|   December 5, 2014    7:34 PM ET

The Duke of Cambridge will call on President Barack Obama during his visit to America with the Duchess. The two men will meet at the White House in Washington on Monday ahead of a major speech William will deliver, expected to be about the illegal wildlife trade, at the World Bank Group's International Corruption Hunters Alliance Conference.

William and Kate will travel to the US on Sunday for a three-day visit, spending the majority of their time in New York, where they will promote their charitable interests and other good causes. The Duke will be following in the footsteps of his father, the Prince of Wales, who chatted to Mr Obama in the White House's Oval Office in May 2011.

The US leader famously told Charles that America had been mesmerised by William and Kate's wedding a few days earlier. President Obama and his family have developed a close affinity with the British monarchy during his term in office.

white house

President Obama is the speak to William at the White House

When the Queen hosted the US leader and his wife, Michelle, at Buckingham Palace during a state visit in 2011, the First Lady was seen putting her arm around the monarch's waist, showing how the women had become firm friends.

William and Kate also met the Obamas during their official visit and chatted to them in the sumptuous surroundings of the Palace's 1844 Room. While William is attending events in Washington, Kate will join the first lady of New York City, Chirlane McCray, on a visit to a local child development centre.

During their brief trip to the US, the Duke and Duchess will attend events in support of their Royal Foundation and other organisations. The engagements include promoting sustainable conservation issues, young people's mental health and supporting disadvantaged young people.

Three Myth Busters About the Land of the Free

Joana Alfaiate   |   December 4, 2014    5:42 PM ET

The image of the US as the Land of the Free is being put into question. Ferguson, plus the cases of Tamir Rice, Darrien Hunt and Eric Garner, exposed America as an intolerant country where many are not free. The Prosperity Index shows this is true not only for African Americans, but for all citizens across the board. It paints a very accurate picture of current events in the country, where Americans are not buying into the myth of US's freedom and tolerance any more.

1. The US is the freest country in the world

NO: The US is not the freest country in the world in 2014 - actually New Zealand is. The US does not even make it to the top 20 this year, placing 21st below countries such as Uruguay, Costa Rica, Malta and Portugal. This represents a drop of 11 places since 2009. Freedom of choice in the US is at the lowest it has ever been since 2006, and this perception crosses almost all layers of society: all age brackets; all income levels; people in full-time employment and not; women; people who have completed tertiary education; and people from the rural parts of the country.

2. Freedom has been higher in the US under Obama

NO: The most satisfied Americans have ever been with freedom of choice has been between 2006 and 2008. From 2009 on, after President Obama's election, satisfaction has been declining. It is very interesting to note that this trend affects both people who approve and disapprove of government. 90% to 91% of people who approve of government declare to be satisfied with freedom choice since 2009, which although very high, pales in comparison with the 97% satisfaction in 2007. On the other hand, people who disapprove of government have never been as dissatisfied with freedom of choice as in more recent years, with a low 73% of satisfaction in 2013. In 2006 for example, 85% of the people who disapproved of the Bush administration were satisfied with freedom of choice.

3. There are not that many countries more tolerant than the US

NO: 81% of Americans say that the US is a good place to live for ethnic minorities, which, although high, places the US after such countries as Uruguay, Brazil, Senegal, and Mali in people's perceptions. The same happens with tolerance for immigrants, with the US falling behind countries such as Spain, Argentina and Taiwan.

The data warns that there are worrying trends in both tolerance and freedom that need to be addressed, confirming the concerning news that come in from the country. Due to recent cases, there is a clear picture forming of an US that needs to re-evaluate the way its citizens are being treated and the freedoms that are available to them. Americans take pride on US's freedom, tolerance and democracy. It would be a great lost to see these values abandon the Land of the Free.

Thomas Tamblyn   |   December 3, 2014    9:42 AM ET

UFO fans have found what they believe is definitive proof that President Obama is probably a martian spy after finding a rock that looks exactly like his head.

The picture was taken by NASA's Spirit rover in 2005 - suspiciously (...) three years before he took office -- and shows what appears to be a single rock that does indeed bare a striking resemblance to America's own President.

Despite the best efforts of UFO enthusiasts, experts have sadly already debunked the statue instead claiming it to be nothing more than a case of pareidolia.

obama head


Much in the same way that we see the face of Jesus in a piece of toast the rock is nothing more than visual trickery in which out brains associate the shape with our own memories.

