Brian Cullen

Cabinet support?

The one thing – apparently – saving Brown’s skin since the start of the “rebellion” last Friday is the fact that he has the backing of the entire Cabinet. But how far have they really backed him? Here’s a list of comments (or – tellingly in some cases – lack thereof) made by all Cabinet members since

Downing Street desperate to look tough  

Two bits of news have emerged this afternoon that indicate Number 10 really wants to strike a strong pose on the Labour ‘rebellion’ – but appears to be making a ham of it. 1) Firing someone who’s already quit. News emerged this morning that Brown had ‘fired’ forestry envoy Barry Gardiner MP for adding his voice

Labour’s confused agenda

It seems today’s Guardian bears the fruit of the Labour briefing paper they obtained earlier in the week on how best to attack the Tories.  Stephen Byers’s op-ed toes the ‘same old Tories’ line to a tee, focusing –above all – on the Conservative belief in small government: “Cameron is an old-style Conservative who is

China’s changing – quietly

I was in Beijing last weekend and, having heard about the “Great Firewall of China”, I typed ‘Tiananmen Square’ into Google. I was surprised to find the Wikipedia page describing the 1989 massacre – complete with image of the iconic ‘Tank Man’. Just six months ago, this page was unavailable. The Chinese government isn’t making a

A class act?

Polly Toynbee’s piece in the Guardian this morning is what one might expect – telling us class is not dead in Britain and inequality is more of an issue than ever. Maybe so, but she still waxes lyrical about phenomena she doesn’t seem to understand. She writes: “there was nothing cool about Sunday’s picture of Prince Harry’s

Russia’s aggression shows weakness as much as strength

Some of the responses to Russia’s actions in the past two weeks have been slightly panicked, and focused strictly on geo-politics.  But the key to the situation is Russia’s economic position – not any ambitions to kick off a new cold (or hot) war.  We shouldn’t be surprised that supposedly resurgent Russian ‘imperialism’ has dealt

Brown’s not the only one

There’s an article in the latest New Republic which (perhaps unintentionally) highlights a key similarity between George Bush’s and Gordon Brown’s difficulties.  Jonathon Chait points out that Republican claims that America underwent an economic ‘boom’ under Bush are totally hollow.  He writes: “The whole trick here was to start at the bottom point of the

The deceit of protectionism

Jagdish Bhagwati has an excellent piece in the FT today.  He argues that America needs a new deal for trade which supports a globalised market without resorting to protectionism.  He argues  that the Democrats, the worst offenders, and Republicans need to face up to reality and offer plans for restructuring America’s work force (including realigning

Our low expectations

Today’s Times tells the heart-warming story of Alex Griffiths who was kidnapped as an infant and has now achieved an A and two Bs at A-level to win her place at university.  The story certainly has the feel-good factor, but one part struck me as depressing: “Her mother, Dawn Griffiths, a nanny from Middlesbrough, was

A grade A problem

The debate sparked by today’s A-level results was predictable – the Tories are saying they’re getting easier and the government is saying everyone is simply getting smarter – but it’s also academic. It doesn’t matter why the number of students getting As is higher than ever – the fact itself is a problem. The purpose

A Golden achievement

Whether you’re a fan of the Olympics or not it’s hard to deny the magnitude of American swimmer Michael Phelps’s achievement – winning a record 11 gold medals during his career (and still going for three more at the current games).  To put that in perspective, there are 163 countries which, individually, have won fewer

The tough Tories

The shadow justice secretary, Nick Herbert, said today that the Conservatives believe much stricter bail laws are required – one year on from the death of Garry Newlove (who was killed by a gang whose ringleader had been bailed the same day).  The ideas (clearly set out on ConservativeHome here) seem like common sense to me.  However,

Boom then bust leaves Labour no leg to stand on

There’s something funny in Gordon Brown’s (and the Labour Party’s generally) political response to the economic crisis – which Larry Elliott picks up on in today’s Guardian.  Elliott points out  – rightly – that the “bust” we’re currently experiencing, accompanied by reckless behaviour in the City, should be prime political real estate for Brown et

Brown’s PR people should rein him in

Gordon Brown has written in the literary anthology Wow 366 that he had a boyhood fascination with Antarctic explorers such as Captain Scott.  It surely won’t be long before the cogs start whirring for commentators (in fact it’s already started) on the similarities between Brown’s premiership and Scott’s Antarctic expedition, which ended in his –

Maybe not so courageous

There is an irony about the arrest of Tibetan freedom protesters in Beijing yesterday. The mother of Lucy Fairbrother – one of those detained – was quoted as saying:  “If my daughter’s going to be put in prison for anything I’m glad it’s for a human rights protest.” Except, of course, that she wasn’t put

Is French reconciliation with Rwanda possible?

Yesterday Iain Dale wrote that the only French response to a new report on the Rwandan genocide – which implicates former president Francois Mitterand and ex-prime minister Dominique de Villepin – would be for Nicolas Sarkozy to fly to Kigali to apologise. He shouldn’t hold his breath.  Ever since the event, France has been wholly

Who is Solzhenitsyn’s dissident heir?

Alexander Solzhenitsyn, the great Russian dissident, has died at the age of 89.  Solzhenitsyn gave a face – and a powerful voice – to the victims of Soviet authoritarianism, through books such as A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich and The Gulag Archipelago.  His efforts earned him the Nobel Prize for literature in