to be the shadow cabinet… He is no Obama yet. But he is prepared to depart from the current government line in a way that would simply not have been acceptable for a candidate in the buttoned-up Tony Blair era.

In today’s Comment Is Free, Gordon Brown – or one of Number 10’s press officers – suggests that Obama’s victory is more than just the triumph over adversity of a remarkable candidate, but rather the symbol of a wider movement towards progressive politics. It’s obviously a thinly veiled advertorial for the Labour Party. You can’t help thinking that neither of the UK’s frontrunners have ever offered anything close to the buzz of the Democrats at the moment.

In case you were tucked up in bed on Tuesday night, this video uploaded on YouTube captures the elation in Chicago’s Grant Park:

Ealier in the week Trevor Phillips, head of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, kicked up a stink when he said a British Barack Obama would have been held back by institutional racism within the Labour Party. He went so far as to commend the Tories for a more forward-thinking approach.

On Sky News today William Hague thoroughly rebutted the idea the House of Commons wasn’t ready for a black leader:

That was too strong. I think the same thing could happen in Britain as happened in the US… I think we will see, after the next election, a House of Commons that looks quite different.

It’s not really clear what he meant by the last sentece in the context of race, though. I don’t think anyone’s ever mistaken Cameron’s shadow cabinet for an ethnically diverse, mixed bunch of people from a range of different walks in life. On the other side of the Commons benches, black Labour MP David Lammy declared that “a glass ceiling has been broken”.

Baroness Amos and Dizzee Rascal shared their views on the question of a black PM in a much-talked about Newsnight interview:

On a tangential tip, The Independent’s John Rentoul used an online tool called Who Voted? to see whether the infamous Joe The Plumber cast his ballot. Only four states are signed up to the site at the moment – Florida, Idaho, Ohio and Washington. Luckily Mr Worzelbacher lives in Lucas County, Ohio. It seems he voted in 2004, but this year’s results are yet to filter through.

A quick selection of the rest to satisfy the insatiable Mr Haddon: In The Observer, Andrew Rawnsley warns that every politician and his dog are going to start using ‘change’ as a buzzword to hop on the Obama bandwagon. He also points out what a lot of rightwing American commentators have been saying for a while – that the president elect may veer towards protectionism as the US economy turns down, which may make for some abrasive transatlantic trading.

Matthew D’Ancona boldly reckons that “about 2am on Wednesday, the defining figure of British politics ceased to be Tony Blair and became Barack Obama”. In yesterday’s Guardian Marina Hyde put it more caustically, looking back over Blair’s career as an orator. She says watching him speak at the Labour Party conference followed by Bill Clinton was “a bit like Robbie Williams opening for Frank Sinatra”. It’s funny how quickly political legacies can crumble to dust in the brightness of daylight.

If you’re already bored of the praise being heaped on Obama, just turn to today’s Daily Mail. Peter Hitchens tips a kingsize bucket of bile over the Democrat man and his many fans:

The swooning frenzy over the choice of Barack Obama as president of the US must be one of the most absurd waves of self-deception and swirling fantasy ever to sweep through an advanced civilisation… If you can believe this undistinguished and conventionally Left-wing machine politician is a sort of secular saviour, then you can believe anything.

Brilliant. James Robinson wrote a bright profile of the lord of the news agenda, Paul Dacre, in The Observer this morning. Apparently middle England’s champion flirted with socialist politics in his student days at Leeds, and even once said that anyone who doesn’t experiment with liberal views at university “should be shot”.

Finally, if you haven’t seen Dubya yet, it’s well worth a watch.

In a week dominated by the Sachsgate affair, it’s no surprise the Sunday papers have taken a look at the BBC through a critical lens.

This morning the BBC’s director-general Mark Thompson told The Andrew Marr Show Jonathan Ross would be keeping his job, although he described his three-month suspension as a “final warning”. Thompson went on to defend his £816,000 annual salary:

I get paid significantly less than my opposite numbers in ITV and Channel 4. I took a pay cut. People are happy to do that because of the creative challenges.

No doubt he had in mind the News of the World’s splash when he said that. The NotW used a simple Freedom of Information request to get details of the BBC’s top 50 salaries – all of whom earn more than Gordon Brown’s relatively modest £190,000 a year.

The story’s strapline on page 4 sums up the paper’s thrust: “For £14.3m [the aggregate of the salaries] we could employ 677 nurses, 695 teachers, 540 firemen or 596 coppers.. but what DO we get? 50 money-grabbing BBC fat cats!”

The Sunday Times had the same table of stats showing the Corporation’s top earners but didn’t deem it as newsworthy, stashing it away on page 13 as part of a double page spread on the fallout from Sachsgate. Instead the paper led in with comments from a source close to Cabinet minister Andy Burnham suggesting the BBC should “tackle its salary culture”.

The Daily Telegraph quoted a senior Tory source saying the Conservatives would force the Beeb to cuts its licence fee by £6, effectively returning £800 million to viewers in a year. The source tells The Telegraph the Tories would “rein in the overweening ambitions of the BBC” which, in spending huge amounts of money on the likes of Ross, was “acting as if it were Manchester United buying Ronaldo”.

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On the other side of the Atlantic, a real auntie has been giving Barack Obama an unwelcome distraction.

According to The New York Times, Obama had no idea the 56-year-old Kenyan relative he affectionately referred to as “Auntie Zeituni” in his memoir was living with illegal immigant status in Boston.

She made small donations to his campaign amounting to $260 which David Axelrod has said will be refunded.

In today’s Observer, Paul Harris and Gabby Hinsliff remark: “Illegal immigration is a political minefield in US politics and the story could be a vote-losing headache for Obama.”

With a matter of days to go until America’s next president is sworn in, all indicators are pointing to an Obama victory. Like Tony Blair in 1997, he is playing this down. Several commentators have hoped this won’t result in an overly cautious first term as it did for New Labour.

On another note, Andrew Rawnsley thinks David Cameron is quietly keeping his fingers crossed for a Democrat win.

Finally, in today’s Telegraph, Philip Sherwell and Tim Shipman report that if elected Obama will face an early test from Islamic terrorists, who have threatened to test the new president’s mettle. There is a great piece in this quarter’s Granta Magazine that ties in with the ongoing threat from within presented by extremists. Unfortunately you can’t get it online but I’m planning a longer blog piece with some of the higlights.

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