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Since the London bombings of July 7, 2005, Britain has become a more troubled, less confident and harmonious country.britishjihad

So begins the introduction to this autumn’s Granta Magazine. In a comprehensive article entitled ‘The Rise of The British Jihad’, BBC journalist Richard Watson says Western democracies have been “disastrously slow” to realise where the battle lines are drawn in the fight against internal networks of extremists:

M15’s warning about the dangers posed by extremist ideology has come too late… [But] few within the security services [now] doubt there will be another murderous attack in Britain before too long.

Transatlantic rumblings are beginning to suggest Barack Obama could face an early test from Islamic terrorists in his vulnerable ‘transition period’ into the White House. Following an article in The Telegraph a couple of weeks ago, yesterday’s Times warned of a “huge threat” to the president elect in his first days:

Security officials say that there is genuine concern that al-Qaeda will attempt a ‘spectacular”’in the transition period… Many Muslim [extremists] are intrigued by Mr Obama’s arrival in the White House.

In the Los Angeles Times, Sebastian Rotella says Obama will face a third war against stateless terrorist cells which should engage his administration’s attention as much as Iraq and Afghanistan.

An early strike would certainly test the new president’s mettle in the harshest way. So far, 31 of Obama’s 47 appointments have been drawn from the ranks of Clintonites. While Bill Clinton’s administration was a formidable election winning machine, it’s rarely remembered for its foreign policy achievements.

spectatorawardsAnother man facing down a threat from within this week is George Osborne.

After presenting Peter Mandelson with Best Newcomer at the Spectator Awards earlier in the week – what a delicious moment that was – Osborne took to the Andrew Marr Show this morning for what turned out to be a very defensive interview about his job prospects and his sterling doom-mongering in The Times.

Blinking rampantly and looking a bit like a puppy who’s been on the receiving end of a hearty slapping, Osborne repeatedly dodged Marr’s question as to whether he thought his role as Shadow Chancellor was tenable.

You get the feeling his answer was tilted towards the older guard in the Tory ranks who apparently harbour some pretty venomous feelings for him:

David Cameron and I work the whole time on economic policy, not for the next few weeks but in the run up to a general election. We are working as a team but it is not the David and George show, that’s a misunderstanding of the way we work. We have a very strong team in the shadow cabinet.

The lady doth protest too much, I think. There’s a good news article covering the interview on Politics Home.

At the most cynical end of the commentariat, News of the World man Fraser Nelson gives Osborne eight days to reedem himself:

I hear he was even thinking of writing a book recently. I wonder what the title was: “How to lose a 20-point poll lead in four weeks?”

I now know at least THREE Shadow Cabinet members who are openly talking about a new Shadow Chancellor.

Andrew Rawnsley thinks for Cameron to dismiss Osborne would be “madness”. “He [Osborne] is trying to see 18 months ahead,” Rawnsley argues. “That makes the Shadow Chancellor smarter than those Tories who want to toss him overboard.”

 In The Sunday Times, Martin Ivens is as mystified as the rest of us by Gordon Brown’s Jekyll and Hyde transmutations on the economy and Baby P.

 Against the flow of news and opinion, The Independent’s Alan Watkins still reckons Good Ship Cameron is cruising to an easy electoral victory:

Mr Brown has been revived temporarily by a shot of bad news in the arm. The Tories are still favourites.

That should set Dave’s mind at rest.

 Finally, there’s a book coming out this week that promises tantalising material a-plenty for anyone hugo_younginterested in politics.

The Hugo Young Papers: 30 years of British politics off the record is a compilation of the legendary journalist’s off-the-record chats with some of the biggest players in the establishment, up until his death in 2003.

Alan Rusbridger wrote an affectionate portrait of the man in yesterday’s Guardian along with some snippets of what to expect. Apparently, Young’s conversations with Gordon Brown, Tony Blair and Peter Mandelson circa 1994 are all going to be aired for the first time.

 

 

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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.