UK Politics

Owen Smith: The Anti-Corbyn

‘It’s a binary choice isn’t it – Owen or bust.’ These were the words of one Labour member when I asked him if he’d been persuaded by Owen Smith’s performance in Hammersmith on Tuesday night. It seems to be the view of many party members and supporters, although the binary is usually framed the other way – Jeremy Corbyn against ‘Not Jeremy Corbyn’, with Smith having no real identity of his own.

This characterisation is common to both the Anyone But Corbyn crowd and Corbyn’s own diehard supporters. The former think Corbyn is so hopeless that their priority is getting him out, not getting Smith in, while the latter claim Smith is an unprincipled Blairite sellout and everything Corbyn is not.

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UK Politics

Preaching to the Choir – Jeremy Corbyn in Highbury Fields

The few hundred people who gathered in Highbury Fields to hear Jeremy Corbyn speak yesterday evening carried many banners and placards. Both the Socialist Party and Socialist Workers Party were well represented; Momentum – Corbyn’s personal shock troops – clustered around the old fire engine that served as a stage; one man waved a UNISON flag. One group, however, seemed conspicuously absent – the Labour Party.

Certainly, there were Labour members there – I stood next to a large group of them from Crouch End – but visually the party was absent. There were no Labour banners, no placards, not even a solitary rose on the banner that adorned the fire engine. It simply read ‘Jeremy Corbyn. Straight Talking. Honest Politics.’ It was an odd look for a rally that was ostensibly part of a campaign for the Labour leadership.

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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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Africa

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

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Sport

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

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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

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