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Competition is for losers

David Runciman: Silicon Valley Vampire, 23 September 2021

The Contrarian: Peter Thiel and Silicon Valley’s Pursuit of Power 
by Max Chafkin.
Bloomsbury, 400 pp., £25, September 2021, 978 1 5266 1955 6
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... had been ‘brainwashed’ into believing in the dangers of climate change. Thiel then tried David Gelernter, an anti-PC warrior and author of America-Lite: How Imperial Academia Dismantled Our Culture (and Ushered in the Obamacrats). Thiel tried to pitch Gelernter to Trump as a martyr for technology, because in 1993 he had been one of the victims of the ...


David Runciman: The Tory State?, 8 September 2016

... the aggrandising behaviour of Liam Fox at the newly created Department for International Trade. David Davis at the newly created Department for Exiting the European Union is unhappy with both of them. This kind of turf warfare will only get worse as the time for invoking Article 50 draws near. It will put huge strain on the Tories’ united front. But who ...


David Runciman: Blair’s conference speech, 21 October 2004

... Nothing is certain in politics, but three things seem pretty certain about the next general election, whenever it comes. First, Labour’s share of the vote will go down (from just under 41 per cent in 2001). Second, voter turnout will also go down (from 59.4 per cent). Third, Labour will still win with a sizeable majority. Understandably, no one is particularly happy about this, least of all in Downing Street, where there has been talk behind closed doors about a possible crisis of legitimacy ...

A Change Is Coming

David Runciman, 21 February 2019

... It’s not​ 1940. Might it, though, be 1945? By that I don’t mean we are at the end of some epic contest of national survival, let alone of national liberation. It’s not been that sort of contest, and anyway, this doesn’t look much like the end. But for the last few years normal politics has effectively been on hold as the government has grappled with a grim and grinding task that has consumed almost all its energies ...

Which way to the exit?

David Runciman: The Brexit Puzzle, 3 January 2019

... Brexit​ has arrived at its witching hour. Seemingly plausible schemes are being conjured out of thin air and every meaningful question has many possible answers, and therefore possibly none. It is hard to think of anything to say which is not being said somewhere else by people you’d prefer not to associate with. Still, here is a question I have not seen posed elsewhere: why did not one Tory MP abstain from the vote of confidence in Theresa May? The whole process felt a little uncanny ...

Brown and Friends

David Runciman, 3 January 2008

... Party in Scotland. Balls’s wife, Yvette Cooper, sits with him in cabinet. Miliband’s brother, David, is foreign secretary. Brothers and sisters, husbands and wives: the Brown government is a family affair, and it marks a shift to ever more intimate political relationships at the centre of power, even compared to the days when Tony Blair was ruling the ...

Short Cuts

David Runciman: Kaepernick Was Right, 10 March 2022

... The​ Netflix series Colin in Black and White, about the early life of the NFL quarterback and civil rights activist Colin Kaepernick, begins by comparing American football to slavery. We are shown a group of Black football players having their bodies prodded and measured by white coaches, as they decide who fits the bill and who gets tossed on the scrapheap ...

Short Cuts

David Runciman: At Blair’s Gathering, 21 July 2022

... Do you know why British politics is so acrimonious?’ I heard one man in a dark blue suit and pale blue open-necked shirt say to another, dressed just the same. ‘Because the stakes are so low.’ This was a somewhat heretical thing to say at an event that had been convened to remind us that the stakes have never been higher. The occasion was the Future of Britain conference, organised by the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change and presided over by the man himself ...

Steely Women in a World of Wobbly Men

David Runciman: The Myth of the Strong Leader, 20 June 2019

... Most British​ prime ministers since Margaret Thatcher have wanted to be Thatcher in one way or another. Tony Blair hoped to emulate not just the longevity of her tenure but also the impact she had on the country. Cameron would have liked to remake the Conservative Party in his own image, as she remade it in hers. Theresa May simply wanted to be as formidable as Thatcher had been, a steely woman in a world of wobbly men ...

Spookery, Skulduggery

David Runciman: Chris Mullin, 4 April 2019

The Friends of Harry Perkins 
by Chris Mullin.
Scribner, 185 pp., £12, March 2019, 978 1 4711 8248 8
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... Chris Mullin’s​  A Very British Coup was a nostalgic book that turned into a prophetic one. First published in 1982 and set towards the end of that decade, it nonetheless recalled the politics of the 1970s. The novel tells the story of Harry Perkins, a Bennite leader of the Labour Party, who wins power at a general election but has it prised away from him by a conspiracy of securocrats, tycoons and Labour turncoats ...

Fat Bastard

David Runciman: Shane Warne, 15 August 2019

No Spin 
by Shane Warne.
Ebury, 411 pp., £9.99, June 2019, 978 1 78503 785 6
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... When​ the Australian cricketers Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft were exposed tampering with the ball during last year’s test series in South Africa there was, along with all the faux outrage, some genuine incredulity. Why did they take such an insane risk? The subterfuge was so cack-handed – rubbing the ball with lurid yellow sandpaper, perfectly suited to be picked up by the TV cameras – and the potential rewards so slight that they seemed to be putting their careers on the line for next to nothing ...

The Politics of Now

David Runciman: The Last World Cup, 21 June 2018

The Fall of the House of Fifa 
by David Conn.
Yellow Jersey, 336 pp., £9.99, June 2017, 978 0 224 10045 8
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... power, some moments now look like straws in the wind. In late November 2010 the English FA sent David Cameron, Prince William and David Beckham to Fifa headquarters in Zurich to lobby on its behalf before the vote for the right to host the 2018 World Cup. Two old Etonians and an alumnus of Chingford County High ...

Will we be all right in the end?

David Runciman: Europe’s Crisis, 5 January 2012

... to the way things are, they simply want to be free to drift along with their fate. All this makes David Cameron a classic democratic fatalist, rather than the pragmatist he likes to present himself as. He certainly behaved like one when he exercised his veto in Brussels. The definition of a pragmatic conservative is someone who wants things to change so that ...

Is this how democracy ends?

David Runciman: A Failed State?, 1 December 2016

... On election night​ , almost as soon as it was clear that the unthinkable had become a cold reality, Paul Krugman asked in the New York Times whether the US was now a failed state. Political scientists who normally study American democracy in splendid isolation are starting to turn their attention to Africa and Latin America. They want to know what happens when authoritarians win elections and democracy morphs into something else ...

Is this the end of the UK?

David Runciman: The End of the UK?, 27 May 2010

... are bound to build. The Conservative Party, in theory, remains fully committed to the Union. David Cameron repeatedly and pointedly talks about having come into politics to serve ‘our country’, and by that he doesn’t mean England – he means the UK. Yet this election was meant to be the occasion when the Tories re-established themselves as a ...

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