One of my very earliest musical memories is the wonderful sound of Chopin’s E flat nocturne on an old 78. The music gets under your skin, and that is equally true for the Chinese-American pianist Claire Huangci, who has recorded all 21 nocturnes. Are they too unvaried a sequence? No, because of the deftness and variety that Chopin creates within the form. Huangci has a lovely, warm sound and in some pieces, like the F sharp major, integrates all the incredible filigree to beautiful effect. But she overdoes some effects, like the pauses in the D flat major; there is not enough variety in the textures to make this a top recommendation.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010
A cartoon in a Dutch newspaper depicts Mrs May whacking herself over the head with a mallet. Another Dutch publication has the prime minister entering the Brexit negotiations with her severed head cradled under her arm. It is not just the Netherlands that is having a good giggle. Britain’s prime minister – and, by extension, Britain itself – is an object of torrential mockery across Europe. Here is payback for all those years when snooty Albion turned up a haughty nose at the continentals with their “funny” proportional electoral systems that produced “unstable” governments. Though European leaders are too polite to put it so bluntly, they think that this country, once thought to be a nation of level-headed pragmatists, has taken leave of its senses. First, Britons narrowly vote to quit the world’s largest and richest free trade area. Then, at an election less than 12 months later, Britons split their support between the parties in such a way that there is no consensus in parliament about the terms on which Britain should leave. There is not even agreement about how to proceed on Brexit within the riven ruling party. Ridicule abroad is matched by ridicule at home. This side of the channel, Mrs May is now routinely referred to and depicted as the “zombie prime minister”, a phrase I used to describe her immediately after the election.
There is an irony about this – the most bitter of ironies for Mrs May. In other European countries, the result she achieved on 8 June would be considered not an abject humiliation but an extraordinary triumph. She won 13,669,883 crosses in boxes and a share of 42.4%. In terms of votes, that was the best result for any party leader in Britain since John Major’s victory in 1992. In terms of share, that was the most impressive performance since Margaret Thatcher secured a parliamentary landslide in 1983.
Most European leaders would give their right arm for the sort of vote secured by Mrs May. Angela Merkel is, by common consent, the titan of European politics. The German chancellor has had three terms in office and most think she will be back for a fourth after elections in the autumn. At none of her elections has Mrs Merkel matched Mrs May’s vote share. All the German chancellor’s governments have been coalitions. Mark Rutte is the prime minister of Holland. When the Dutch had an election back in March, his People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy lost a chunk of seats and fell to a vote share of just 21.3%. Mr Rutte remains Holland’s prime minister. His head has not been chopped off by his country’s cartoonists. Emmanuel Macron’s recent parliamentary landslide in France is exceptional. The great majority of EU countries are run by coalitions of varying degrees of stability. Yet no one calls this a crisis. That’s because the hung parliament is normal for Europe, as is the expectation that it will mean different parties coming together and collaborating in the exercise of power. That is in the DNA of their political cultures.
The hung parliament is not normal for Britain. Or rather, Britons have been schooled to think it’s not normal. They have been told, not least by Tories, that the wonder of first-past-the-post is that it delivers robust, single-party governments with the capacity to get things done. In fact, it has failed to do that at all of our last three elections. 2010 resulted in a hung parliament and 2015 produced a Tory government with a precariously slim majority. Mrs May called a snap election with the ambition to restore the old order of majoritarian government, blew her chance and has ended up with a shattered premiership and another hung parliament.
The longer historical trend is worrying for Tories. The Conservatives have not won a Commons majority of more than 20 in a quarter of a century. This is why they were so excited when they thought Mrs May would deliver a big win for them. It is why her failure has cast them into so much existential angst about their deeper failings as a party. As for Labour, it last won an election, under Tony Blair, in 2005. If you don’t count him as Labour, then you have to go back to Harold Wilson in 1966 for the last time Labour secured a decent parliamentary majority. Admirers of Jeremy Corbyn, intoxicated by the party’s above-expectations performance, will tell you that he is just one more heave away from sweeping the country. More sober Labour people are aware that the party needs to gain an additional 64 seats – more than double the gains that it achieved on 8 June – to get to a Commons majority of just one.
In such volatile times, I make no confident predictions about the future, but it may be we should start to consider the possibility that Britain has become averse to electing powerful governments or is too divided in its allegiances to award a decisive mandate to anyone.
The coming months will illustrate the advantages of having a minority government. Obsessions that excite only Tories are not going to waste the time of parliament. So there won’t be a vote to overturn the law on fox hunting. Free lunches for primary school children won’t be scrapped. There won’t be a dash to create more grammar schools. Restrained by their lack of mandate and majority, ministers will be obliged to concentrate on doing some sensible things that won’t provoke much controversy, such as curbing insurance frauds and tackling domestic abuse. There is a gathering consensus that the election result signalled a national impatience with austerity. Even Philip Hammond, the flinty fiscal disciplinarian at the Treasury, agrees that voters are weary of “the long slog”. Some of the edge may be taken off cuts.
The country will also have an extended education in the many disadvantages of a single party trying to rule without a majority. There has been an early pointer to that in the acrimonious haggling between the Tories and the Democratic Unionists. Minority governments can endure, but they only do so by living day to day, hand to mouth, vote by vote, the ability to survive contingent on appeasing this interest here and buying off that lobby there. This will be a grislier experience than a tour of a factory that makes sausages.
The prime minister’s authority is shot. I’m not sure which is the more degrading for Mrs May: to be publicly scolded by her chancellor for her atrocious election campaign or to be told she has the undying loyalty of Boris Johnson. It is not healthy to have an enfeebled leader left to linger in the job only because her colleagues can’t see a way out of this impasse.
A German solution would be to form a “grand coalition” between the main parties of left and right. The successful Mrs Merkel has presided over two. Britain’s political culture militates against a red-blue power share and it is even more inconceivable given the personalities of the Tory and Labour leaders and the stark polarisations of their positions.
By their past behaviour, the Tories have destroyed what might have been another option for them. Britain’s most recent experience of coalition was the cohabitation between the Tories and the Lib Dems in the five years from 2010. That was by no means perfect, but it was a great deal more strong and stable than the chaos that has been unleashed in the two years since the country came under solo Conservative rule. How cunning the Tories thought they were when they cannibalised their moderating, pro-European coalition partners at the 2015 election; it doesn’t look so cunning now. As Vince Cable has wittily remarked, having mated once with the Tory praying mantis, the Lib Dems are not going to do it again.
A minority government with a husk for a leader is especially badly equipped to make a success of Brexit. Europe’s leaders are heavily disincentivised to expend any of their political capital being helpful when they do not know how long Mrs May will last and Britain’s desires appear to be in such flux. Our bargaining position would be much stronger if there was cross-party backing for a durable and intelligent approach to the most momentous and hazard-strewn negotiation since 1945.
There are some who argue that the parties should collaborate on Brexit. But both the circumstances of the moment and Britain’s adversarial political traditions are the enemies of cooperation. For Mrs May to reach an accommodation with the opposition parties would involve the softening of her positions on crucial aspects of Brexit. That would risk igniting rage among the hard Brexiters. In so much as Mrs May has any support base left in her party, the hard Brexiters are it.
Some Labour MPs see a virtue in collaboration, both in the national interest and because they believe it would burnish Labour’s credibility and enhance its claim to be a government-in-waiting. Most Labour MPs incline to agree with the calculation of the party’s leadership that their advantage is best served by letting the Tories thrash about in this mire of their own making.
I’m not going to tell you how this will end because I don’t know. I think we can be fairly confident that we have not heard the last of being laughed at.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010
The sudden elevation of Mohammed bin Salman to the position of crown prince and heir apparent to his father, King Salman of Saudi Arabia, is a welcome surprise for many Saudis. It is also a matter of deep concern for some of the kingdom’s neighbours, notably Iran, which is locked in a region-wide power struggle with its Arab arch-rival that increasingly risks sucking in the US and Russia.
For younger Saudis frustrated by the kingdom’s hidebound traditionalism and inflexible religious laws, Prince Mohammed is seen as a reform-minded new broom who could sweep the country to a brighter, more open future. For critics at home and abroad, he is a dangerous and inexperienced firebrand who could undermine stability and lead Saudi Arabia to unintentional disaster.
The most unusual aspect of Prince Mohammed’s rise is his age. At 31, he is more than 25 years younger than his discarded predecessor as crown prince, Prince Mohammed bin Nayef. In a country of 31 million where 70% of people are under the age of 30 and which is accustomed to the rule of old men, the new royal heir represents a significant generational power shift.