Other enthusiasts had initially suggested the image looked like Morgan Freeman, but President Obama became the resounding choice.

Paul Vale   |   December 1, 2014    5:45 PM ET

David Cameron has met with a group of immovable, grey, ageing relics… and it’s not members of the Tory far right.

The prime minister was in Wiltshire on Monday to unveil a £2 billion project to turn the A303 from a nasty little back road to a modern expressway, replete with a £1.2 billion tunnel around Stonehenge to provide uninterrupted views of the Wiltshire Downs.

The PM said visiting the ancient site reminded him of trips as a child, particularly being stuck in traffic around the historic monument (a structure so old it might actually pre-date Tory immigration policy).

cameron obama

Cameron and Obama have now both visited the Wiltshire site in 2014

Speaking to the Western Daily Press, he said: “This is the green light, it really is going to happen. The money is there. We’ve managed the nation’s budgets carefully so we can afford to do this.

“I think it’s not just what’s happening at Stonehenge but the whole of the expressway down to the south west I think is going to be really important for that region, its jobs, economy and prosperity to make sure that every region of the country benefits from the long-term economic plan.”

Cameron is the second world statesman to visit the English Heritage site in 2014 after Barack Obama toured the prehistoric monument on the way back from the Nato summit in Wales in September.

That visit resulted in what is was was the greatest piece of live-tweeting in West Country history when a mum of three (who runs 10K races dressed as a bumble bee), hiked up to the site hoping to get a glance of the President... only for Obama to wave, walk over, shake hands and have a picture taken.

Louise Ridley   |   December 1, 2014   11:02 AM ET

A senior Republican official in the US will resign after saying that president Obama's daughters should have "shown a little class" and dressed more conservatively at a White House Thanksgiving event.

Elizabeth Lauten accused Sasha and Malia Obama, who are 13 and 16 years old, of showing disrespect and dressing like they were "at a bar".

The girls joined their father for the traditional turkey pardoning event, both wearing casual clothes with short skirts that sat above the knee.

sasha malia

Sasha and Malia joined their father at the televised event

At the symbolic event the president "spared" two turkeys from being cooked for Thanksgiving while his daughters looked on, with typically teenage expressions that many commentators described as uninterested.

In a post on Facebook, Lauten - the communications director for US congressman Stephen Fincher - addressed Sasha and Malia, saying they looked bored, needed to "dress like you deserve respect, not a spot at a bar" and also said that their parents Barack and Michelle must be poor role models.

She told NBC News that her resignation is "in the works" today.

Lauten's Facebook post, which has now been deleted, was reported by Forbes to say:

"Dear Sasha and Malia, I get you’re both in those awful teen years, but you’re a part of the First Family, try showing a little class. At least respect the part you play.

"Then again your mother and father don’t respect their positions very much, or the nation for that matter, so I’m guessing you’re coming up a little short in the ‘good role model’ department. Nevertheless, stretch yourself. Rise to the occasion. Act like being in the White House matters to you. Dress like you deserve respect, not a spot at a bar. And certainly don’t make faces during televised public events."

elizabeth lauten

Lauten is the communications director for a US congressman

Lauten was bombarded with criticism after her remarks on 26 November, with many pointing out that Jenna Bush, the daughter of former Republican president George W Bush, had also worn typical teenage clothes and occasionally appeared bored - and yet the Republican Lauten had never critcised them.

Lauten deleted the post and published an apology saying that after "many hours of prayer, talking to my parents and re-reading my words online" she was sorry for the comments.

She added that she would not have wanted to be judged in the way she had judged Sasha and Malia when she was a teenager.

elizabeth

Lauten's apology Facebook post

A Tale of Two Immigration Speeches: What Is Britain So Afraid Of?

Hilary Stauffer   |   November 28, 2014   12:00 AM ET

As the details from David Cameron's long-awaited immigration speech leaked out Friday morning, the overall impression was one of insecurity, of an apprehensive leader who did not have confidence in his own stated policies.

