Clinton still unpopular

One of the reasons Hillary Clinton failed in last year’s presidential election was her relatively high unpopularity. While it doesn’t matter now she is political history, she is just as unpopular (her excuses for losing won’t have helped).

People tend to not like losers, especially sore losers.

The Democrats aren’t doing much better.

Fox News:  Is the Democrats’ brand ‘worse than Trump’? Some party officials admit it is

Chris Murphy, a Democratic senator from Connecticut, made some candid comments that caught my eye yesterday.

“The fact that we have spent so much time talking about Russia has been a distraction from what should be the clear contrast between Democrats and the Trump agenda, which is on economics.”

Bingo. Running mainly against Donald Trump didn’t work for the Dems in 2016, and it’s not working now.

Ohio Democratic congressman Tim Ryan told the New York Times that his party is “toxic” in large swaths of the country: “Our brand is worse than Trump. We can’t just run against Trump.”

They are diverting from their own substantial problems by trying to blame everything on Trump.

One of the stupid things about this approach is that they don’t need to show how bad Trump can be, he keeps doing that himself. His stupidity over the Comey non-tapes is evidence of that – seeTrump “did not make…any such recordings”.

Trump’s unpopularity is similar to Clinton’s. From FiveThirtyEight:

538TrumpPolls2017June22

That is historically low approval for a president in their first six months in office. Trump has managed to get there through his own efforts, he doesn’t need the Democrats to discredit him.

That both Clinton and Trump are so disliked is an indictment on the state of US politics.

 

Trump “did not make…any such recordings”

On May 13 Donald Trump appeared to threaten James Comey by implying their conversations had been recorded:

This prompted a lot of discussion. Trump eventually said he would reveal whether there were any recordings.

Yesterday: Schiff: Subpoenas possible if Trump tapes, Comey memos aren’t turned over

The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee said Wednesday that subpoenas could be the next step if the White House doesn’t comply with a Friday deadline to hand over information on any tapes of President Donald Trump’s meetings with former FBI Director James Comey.

Half an hour ago:

A bizarre response, six weeks after implying/threatening there were tapes.

Why did Trump make the claim in the first place? It looks like he was threatening Comey.

Why did he take so long to now claim he didn’t make any recordings?

He could have easily clarified as soon as his initial tweet raised questions, but chose to delay a denial that contradicted his initial tweet.

He seems to have deliberately fed a sideshow of his own making.  Whether he is playing trivial or serious games it is unbecoming of a President.

Why should anyone believe the initial tweet, today’s tweet, or any tweet from Trump?

Whether he is bullshitting or bluffing or whatever Trump’s tweets should be seen as flaky as he is.

US shoot down Syrian jet

The US has shot down a Syrian jet. This has escalated tensions between the US and Syria, and between the US and Russia.

Fox News:  Navy jet shoots down Syrian warplane that attacked US-backed rebels

A U.S. Navy fighter jet shot down a Syrian government warplane after it attacked Washington-backed fighters near ISIS’ de facto capital of Raqqa, the U.S.-led coalition said Sunday.

In a statement, the coalition headquarters in Iraq said that a F/A-18E Super Hornet shot down a Syrian Su-22 that had dropped bombs near positions held by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

The statement said coalition aircraft had “conducted a show of force” to turn back an attack by Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad’s forces on the SDF in the town of Ja’Din, south of Tabqah.

The coalition said the shootdown took place “in accordance with rules of engagement and in collective self-defense of Coalition partnered forces.”

Aljazeera TV (thanks Gezza):

Iran has fiired missiles into Syria, targeting ISIS, who they blame for the recent terrorist attack in Tehran. More details later. Main item is London van attack.

… … … …

The US has shot down a Syrian regime jet over Raqqa. They claim it was attacking SDF forces, which they have *advisers* embedded with.

Damascus says it was targeting ISIS.

… … … …

Aljaz tv 1 pm.

This incident has infuriated Russia, which has now declared it will treat any coalition aircraft West of the Euphrates as a target !!