The prince already held key positions in the national hierarchy. Two years ago his father appointed him defence minister and also placed him in overall charge of the country’s oil industry, the font of the kingdom’s wealth. He used his new prominence to boost his profile at home and abroad, apparently intent on clearing a path to the throne. In the process, he earned a reputation as a hawk in matters of national security, especially over the 2015 Saudi armed intervention in Yemen.
The king’s decision last week to promote his favourite son again so quickly, placing him first in the line of succession, may reflect his desire to head off a power struggle involving bin Nayef, a respected former interior minister renowned for cracking down on al-Qaida, and his traditionalist supporters. The move has sparked speculation that King Salman, aged 81 and reportedly not in the best of health, may be considering abdication at some future date.
In a show of near-unity, King Salman’s edict was endorsed by 31 of 34 members of the Allegiance Council, made up of senior members of the ruling Saud family. In a ceremony in the holy city of Mecca on Wednesday evening, Saudi state television showed royal family members, clerics and officials queuing up to shake hands with the young prince or kiss his shoulder. Mohammed bin Nayef was seen pledging allegiance to Prince Mohammed, who knelt and kissed his older cousin’s hand, saying: “We will not cease taking your guidance and advice.”
While the abrupt transfer of power went smoothly – Iran dubbed it a “soft coup” – there could be rougher times ahead, for there is no doubting Prince Mohammed harbours high ambitions for his country as well as himself.
Saudi Arabia, an absolute monarchy since the days of its modern-day founder, Abdulaziz al-Saud (Ibn Saud), is often characterised in the west as a backward, inward-looking state, steeped in ultra-conservative Sunni Muslim ideology and outdated social conventions, particularly in its denial of women’s rights. It also stands accused of prime responsibility for the spread of hardline Wahhabi Islamist beliefs that have inspired groups such as the Afghan Taliban, al-Qaida and Islamic State.
Since emerging from relative obscurity two years ago, Prince Mohammed, widely known by the user-friendly monicker of MbS, has championed social and economic reforms under the catch-all title of Vision 2030. One change was his removal of the power of arrest from the feared religious police. Bloomberg commentator Leonid Bershidsky noted his creation of an Entertainment Authority, which has organised concerts and talks of opening cinemas. “[The authority] has even held a comic book convention at which men and women reportedly danced in the same big hall. Top clerics have been up in arms, but presumably, young people like it,” he said.
Prince Mohammed has also vowed to diversify the economy, reduce national dependence on oil revenues, and encourage greater entrepreneurship in a country where two-thirds of the workforce is employed by the state. He chairs the supreme board of Aramco, making him the first royal family member to oversee the state oil company directly. A controversial IPO (initial public offering), putting 5% of the company up for sale, is planned next year.
The prince’s modernising iconoclasm at home is matched by a determination to transform Saudi Arabia into a pivotal player abroad. His motivation appears twofold: assuming the leadership role in the Sunni Muslim Arab world that Egypt, racked by revolution and counter-revolution, has to some degree forfeited since the Arab spring of 2011; and meeting the expanding challenge posed by Shia Muslim Iran.
His defence and foreign policy decisions appear mostly driven by this latter factor. The 2015 military intervention in Yemen’s civil war, with the Saudis at the head of an Arab coalition, came in response to Iran’s support for the Houthi Shia rebels there. The intervention has failed to deter Iran, and has led to large numbers of civilian casualties, serious humanitarian problems and a spreading famine.
Iran’s purported machinations in Bahrain lie behind Saudi support for the policies enacted since 2011 to subdue the country’s restive Shia majority. In Syria, too, the Saudis have taken sides with Sunni Arab militias and Kurdish forces (and western countries) opposed to the Iranian-backed regime of Bashar al-Assad in Damascus. Lebanon, home to Tehran-allied Hezbollah, has also become a virtual battlefield for Prince Mohammed’s proxy war with Iran. Speaking last month, he seemed to be hardening his stance, declaring that dialogue with Tehran was impossible because its Shia-led theocracy wanted to impose its suzerainty over the entire Muslim world, including the holy sites of Mecca and Medina. “We are a primary target for the Iranian regime… We won’t wait for the battle to be in Saudi Arabia. Instead, we’ll work so that the battle is for them in Iran,” he said. Such statements underscore concerns that Prince Mohammed is a hothead who could plunge the region into open conflict. Iran’s leadership is dismissive, with Ayatollah Ali Khamenei describing the prince and his fellow leaders in Riyadh as “idiots”. But hardliners in Iran’s Revolutionary Guard take a harsher line amid loose talk about the inevitability of the coming war with the Saudis.
Last month’s rupture with Qatar, ostensibly over its alleged support for terrorism, may also be seen in this context. Qatar alone among the Gulf states has maintained reasonably amicable relations with Iran. For Prince Mohammed, this is tantamount to treachery – hence the Saudi mobilisation of Egypt, Bahrain and the UAE in a joint diplomatic and commercial boycott. As with his Yemeni misadventure, the counter-productive result, so far, has been a deepening of Iran’s involvement and leverage.
Prince Mohammed may be inexperienced, but his political instincts are sharp. Using his platform as deputy crown prince and defence minister, he travelled in recent months to the US, Russia and China, getting himself known and arguing his case with the world’s most powerful leaders.
In Donald Trump, the prince has an eager audience when it comes to talking up the Iranian threat. During his visit to Riyadh last month, Trump denounced the Tehran regime and called for its international isolation. The US president remains committed to tearing up the nuclear deal with Iran signed by Barack Obama and the EU two years ago. The US is imposing new sanctions even as it provocatively furnishes the Saudis with up to $110bn (£86bn) worth of state of the art weaponry.
Trump’s designation of Iran as the world’s foremost sponsor of terrorism, and his intimations about the possible use of force, are wholly in line with Prince Mohammed’s thinking. This has led to speculation, for example, that the Saudis and Israelis may concoct a Palestinian “peace” agreement, under US auspices, on the way to forming a united front against Iran. Jared Kushner, Trump’s envoy, was in Israel last week exploring some kind of deal.
It is at this point that Prince Mohammed’s overweening ambitions cease to be of merely local interest and become truly dangerous, internationally speaking. Russia has hitherto sought good relations with the Saudis. But its overriding Middle East priority is Assad’s survival in Syria, and to that end, Iran is key. A strengthening, increasingly bellicose US-Saudi-Israel alliance would certainly produce a reaction in Moscow – and that reaction could include getting ever closer to Iran in the Near East, in the Gulf, and in central Asia and Afghanistan. Nor will Iran stand idly by as hostility increases.
President Trump and Prince Mohammed – the old fraudster and the young hothead. It is an unsettling combination whose possible consequences are greatly to be feared.
THE AL-SAUD FILE
Born Mohammed bin Salman al-Saud on 31 August 1985 , in Jeddah. He is the son of King Salman from his third spouse, Fahda bint Falah bin Sultan bin Hathleen. He studied law at King Saud University.
Best of times Since he entered politics in 2009 as a special adviser to his father, his rise has been meteoric. In January 2015 his father became king, and he was appointed the world’s youngest minister of defence, before last week becoming Saudi Arabia’s new crown prince.
Worst of times On 24 September 2015 over 2,000 Hajj pilgrims were suffocated, or crushed during the annual Hajji pilgrimage in Mina, Mecca. Some claimed this was due to attempts by the personal convoy of Mohammed bin Salman to force itself through the crowd, as well as several road closures in the area.
What others say “Today, foreign policy, defence matters, and issues of social change are all under Prince Mohammed’s control.” – Mohammed Alyahya, a non-resident fellow at the Atlantic Council
What he says “A war between Saudi Arabia and Iran is the beginning of a major catastrophe in the region, and it will reflect very strongly on the rest of the world. For sure we will not allow any such thing.”
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010
This article titled “Civil war has broken out inside the Democratic party. Does the future belong to the populist left or the centrists?” was written by Heather Cox Richardson, Michael Cohen and Jean Hannah Edelstein, for The Observer on Saturday 24th June 2017 23.13 UTC
America is in the middle of a major political realignment. While the focus is on the Republican party’s internecine fight among corporate realists, political ideologues and the wild-card president, it is a mistake to assume that the Democrats are going to sweep into office in 2018 and 2020 to replace the corroding Republicans. The Democrats are also in a profound struggle over their future.
The 2016 election marked the end of a political era. Just as Republicans expecting an easy nomination of Jeb Bush in 2016 were blindsided by the rise of charismatic outsider Donald Trump, so too were Democrats expecting the easy nomination of Hillary Clinton surprised by a powerful challenge from elderly Vermont socialist Bernie Sanders. Both Trump and Sanders ran on powerful populist messages, slashing at politics-as-usual and bemoaning that Washington served the wealthy. Democratic primary rules put in place after the party’s disastrous nomination of South Dakota senator George McGovern in 1972 meant that, unlike Republicans leaders who were incapable of stopping Trump, establishment Democrats could hold off the Sanders surge. But the insurgency opened a rift in the party.
