The Pope Francis stardust worked over Cuba. Could it work with Isis and the Taliban?

Stalin had quite a knack for the soundbite. “The death of one man is a tragedy. The death of millions is a statistic.” That’s said to be him. “The people who cast the votes don’t decide an election. It’s the people who count the votes who decide an election.” Him too. And, among the most enduring, the dictator’s mocking riposte on hearing that the pope was urging an end to the oppression of Catholics under Soviet rule. “The pope? How many divisions has he got?”

Published by: The Guardian

CIA torture: Homeland and 24 make great TV, but they’re no way to govern

Reality rushes in where fiction fears to tread. The events of the real world constantly outstrip even the most creative maginations. As Philip Roth famously complained, “The actuality is continually outdoing our talents” – contriving situations that few novelists would dare offer, lest they seem outlandish and far-fetched. The latest proof is the US Senate intelligence committee report on the CIA’s use of torture in the course of fighting the “war on terror”.

Published by: The Guardian

George Osborne may live to regret his rush towards Wigan pier

It’s on the edges of living memory now, but in the folk memory it lives on. The very words – the 1930s – instantly evoke poverty and the Great Depression. Slum housing, queues for food, dirt-faced workers, children without shoes. Little wonder George Osborne took such exception to the suggestion by the BBC’s Norman Smith that if the chancellor implemented the cuts promised in his autumn statement, Britain would eventually reach 1930s levels of public spending.

Published by: The Guardian

Gordon Brown: without winning an election, he has left a legacy greater than Tony Blair’s

Even at the end, he still had them talking. For the best part of a quarter century, Gordon Brown has had the political press corps either scratching its collective head, trying to divine his latest tactical gambit, or else making a gag at his expense. As Brown formally announced his intention to stand down as an MP after a 32-year Commons career, some speculated that the timing was a classic Brownian ploy to sabotage preparations for George Osborne’s upcoming autumn statement, a last bit of partisan news management by a master of the art. Others said it was typically Brown in another sense: the re-announcing of news he’d already pre-announced last week.

Published by: The Guardian

The Emily Thornberry affair proves it: US-style culture wars have come to Britain

Emily Thornberry may be the first politician to quit over a single tweeted photograph that was not physically intimate, but she is not the first to get into trouble over flags and vans. In 2003 the US presidential hopeful Howard Dean said, “I still want to be the candidate for guys with Confederate flags in their pickup trucks” – adding that Democrats like him could not hope to win the White House if they did not appeal to poorer, southern voters as well as those in affluent, liberal cities and suburbs. His Democratic rivals turned on him, furious that he had embraced “the most racially divisive symbol in America”. The row passed, Dean lost, and he is now best remembered for the bizarre roar he let out on the night of a key defeat: the Dean scream.

Published by: The Guardian

A pause to recall an age of extremes

Two peoples fated to clash in two catastrophic wars remember two events which marked the beginning and end of the short, bloody 20th centuryIn Britain, it was Remembrance Sunday, officially the commemoration of those who fell in all conflicts, but this...

Published by: The Guardian

If Labour is stuck with Ed Miliband, heres a way out

With no obvious successor, Labours focus should switch to what five more years of the Tories would look likeIm picturing next years John Lewis Christmas ad. To the sound of an acoustic guitar and an earnest vocal, it opens with footage of a lonely Ed M...

Published by: The Guardian

In his anger, Cameron has made Britain a toxic brand

Anger suits David Cameron. Its one of the modes he does well. He is skilled at contrition his Bloody Sunday apology was the moment he became, rather than merely held the office of, prime minister but fury is his forte. The cheeks colour, the fist pounds the podium, the words turn plain and demotic. On Friday he channelled the voice of middle-aged men everywhere as they open a brown envelope to discover an unexpected demand for cash. Im not paying that bill, he said, the face puce. Its not going to happen.

Published by: The Guardian