The Independent:  Russia to treat US jets in Syria as ‘targets’ after America guns down first regime warplane

Russia has said it will treat US warplanes operating in parts of Syria where its air forces are also present as “targets” amid a diplomatic row caused by the downing of a Syrian jet.

The country’s defence ministry said it would track US-led coalition aircraft with missile systems and military aircraft, but stopped short of saying it would shoot them down.

A hotline set up between Russia and the US to prevent mid-air collisions will also be suspended. Russia’s Defence Ministry said the suspension of its communication line with the Americans would begin immediately.

The US did not use its hotline with Russia ahead of the downing of the Syrian government warplane, said the ministry, which accused the US of a “deliberate failure to make good on its commitments” under the de-confliction deal.

“The shooting down of a Syrian Air Force jet in Syria’s airspace is a cynical violation of Syria’s sovereignty,” the ministry said.

“The US’ repeated combat operations under the guise of ‘combating terrorism’ against the legitimate armed forces of a UN member-country are a flagrant violation of international law and an actual military aggression against the Syrian Arab Republic.”

Downing the jet was akin to “helping the terrorists that the US is fighting against”, Sergei Ryabkov, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister, said.

Fox News: US responds to Russian threat after shoot-down of Syrian jet

U.S. pilots operating over Syria won’t hesitate to defend themselves from Russian threats, a Pentagon spokesperson said Monday in the latest escalation between the two superpowers since a U.S. jet shot down a Syrian aircraft on Sunday.

“We do not seek conflict with any party in Syria other than ISIS, but we will not hesitate to defend ourselves or our partners if threatened,” Capt. Jeff Davis told Fox News.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford doubled down on that rhetoric during a Monday speech at the National Press Club.

“I’m confident that we are still communicating between our operations center and the Russia federation operations center — and I’m also confident that our forces have the capability to take care of themselves,” Dunford said.

Department of Defense spokesperson Maj. Adrian J.T. Rankine-Galloway said coalition aircraft would continue conducting “operations throughout Syria, targeting ISIS forces and providing air support for Coalition partner forces on the ground.”

It’s hard to see how the Syrian conflict will end well any time soon.

US shootings

News of two shootings in the US, one of Republican politicians.

Fox News:  Scalise shooter ID’d as James Hodgkinson

A gunman believed to be a supporter of former Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders sprayed a hail of bullets at a GOP baseball practice Wednesday morning, injuring House Majority Whip Steve Scalise and four others before U.S. Capitol Police took down the rifle-wielding assailant.

The shooter, who had a violent history including arrests for battery, resisting arrest and drunken driving, was identified as 66-year-old James T. Hodgkinson, of Illinois, Fox News confirmed. President Trump said Hodgkinson died from injuries sustained when he was shot by police.

It’s awful to see what appears to be a political shooting. Any mass attack is bad, targeting politicians (presuming they were specifically targeted) is terrible for democracy.

Bernie Sanders responded:

“I have just been informed that the alleged shooter at the Republican baseball practice is someone who apparently volunteered on my presidential campaign. I am sickened by this despicable act. Let me be as clear as I can be. Violence of any kind is unacceptable in our society and I condemn this action in the strongest possible terms.”

This is likely to spark debate (again) on US gun laws – for example why someone with a violent history was allowed access to firearms – and divisions in US politics.

Gezza has pointed out another shooting:  UPS says employee shoots, injures 4 at San Francisco delivery facility

 UPS employee opened fire at a San Francisco package delivery facility on Wednesday, injuring four and prompting a massive police response in a neighborhood near downtown, officials said.

UPS spokesman Steve Gaut told The Associated Press that an employee fired inside the facility before the drivers were sent out to do their normal daily deliveries. Gaut said four people were injured and that he believed the shooter “turned the gun on himself.”

Employee and ex-employee shootings seem to be common in the US, I saw of another in the news recently.