The election of Trump exacerbated the Democrats’ intra-party conflict as Sanders supporters insisted that he could have won, while Clinton supporters dismissed those claims, pointing out that, among other things, Sanders never had to endure an opposition news dump. The two sides squared off in February, three months after the election, over the chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee. This position, contested for the first time since 1985, tossed new names to the front of the party. Ultimately, the choice came down to establishment-backed Tom Perez, President Obama’s secretary of labor, or Minnesota representative Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress. Perez won 235 votes to Ellison’s 200, and then, acknowledging the tensions in the party, tapped Ellison to be deputy chair.
Ellison pledged support for Perez, but cooler heads have not prevailed. Last week, when 30-year-old political newcomer Jon Ossoff lost a special election to reactionary Republican Karen Handel in Georgia’s 6th district, Democratic critics laid blame for the loss not on the nature of the district (staunchly Republican) – it was Newt Gingrich’s – but on the toxicity of House minority leader Nancy Pelosi.
To understand what’s going on now, it might make sense to return to pre-war America, since the Democrats, like the rest of America, are coming to grips with the end of the New Deal era. The party came out of the 1930s having created a new, activist liberal state designed to prevent the return of the great depression by using the government to defend the rights of labour and level the economic playing field that had tilted so steeply toward the wealthy. This liberal state was wildly popular, so popular that Republican Dwight D Eisenhower felt obliged to adopt and expand its premises.
With the country firmly behind what was known as the “liberal consensus”, Democrats continued to expand FDR’s New Deal, recognising that economic fairness required ameliorating racial inequality. When Republicans ran the reactionary Barry Goldwater against President Lyndon Baines Johnson in 1964, the resulting landslide gave Democrats a super-majority in Congress. Working with moderate Republicans to cut racist southern Democrats out of their centrist coalition, they passed the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act, and launched LBJ’s War on Poverty.
But, in part because of the economic prosperity it created, this centre did not hold. In 1968, Republican candidate Richard M Nixon attacked it from the right by bringing white racists into his party, while Democrats destroyed it from the left by shattering over the Vietnam war. Angry at the establishment Democratic hawks who had carried the nation to war in southeast Asia, affluent American youth flocked to the standard of anti-war Minnesota Senator Eugene McCarthy, a Democrat.
The outcome was a free-for-all for the party leadership. President Johnson withdrew from the race, to be replaced by his vice-president, Hubert Humphrey; Senator Robert Kennedy jumped in to challenge McCarthy only to be assassinated. The Democratic National Convention dutifully nominated establishment candidate Humphrey, but the mayor of Chicago, where the convention was held, turned police against the protesters who descended on his city. The resulting violence enabled Republicans to tar the Democratic party as an elite establishment using tax dollars to cater to lawless thugs. The result just went Nixon’s way.
In 1972 the Democrats continued to move away from their traditional defence of labour towards social issues, and they haemorrhaged voters. In that year, anti-establishment candidate Senator George McGovern won the party’s nomination with the support of young activists, only to go down to such a sweeping popular defeat that the party establishment created “superdelegates”, party war horses and leaders who would also vote on nominees, and presumably avoid another disaster similar to that in 1972.
Democrat Jimmy Carter won the presidency in 1976 after Nixon’s spectacular implosion over Watergate, but the party’s crumbling coalition was no match for the rise of Movement Conservatives. Their narrative was simple: the Democrats’ New Deal government redistributed tax dollars from hardworking white men to lazy minorities and women. This easy – and false – explanation for the economic stresses of the 1970s drained working-class Americans away from the Democrats and into the party of Ronald Reagan. And there they stayed, for the most part, even as neoliberalism gutted the American middle class.
As they did so, Democrats tried to undercut Republican accusations that they were nascent communists hell-bent on redistributing wealth by moving to the centre on economic policy while mobilising voters by focusing on social issues. President Clinton famously ended “welfare as we know it” and signed the repeal of the 1933 Glass-Steagall Act, which had prevented financial bubbles by keeping commercial and financial banks from being one and the same; President Obama defended banks in the aftermath of the great recession as key to recovery.
And so, we have come to the end of an era. The destruction of the New Deal state in a time of globalism has created an American economy that looks much like that of the 1920s, with extraordinary wealth concentrated at the very top of society. Thus the populist moment of 2016, when voters on both sides set out to smash the establishment, on the one hand electing Donald Trump and, on the other, rending the Democratic party in two.
Unlike the Republicans, though, who will have to reinvent themselves if they are ever to recover from the damage of the Trump era, the Democrats have the opportunity to heal their differences for an easier transition to a new political era. Establishment Democrats are not wrong to put faith in experience: Clinton, after all, lost the electoral college, but won the popular vote by more than two points. The upstart Democrats who rallied to Sanders are, though, demanding a focus on economic fairness, one that echoes the Democratic leadership of the 1930s. “True individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence,” FDR said in 1944. “People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.”
Heather Cox Richardson is professor of history at Boston College
We must learn from Jeremy Corbyn’s success and speak to younger voters
One might have thought that the November election would have drawn a clear line under Democratic centrism. But the defeat of Jon Ossoff in Georgia’s 6th congressional district may have been its true death wheeze. Even with six times as much funding as his opponent and a crazed and incompetent Republican president, Ossoff could not get enough of the district’s wealthy and well-educated Republicans to vote for him to flip the district.
When Bernie Sanders remarked that he wasn’t sure that Ossoff was a true progressive, it wasn’t a kind thing to say, but it also wasn’t inaccurate. The future of the Democratic party is not men like Ossoff. We must learn from the comeback of Jeremy Corbyn in the UK election and start putting our might and money behind candidates who are truly on the left.
We scoff at accounts of the 45th president still presenting visitors to his office with a map that lays out his electoral victory, but many Democrats are also preoccupied with the details of the election and the reasons for Hillary Clinton’s defeat. It’s clear that sexism was a significant factor, as was the intervention from ex-FBI director James Comey and possible interference from Russia. But those in the party who are willing to do real soul-searching must admit that the lack of the anticipated Democratic party landslide must also be blamed on the failure of the party’s policies to resonate with people in the states that decided the election – places in the middle of the country that have seen their livelihoods dry up, rather than flourish, under late capitalism.
Trump’s promises that he would solve the problems that plague their communities – problems such as unemployment, poverty and the opioid crisis – seem to be empty promises. But the Democrats could have done a far better job of showing that they cared about these middle-American communities: for example, through actually turning up in them. Clinton’s hobnobbing with Hollywood stars held little appeal for Americans in the middle of the country.
We need to look to movements such as the Women’s March, which inspired a record-breaking number of people to take to the streets, and the Run for Something campaign, which helps progressive people to run for office – and has elicited a huge, enthusiastic response from new candidates. They’re the best hope Democrats have of effecting change in 2018 and beyond. But only if they motivate turnout from the young voters who came out for Obama but couldn’t be bothered to vote for Clinton.
This means focusing on real issues that mean a lot to young people: education debt relief; steady employment; healthcare that makes it possible for them to afford to start families.
Though his continued engagement with the DNC shows Bernie Sanders’s ambition to promote this agenda, it’s time for him to step aside. His refusal to register as a Democrat invalidates any true claim he has to be at its helm. Many of his critiques of the party are legitimate, but if Sanders is not willing to commit to working on the inside for change, he needs to support someone who is willing to do it.
Elizabeth Warren is the obvious choice: compared to the likes of Nancy Pelosi or Joe Biden, she’s an outsider, but she’s still a Democrat who has shown her commitment to the party. Her economic populism speaks to many of the same concerns that Trump claimed he would alleviate, but she offers solutions that will buoy the middle class by making the wealthy contribute more, rather than promising to drive growth through deregulation that simply makes the ultra-wealthy more so. And her commitment to progressive social values is clear, unlike Sanders, whose remark that “you just can’t exclude people who disagree with us on [reproductive rights]” elicited blowback from women on the left who do not want their rights to be regarded as something to bargain with.
As the Senate Republicans push forward a healthcare bill that will cause the death and bankruptcy of many Americans who have the misfortune to be unwell and middle-class, now should be a clear opportunity for Democrats to assert that they’ll offer a better alternative. The opportunity will be lost if we continue to debate what it means to be a Democrat. The centre had its shot. It’s time to clear a path for Warren, the left, and a party that values diversity and speaks to young people.
Jean Hannah Edelstein is a writer based in New York
Liberals should be wary of policies that will scare away the middle classes
It has been a rough couple of months for the Democratic party. As Republicans have sought to roll back the key legislative accomplishments of President Obama, it has been one disaster after another. Even with President Trump’s approval ratings at historically low levels, Democrats continue to lose special elections around the country.
