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The Scottish and UK governments should beware the Ides of March

Written by Simon Toubeau and Jo Murkens.

Whispers of betrayal have been circulating since January, when the Prime Minister delivered her strident speech at Lancaster House. But the daggers were finally drawn a fortnight ago- poignantly timed and served with a Shakespearean twist. And, as it came to pass during the fall of Caesar, both camps feel betrayed.

Theresa May- soaring in popularity, victorious in driving the Brexit bill and on the cusp of triggering Article 50- was suddenly betrayed by nationalist grumbling in Scotland. Indyref 2.0. is on the table. The plot lead by the rebellious Tartan faction has grown in fervour with every broken promise. The promise of continued access to the Single Market and of working with the devolved administrations.  Continue reading The Scottish and UK governments should beware the Ides of March

Debating the British Empire’s ‘legacy’ is pointless – this is still an imperial world

Written by Ibtisam Ahmed.

As the march towards Brexit rekindles arguments over British nationalism and the strength and merits of the union between England and Scotland, the mass of conflicted feelings over the British Empire is naturally bubbling to the surface again.

In the UK itself, two main tendencies are in full flow. On the one hand is an unease with nostalgic nationalism and imperialism: notions like the much derided vision of “Empire 2.0” from the trade secretary, Liam Fox, come across as either shocking and distasteful or the natural progression of reclaiming a proud historical heritage. On the other is a more upbeat sort of post-colonialism: March 13 saw celebrations for the 40th Commonwealth Day, and the UK is preparing to host the 2018 Commonwealth heads of government meeting. Continue reading Debating the British Empire’s ‘legacy’ is pointless – this is still an imperial world

Jeremy Corbyn’s first 18 months: a damning report card for the Labour leader

Written by Tom Quinn.

It has been 18 months since Jeremy Corbyn was first elected as leader of the Labour party, promising “a new kind of politics”. In September 2015, he pledged to build on the enthusiasm generated among his supporters during a leadership contest that saw him start as rank outsider before sweeping to victory on a left-wing wave.

The intervening period has not been kind. Corbyn’s tenure has been marked by factional conflict, parliamentary revolts, frontbench resignations and electoral weakness. Hardly anyone now believes Labour can win the next election. Despite the early optimism of his supporters, Corbyn already looks like being one of the most ineffective and unpopular opposition leaders in the post-war era. Continue reading Jeremy Corbyn’s first 18 months: a damning report card for the Labour leader

Brexit causes anguish on Gibraltar

Written by Andrew Canessa.

Gibraltar was the first to declare its vote in June’s EU Referendum, returning a 96% vote in favour of Remain. But rather than set a trend for the night, Gibraltarians watched with nothing short of horror as the UK voted to Leave.

Gibraltar joined the European Economic Area with the UK in 1973 and will leave the EU with it. At a little over six square miles, this small territory is utterly dependent on the flow of goods and people across the border with Spain, not only for its prosperity, but for its survival. So Brexit is causing no small amount of concern among residents of what is colloquially known as the Rock.

We have been collecting the life stories of people on both sides of the border for several years in order to trace how a Spanish speaking population with strong kinship and cultural ties to Spain became so identified with Britain and its culture. Continue reading Brexit causes anguish on Gibraltar

The Commonwealth and Britain: the trouble with ‘Empire 2.0’

Written by Stan Neal.

As Britain prepares to leave the EU, its new international trade secretary is talking up the potential of trade with the 52 nations that make up the old British empire. Some have even dubbed Liam Fox’s meeting with Commonwealth leaders to discuss trade “Empire 2.0”.

There is an irony here. It comes at a time when populist critiques of the economic consequences of globalisation are frequently combined with nostalgia for Britain’s imperial past. But these views neglect the fact that the British Empire was itself a key agent for economic globalisation and the mass movement of migrant workers in the 19th century. Continue reading The Commonwealth and Britain: the trouble with ‘Empire 2.0’

Trump, Clouds and Silver Linings

Written by Wyn Rees.

Watchers of transatlantic security relations are despondent. President Trump appears to want to undo 70 years of US-European cooperation that has kept the two sides of the Atlantic working together. It is as if the new incumbent in the Oval Office is taking a wrecking ball to the foundations of the trans-Atlantic relationship, instead of just plumping the cushions in the penthouse. Yet this assessment exaggerates the significance of ‘Trumpism’ as manifested during his first month in office. It is timely to note that the ideas of Trump are far from new and that his policies are likely to suffer considerable constraints. This article looks at three salient issues. Continue reading Trump, Clouds and Silver Linings

François Fillon’s coup de théâtre shocks and dismays

Written by Paul Smith.

For much of the morning of March 1, the French media was buzzing with the news that François Fillon might be about to drop out of the 2017 presidential race. The rumours started flying the moment it was revealed, a little before 8am, that Fillon was postponing his trip to the Salon de l’Agriculture event in Paris, and would instead be holding a press conference at his campaign HQ. The announcement could not have been more last minute. Members of Fillon’s own team, waiting outside the exhibition centre, only found out by phone. Continue reading François Fillon’s coup de théâtre shocks and dismays

Copeland byelection: Historic win for the Conservatives puts them on course for a long period in office

Written by Ben Williams.

The Copeland and Stoke Central byelections have delivered dramatic political developments for Britain. Both previously Labour-held seats, the byelections were triggered by two sitting MPs who took jobs outside politics.

The Cumbrian semi-rural seat of Copeland was seized by the Conservatives – the first time the main opposition party has lost a seat it was defending in a byelection since 1982. Continue reading Copeland byelection: Historic win for the Conservatives puts them on course for a long period in office

Where did the idea of an ‘Islamic bomb’ come from?

Written by Malcolm M Craig.

The heavily freighted idea of an “Islamic bomb” has been around for some decades now. The notion behind it is that a nuclear weapon developed by an “Islamic” nation would automatically become the Islamic world’s shared property – and more than that, a “nuclear sword” with which to wage jihad. But as with many terms applied to the “Islamic world”, it says more about Western attitudes than about why and how nuclear technology has spread.

The concept as we know it emerged from anxieties about proliferation, globalisation, resurgent Islam, and conspiracies real and imagined, a fearful idea that could be applied to the atomic ambitions of any Muslim nation or non-state group. It looked at Pakistan’s nuclear programme and extrapolated it to encompass everything between the mountains of South Asia and the deserts of North Africa. And ever since it appeared it has retained its power to shock, eliding terrorism, jihadism, the perceived ambitions of “Islamic” states, and state-private proliferation networks into one fearsome term. Continue reading Where did the idea of an ‘Islamic bomb’ come from?

Artificially inflating the threat from Russia does nobody any good

Written by Sumantra Maitra.

Much has been written lately about Russia “hacking” the US presidential elections, and how Vladimir Putin’s government is in a new Cold War with the West.

Molly Mckew, who advised Mikhail Saakashvili when he was president of Georgia, writes that the West is already fighting a war in defence of the values on which its liberal order is based. Like many others, she never attempts to define what exactly “The West” is, or what its contradictory state interests add up to. In the Financial Times, meanwhile, Lilia Shevtsova is even more pessimistic. She claims the current situation is without historical precedent, and that current Western strategy “requires ideological clarity, but the ambiguity of the post-Cold War world made the strategy irrelevant”. Continue reading Artificially inflating the threat from Russia does nobody any good