The Great Debate UK

from Mark Leonard:

UK Independence Party renews culture wars

Over the past week, Britain has been shaken by a political earthquake. The previously marginal UK Independence Party (UKIP) burst onto center stage to capture almost a quarter of the votes in local elections around the country, threatening to upset the stable two-party system that has existed for the last century. Nigel Farage ‑ the Claret-quaffing, cigar-smoking former city trader who leads the party ‑ breathed life into abstract ideas of sovereignty by highlighting the inability of European Union member states to control their borders. He predicted “hordes” of Bulgarian and Romanian citizens legally migrating to the UK. The mainstream parties are struggling to respond.

UKIP is just a small part of a broader phenomenon spreading across the developed world that resembles a political backlash against globalization and interdependence.

A recent study showed that policy issues are secondary to potential UKIP supporters. (Only 7 percent of UKIP supporters say Europe is the single most important issue for them.) In focus groups, UKIP supporters reel off a litany of complaints, both imagined and real, about the cultural and social state of Britain. For example: Your school is not allowed to hold a nativity play; you cannot fly the flag of Saint George; you cannot call Christmas “Christmas” anymore; you cannot be promoted in the police force unless you are a minority; you cannot wear an England team shirt on the bus; you won’t get social housing unless you’re an immigrant; you cannot even speak up about these things, because you’ll be labeled a racist. “All of these examples,” says Lord Ashcroft, the study’s author, “make the point that the mainstream political parties are so in thrall to the prevailing culture of political correctness that they have ceased to represent the silent majority.”

It seems that UKIP’s support comes from a very similar constituency as the Tea Party in the United States, Geert Wilders’ far-right PVV in the Netherlands, Joerg Haider's party in Austria, and Viktor Orban’s Fidesz in Hungary. Sunder Katwala of the think tank British Future described UKIP to me as “a cultural movement of angry white men over the age of 55.”

from David Rohde:

The devil who can’t deliver

Picture of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad riddled with holes on the Aleppo police academy, after capture by Free Syrian Army fighters, March 4, 2013.  REUTERS/Mahmoud Hassano

MOSCOW – After marathon meetings with Secretary of State John Kerry here Tuesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov hinted that Moscow may finally pressure Syrian President Bashir al-Assad to leave office.

from The Great Debate:

A ‘Game of Thrones’ in Damascus

In last Sunday night’s episode of Game of Thrones, Lord Baelish and Lord Varys, perhaps the show’s most Machiavellian characters, discuss their political philosophies. While admiring the <a "href="http://awoiaf.westeros.org/index.php/Iron_Throne">Iron Throne, the show’s iconic symbol of absolute power, they debate the true nature of the realm: What power, they ask, holds the seven kingdoms of Westeros together?

Lord Baelish: “Do you know what the realm is? A story we agree to tell each other over and over until we forget that it’s a lie. But what do we have left once we abandon the lie?”

from Thinking Global:

Is Europe losing faith in the EU?

A wall of photos of European Union citizens outside the EU Commission building during the celebration for the Council of Europe in Brussels May 4, 2013. REUTERS/Yves Herman

Happy Europe Day!

If you don’t know May 9 is Europe Day, then you find yourself in good company with a majority of Europeans. Even in the most buoyant time, this holiday – marking the Schuman Schuman Declaration, presented by French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman in 1950, that launched the European Coal and Steel Community – doesn’t come with the transcontinental fireworks of America’s July 4.

from The Great Debate:

Europe’s fight to save its bees

Bees hover around a flower in Lompoc, California October 1, 2011. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

Last Monday, the European Union banned the most commonly used pesticide group in the world, the neonicotinoids – neonics for short. The ban is set for two years and may be extended.

from The Great Debate:

Obama can close Guantanamo

At his news conference on Tuesday, President Barack Obama for the first time in years spoke about the controversial detention center at Guantanamo Bay, which he had promised to close when he first took office.

“Guantanamo is not necessary to keep America safe,” Obama said, responding to a reporter’s question. “It is expensive. It is inefficient. It hurts us in terms of our international standing. It lessens cooperation with our allies on counterterrorism efforts. It is a recruitment tool for extremists. It needs to be closed.” He went on to acknowledge that more than half the detainees have been officially cleared for release.

An ECB rate cut would be no magic wand

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–Darren Williams is Senior European Economist at AllianceBernstein. The opinions expressed are his own.–

Disappointing April data suggest that the European Central Bank is set to cut the refinancing rate at Thursday’s Council meeting. This is likely to have limited economic impact but could encourage expectations of more creative policy action later, helping to take some upward pressure off the euro.

from The Great Debate:

Sarin: The lethal fog of war

The Syrian government’s reported use of sarin in its war against rebel forces is ominous. It suggests dissemination of the nerve agent could become more frequent there -- whether by the Syrian military or by opposition forces in possession of captured stockpiles. If this happens, many more people will likely suffer the tortured effects of the chemical.

This could weaken the international taboo against such weaponry. No wonder President Barack Obama has warned that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s use of sarin would be a “game changer.”

from The Great Debate:

Can Western companies put an end to Bangladesh factory disasters?

On Wednesday, while a Bangladeshi survivor of last November’s Tazreen fire that killed 113 people was talking to a Seattle audience about the need for corporations to be held liable for safety violations, it happened again. That day, a factory housing dozens of garment manufacturers in Bangladesh collapsed outside of Dhaka. Since then the death toll has skyrocketed to more than 300 workers, with hundreds more still trapped in the rubble.

Could it be that the so-called convenience of economic globalization is collapsing, too?

How do you police without a force?

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–Laurence Copeland is a professor of finance at Cardiff University Business School. The opinions expressed are his own.–

You will often have heard it said that the euro zone cannot ultimately survive without fiscal union. This is complete nonsense. The truth is that, even with a full fiscal union, it cannot survive – at least, not with any form of fiscal union that one can imagine all the members signing up to.

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