But in spite of these losses, there is a clear glimmer of hope – one that could presage a significant Democratic victory in congressional elections next year. Democrats are losing, but they are losing by much smaller margins than they have in the past.
Take for example, the special election in Georgia last week. The race, which quickly took on national import, will end up as the most expensive congressional election in US history. While the Democratic candidate narrowly lost by almost four points the district had been solidly Republican for decades. In a race the same night in South Carolina, the Democratic candidate lost by three points – in a seat that Republicans had won by more than 20 points just last November.
What all this suggests is that there is serious enthusiasm among Democratic partisans and not as much among Republicans. If, in 2018, Democrats are able to perform as well as their candidates did in these four special elections, they would be the odds-on favourites to win back the House of Representatives.
So how do they keep that momentum going? First, they must make the 2018 election a referendum on Trump, who is singularly despised by Democrats – and increasingly by much of the country. Second, if Republicans somehow succeed in repealing Obamacare and passing legislation that will take away health insurance from more than 20 million people, it will hand Democrats a slam-dunk campaign issue. But even if they fail, Republican votes in Congress could be an albatross that Democrats can hang around the necks of Republican candidates in 2018.
But for Democrats to expand their support they may also need to also take a page from Trump. In 2016 Trump ran the nastiest and most dishonest presidential campaign in modern American history. But one thing he did effectively was convince millions of voters that he would “drain the swamp” in Washington and be a voice for the struggling middle class. That anyone believed he would actually follow through on such an agenda is strong evidence that you can fool some of the people all the time.
But Democrats should take a similarly populist approach. Many liberals argue that means talking about single-payer healthcare and free college education, but it’s far from clear that those policies are what voters want. Pledging to raise taxes on the wealthy, protecting health insurance for poor and working Americans, expanding childcare and social security benefits, raising the minimum wage, making college loans more accessible and waging war on the opioid epidemic ravaging broad swatches of America will be far more effective.
Populism is key for Democrats, but it needs to be the kind of economic populism that signals to the American middle class that the party is in touch with their concerns and will fight for them if they are returned to power.
Doing so will give Democrats the opportunity to reach not just their most loyal partisans – who will be committed to vote no matter what – but also disillusioned Trump voters or those who sat out 2016.
Certainly, Republicans will have their message ready to go: harsh attacks on liberal elites that have long worked for the party and were critical to victory in the Georgia special election. In an era of intense political polarisation, pledging to stick it to the other side is still a pretty effective strategy for Republicans.
But with a fully mobilised Democratic base and a smattering of moderate and independent voters, it might just be enough to return the Democrats to power. In the end, Trump hatred will be a boon to the party, but the kind of seismic victory Democrats need may require a return to the party’s populist roots as the voice of the American middle class.
Michael Cohen is the author of American Maelstrom: the 1968 Election and the Politics of Division
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010
“I couldn’t give my work away, to be honest with you. No one wanted to know.” Now in his 50s, Irish writer Mike McCormack spent a decade in the doldrums before the triumph of Solar Bones, a single- sentence novel in which the ghost of a Mayo engineer called Marcus Conway looks back on his life and death. Now out in the UK, it was originally published last spring by the tiny Irish press Tramp; hailed in the Guardian as a book for “anyone who believes that the novel is not dead and that novelists are not merely lit-fest fodder for the metropolitan middle classes”, it went on to win the Goldsmiths prize for innovative fiction. As judge Blake Morrison pointed out, “its subject may be an ordinary working life, but it is itself an extraordinary work”: taking in faith and family, politics and art, sex, death and cosmic anxiety – as McCormack says now, “life, the universe and the whole damn thing”. What marks it out is the continuous prose, surging on through memories and digressions. “A ghost would have no business with a full stop,” he points out matter-of-factly. “It might fatally falter and dissipate.”
McCormack had enjoyed early success before he “dropped completely off the radar”. His prize-winning debut, 1996’s short-story collection Getting It in the Head, was sharp as knives, mixing tongue-in-cheek bog Gothic with metaphysical flourishes and lashings of ultraviolence. The novel Crowe’s Requiem followed two years later: a fantastical mashup of young love and doomy student alienation set in Galway which McCormack describes now as “a magical realist kind of goth fairytale”. It divided readers, he admits, receiving “the worst review of a book I’ve ever seen. I’m quite proud of that now: I’ve never heard of anyone else provoking a critic to lament the loss of trees.”
It took seven years to write his next novel, Notes from a Coma, which splices a realistic small-town narrative with an ominous SF strand about an EU project to make the penal system more efficient by keeping prisoners in a coma. One young man, plagued by guilt and ennui, volunteers as a research subject; his anxious friends and family take it in turns to recount the story straight, while from further down the page what McCormack calls “flaring offshoots, contingent riffs” break into the main body of the text. “My wife says I’ll go to my grave roaring ‘they’re not fucking footnotes!’ ” Whatever they are, they give McCormack the freedom to dig into the metaphysical implications of digital technology and the overweening ambitions of the Celtic Tiger, along with the rise of reality TV and the intricacies of death metal.
“I know people object to it,” he says now of the fractured text and ungovernable annotations. “Say it’s very bitty, it’s fragmented, all over the place. I say well, you know, it’s called Notes From a Coma, it’s not called Long, Continuous Narrative from a Coma.” McCormack found writing the novel “extraordinarily difficult. I didn’t know what I was doing for years and years. It’s only a short book. Says something for how slow I am.” Composed on the “rising arc” of the financial boom, it came out in 2005, a couple of years before the crash, and “commercially was just a complete disaster. Every review said, ‘This is very original’: seems like that was the death knell.”
The book was at odds, McCormack now recognises, with the conservatism of the Celtic Tiger, which “had loads of energy and muscle but didn’t have one new idea in its head. One of the things it did was repetition: the same basic commercial tricks, the same developmental transactions … ” But the novel’s contrariness, its very opposition to the times, brought it cult acclaim, with one critic describing it as the greatest Irish novel of the 2000s. Small comfort, when it lost McCormack his publisher, and “disappeared without trace”.
A decade later, the publishing scene in Ireland looked very different. In 2012 McCormack had brought out a “respectfully received” second short-story collection, the more relaxed, discursive Forensic Songs, with the indie press Lilliput. When it was time to send out the manuscript of Solar Bones, “people liked it but wouldn’t go with it and wouldn’t go with me. ‘Ah, it’s another McCormack book, there’s this experimental thing going on in it, typically odd.’ This is the way it went for about a year.” Then Tramp, young publishers who set up shop in 2014 and had been McCormack fans since they were teenagers, intervened.
“Every detail that other publishers had pissed and moaned and whined about, they ran with,” says McCormack. “Intellectually they met it head on.” Tramp, which also publishes the acclaimed Sara Baume, is part of a resurgence in Irish fiction that has swept McCormack up in its wake. Now, “people are looking at me like a debutante. ‘OK, on my fifth book I’m a debutante!’ It’s very much what I feel like.”
“The generation behind me seem to be much more open to the idea of experiment,” he says. “I sometimes think we forget that Irish writers are experimental writers. Our Mount Rushmore is Joyce, Beckett and Flann O’Brien, and if you’re not talking about those writers then you’ve lowered your gaze. For me they’re the father, son and holy ghost. They’ve nothing in common except they all went to some trouble to expand the received form, and there’s something of that happening again – a rejuvenation of the experimental instinct.”
Eimear McBride’s A Girl Is a Half-formed Thing has been crucial to this resurgence. “She made no bones about the fact that she was influenced by Joyce. And you never, ever hear Irish writers saying that, because Joyce seemed to be more a luring, disabling presence in many ways. She saw him properly, as an enabling presence, and she ran with it.”
McCormack wrote Solar Bones while teaching essay writing to mature students in various universities (“good, honest work, but it takes up an awful lot of real estate in your head”): what he sought to tap into with it was “that spirit of generosity and recklessness” fuelling Beckett and Joyce. Having written four “forensically chiselled, quite finicky” books, he’d been aware for a long time that “something messy and slobbery about life was falling outside of that kind of attentiveness. The only way of gathering that type of thing in is to write a big, huge social novel. Now, I don’t have the dramatic swaths to do that kind of thing. But I thought maybe if I start writing a big sentence …” Not that he remembers much about the process: “I’m not so sure I wrote the book. In some sense I feel that I took dictation for five years.”