Earlier this month: Orlando shooting: ‘Disgruntled’ ex-employee had planned shooting, investigators say

The gunman who opened fire at an Orlando factory had planned to kill five of his former coworkers by singling them out and shooting them before turning the gun on himself, investigators confirmed on Tuesday.

Police had confronted Neumann once before at the factory, when he was accused of battering a co-worker in June 2014. The co-worker said Neumann punched him in the back of the head knocking him to the ground, according to the incident report. But the co-worker later said Neumann chased him and then hit him on the back of the head.

No charges were filed in the 2014 incident after both men were interviewed. The co-worker was not among Monday’s victims, Demings said. Aside from the 2014 incident, Neumann also had a criminal history “minor in nature,” with arrests for possession of marijuana and DUI.

Obviously the easy access to firearms is an issue in the US.

I think that the entertainment industry (‘Hollywood’ plus the gaming industry) also has some responsibility with the normalisation of violence and shooting as a way of ‘resolving’ many things.

The Gun Violence Archive keeps track of statistics. Summary to date for 2017:

  • Total number of incidents: 27,811
  • Number of deaths: 6,878
  • Number of injuries: 13,500
  • Mass shootings: 154
  • Defensive use: 939
  • Unintentional shooting: 915

It is spread across the country where there are people, but looks to be worst in the east:

Daily averages:

  • Incidents: 170 per day
  • Number of deaths: 42 per day
  • Number of injuries: 82 per day
  • Mass shootings: nearly 1 per day
  • Defensive use: 5 per day
  • Unintentional shooting: 5 per day

It is not just a law and order problem, it is also a societal problem.

Locking criminals up doesn’t solve the problem – United States incarceration rate

In October 2013, the incarceration rate of the United States of America was the highest in the world, at 716 per 100,000 of the national population.

While the United States represents about 4.4 percent of the world’s population, it houses around 22 percent of the world’s prisoners.

This rate has climbed dramatically:

The US gun lobby seems to remain stronger than the public safety lobby.

The US has the highest gun ownership rate in the world at about 88.8 per 100 citizens.

This is not a problem that will be easily solved. It is sad but inevitable that politicians will be included amongst the targets.

More US sanctions against Russia

The US Senate has voted in favour of strengthening sanctions against Russia “in response to the violation of the territorial integrity of the Ukraine and Crimea, its brazen cyberattacks and interference in elections, and its continuing aggression in Syria,” said Republicans and Democrats on the committees.

ABC News: Tillerson warns against steps that cut off talks with Russia

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Tuesday the U.S. relationship with Russia is at an all-time low and deteriorating further, yet he cautioned against taking steps that might close off promising avenues of communication between the two former Cold War foes.

Testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Tillerson stopped short of registering his opposition to a new package of Russia sanctions the GOP-led Senate is considering in retaliation for Moscow’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election and its aggression in other parts of the world, including Syria and Ukraine.

Top lawmakers on two Senate committees — Banking and Foreign Relations — announced the sanctions deal amid the firestorm over Russia’s meddling in the presidential election and investigations into Moscow’s possible collusion with members of President Donald Trump’s campaign.

The plan calls for strengthening current sanctions and imposing new ones on corrupt Russian actors, those involved in human rights abuses and those supplying weapons to the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

The package also would require a congressional review if a president attempts to ease or end current penalties.

Penalties also would be slapped on those responsible for malicious cyber activity on behalf of the Russian government.

A procedural vote on the Russia sanctions is expected Wednesday, and the measure is expected to get strong bipartisan support.

House and Senate committees are investigating Russia’s meddling and potential links to the Trump campaign, with testimony scheduled Tuesday from Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Special Counsel Robert Mueller is conducting a separate probe.

So both Congress and the Senate are continuing investigations, strengthening sanctions, and making it harder for President Trump to “ease or end current penalties”.

And today (Tuesday US time) Sessions to face tough questions at public Senate hearing, in next round of Russia probe:

The Senate’s Russia probe will hit a new level of intensity Tuesday when Attorney General Jeff Sessions becomes the highest-ranking official to testify – in what Senate Intelligence Committee leaders confirmed will be an open hearing, in the spirit of last week’s dramatic session with James Comey.

