Moments and Momentum

1:50 am - January 7th 2008

by Robert Sharp    

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I note that the last seven posts on the Liberal Conspiracy have been about the US Primaries (I’ve been posting musings at my own place too). This might seem odd for a group site that is supposedly concerned with the direction of the British Liberal-Left.

But let us have no apologies. Who can blame us for lapping up anything which undermine the cynicism of politics-as-usual? In analysing yesterday’s Democrat debate, Xpostfactoid makes some interesting points about the nature of politics and campaigning:

Politics is almost literally all talk. You’ve got to be good in the cloak room, at the negotiating table, on the debate floor. What gives a politician the ultimate strength to push through change, though, is to convince the mass of voters to support his or her effort for something major like health care reform. “Don’t discount that power, because when the American people are determined that something is going to happen, then it happens.” That says it all. That’s a real political philosophy at its deepest. (via Andrew)

It also provokes column inches and blog posts, generating a momentum that magnifies such power. As we await the next wave of primaries, it is beginning to feel as if our American cousins are about to create a historical, political ‘moment’ that has spun out of control of the spinners. The last such ‘moment’ we had in British Politics was Mr Brown’s clammy handling of the early election decision. You will excuse me if I keep my attention fixed on New Hampshire, where altogether more inspiring events are unfolding.

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About the author
Robert Sharp designed the Liberal Conspiracy site. He is Head of Campaigns at English PEN, a blogger, and a founder of digital design company Fifty Nine Productions. For more of this sort of thing, visit Rob's eponymous blog or follow him on Twitter @robertsharp59. All posts here are written in a personal capacity, obviously.
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Reader comments

We are getting a vicarious thrill out of seeing the possibility of political change in the US. Meanwhile, over here, we are stuck with Gordon and his pals for the duration and clearly most contributors have now run out of anything new to say about that depressing reality.

It’s a good point Mike, didn’t really think myself about how the excitement of the situation in the US compared to us is driving bylines…still have to personally believe that if we’re going to spend so much time commenting on foreign politics that we should have some space on this site devoted to the Kenyan conflict, or the actions of the government in Pakistan.

That said, I shall be very much glued to the whole process in the US as much as the next man!

As was covered on last week’s Start the Week (BBC R4). At least in the UK we have a tough media and the glory that are PMQs (although Polly Toynbee hates PMQs – but that tells me everything I need to know about that apparatchik). America’s MSM media is a joke. Turn on CNN and have a looksy. Talk Radio, is of course, another matter entirely. Those Americans just can’t do balance, can they? It’s either vitriolic shock jocks or supine ad-slave journos on network TV (print media still has some good pros though).

I’m very much in favour of small government, but it’s times like this I just can’t help but love the BBC. May Auntie live forever.


Maybe we could sack Jonathan Ross, trimming the BBC’s costs by 85%, and then slash the license fee?


Was shocked that they made possibly their first intelligent purchase since the X-Files with Damages, think it started yesterday. Very good law based drama if no-one else has picked up on it yet, don’t leave it by the wayside just because it’s on the beeb 😉

This might seem odd for a group site that is supposedly concerned with the direction of the British Liberal-Left.

Not at all, quite the opposite in fact if you look at the main focus of the Liberal/Left over the last half decade: Iraq.

It makes perfect sense for us to be following very closely the US Presidential elections given the power and impact the outcome has on our country’s foreign policy.

But surely the liberal left would want to be defined as more than just “those anti-war hippies”?

Our country’s foreign policy has everything to do with our government and not the US, it is our own decisions which cause us to be entwined with the president race and perhaps it is those decisions which are more important for us to be looking at. If we’re just interested in leaderships of other important countries then we also need not spend all our time with the US-not-even-a-real-election-yet given just how many elections and political upheavals are going on in the world right now.

Our country’s active foreign policy has very much to do with big business. Little else.

BAe, anyone?

Lee Griffin: the L/L already is.

As for your other points: see ‘Special Relationship’…

But they aren’t. Look at the topics that are actually truly discussed, that have been in the past few months. The election that never was, the lib dem leadership, the data-loss situation, extended detention and now the US primaries. They are the only things that have had a continuous form of debate and dialogue in the L/L (as you coin it). Meanwhile many other important issues are lucky to get any time spent on them.

I’ll be happy when Casting the net comes back into force to hopefully throw up some of these lesser read/known blogs daring to be different 😉

But really, my points all come to the same thing…everyone is expected to talk about the primaries, and yes the left is expected to be anti-war. Wouldn’t it be quaint if this site was the place you could come to to see the unexpected side of the L/L’s outrage and opinion on issues of the week less heard?

Lee: I absolutely agree – it shouldn’t be an either/or. My impression is that we are seeing another period of UK political blogging ennui, (not to say disillusionment – see Justin Mc today!) so I suppose the US scene looks rather enticing.