McCormack was born in London in 1965: his parents left Mayo to find work, met at a dance hall and started a family. For part of his childhood he lived in Ireland with his grandparents, before his mother and father moved back to the small seaside town of Louisburgh where nearly all his work is set. “I sit down and my mind will default to it,” he explains. “It’s the one solid thing I know about. After that, anything can happen – I’ve no difficulty with ghosts, or penal experiments, or rare diseases. But the bedrock in which those fantastical things are cast is the place that I know most about.”
The family home was just under Croagh Patrick, Ireland’s holiest mountain, and McCormack was an altar boy from the age of seven to 13: “When I started to write I had this massive reservoir of ritual and myth. Those things are the backdrop of my imagination.”
When he was 18, his father died suddenly of a heart attack, a propensity that runs in the family as well as throughout his fiction: all his books are obsessed with the miracle and fragility of the heart. It’s not surprising that fathers are a recurring preoccupation, too, and he’s mildly pleased to point out that rather than the “sullen, passive-aggressive fathers that tend to dominate Irish fiction”, he mostly gives them “a good rap”.It was a bleak time, remembered through “an incredible slough of rain and bad light”. McCormack signed up to study engineering, feeling that “as the man of the house I had a responsibility to look after my family. I knew within three hours I didn’t have the maths for it.” Instead he took a gardening job in a pharmaceutical company and settled down to read high up and low down.
“It was the year I discovered Pynchon, Calvino and all of those Picador books that had such a firing effect on my generation. We all went out and bought a copy of One Hundred Years of Solitude: completely turned our heads. In many ways, that was the most important nine or 10 months of my life.”
He went on to study English and philosophy at Galway University, where his fondness for science fiction fed into plans for a thesis on Heidegger and technology. He was a “dull student”, though, and when he first started writing short stories realised “Jesus, I’m better and happier at this than I am at reading philosophy”.
It seemed to him that being “an ordinary farm boy over in the west of Ireland was not the stuff of a writerly background”, and he was intimidated as well as thrilled by the fiction he loved. Then he read Thomas Pynchon’s self-deprecating account of his early writings in Slow Learner. “I thought Jesus, if the great man is having these misgivings, it’s OK for me to have them. That essay was hugely enabling. It cleared my head a small bit.”
It was while he was reading for his unwritten thesis that he “became utterly convinced that engineers make the world”. Decades later, Solar Bones is, in part, a hymn to engineers – who are, as McCormack points out, underrepresented in fiction. “Engineering has this curious position at a crossroads where politics and commercial interests and civic interests all come together. Engineers have to navigate projects between these rocks. They get distorted. They never fulfil their potential. If the world was run by engineers it would be run differently.”
Technology, a preoccupation through all his work, tends to be badly served by fiction generally, he says, citing JG Ballard (“my short story hero”) as a rare exception. “There’s the old humanist snobbery of writers and poets not wanting to have anything to do with the machines, seeing the devil’s work in them. Whereas I think technology is one of the glories of the human project. God is no less obvious to us in our machines than he is in our flowers and our poetry and our metaphysics.”
Technology and engineering come to the fore in Solar Bones – yet so does art, in the person of Marcus’s daughter Agnes, who creates a solo exhibition out of her own blood. McCormack “fell among visual artists” after university and spent his 20s living with painters and sculptors, providing “a complete other education”; he is married to the artist Maeve Curtis.
But it’s family that is at the heart of the book; and finishing it coincided with an event that was no less life-changing. McCormack sent the manuscript off to his agent in the small hours of a winter morning, and later that day became a father for the first time. “As my wife said, it’s either the book or the child, the house isn’t big enough for the two of them.”
He sees domestic life as grounding the ideas and impulses behind Solar Bones: “Marriage and family bring with them a great enabling urgency.” In Marcus Conway, passionately committed to his wife and children, wrestling with the politics of work and what it means to be a citizen, weighing engineering against faith, McCormack has created not one of his usual outcasts and oddballs, but a character with “complete involvement with the world. That’s what kept me going back to him.
“For my first book, the soundtrack was Scandinavian death metal, and now this book is Hank Williams,” he chuckles. “You get middle aged, you mellow. You like to think you deepen.”
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010
Bangladesh’s impressive run in the Champions Trophy, though terminated by a thrashing from India in the semi-final last week, highlighted the cricket team’s striking progress and won deserved applause. This relatively young nation – which only won independence from Pakistan in 1971 – usually gets little credit for its triumphs against the odds. Those obstacles have been numerous, including the legacy of colonialism and the war of independence, and the challenges of safeguarding the world’s eighth-largest population when it is crammed into a delta: at least 150 people are thought to have died in floods and landslides last week. Yet the country has slashed cyclone deaths through better shelters and warning systems, and made impressive strides on health, literacy and poverty alleviation.
Its greatest enemy has arguably been the folly of its own politicians who remain locked in a vicious and sterile feud which has claimed too many lives and squandered opportunities to strengthen the country. Since 1991, leadership has swung between the Awami League and the Bangladesh Nationalist party, each led by dynastic leaders, Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia. The last elections, in 2014, were scarred by widespread violence and have been followed by further attacks on the opposition. Few believe that politics have not played a part in the legal cases against Ms Zia and her son and heir apparent, Tarique Rahman. Earlier this month the former prime minister Moudud Ahmed and his wife, the poet Hasna Jasimuddin Moudud, were evicted from their home. Mr Ahmed, 77, is not only a BNP party elder – but also a lawyer who defended Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Sheikh Hasina’s father and the country’s founding leader, when what was then West Pakistan charged him with sedition pre-independence. It says much about how Bangladesh’s leaders have wasted its original hopes as they obsess over divisions and ignore common interests.
The crackdown is felt far beyond political circles: the government has targeted broader dissent among writers, scholars and activists too. Four years after the Rana Plaza collapse killed more than 1,100 garment workers, international clothing brands are complaining about the targeting of unions. Meanwhile, violent Islamist extremism has spread amid the atmosphere of animosity and suspicion, and the overstretch of law enforcement. The killing of 20 hostages by militants at a cafe in Dhaka last year finally prompted the government to confront the problem, after shamefully failing to respond to the murders of liberal bloggers, scholars and minorities. Yet, 18 months out from elections, the Awami League appears to be trying to appease conservative forces as it tries to tap a rising, religious lower middle class for votes, fending off an opposition that looks like a more natural home for them.
Both parties need to re-engage with democracy and civil rights, renounce the use of force and pandering to intolerance, and focus on the needs of their people. Tens of millions still live in poverty. Climate change is an immediate and pressing threat. Export growth and remittances are falling; excessive reliance on the garment sector leaves the country vulnerable to external economic shocks. Bangladesh’s people have worked hard for everything they have gained. They deserve much better from their leaders.
- This article was amended on 23 June 2017. An earlier version said Moudud Ahmed and his family were evicted after their home was seized by court order. In fact no such ruling was made and they were evicted despite living for 36 years as tenants under a rgistered lease deed.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010
My earliest memory is my mother’s voice telling me that we were going to an outdoor swimming-pool near where we lived which was like a kind of paradise to me. I guess no childhood is without inner turmoil sometimes, but mine was more or less happy.
It’s a struggle for me to stay tidy, to keep things in order. I really admire people who don’t need to live surrounded by lots of stuff. My bedroom is piled up with clothes and books, papers and photographs. I like to collect things, anything I can grab from wherever I’m travelling. I think it’s the sign of slight anxiety to always want something around you to represent a good moment you had, to hang on to the leftovers. But then they’re a pleasure to look at too, so it’s not all negative.
I don’t feel old and asking women about ageing is very negative. It doesn’t concern me; it’s other people’s problem, not mine.
I cry very easily. I may have cried last night or this morning. I cried when I read about the woman throwing her baby out of the window in the Grenfell Tower fire. I felt horrified, angry at the complete injustice.
I am claustrophobic. It’s my big phobia, a fear I’ve always had for as long as I can remember. I avoid the Paris Metro and just the idea of the London Underground is impossible for me. Sometimes I am scared to go out in the street but when I do get out there, I feel fine. The world scares me right now, but I have to fight that and find more confidence.
You can’t go against someone’s passion and will. I’ve always supported my daughter [Lolita Chammah] going into acting in the same way my mother was a great support to me. She was the first to make me apply for a theatre course when I was still at school. My parents always encouraged me and I never felt restrained.
I’m naive enough to stay optimistic. There are lots of reasons to be pessimistic but we must resist. If you lose all hope in human nature, you might as well kill yourself right away.
Impatience is a weakness of mine; maybe it’s a fear of always running out of time. I can get cross very easily when things don’t happen quickly enough.
From the very beginning I thought acting was about stating your differences, not trying to resemble someone else.
I love being alone. When you are younger there is more reason to feel depressed; you resent loneliness more than you do later on. When it’s a choice and you’re not lonely, it feels like a gift.