The circumstances are different for Sessions’ appearance. While Comey was a witness scorned by President Trump and ready to dish on the leader who fired him, Sessions remains the top law enforcement official in the country, working for Trump’s administration.

But lawmakers – particularly Democrats – are preparing tough questions for Sessions both about Russia’s contact with Trump campaign associates and the circumstances of Comey’s firing.

Also from Fox News:  Mueller’s lawyer build-up raises flags for Trump allies

Special counsel Robert Mueller is said to be building out his investigative team with some of the country’s best legal minds, in a development that speaks to the seriousness of the Russia probe but also is raising red flags on the pro-Trump side.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, citing the hires, said “they’re setting up to go after Trump.”

“This is going to be a witch hunt,” Gingrich said on “Fox News Sunday.”

Not all Republicans feel that way, and Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., told “Fox & Friends” on Monday that Mueller just “wants to get to the truth.”

But recent hires show Mueller is building a formidable team, poised to either root out wrongdoing or prove the Trump team’s claims that there’s no ‘there there.’

Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney fired by Trump along with dozens of other holdover prosecutors earlier this year, tweeted that Dreeben is “1 of the top legal & appellate minds at DOJ in modern times.”

However, Bharara said Dreeben’s “loyalty is to the Constitution alone” and Mueller is looking to find the truth, apply the law “and yield a just result. Charge or no charge.”

It is important for the integrity of the US political system that as much of the truth is discovered as possible, charge or no charge.

NZ nuclear and peace activism

Today’s ODT editorial looks back at New Zealand’s nuclear free stand, and notes far less activism now on peace and nuclear issues.

Most activist attention is now on internal issues.

ODT: Giving peace a chance

The 30th anniversary of a defining moment in New Zealand’s recent history is being marked this week.

On June 8, 1987, “God’s Own Country” became a nuclear-free zone, after Parliament passed the New Zealand Nuclear Free Zone, Disarmament and Arms Control Act.

It was a national statement that put our small and isolated country on the modern map. It heralded a proud, independent and values-driven stance, and a willingness to stand up to the “big boys”.

It became a label that unified New Zealanders and has continued to do so through the years.

It was one small stand for the world but a giant stand for New Zealand.

The US downgraded New Zealand’s status from ally to friend,  but National eventually got on board with the policy. France eventually halted its nuclear testing in 1996.

The US didn’t send another naval ship to our shores until last November, when it did so as part of the NZ navy’s 75th anniversary celebrations. It was widely seen as an official symbol of reconciliation.

It took 30 years for the US to accept New Zealand’s position as firmly entrenched.

There was some protest when the USS Sampson visited last year but that was quickly muted when it joined the assistance to Kaikoura after the earthquake there.

NZ Herald:  Fleet of international warships to help out with earthquake response

A fleet of international warships is bypassing Auckland’s historic naval celebrations and heading for Kaikoura to assist with the earthquake response.

The fleet includes the first United States warship to visit New Zealand in 33 years. The USS Sampson was due to enter Auckland Harbour today for the International Naval Review as part of celebrations for the 75th anniversary of the Royal New Zealand Navy.

The historic visit is the first since the Anzus rift in the 1980s sparked by New Zealand’s landmark anti-nuclear policy. However Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee confirmed that New Zealand had accepted offers of help with the quake recovery from five nations attending the International Naval Review – the United States, Australia, Canada, Japan and Singapore.

Protests against the USS Sampson are unlikely to have been much more than token anyway.

ODT:

Today, there seems much less of the activism that led to such significant political change, less too of the leadership on such issues, and less in the way of forthright challenges to our powerful friends.

Yet the challenges remain. The US Trump Administration is involved in a nuclear standoff with North Korea, as the United Nations attempts to negotiate a ban on nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination. History is still in the making.

But how big a deal is the threat of nuclear war now? There’s not much we can do about it from here.

What about promoting peace? It just doesn’t seem to be much of a priority here now.

