BERNARD Levin’s death this week robbed us of one of the most compelling anti-politician voices of his generation. In this aversion, he was in touch with public instinct: indeed, ahead of its time in his declaration that politicians are an irrelevant bunch. "I don’t want to be prime minister," he wrote in 1990, "and I dare say you don’t either, if you have any sense ... what kind of life must [a politician] lead in his chase after this all-but-worthless quarry?"
DAVID Mamet’s new film, Spartan, gives us a particularly objectionable Republican president (I think we get who he means), so obsessed by the war on terror that he will stop at nothing to pursue it. "I was brought up by wolves," spits his daughter, and the wider message is clear - it is the soi-disant protectors of democracy who are the real moral aggressors.
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THERE was an electrifying moment on Tuesday night when Bill Clinton took David Dimbleby to task during his BBC interview for dwelling too long on Monica Lewinsky.
‘Iraq has come to mean much more than the war. It is code in the voter’s mind for spin, exaggeration and lying’
MICHAEL Howard has a problem which is not of his own making but hugely important to the fate of his leadership. He is the victim of sharply rising expectations.
THE odd couple meet for their summit in Washington this week against the background of gunfire echoing from Fallujah and Najaf. Having held up the joint laurels of the Iraq war, they are united now in the unpopularity that has flowed from it.
IF ONLY the countries in which the West has intervened in the past decade would become glowing models of democratic reform, instant prosperity and sweet reason, it would make my lot as a defender of these interventions an awful lot easier.
THE Conservatives have a problem which stubbornly refuses to shift. We have become so used to them failing that it is hard for them to do anything (other than attack the government) which commands much public approval.
THE cabal-like and often pointless secrecy of what we laughingly call modern Britain is nowhere better seen than in the exposed chunterings of senior civil servants in the leaked Cabinet Office paper discussing who should and should not be deemed worthy of an honour.
WITH Saddam safely in the tender care of the Americans, does it matter that Iraq’s much-publicised weapons of mass destruction remain as elusive as ever?
TWO things were evident in Gordon Brown’s parliamentary performance yesterday. The first is the Chancellor’s confidence. Being a hardened professional, he will forgive me for saying how faultless his segue was from the gushing of a new father into his political agenda of poverty alleviation for the most vulnerable families in society.
LABOUR rebels are in full war-paint, ready for the university tuition fees battle, now postponed until January. "This is our Stalingrad," says a senior opponent of former Cabinet rank. "We can’t let Blair get away with it - the triumphalism would be intolerable."
LAST night, Tony Blair announced that he wants to have a quiet word with you, me and all of us about what the government is doing right and wrong.
HERE is the bad news from Iraq: the worst attack yet this week downed an American Chinook helicopter and cost 15 lives. A similar number died in a rocket assault the previous week. Random bomb attacks on the military are commonplace, and the number of casualties on the American side since the fall of Saddam now outstrips the number of lives lost in the US armed forces during the war itself.
THE latest explosion of posthumous Diana damage has two living victims: Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles. I doubt that Paul Burrell is motivated by spite against the couple (as opposed to mere money) when he airs the late princess’s letters detailing fears that dark forces are "planning an accident in my car ... in order to make the path clear for Charles to remarry".
TWO events are proceeding side by side in Blackpool. The first is the conference of the Opposition party in mid-second term, trying to get its act together for the next election. It senses the public’s growing unease that tax-and-spend is resulting in tax-and-waste.
TONY Blair’s speech to the Labour Party conference will go down as one of the key moments of his career. Not because it was particularly stirring or profound, but because it marked his transition to political maturity. He has stopped the simpering, flirting and cajoling. He no longer masquerades as the politician who is not like all the rest. He admitted that he had grown up in office and confessed his youthful sins - spin, headline-chasing, cheap policy thrills.
THIS Sunday, Channel 4 premieres an astonishing film, The Deal, directed by Stephen Frears, that dramatises the infamous dinner at the Islington restaurant, Granita, almost ten years ago during which Gordon Brown - the heir-apparent to John Smith, who had recently died - apparently agreed to step aside to allow his friend Tony Blair to lead the Labour Party.
THE London borough of Brent East and the Labour Party are practically synonyms. I once spent a long evening in the company of party activists when Red Ken ruled there. The atmosphere steamed with plots and feuds, rival causes and factions. Yet all of it was based on the steady assumption that Labour’s hold on this most diverse of boroughs was inviolable.
THE new Health Secretary, John Reid, is, by his own admission, a health novice. "How did you start out?" he asked one young doctor during a visit to the Diagnostic Treatment Centre at Paddington, a spanking new flagship of deregulated, waiting-list-busting efficiency.
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