I like to be either horizontal or vertical. I am far too lazy to exercise. I hear yoga is good and I may try it one day but I prefer to sleep.
Elle starring Isabelle Huppert is available on Blu-ray and DVD on 10 July
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010
Will your student child sink or swim at university? Independent study, time management, personal hygiene and maintaining a healthy diet are just some of the challenges they will face. Although dropout rates have risen slightly, they’re still only at 6%, according to the Social Market Foundation – most students have a happy, successful time at university.
Mental health is high on university radars, with the number of students seeking counselling having doubled at some institutions and a quarter of students saying they’ve experienced depression, anxiety or similar conditions, according to YouGov.
“I would say in the first month, forget about the academic side – just concentrate on building a social life,” says Karen Levi, a university lecturer. Her son chose to quit the University of Sussex in his second term after a lonely start – but will be returning in September. “He loved his course,” she says. But he struggled to bond with his flatmates and was mostly alone, sometimes not getting up until dark. “The computer in the room is a curse,” says Levi, who believes academic staff could do more to help students mingle. “When I was a student we sat around after lectures, shared chips and chatted. That just didn’t happen for him.” Nor did her son enjoy freshers’ events: “Everyone was too plastered.”
Happily he did keep in touch – enough for Levi to realise all wasn’t well. But confidentiality prevents universities from contacting parents even if something is wrong – unless the student consents. And, as Levi points out, those who really need help are often the least likely to ask for it. She secured private counselling, her son found a job and is now travelling before returning to student life – “learning all the stuff he really needed to know before going to uni”.
And how a student copes with new study affects their wellbeing, says Hilly Janes, who teaches first-years at two universities. “At school there’s little time for digging, thinking around things, exploring ideas or arguing, so some students struggle.”
Here, parents can help, she believes – by encouraging them to develop their own interests and broadening their horizons before they leave “so they get a bigger view of the world than their own peer group and family”. Parents could also teach teenagers basic online research skills. But all this is hard, she acknowledges, “when all they want to do is not what mum and dad suggest”.
Once at university, students can tackle study skills, such as note taking, writing essays and using the library.
Unstructured days with few contact hours may leave them feeling all at sea, and panic can set in, says Janes, when work deadlines overlap. Parents should initiate low-key ways of staying in touch, she says, “so that a child having a breakdown or failing a course doesn’t come as a huge shock”.
Soon the technology could be there to help highlight who is floundering. This year some 20 institutions are piloting new analytical software that analyses students’ study habits, looks at their previous grades and pinpoints those who may be falling by the wayside. “Technology is there to provide the [data] universities need to get a quick snapshot of those most at risk,” says Paul Feldman, chief executive at education specialists Jisc, that plan to roll out the technology more widely next year. Students who find that all a bit Big Brotherish can opt out, however.
Veronica Moore, head of counselling and disability at Loughborough University – which comes second in a 2017 student experience survey (Times Higher Education) for welfare support – says it’s about getting the balance of parental communication right. Loughborough and other universities, such as York, have introduced a system where trained wardens keep an eye on new students in halls and seek out vulnerable students.
But it’s hard to get the balance right, says Moore. “One minute they don’t need you, the next they want a big hug. And it can be really difficult for parents to understand that this is the first step towards children moving away entirely, and accept that it’s healthy that they try to manage their own anxieties.”
Top tips for a healthy uni life
- Register with a doctor – some universities even offer GP services on campus.
- Don’t isolate yourself or wait for people to speak to you or visit you. Try to initiate conversation.
- Personal tutors say it’s fine to chat to them about general wellbeing.
- Think about going to events alone if you can’t find anyone to go with.
- Work out course deadlines in advance – online diaries help. Speak to academic staff before the crunch if you can’t deliver work on time.
- Join clubs or societies or get involved, even with a job or voluntary work – the busier you are, the less homesick you’ll be. Try to establish a routine.
- Try not to call or visit home too often. Catch-ups can sometimes leave you feeling worse.
- Speak to student support services, or wardens in accommodation, if you are struggling – many universities offer free counselling sessions, which are confidential.
- Remember that things will improve. Early weeks may feel a huge struggle and it can be tempting to give up, but most students settle during the first term.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010
Authorities in Camden were working to convince dozens of families to leave their homes on Saturday after they refused to evacuate, despite concerns the tower blocks were at risk of a Grenfell-type blaze.
More than 80 households – including elderly people and others with disabilities and vulnerabilities – refused to leave the blocks on the Chalcots estate; home to almost 4,000 people.
While some had changed their minds by Saturday morning and were joining the exodus, Camden council is now considering options about what to do with those who refuse to leave.
“We are saying now to people that they really do need to leave and, if they do not, then we will have to take advice form the fire service about what to do next,” said Georgia Gould, the leader of Camden council.
Prime minister Theresa May said on Saturday: “For those Camden blocks, it wasn’t just a question of the cladding; there were a number of issues that came together that meant that the fire service were concerned about those blocks and the action was taken by the local authority.”
She added: “We are making sure that the authority has the ability to do what is necessary to ensure people have somewhere to stay and that the work is done so that those tower blocks will become safe for them to return to in the future.”
Social workers, members of the fire service and other staff had been stationed overnight at the blocks to support people who would not leave their homes, even as others grabbed belongings and went elsewhere.
While residents came and went at a local community centre on Saturday morning, where they were being registered, the blocks themselves were quiet as a trickle of people returned and were escorted in to be given 30 minutes to take any extra belongings out.
Among those leaving Dorney, one of the towers, was a heavily pregnant resident, Solange Tomas, who had come back with members of her family after evacuating on Friday.
“We heard about things when we turned on the news and decided that it was better to be safe, so we left,” she said. “Everything is packed now and ready to go, so we are going up to register with the community centre and see what happens next.”
While Tomas was calm, there was anger from other residents about what they saw as inadequate arrangements by the council for rehousing people.
Another Dorney resident, 67-year-old Arnoldo Diaz, said he had been told that the evacuation was not yet mandatory, so he would be staying put until it was.
“We decided not to go as we have nowhere to go to. We are from South America and have no family here and no friends [in the UK]. The council is saying they don’t have accommodation for everyone. They are looking for it, but what is the point of leaving? Where will we stay?
He said he was not worried about the risk of a fire in the building, as there had been one in 2012 that did not spread. Diaz added that he was confused about why the matter had become so pressing eight years after the building’s refurbishment. “Do they really worry or want to be seen doing something?”
Like Grenfell, many of the residents of the Chalcots estate are poorer working class families.
Artan Moallim, originally from Somalia but living in one of the towers on the estate for 15 years, said that his wife had been told that the family had to evacuate at 2am on Saturday.
“I was working at the time because I’m a bus driver and have only come back this morning,” said Moallim, as he held the hand of his two-year-old daughter outside the community centre where they had registered.
Clutching an official form in his hand, he said that they had been told to expect a call some time on Saturday to inform them about they they will be accommodated. His wife had spent the night in the tower with their three girls.
“I have barely slept since the Grenfell fire and it was made worse when we heard about the connections between this place and there. It’s difficult to live here as it its. We are in a one bedroom flat on the sixteenth floor. Imagine that.
“Why did the council leave things so late here? When they knew that there could be a problem why didn’t they work to make alternative arrangements for people to live if it came to this?”
Another Chalcots resident, who gave his name as James and said he had been living on the estate for 10 years, said: “I asked the council where I was going to stay and a woman told me to hang on. But then, when she came back half an hour later, the plan seemed to have changed.
“I’m going to have to embarrass myself now by going to stay at my mum’s,” he added, as he waited by a bus stop with a suitcase.
Temporary accommodation being provided by the council includes two rest centres, hotels and student halls of resident. Work to finish 100 new flats, which had been due to be finished in the coming weeks, has been brought forward and they will now be ready by midweek.
As the efforts to evacuate people in Camden continued on Saturday morning, it was announced that 27 towers in 15 areas had failed fire safety tests. The Department for Communities and Local Government said that Portsmouth, Manchester and Plymouth were among the areas where buildings were found to be unsafe, as well as the London boroughs of Brent, Hounslow and Camden.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Gould said the last thing she had wanted to do was to disturb residents at such short notice on a Friday night. “I have been with them all night and people are distressed, angry and scared. It’s such a difficult decision.
“But I said to fire services: ‘Is there anything I can do to make this block safe tonight?’ I offered to pay for fire services to be stationed outside those blocks just so we could have a couple of days to get the works done. But the message was [that there was] nothing to do to make blocks safe that night.”
Fire safety inspections in the wake of the Grenfell disaster revealed major concerns about the cladding on the five buildings, as well as over insulation around gas piping. “All we care about is getting people to safety. The cost we can deal with later,” Gould said.