Trump won’t visit UK if there’s protests

Donald Trump has told Theresa May he won’t come to the UK on a state visit “until the British public supports him coming”, according to a Guardian report but apparently claimed as ‘false’ by the White House..

This probably ensures protests against him visiting.

It’s not a good time for him to visit the UK anyway, there’s enough turmoil there as it is without him stirring things up more.

The Guardian:  Donald Trump’s state visit to Britain put on hold

Donald Trump has told Theresa May in a phone call he does not want to go ahead with a state visit to Britain until the British public supports him coming.

The US president said he did not want to come if there were large-scale protests and his remarks in effect put the visit on hold for some time.

That’s an open invitation for protests and threats of protests if Trump says they will keep him out of the UK.

The conversation in part explains why there has been little public discussion about a visit.

May invited Trump to Britain seven days after his inauguration when she became the first foreign leader to visit him in the White House. She told a joint press conference she had extended an invitation from the Queen to Trump and his wife Melania to make a state visit later in the year and was “delighted that the president has accepted that invitation”.

Many senior diplomats, including Lord Ricketts, the former national security adviser, said the invitation was premature, but impossible to rescind once made.

The acting US ambassador to the UK, Lewis Lukens, a career diplomat, clashed with Trump last week by praising Sadiq Khan, the London mayor, for his strong leadership over the London Bridge and Borough Market terror attack.

His remarks came just days after Trump criticised Khan for his response to the attack, misquoting the mayor’s message to Londoners not to be alarmed by the increased presence of armed police.

Khan’s office pointed out Trump’s error later but the president responded by accusing London’s mayor of making a “pathetic excuse”. Khan then called on the UK government to cancel Trump’s invitation. No date had been fixed for the visit.

Jenna Johnson, a Washington Post reporter tweeted to say that the White House press secretary had told her the Guardian’s report was “false” but added that the White House “won’t say when Trump plans to go to the UK”.

Now is not a good time anyway. May and the UK have enough of their own problems to deal with.

Whether the claim that Trump said he won’t visit if there are protests is true or not it probably guarantees protests if any visit is scheduled.

Trump is not popular in the US, with RCP average disapproval currently 16% more than approval. He is probably less popular in the UK.

UK’s YouGov ratings for Trump:

  • Volume: 3rd Public Figure of 2307 tracked
  • Positivity -74:  2,165th Public Figure of 2255 tracked

Qatar tensions still

The Qatar dispute continues to simmer, with a risk of war being suggested.

Reuters:  Gulf leaders trade barbs as Qatar dispute shows no let-up

Gulf states traded public barbs on Saturday, showing little sign of resolving the region’s deepest rift in years, five days after Arab nations severed diplomatic, trade and transport ties with the tiny Gulf kingdom of Qatar, .

Foreign leaders expressed growing concern over the dispute, which pits Qatar against Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and Egypt. With backing from U.S. President Donald Trump, they accuse Qatar of supporting their regional arch-rival Iran as well as Islamist militants.

After German Chancellor Angela Merkel called the situation “very unsettling” on Friday, her foreign minister, Sigmar Gabriel, cautioned on Saturday that it could lead to war.

Kuwait…

…has led a regional effort to mediate, but the four states intensified the pressure on Friday by placing dozens of people with alleged links to Qatar on terrorism blacklists.

A senior UAE official…

…followed on Saturday by calling Qatar “duplicitous”, alleging in a series of tweets that its funding of militants had sown chaos and violence throughout the region.

Qatar’s foreign minister,,,

…fired back that there was “no clarity” in such accusations, speaking in an interview with RT Arabic in Moscow after emerging from talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

“Qatar is accused of having a hidden relationship with Iran, but its relations with Iran are clear, transparent and time-tested,” said Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani, noting that the UAE does more trade with Iran than Qatar does.