Casting the net is back on Wednesday. Trusting this snow blizzard in Tallinn eases by the morning…

I’d be quite happy to take a pro-war stance, as Devil’s advocate, but I was always against it. Shame. Anyone who wants to write a pro-war diatribe – from a Liberal perspective – is welcome to email Sunny. I have time for the pro-war left who wanted rid of the fascists in Baghdad, but they have to face up to the reality that they were used by an American military/industrial establishment, which ever since the OPEC crisis (and the subsequent humiliation of the US), has aimed to control the Middle East.

I know it’s fashionable for liberal bloggers to claim it wasn’t about the oil (and Saddam’s plan to deal in Euros), but it ignores US foreign policy ever since 1950.

I’ll get my coat…

Well I think you do need to apologise for keeping banging on about the US elections, about which we can do nothing, and which do not inform the UK debate one iota.

Is there nobody else on this blog who finds the US election as depressing as 1997?

You people are *excited* by Obama??? Please read Gary Younge,,2236548,00.html

or Johan Hari


Getting rid of Bush is like getting rid of the Tories, the incoming will be the same old stuff. Is this a Euston site?

Aaron: I might just do that, I was most certainly pro-war…though the phrase is a little distasteful and perhaps not fully apt. Look forward to the “net’s” return and good luck with the weather!

Obama is now running around 10% ahead of Clinton in most polls in New Hampshire! That’s what I call momentum.

It’s certainly a big change through, though I have to wonder in this specific case just how much of it is the media and how much of it is the charm of the man himself. I guess you can never know unless you’re experiencing it all, locally, first hand. Certainly the media segments I saw of Clinton saw her suffering from the terrible affliction that makes potentially honest people look like they’re putting on a show for the camera’s.

Can we just get rid of the “Saddam’s plan to deal in Euros” bollocks?

What sort of plan was this supposed to be exactly?
If Saddam wanted to “undermine” the dollar by taking euros for oil he could just as easily have sold the dollars himself afterwards (or forward) as demanding the buyer do so – exactly the same market impact.
And those dollars as a proportion of total daily dollar/euro trading volumes are what?
Small beer.

In response to Phil’s Comment:

It seems pretty clear to me that you have very little understanding of U.S. politics, or else you wouldn’t think that there weren’t a difference between the best Republican candidate John “We Could be in Iraq for Another 100 Years” McCain and someone like Obama who, again, spoke out against the war from day one.

And I don’t see how a site on the British liberal left could NOT talk about U.S. Politics. After all, if Mr. Bush didn’t have a leash around “Yo Blair’s” neck, then perhaps the world would have been a bit different.

But once again I have to ask, why is the “liberal left’s” interest in the US solely down to one issue. The “liberal left” which I consider myself a part of really need to start singing more notes to a tune given how late in the day it is on the Iraq issue now, and how common the “liberal” position on it is in the general and political populace. I also doubt calling out “phil” on his statement by comparing those two candidates will do anything other than make his point from his view 😉

For one I, despite my comments above, do think the US election is important. The standards of US education, of their economy and of course their foreign policy always have a great impact on the western world. I just don’t think it is 7 or 8 posts in a row worth of importance 🙂

To be fair, I have no right commenting on what you guys post or not post about here. I am an American, and found this site because of my interest in American politics and did so just recently. I did however find his comment to be indicative of the standard European (or politically disengaged American) view of American politics and how Republicans and Democrats are the same. I used the Iraq war as a stark example of that. But while you Brits may have only been subject to the more obvious parts of the Republicans’ failures (Kyoto and Iraq being two clear examples), we over here have suffered in more ways than one. Women are on the verge of losing their right to school, Gays are on the verge of having segregation codified in the constitution, the income gap between the rich and poor has increased beyond historic levels, university costs have doubled, gas prices have skyrocketed, and everyone in the world hates us (in other words, we are less safe). So, to condescendingly belittle a candidate who offers the potential to unite the country to bring about change (remember we don’t have Health Care for pete’s sake) is a bit uncalled for. That was what my response was directed at. Either way, I enjoy your guys’ site and look forward to learning more about domestic British politics.

And one last note: I have repeatedly in my own blog commented on Obama’s shortcomings, but perspective is needed. It is only in recent years that the netroots has been able to have such a profound impact on elections (Hillary losing would be an incredible accomplishment, but having Joe Lieberman kicked out of the Democratic Party was another). The decentralization of information provides an interesting opportunity here and we view Obama as just one step in a larger movement to bring progressive values to the country.

right to choose, not right to school! lol

Aye, and I understand your stance here O. I’ve spoken with many of my family and friends about how absolutely low it seems America has got and therefore how vital this next election is for you guys. But that’s almost why it doesn’t seem to need to be such a big deal here. With the economy, education, healthcare and civil liberty issues you guys have on your own soil that really should be more than enough to worry about for the next 4 years and should rightly be the main focus of any potential leaders campaign.

The trouble is, and I don’t claim to know “phil” or his character, but there are some that would bizarrely prefer that this country was run in to the ground with minority favouring policies like Bush has managed to achieve. Go figure 😛

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