“The work to make the blocks safe is expected to take three to four weeks. An operation of this scale, at such pace, is not without issues and problems along the way, but we had to do this, we have to act on fire service advice.”
Gould said the council was looking at putting people in student halls and opening up newly built social housing with hopes that, by Monday, accommodation for 50% of the tenants will have been found within the borough of Camden.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010
This article titled “England v India: Women’s Cricket World Cup – live!” was written by Vithushan Ehantharajah at the County Ground (now) and Geoff Lemon (later), for theguardian.com on Saturday 24th June 2017 11.36 UTC
33rd over: India 165-1 (Raut 62, Raj 10) Good battle, this. Raut’s trying to ramp Brunt and Brunt’s trying to take Raut’s head of. Something’s got to give (great film – Keanu’s finest). Brunt takes this round. Maiden. The second of the innings. “Mel ‘MJ’ Jones is as good at jinxing as Will Macpherson,” writes Romeo. “Shouldn’t be allowed.” I’ve been calling for Will to be banned for a while now. I’ll start a petition at the break.
32nd over: India 165-1 (Raut 62, Raj 10) Mithali in the game with her first boundary. Classy affair. Hartley turns one away, so Raj goes inside-out over extra cover.
31st over: India 159-1 (Raut 60, Raj 5) Raut clears the ropes for the first time. Clobbered high over the leg side, just beyond the dive of Tammy Beaumont, patrolling the boundary. And it’s against Brunt. Naturally the next one is sharp, but on the legs. Raut escapes with a single to square leg.
30th over: India 150-1 (Raut 53, Raj 4) Quality from Hartley, who squares up Raut with one that just grips. A bit fuller and she’s in business.
29th over: India 148-1 (Raut 52, Raj 3) Power Play done – 33 for 1 for India, with a lot of that damage coming in the first over it was taken – and Katherine Brunt returns from the city end. A loose ball on the toes, flicked away for one, is the only ropey delivery of the lot.
28th over: India 146-1 (Raut 51, Raj 2) Hmmm so this is where England can win back a fair bit of ground. Raj isn’t the quickest starter – she dots up the first ball balls from Hazell – and Raut is, seemingly, batting by numbers a bit. Burgle a few overs and watch the Indians get tetchy, I say…
PUNAM RAUT REACHES HER FIFTY!
27th over: India 145-1 (Raut 51, Raj 1) Ah well, the over started well enough. A delightful skip and punch over cover brought Punam Raut to her fifty, off 86 balls. The last ball saw Mandhana’s stay come to an end. Out walks Mithali Raj to begin her fifth World Cup campaign…
WICKET! Mandhana c Hazell b Knight 90 (India 144-1)
Ah boo… an excellent innings comes to an end. A vital breakthrough for England. Knights tempts a drive – she hasn’t needed much encouragement to be fair – and Mandhana flays it to midwicket.
26th over: India 139-0 (Raut 46, Mandhana 90) Jenny Gunn replaces Shrubsole and England have dropped a fielder back down the ground. As a result, a lofted strike from Mandhana is mopped up by long off. Four singles from the over. Excellent advice and use of “moz”, this:
25th over: India 135-0 (Raut 44, Mandhana 88) Mandhana catches her breath while Kaur takes all six from Knight, knowking a two but nothing else.
24th over: India 133-0 (Raut 42, Mandhana 88)
Now, I realise not everyone is aware of this – a few in the press box had to check – but the batting side in women’s ODI cricket still has that five-over Power Play which they can call any time between the 10th and the 35th over. India have gone for it and England can only have three fielders outside the ring. As a result, Shrubsole comes back into the attack for Hartley and, my word, does Mandhana like that. First ball, she clobbers over midwicket (again) for six. She then skips down and swings her arms through the line for four down the ground before finishing with a swivel pull behind square leg. In among that, Raut got down on one knee and ramped one fine through third man. Just some really quality swording.
23rd over: India 113-0 (Raut 37, Mandhana 73) England captain Heather Knight has had enough. On she comes for a twirl. Former New Zealand seamer Iain O’Brien calls her action “the Wonky Donkey”: a couple of skips, a flail of arms and a lean across to the off side when she delivers. Gets away with a full toss first up. Five from the over.
22nd over: India 108-0 (Raut 36, Mandhana 69) We’ve got our wish. On comes the Lancashire and Surrey Stars left-arm spinner. The first ball is woeful, though – a half-tracker that is bunted away for a single. Raut nearly finds a boundary down at square leg but cat-like reflexes from the fielder in the deep saves two runs. How’s that for a segue?
21st over: India 101-0 (Raut 33, Mandhana 65) The century opening stand brought up off 127 balls (three wides in there, too). Give us some Alex Hartley. Above the eye-line, turning into the leftie. Get Mandhana driving. Scoot one through the gate.
20th over: India 97-0 (Raut 31, Mandhana 63) An excellently pinched single to cover, Artful Dodger stuff, is followed by a deft touch from Mandhana which uses what pace there is from a relatively straight Gunn delivery to find four inside fine leg.
19th over: India 90-0 (Raut 29, Mandhana 58)
What Brahma said. Not everyone’s happy with the start, mind. Some criticism of Raut on social media for playing out too many dots. Looks like she is trying to address that, shuffling across to find space in the leg side for a tip and run. Finds one of the final ball through the covers, too.
18th over: India 86-0 (Raut 27, Mandhana 56) Maybe drinks will bring some fresh ideas. Come to think of it, Fresh Ideas is a great brand name for cordial. England look dishevelled. India imperious.
17th over: India 83-0 (Raut 26, Mandhana 54) Just four from the Hazell over, but no real penetration. They are simply not going to tie these two down. Bung a slip in? Catching cover? Easy game from here, but it’s all a bit flat out in the middle.
SMRITI MANDHANA BRINGS UP HER 6TH ODI FIFTY
16th over: India 79-0 (Raut 24, Mandhana 52) And it’s a fifty in her first World Cup match. She’s looked class and got there in some style: charging and nailing Gunn over extra cover for her eighth four. Bad to worse for England moments before as Raut was “dropped” for a second time. I say “dropped”, it was a high chance away to Tammy Beaumont at mid off who, despite having time, was unable to track the ball well enough to lay a hand on it.
15th over: India 71-0 (Raut 21, Mandhana 47) Another good over, just one from it. We’ve had just 12 from the last five overs…
14th over: India 70-0 (Raut 21, Mandhana 46) Quality over from Gunn. Pace off the ball, around the wicket to the leftie to offer no width. Nous. Smarts. Bhaskar Agrawal emails in: “O ho ho! Tuned into TV to check what the excitement was about Mandhana’s drives and got to see three gorgeous off side strokes immediately. Worth all the build up I say!” She’s good. REAL good.
13th over: India 69-0 (Raut 21, Mandhana 45) A CHANCE! But one not taken… Hazell tempts Raut into a loose flick to midwicket. Nat Sciver, lurking, goes to her left, sticks out a paw – doesn’t dive – and ends up getting fingertips to the ball. Should have taken that, for mine. Raut was on 20, India would have been 67-1.
12th over: India 66-0 (Raut 20, Mandhana 43) Jenny Gunn into the attack. England’s leading ODI wicket-taker and the woman relied upon to hold-up an end, prise a wicket or kill the run rate. She’ll need to be wearing all three hats today. Streaky edge down to third man makes it three singles from the over.
I spent an hour in her company a few weeks back. She was great value:
11th over: India 63-0 (Raut 19, Mandhana 41) Change of pace as Danielle Hazell comes into the attack. Looks like there’s a bit of turn out there. Three runs off the bat and a wide down the legside, a relatively good over given the circumstances. 43 dot balls in the opening 10 overs by the way. Remarkable.
10th over: India 59-0 (Raut 17, Mandhana 40) “I’ve not seen us bowl this badly for a long time,” says Charlotte Edwards on TV. Soon the pictures change to India captain Mithali Raj, sat in a plastic chair on the boundary’s edge reading a book. Raut square drives Sciver for four. Raj turns to the next page. Nothing but class from India out there. Grim opening from England.
9th over: India 53-0 (Raut 11, Mandhana 40) Ladies and gentlegents, we have our first single of the match. It took 53 balls to come – a push to extra cover – and was greeted by rapturous applause from this KNOWLEDGEABLE DERBY CROWDTM . Shrubsole, bowling her first delivery to the left-hander, is picked off through square leg. “Good ball to a right-hander” comes the cry from your third XI wicketkeeper. Fifty up.
8th over: India 48-0 (Raut 10, Mandhana 36) Hold the phone – we’ve got a maiden. And it’s Mandhana who plays it out. Nat Sciver keeps her line steady with a reinforced offside field. Mandhana still drives, but straight to hands each time.