He denied that Qatar supported Egypt’s outlawed Islamist movement, the Muslim Brotherhood, and Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist group that controls the Gaza Strip. He dismissed as “fantasy” a Saudi media report that he had met in Baghdad with the head of Iran’s Quds Force, controlled by Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guards.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov…

…told Sheikh al-Thani of Moscow’s concern and called for talks.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan…

…- who has pledged food and troops to Qatar in the face of a blockade from its neighbours – hosted Bahrain’s foreign minister and urged that the dispute be resolved by the end of the holy month of Ramadan.

Niger…

announced it had recalled its ambassador to Qatar in solidarity with Arab countries.

The US and Trump

The US position is still as confused as Trump

However, mixed messages from U.S. officials appeared to complicate the diplomacy, as Gulf media cited selectively from divergent statements to bolster their positions.

Saudi Arabia and Bahrain…

…issued statements welcoming U.S. President Donald Trump’s demand the previous day for Qatar to stop supporting terrorism, while ignoring a U.S. State Department call for them to ease pressure.

Saudi Arabia…

…said it was committed to “decisive and swift action to cut off all funding sources for terrorism” in a statement carried by the state news agency SPA, while Bahrain hailed U.S. efforts to ensure “international solidarity” on the issue.

The United Arab Emirates…

…praised Trump’s “leadership in challenging Qatar’s troubling support for extremism” in a separate statement released on Friday.

Trump had accused Qatar of being a “high level” funder of terrorism on Friday, even as the Pentagon and U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson cautioned against the military, commercial and humanitarian effects of a blockade imposed by Arab states and others.

A separate SPA report on Saturday acknowledged Tillerson’s call for Qatar to curtail support for terrorism, without mentioning that he had also said the crisis was hurting ordinary Qataris, impairing business and harming the U.S. fight against the Islamic State militant group.

Saudi Arabia said its action followed the conclusions of last month’s Arab Islamic American Summit in Riyadh, where Trump delivered a speech about Islamist extremism.

Trump said he had helped to plan the move against Qatar, although a senior administration official told Reuters this week that Washington had had no indication from the Saudis or Emiratis during the visit that they would sever ties with Qatar.

Has Trump claimed credit for something he had no involvement in?

Is the Trump administration denying US involvement?

The US has their most important Middle easy military base in Qatar and have a deal to supply over $20 billion worth of military aircraft to Qatar.

On Trump’s trip he announced a deal for the US to supply nearly $110 billion in arms to Saudi Arabia.

Trump trumpeted this deal with “jobs, jobs, jobs”.

If US arms in Qatar are used against US arms in neighbouring Saudi Arabia and vice versa there may well be plenty of jobs in the US making bullets and bombs. There may also be a few vacancies in the US military if their soldiers, sailors and airpeople are caught in the middle of it all in Qatar.

But Trump may just send KUshner in to sort it all out and peace may rain on the parched Middle East deserts.

 

UK: Labour “should have won”

There are lessons from similarities and differences between the UK snap election and New Zealand’s general election.

There has been a lot of left wing rejoicing after Jeremy Corbyn led the UK Labour Party from a predicted drubbing to a respectable loss.

Here in New Zealand some at The Standard have been ecstatic :

Labour excels in the UK

Labour’s performance in the United Kingdom is phenomenal compared to expectations from even three weeks ago. What are the lessons for New Zealand Labour?

Lessons for NZ Labour?

Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour just reshaped the political landscape of the UK.

Lessons for NZ?

Lesson 1 – in politics, as in sport, a loss is a loss. In sport “four more years” is a common retort to a losing world cup team. In the UK Labour could face five more years in opposition if the Conservatives manage to survive.

While Corbyn deserves some credit it’s fair to ask whether Labour there could have one the election with a less left wing and unliked (until the victorious election loss) leader than Corbyn. They started a long way behind due to turmoil in Labour under Corbyn’s leadership.

The Guardian:  Labour should have won against May’s ‘open goal’, says MP

NZ Labour ‘should’ win against a nine year Government whose popular leader resigned. But they are still a long way behind National.

Labour missed an “open goal” to beat Theresa May and should not pretend it achieved a famous victory, a former shadow chancellor has said.

