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I was speaking to an old Labour communications maestro this week, who said something to the effect that the Tory party under David Cameron still hasn’t managed to modernise itself properly. I generally disagree – I’m fairly sure Dave and George Facebook and Twitter each other at ever opportunity – but William Hague certainly let the side down a bit on today’s Andrew Marr Show.

He had a distinctly uncomfortable moment. Scheduled to meet the Chinese PM Wen Jiabao after appearing on the show, Hague was asked whether it was tough raising the question of human rights in Tibet with Chinese leaders as well as working with them on economic and nuclear issues. He said consistency was the key, adding:

Eastern leaders, if I can lump them all together in one bracket, appreciate consistency.

As opposed to Etonian leaders, who prefer vacillation and indecision? I hope Wen hasn’t been reading any Edward Said recently. A slight look of panic crossed Hague’s face as he seemed to realise he’d made some of the world’s most powerful leaders sound like kids with behavioural problems, and he looked glad when Marr moved the chat on. Incidentally, anti-Tibet protestors clashed violently with police ahead of Wen Jiabao’s visist at the Chinese Embassy in London, but they appeared to be miffed about human rights rather than Hague’s moment of Orientalist madness.

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Civil strife seems to be the theme of the week. The most incisive comment reaction to the wildcat strikes that have erupted around the country over contracts for foreign workers at Total’s Lindsey refinery came from Andrew Rawnsley in The Observer. In autumn 2000, truckers and farmers enraged at soaring oil prices blockaded refineries around the UK. At first, Blair’s government treated the situation as a bit of a joke – but it ended up bringing the country to the verge of disaster. Underestimating the strikers this time around could come at a high price. Left-wing Labour MP Frank Field was worried enough to write in today’s Mail:

Labour risks a wipeout at the next General Election unless it gets a real grip of its immigration policy. Failure to do so allows fingers to be wrongly pointed at foreign workers who have added much to our country. Anger should be solely directed at the Government.

Make no mistake. The men and women on the picket lines are not just fighting for their jobs, they are also asserting their national identity.

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Field misses the point that Brown’s original pledge of “British jobs for British workers”, made at last year’s party conference, was an artless grab for the jingo vote and an unrealistic promise. Commentators across the spectrum, from Carol Thatcher on today’s Andrew Marr Show to Andrew Grice in the Independent, pointed out that Brown has given quite a few hostages to fortune over the years, most of whom have been bloodily executed over the past 12 months.

Finally, to the House of Lords scandal, which has already earned itself the tedious tag of “Ermingate”. In today’s Sunday Times Jack Straw promised an overhaul, although given the Commons vetoed a partially elected chamber last year it’s going to be slow progress. Amidst the mudslinging – apparently Conrad Black and Jeffrey Archer will be booted out alongside the Sunday Times Four under emergency rules – one person has come out of it all looking rather good.

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Baroness Royall is, according to The Sunday Times:

The foxy Baroness Royall of Blaisdon, who swept in to read the riot act. Flame-haired, cool-eyed, with sexy long black boots, the Labour leader of the disgraced upper house looks more likely to crack a whip than pass the port.

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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.