7th over: India 48-0 (Raut 10, Mandhana 36) Raut comes to the party. I mean, she arrived with Mandhana, but left for a bit to get something from the shop down the round, leaving her opening partner to it. As Shrubsole goes wicket-to-wicket, she lofts one down the ground. Not quite timed, but a decent bounce off the fairway brings four.
6th over: India 44-0 (Raut 6, Mandhana 36) Change of bowling – Nat Sciver replaces Brunt. No change in Mandhana though. She hangs back for Sciver’s first ball and works from outside off to leg for a belting six! Timed that brilliantly. Four through the same region follows a few balls later. Rah, she’s enjoying midwicket so much she might think about holidaying there.
5th over: India 32-0 (Raut 6, Mandhana 24) Gary Naylor, give him the armband. Taylor’s up, Shrubsole has Raut pinned to the crease and only one run comes from the over…
4th over: India 31-0 (Mandhana 24, Raut 6) Agree with Gary’s Tweet, even more so after this over. 16 from it! All classy. Let’s talk about the second one first: width from Brunt but, ooooosh, the timing and the hands on Mandhana… like blowing a kiss through backward point. The first was picked up over midwicket. The third another ease through point. The fourth and final one punched with a bit more venom through cover. Excellent start from India.
3rd over: India 15-0 (Raut 6, Mandhana 8) Raut drives through extra cover for four. It’s not that she’s threatened to do that, but she’s been camped on the front foot and, given a chance, let her hands come through the ball. Looks a great deck.
2nd over: India 11-0 (Raut 2, Mandhana 8) Smriti Mandhana. Yes. As mentioned – better than Gower. Her first ball, delivered by Katherine Brunt, is whipped over square leg for the first four of the competition. Decent. A drive through the covers, while only bringing two, looked classy enough for some a few extra style points.
1st over: India 3-0 (Raut 2, Mandhana 0) Poonam Raut, right-handed opener, opens her wrists and guides the first ball of the 2017 World Cup behind point for two. A few Anya Shrubsole outswingers, a wide, a couple of leaves and that’s your first over folks. By the way – and cheers to Tim de Lisle for informing me – we have a Google doodle! Go out there, get into those snails and drive them into the dirt!
BREAKING: We have Seven Nation Army. The Women’s World Cup is officially declared… OPEN!
Here’s something better from Jack White before we get going.
We’ve got an opening ceremony on our hands. And, naturally, it’s a bit odd. We’ve got eight different colours on all four corners of the ground which are being waved by some kids who I assume are local and haven’t been shipped in from west Germany. Probably a nearby school.
Overcast skies, bit of moisture in the air, in for a penny, in for a pound…
The news is that Sarah Taylor returns to England for her first ODI since February 2016. And, it seems like she will open the batting in the absence of Lauren Winfield, thus causing little disruption to the rest of the line-up.
ENG: T Beaumont, H Knight, S Taylor, N Sciver, F Wilson, D Wyatt, K Brunt, D Hazell, J Gunn, A Shrubsole, A Hartley
IND: P Raut, S Mandhana, D Sharma, M Raj, H Kaur, M Meshram, S Pandey, J Goswami, E Bisht, S Verma, P Yadav
Morning, friends, and welcome to Derby for the Women’s World Cup opener. This is the 11th edition of a tournament that should probably drop the first “W” considering the women got there two years before the men. As India captain Mithali Raj’s smackdown of a male journalist and his hackneyed line of questioning showed, they are not just here to enjoy the experience, curtsy and indulge in any whimsy BS tossed there way. This time, more of them reckon they can win the whole thing. Even six-time champions Australia, favourites since time began, aren’t sitting comfortably. For anyone of any other persuasion, it’s a beautiful thing.
The numbers add to that sense: the prize money of $2m (£1.56m), the 139 countries and 200 territories that will be able to follow it live on television or online, respectively. All 31 matches will be broadcast live. More than three thousand are expected through the County Ground gates today.
Form since the 2013 World Cup suggests we might be watching two of the semi-finalists today:
But enough about the numbers. Meet the cast.
Both sides are packed with quality beyond their respective skippers Raj and Heather Knight, who in a different world are political behemoths setting the world on a path to so much more. Sarah Taylor, hands like silk, wrists of rubber, is back and striking them well. Allrounder Harmanpreet Kaur, superstar – the first Indian player in the WBBL or Kia Super League – is exactly they say she is. Katherine Brunt, fury for a thousand lifetimes, still bowls heat. Smriti Mandhana drives better than Gower. Oh and there’s Nat Sciver who, legend has it, once came across a loaf of bread and called for the nearest knife. The rest, as they say, is history. Toss due soon.
Vithushan will be here soon. In the meantime, here is his preview of today’s World Cup opener. England start as favourites, but the loss of Lauren Winfield at the top of the order for this match and potentially the next against Pakistan on Tuesday, is a huge blow to England’s plans, Winfield’s career and a burgeoning opening partnership:
Given a sustained go as opener from the start of last summer against Pakistan, Winfield scored 439 runs in 10 innings that spanned tours away to West Indies and Sri Lanka.
Her absence also splits a young, dynamic opening partnership with Tammy Beaumont. The pair spent years together defacing the record books at Loughborough University and were starting to do the same at international level. In the second ODI against Pakistan last summer, they both scored maiden centuries on their way to setting a record opening stand of 235. It was also the sixth highest for any ODI wicket.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010
Punjab State Vigilance Bureau, during its ongoing campaign against corruption, nabbed a Senior Assistant of GMADA red-handed while accepting bribe of Rs. 50,000.
An official spokesperson of the Vigilance Bureau said Kiranpal Kataria posted at GMADA, Mohali was nabbed red-handed on the complaint of a resident of village Bakarpur, District SAS Nagar.
He added that the accused had allegedly demanded a bribe of Rs.two lakh from the complainant in lieu of clearing his file under land pool scheme.
A case under section 7, 13 (2) of Prevention of Corruption Act and 120-B of IPC has been registered.
The Centre has approved Annual Action Plan of Rs 109.29 crore under Haryana State Horticulture Mission for the financial year 2017-18, including State share and spillover activities. Besides, the Haryana Government has also approved Rs 6.95 crore as 15 per cent extra State share for the release of assistance to the beneficiaries of protected structures.
Besides, the Haryana Government has also approved Rs 6.95 crore as 15 per cent extra State share for the release of assistance to the beneficiaries of protected structures, Principal Secretary, Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare Department, Abhilaksh Likhi, said here. that while the Central Government had released the first instalment of funds of the Annual Action Plan amounting to Rs 50 crore, the Haryana Finance Department had also released Rs 6.90 crore as extra State share.
Dr.Likhi said that while the Central Government had released the first instalment of funds of the Annual Action Plan of Rs. 50 crore, the Haryana Finance Department had also released Rs. 6.90 crore as extra State share.
He said that the major focus under this Mission in 2017-18 would be on protected cultivation, hybrid tomato production, water creation resources, establishment of new gardens, seed production programme, mushroom production, pollination support through bee-keeping, training of farmers and development of Integrated Post Harvest Management Infrastructure.
The other focus areas are the establishment of the Centres of Excellence for Horticulture at Hodal in district Palwal and at Sunderah in Narnaul and Integrated Post Harvest Management, which included construction of cold storage facilities.
The Haryana Government has granted permission to Bhagat Phool Singh (BPS) Government Medical College for Women, Khanpur Kalan, Sonepat to apply to the Medical Council of India (MCI), Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare for an increase of MBBS intake from 100 to 150.
An official spokesman said that the permission was granted by Chief Minister Manohar Lal.
Stop Haryana from becoming another Madhya Pradesh, Kiran tells Khattar
Kiran Choudhry, Leader of the Haryana Congress Legislature Party, has asked the BJP regime in Haryana led by Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar to stop dividing the agitating farmers, concede their genuine demands without any delay, and prevent Haryana from becoming another Madhya Pradesh.
The former excise and taxation minister said, “It looks the BJP Government has lost connection with the farmers. It has failed to gauge their anger on account of non-acceptance of their demands. Instead, statements from Mr Khattar and other BJP leaders that loan waiver would not be given, are adding fuel to the fire.”
Should the BJP government decide to ignore their demands, the farmers’ agitation may well spill out into the streets and snowball into an unmanageable situation a la Madhya Pradesh. Let the government wake up to reality and keep its promises made to the farmers, she demanded.
The farmers of Haryana are agitating and blocking highways to press their 12-point charter of demands which includes implementation of the Swaminathan Commission report, loan waiver, retirement pension of Rs. five lakh, health insurance, increased MSP and other steps to improve their economic lot, she added.