Chris Leslie, who was Labour shadow chancellor during 2015, labelled it an “OK result” after Jeremy Corbyn’s party secured a higher-than-expected 262 seats and significantly boosted its vote share.

He added that Labour still lost the election, leaving his Nottingham East constituency, which he held in the election, with a Conservative government “they do not need”, and the party with questions about how to convince voters it can move from “protesting about a government into being the government”.

NZ Labour has similar questions to answer (as do NZ Greens and NZ First).

“We shouldn’t pretend that this is a famous victory. It is good, as far as it’s gone, but it’s not going to be good enough.

“Five years of Conservative government: I just can’t, I’m afraid, be a cheerleader for that particular outcome because this was an open goal for all of us. We should have been getting in there.”

Corbyn has been widely praised for running a good campaign and closing the gap between Labour and the Conservatives, but a loss is a loss.

Challenged if Labour could have won under another leader, Leslie said: “I’ve never known a more beatable prime minister than Theresa May – brittle, I think, very, very wobbly and shaky indeed.”

And at a very shaky time for the UK, which is in the process of exiting from the European Union after a close referendum result supporting ‘Brexit’.

Leslie said a lot of people see Corbyn as a credible prime minister, though stopped short of giving his endorsement.

He said: “We’re in an era of open, honest politics. I’m not going to pretend that I have suddenly changed my views about this.

“You know that I’ve got disagreements with Jeremy on particular issues, whether it’s security, economy. I think we’re past the period where we should be asking people to pretend they’ve got different views.”

So UK Labour does not appear to be exactly united in defeat.

On whether he would join Corbyn’s shadow cabinet, Leslie said: “My worry is, if I was to serve in the shadow cabinet there would come a moment where something would come up which I would disagree with, and these are my principles, whether it is to do with security or the running of the economy.

“I might have to then resign. Who knows what happens?”

Labour united during the \campaign to try to defeat a common enemy, the Conservative government.

But the enemies within the party, or at least significant differences within, haven’t disappeared with a sort of successful election loss.

NZ Labour could learn from this, and especially those to the left of the left who may be convinced that staunchly swinging left is the way to victory.

New Zealand doesn’t have Brexit to deal with, we don’t have anything like Britain’s immigration issues and don’t have their terrorism tensions. And we don’t have Theresa May as Prime Minister. And we don’t have a snap election, we have a routine general election coming up.

We have had 9 years of a national led government, we have a less charismatic Prime Minister after John Key’s resignation last year, we have growing signs of arrogance, and we have a lack of progress on housing issues and Auckland infrastructure (Auckland City Council is at least as responsible for that as the Government).

NZ Labour ‘should’ be in a good position to win this election. However they conceded last year they would require the support of at least one other sizeable party after joining campaign forces with the Greens. And going by recent polls they are still well short of beating National.

Recent elections and referendums around the world suggest that polls and campaigns and election results are increasingly volatile and unpredictable.

UK voters punished May’s Conservatives for an arrogant power play calling a snap election, and an arrogant and poor election campaign – but they were well short of dumping them altogether.

Under MMP New Zealand voters have never given one party a clear majority, they have always chosen to require support from other parties to govern – this is probably partly by voter design and partly by accident.

That’s the most likely outcome of our September election – either National or Labour+Greens will require at least one other party to be able to form the next government.

When National ‘won’ (with the help of some minor parties) the election in 2008 one could have presumed that Labour ‘should’ win back power by 2017, but at best for them it looks like being at least Labour+NZ First or Labour+Greens, and while an Opposition coalition ‘should’ be in a prime position to win they are not, yet at least.

Some Labour in the UK are rejoicing their improvement in an election defeat, and some here in New Zealand applaud that also and hope that it is a good sign for their chances here.

But there are also signs that the Greens in particular and to a lesser extent Labour are resigned to a loss this year and are simply trying rebuild enough now so they can launch a real bid for power in 2020.

Corbyn and UK Labour probably went into their election with a similar longer term view, but reacted well to a pathetic Conservative campaign offering a virtual ‘open goal’. But they didn’t do well enough.

