UK Politics

The New ‘New Labour’ – Scenes From A Branch Meeting

They had to bring extra chairs in from the garden – not bad for a meeting that wasn’t supposed to be happening. It was a far cry from the last Labour branch meeting I attended. Then, six people had sat round a table and very politely shared the various officerships between them. Now we had twenty people crammed into the branch chair’s front room.

I had never seen such a large and engaged membership. But I joined Labour in 2008, at the start of the post-Blair comedown. Despondency had been the default for much of my time in the party.

But who were all these people? Where had they come from and what did they want?

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US Politics

Looking for Unity: On the Streets of Cleveland Outside the RNC

Daryl Rembowski is a tough-looking man. His upper body is a patchwork of tattoos, and his biker’s kutte is covered in patches and pins. One of them is a Trump badge, another is the ‘1%er’ badge worn by outlaw motorcycle clubs everywhere. He is also incredibly friendly and cheerfully welcomes people to his native Cleveland.

He has come to the city’s Public Square on the last day of the Republican National Convention as part of Bikers for Trump – a group of similarly attired heavies. But, he insists, they are not here to cause trouble. ‘We’re just here to show that we can have a peaceful assembly,’ he says. ‘People feel safe around us and the police are glad we’re here.’

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Kenya: Garissa Attack Shows Al-Shabaab’s Weakness, Not Strength

Al-Shabaab has been catapulted back into international headlines with its attack on Kenya’s Garissa University, which killed 148 students and drew promises of strong action from President Uhuru Kenyatta. The event has drawn comparisons with al-Shabaab’s 2013 attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi and is part of the group’s campaign of reprisals against Kenya for the country’s military action in Somalia. However, the timing, location and nature of the Garissa attack suggest that al-Shabaab has been severely weakened by recent developments in Somalia. Continue reading


Louis van Gaal – Don’t Believe The Hype

The big story from the last quarter-final of the World Cup is, of course, Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal and his substitution in the last seconds of extra time. Bringing on Newcastle’s Tim Krul to face Costa Rica’s penalties instead of Jasper Cillessen has been hailed as a stroke of genius from the man who will be in charge of reviving Manchester United after the shambolic performance of David Moyes.

Van Gaal claimed after the game that it was Krul’s greater height and reach which persuaded him to make the substitution that many have seen as clinching the game for the Dutch. Even the Costa Ricans agree, midfielder Celso Borges saying ‘They were right, he did his job.’

But was it really the moment of genius everyone seems to believe it was? I’m not so sure. Continue reading

Rugby League, Sport

Where Next For Rugby League In London?

On Saturday, the Spirit of ’99 died, ruthlessly butchered by some Warriors from the North. With it went the London Broncos’ season and, barring a miracle next year, top flight professional rugby league in the capital altogether.

The scale of Wigan’s victory in the Challenge Cup semi-final – 70 points to nil – suggests such a miracle is unlikely. The impending return of promotion and relegation to Super League will most likely see London sink out of the top tier, replaced by more traditionally rugby league towns like Sheffield or Featherstone.

The question now is, what does all this mean for rugby league in London? Continue reading

Africa, History

Getting Kenya’s History Wrong

There are few official monuments to Mau Mau. Dedan Kimathi, the Mau Mau general, has a statue in Nairobi (erected in 2006), but most memorialisation of the rebellion is done by small, local communities often appropriating existing monuments built for others. This might seem strange to UK readers used to hearing the Mau Mau discussed as Kenya’s freedom fighters, and it’s something William hague has proposed correcting with his recent offer to support the building of a monument in Nairobi to the victims of torture during Mau Mau. Such a monument would be a serious problem. Continue reading