Concise opinions from people you should follow on Twitter.
Read Hot Takes #4
House of Lunacy
Tom Wilson – @feedthedrummer
Like many people, I’m currently in the middle of an extended binge watch of the new series of House of Cards, and can happily report that it is back up to the standard set by the first two series. There was always one complaint I had about it though: most of the plotlines were verging on ludicrous.
But I am increasingly aware of how this criticism is becoming less and less valid. In the new series, the Republicans are operating how a party is supposed to. They are effective in opposition, and their candidate for President is competent and likeable. He even has a British wife.
Compare this to actual American politics, and House of Cards begins to look level-headed. Donald Trump, the Eric Cartman of US politics, will win most delegates in the Republican primaries on a list of policies that would make Barry Goldwater blush.
In the UK, although not quite as dystopian, the same story appears in comparisons to the political satire The Thick of It, a show that has moved from prophecy to less interesting than reality in a matter of 12 months. The EdStone, the inexplicable popularity of Boris Johnson, and George Galloway’s disastrous guest appearance at a Grassroots Out Brexit rally would all be too absurd to make the show’s final script.
Well, if we are going to try and outdo fiction, we should do it properly. Forget contested conventions, make the GOP nomination the individual who can successfully pin the tail on a donkey. Boris should be made to spend the EU campaign shouting through a megaphone from the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square. If politics is going to be mad, we may as well try and make it more fun to watch, and far less terrifying.
George Osborne will go down fighting – and he’ll bring the most vulnerable down with him
Jade Azim – @JadeFrancesAzim
George Osborne is not having a great time. With Conservative Party membership polls showing him to be less popular than Liam Fox, he is pulling out all the stops as Cameron’s supposedly rightful heir.
The implicit leadership contest intrudes on all aspects of government and party affairs. Its intrusion is most notable in Boris’ EU manoeuvres. To counteract it, Osborne will have to wield all his power as Chancellor. That means the upcoming budget will be the ‘Selling Osborne Budget’ – a budget serving the Tory membership rather than the country. And, likewise, that means, as always, pandering to the extremes and to the loyalists. And what better way to do that than to pay for tax cuts by slashing disability benefits? It’s the right balance of malicious and SUPER EXTREME TORYISM.
Firstly, Osborne has redefined – and the media alongside him – ‘middle class’ to mean the top 7% by raising the higher rate tax threshold to £50,000. He now intends to spend over £1 billion on a giveaway, raising the money by increasing the PIP threshold so more than 600,000 disabled people have money taken away from them. It is devastating, but no-one will fight for them, and Labour is – tragically – in no place to stop it.
It’s also very revealing regarding priorities: cuts are not about the deficit, they are about redistributing from the poor to the rich to serve the people who, firstly, make up the Conservatives’ electoral coalition and, secondly, make up the internal selectorate that will sweep Osborne to power.
Osborne has been withdrawing the welfare state to pay for tax cuts for years, but this most recent move is perhaps his most malicious. And its malice is entirely intentional. Osborne will be positioning himself for the kill against Boris, and in doing so will kill any last semblance of compassionate conservatism.
The Labour Party self-sabotage scenario
Joseph Perry – @JosephPerry9 – Backbench Deputy Editor
You are member of Labour's National Executive Committee.
You are meeting to discuss the appeals of rejected membership applications. You are presented with a document titled 'Gerry Downing'.
Downing actively campaigned against your party at the most recent general election.
Downing believes the 9/11 terrorists – who killed 2,977 people – 'should never be condemned'.
Downing calls for 'tactical support' for Daesh.
Downing demands an answer to the 'Jewish question'.
The meeting goes to a vote.
a) make it clear that toxic individuals like Downing have no place in civilised politics, let alone the Labour Party
b) turn a blind eye to Downing's entire beliefs and welcome him back into the party – ensuring that the news is sent straight to Gudio Fawkes, Andrew Neil, and the Conservative Party?
If, like me, you opted for the former, you must wonder quite what went through the minds of Labour's NEC when they chose to reinstate Gerry Downing this week (before excluding him once again a day later).
Downing's beliefs are truly disgusting, but he is not alone in holding them. Whether it is the university societies embroiled in an anti-Semitism scandal, the CLPs continuing to hold sex-segregated rallies in the 21st Century, or the Twitterati's daily struggle with the concept of debate, dark elements are re-emerging in the Labour Party.
The Downing saga presents us with two conclusions.
Either the NEC is too inept to unearth those elements, or those higher up the party are wilfully ignoring them in the knowledge that the hard left are Corbyn's key to surviving a leadership challenge.
Which is least worst?
Am I the only one watching the Welsh Assembly elections?
Josh Tuck – @JoshLeNeveu
It seems to me that Welsh Assembly and Northern Irish elections have been over-shadowed by the upcoming EU referendum. Granted, the EU referendum is the vote of a generation, however, national elections should surely take precedent?
UKIPs candidate list is absolutely atrocious and the thought of the party seizing nine Welsh assembly seats horrifies me. I am worried as a Welshman and as somebody with a moral compass.
UKIP is a party of fear and bigotry. They are on course to win and degenerate political debate into a ‘who’s more racist’ competition. Indeed, a candidate they previously put up for election called for an end to ‘coloured immigration’.
This is atrocious and I am saddened that Labour and the Lib Dem have alienated voters to the extent that they have gravitated towards UKIP. What this shows more than anything is that we must listen to the electorate and make changes now. We must study UKIP and unearth its repugnant agenda – countering their offer of hate with renewed hope and progressive policies.
Hillary slips, but does she fall?
James Wand – @James_Wand – Backbench Assistant Editor
The first rule of any election campaign is to make sure you don’t alienate, offend and ostracise your core vote. However, in a bumpy week for the Clinton campaign, she’s done exactly that.
This week, Hillary stated that Nancy Reagan – former First Lady of the US – had started a “national conversation” about the AIDs epidemic that shook the world during the 1980s. What Clinton failed to recognise was that whilst she was celebrating the “low key” advocacy of Mrs Reagan, she was ignoring the degree to which the Reagan administration had turned a blind eye to LGBT communities in desperate need of a federal response to a national problem.
Whilst Clinton may have apologised for her remarks, it signifies a dangerous slip on her road to the White House. She cannot afford to take any vote for granted, especially when rival Bernie Sanders can pull stunning victories, like the one seen in Michigan, out of the bag. This is one of Clinton’s first major gaffes of a campaign that has been perfected for the media, and begs the question whether this signals a hiccup or a descent for her 2016 campaign.