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Short Cuts

David Runciman: The Syria Debate, 26 September 2013

... Syria has for now turned into the war that never happened thanks to the gaffe that never was. Once John Kerry let slip that there was something Assad could do to head off a military strike – agree to international oversight of his chemical arsenal – the stalled march to war became a headlong retreat. Obama appears to have found a way out of the hole he had dug for himself, with a helping hand from Putin ...

Short Cuts

David Runciman: The Dirtiest Player Around, 10 October 2013

... claims it was because he was good at his job. He compares himself to Andy Coulson, whose time with David Cameron coincided with the most successful phase of Cameron’s leadership. This is bravado. McBride’s performance was too full of cock-ups and drunken mishaps to serve as a model of cut-throat professionalism. He admits that Brown would forgive him ...

Notes on the Election

David Runciman, 21 May 2015

... be messy too. Commentators are already pointing out that if this is 1992 all over again then David Cameron is going to have a hellish time with the rebellious fringe of his own party, just as John Major did back then. But this is the wrong sort of mess. It is not compromise and accommodation in the name of defending politics against the forces of ...

Short Cuts

David Runciman: Shuffling Off into Obscurity, 5 May 2016

... David Laws​ ’s memoir of his time in government ends with everything in tatters: he has lost his seemingly safe seat, his party has gone from being a full partner in government to having the same number of MPs as the Democratic Unionists, his leader is shell-shocked and barely able to appear in public without breaking down ...

Socialism in One County

David Runciman: True Blue Labour, 28 July 2011

The Labour Tradition and the Politics of Paradox: The Oxford London Seminars 2010-11 
edited by Maurice Glasman, Jonathan Rutherford, Marc Stears and Stuart White., 155 pp., June 2011, 978 1 907103 36 0
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... any party, including the Labour Party of Tony Blair and the Conservative Party of Blair’s heir, David Cameron. Glasman has no fundamental problem with Cameron’s notion of the Big Society, which he takes very seriously. He absolutely is not one of those who think it’s just a fluffy cover story for an ideological programme of radical Tory cuts (which is ...

Short Cuts

David Runciman: The Corbyn Surge, 27 August 2015

... poll of party members in 2010 had Ed Miliband winning by 4 per cent when in fact his brother, David, won that section of the electorate by nearly 9 per cent). If Corbyn does win, there is talk of a swift coup to replace him, but the Labour Party is not the Conservative Party and kneejerk anti-democratic moves are a much harder sell. Ed Miliband must take ...

Short Cuts

David Runciman: Tony and Jeremy, 20 April 2017

... Inevitably,​ the first thing I did when I got my copy of the one-volume edition of The Benn Diaries (Hutchinson, £30) was to look up Jeremy Corbyn in the index. He appears about as often as you’d expect, 15 times in total, scattered at regular intervals across 24 years, from 1983 until 2007. (The diaries end in 2009, five years before Benn’s death ...

Notes on the Election

David Runciman, 7 May 2015

... been given a second chance. Major’s unexpected victory over Kinnock provides the backdrop to David Hare’s 1993 play, The Absence of War, which Richard Seymour discussed in the last issue of the LRB. The play’s lasting appeal seems to derive from what it says about the travails of Labour in opposition, as principles contend miserably with the demands ...

Notes on the Election

David Runciman, 5 February 2015

... of recent British politics is that the SNP has seen its prospects best served by success for David Cameron. If the Tories do hold a referendum on Europe in 2017, and England votes to take Scotland out with it, another referendum on Scottish independence would be hard to resist. It might take a Machiavellian political genius to negotiate a way through ...

Notes on the Election

David Runciman, 5 March 2015

... and delivered without notes. What made it appear a triumph was the speech given the next day by David Davis, Cameron’s main rival for the Tory Party leadership and the man long considered the favourite to succeed Michael Howard. Davis flopped. He spoke woodenly from behind a lectern without any of Cameron’s natural ease, looking and sounding like ...

A Funny Feeling

David Runciman: Larkin and My Father, 4 February 2021

... most direct engagement with his fear of dying can be found in a letter he wrote to my father, W.G. Runciman, in November 1978, following the publication of his poem ‘Aubade’, which begins:I work all day, and get half-drunk at night.Waking at four to soundless dark, I stare.In time the curtain-edges will grow light.Till then I see what’s really always ...


David Runciman: How the coalition was formed, 16 December 2010

22 Days in May: The Birth of the Lib Dem-Conservative Coalition 
by David Laws.
Biteback, 335 pp., £9.99, November 2010, 978 1 84954 080 3
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... Australians), they seem to have been unembarrassable. Yet that’s not how it worked over here. David Laws’s 22 Days in May, which recounts the negotiations that preceded the formation of the coalition government from the inside, explains how it happened that in our case the winners actually ended up winning. Hardly surprisingly, it’s not that Lib Dem ...

Short Cuts

David Runciman: Narcissistic Kevins, 6 November 2014

... Some professions​ attract people suffering from extreme forms of narcissism (or as it’s sometimes called, narcissistic personality disorder). Politics is one; sport is another. A recent political example is Kevin Rudd, the two-time Australian prime minister, a man with a toxic personality and enormous political gifts. The Australian Labor Party saw that Rudd, who has always been popular with the public, was their route back to power after more than a decade in the wilderness (‘Kevin 07’ was the pithy slogan ...

Notes on the Election

David Runciman: Power v. Power, 9 April 2015

... In the first half​ of the 19th century radical reformers argued that Britain needed three things if it was ever going to become a real democracy: secret ballots, universal suffrage and annual elections. We got the ballot; we eventually got the suffrage; but in an age of fixed-term five-year parliaments, annual elections are as remote as ever. Nineteenth-century democrats knew that having an election every year would be clumsy and time-consuming (the US House of Representatives, which does it every two years, is proof of that ...

The US is not Hungary

David Runciman: The Midterms, 22 November 2018

... Many​ political scientists were utterly confounded when Trump won the presidency in 2016. A large number had staked their professional reputations on confident predictions that Hillary Clinton would brush him aside. But when the result came in those same political scientists were kicking themselves for not having seen it coming. What happened turned out to fit pretty well with the outcome their models might have predicted ...

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