Labour here can’t bank on National stuffing up their campaign as badly as May – National should have also learned from the UK experience.

Labour supporters also can’t bank on their ability to score if presented with an open goal, some of their pre-campaign strategies have been questionable and unsuccessful – several ‘game changers’ have been left floundering at half way at best and have not got anywhere near the goal.

Labour are far from being in a position to win the election here. At best under our MMP system they may be able to put together a multi-party coalition despite the likelihood they will have fewer seats than National.

Labour and the Greens and NZ First are trying to defend three disparate goals, while National has to defend just one, patched up with a few bit players.

The outcome of our election will end up being determined by who voters think are most deserving of and capable of running New Zealand.

Unless voters effectively decide ‘a pox on both their houses’ as they have done in the US and the UK.

A sad indication of the sorry state of Western democracies is that voters are left trying to decide the least worst rather than the best.

That’s certainly how it looks to me in the US and the UK.

Will it be any different here in three months time?

Bizarre Qatar situation

Turkey has sided with Qatar in the Middle East split:

Bloomberg:  Turkey Lines Up Behind Qatar as Gulf Crisis Fault Lines Deepen

Turkey criticized Saudi-led efforts to isolate ally Qatar, deepening the fault lines in a crisis that has engulfed one of the world’s most strategically important regions.

In defending Qatar, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan joined a growing list of Middle East nations resisting Saudi Arabia’s push for a united regional front against the gas-rich emirate, whose maverick policies have vexed the kingdom for years. On Wednesday, the head of NATO’s second-largest army offered to try to mend the rift, which has created havoc at airports and seaports, and added new tinder to the already combustible Middle East by challenging the authority of Qatar’s ruler, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.

“I’d like to say that we don’t find sanctions against Qatar right,” Erdogan said at a gathering in the Turkish capital, Ankara, late Tuesday. “The most appropriate way for the Gulf Cooperation Council countries to solve their internal issues is through dialogue.”

“We are ready to do everything to resolve other countries’ problems with Qatar,” he added.

Turkey and Qatar have close ties, and Erdogan has sided with the emirate against Saudi Arabia in supporting the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip. Qatar is a major investor in Turkey’s $857 billion economy, with interests in media, financial and defense companies, and Turkey is building a base in the emirate.

Surprise surprise, money is involved.

Interesting that Turkey is building a base in Qatar. The US already has a large base there.

Saudi Arabia and three other U.S. allies in the region — the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain — escalated tensions that followed President Donald Trump’s Iran-bashing visit to the kingdom last month by severing ties with Qatar on Monday.

Trump gave the Saudis crucial backing on Tuesday, calling the squeeze on Qatar just punishment for the country’s financial support for Islamic extremists.

“During my recent trip to the Middle East I stated there can no longer be funding of Radical Ideology,” Trump said on Twitter. “Leaders pointed to Qatar – look!” In two additional tweets he said the action proved that his meeting with Persian Gulf Arab leaders last month was “already paying off.”

But the US is supposed to be selling $21.1 billion (US) worth of F-15s to Qatar.

Fox News:  Qatar’s $21B deal to buy F-15s moving forward amid diplomatic battle

A plan to sell $21.1 billion worth of Boeing (BA)-made F-15 fighter jets to Qatar appears to be moving forward, despite several countries cutting diplomatic ties with the Middle Eastern nation this week.

A State Department official said the diplomatic battle and President Donald Trump’s criticism of Qatar, which is under fire for allegedly supporting terrorist groups, has not affected the pending deal to deliver 72 F-15QA multirole fighters, according to Fox News.

In a statement, Boeing said it’s “closely following recent developments.”

“We have been working closely with the U.S. and Qatari governments on this proposed sale. We continue to expect that an agreement will be signed,” Boeing added.

What a convoluted mess it is.

I think it’s likely that Trump has no idea how complex things are there. It seems as long as there’s business in it he will back it, but the military complications are bizarre.