"We have real concerns", Mr. Cameron insisted, declaring that British concerns about migration "are not unreasonable or outlandish". Here's a pro tip: self-assured premiers take for granted that their policies are rational and sound. They don't need to cajole the public into acquiescence. "We deserve to be heard", he maintained, declaring that "frankly", he just "will not understand" if a "sensible way forward cannot be found". A brave and uncompromising stance, Mr. Prime Minister. All the hallmarks of a fearless politician, innately comfortable in his own skin.

Britain's problems stem - allegedly - from an influx of legal migrants coming from other European Union (EU) countries. The threat is so grave that all three mainstream parties (Labour, LibDems, and the Tories) have become caught up the rhetoric, all desperately trying to out-Ukip Ukip, while Nigel Farage stands idly by, rubbing his hands with barely concealed glee. Having masterfully played the role of spoiler, he can just sit and watch while everybody else gets in touch with their inner alarmist. Regrettably, everybody is obliging with distressing enthusiasm: there has been talking of cutting benefits, forced repatriation and contravening EU laws on freedom of movement. Fortress Britain, indeed.

Never mind the fact that the proposed changes have little chance of being fully and effectively implemented before the next general election, so amount to nothing more than political posturing. Ignore, too, that some of the Prime Minister's proposed 'red lines' (such as the ones requiring European migrants to have a job offer before they arrive and threatening to chuck them out after six months if they can't find work) almost certainly flout long-agreed upon EU principles, are destined to result in drawn-out legal challenges and will wreak havoc at the border as agents try to determine whether EU or national laws are applicable.

Lost in much of the British debate about immigration is an acknowledgement that it works both ways: there are as many British citizens living abroad in Europe--2.2 million--as there are Europeans living in the United Kingdom. There are another couple million Brits living outside the EU, primarily in the US, Australia, Canada and New Zealand. It is estimated that one million British subjects live in Spain alone, many of them retirees who do nothing to contribute to their adopted country's bottom line. One wonders if the Spanish authorities are anxious to hurry these freeloaders back from whence they came.

Migration is an emphatically inflammatory topic, touching as it does on national security, welfare, and jobs. It also invokes humanity's primal need to establish boundaries between 'us' and 'them'. Debates about immigration can provide an unfortunate staging ground for some of mankind's baser instincts, but it is understandable why this issue provokes such strong reactions, especially in the United Kingdom -a smallish island still recovering from an economic crisis. Great Britain, like any sovereign nation, has the right to control its borders, prioritize the needs of citizens, and manage its finances by limiting access to the welfare state.

If only any of the hype were true.

Migration to the UK is definitely up - dramatically so. Figures released yesterday indicate that there was a 43% increase in migrants coming to the UK between June 2013 and June 2014, with approximately 583,000 people arriving, adding to the 7.8million foreign born residents and citizens already here. Of course, approximately 323,000 people left Britain over the same period, leaving net migration figure of only 260,000, but that number is not nearly as provocative and almost certain to be ignored.

Approximately 42% of these new arrivals came for work, and about 30% came to study. So far, so uncontroversial. These are people that contribute to the country's coffers by paying taxes, renting flats, buying groceries and subsidizing British students though exorbitant tuition fees. A significant chunk of them are not eligible to access the NHS, meaning they also pad the pockets of private physicians. That leaves roughly 160,000 other migrants who have stormed the shores for apparently more nefarious purposes, such as the dreaded scourge of 'benefits tourism'. Conceivably, these theoretical layabouts could be a drain on the system and a drag on the economy - except for the fact they are far outnumbered by native-born occupants of Benefits Street.

Alas, it seems Britain's collective xenophobia is wildly misplaced: according to several reputable sources, there is 'little evidence' of people migrating for the express purpose of claiming benefits. Immigrants, it seems, are demonstrably less likely to be in social housing than native born citizens. The Telegraph reports that according to the UK government's own figures, in 2014, 4.9million (92.6%) working age benefit claimants were British while only 131,000 (2.5%) were EU nationals. The number of recipients from outside the EU was 264,000 (five per cent). This is not a typo: British nationals make up more than 90% of benefits claims, which is a thoroughly inconvenient statistic for politicians of all stripes, because who will they blame if they can't blame the immigrants?

However, seasoned British pols are not ones to let facts get in the way of hyperbole, and scaring your citizens is a great way to get them to vote, so we are unlikely to see a dialling down of rhetoric any time soon. This is an enduring shame, because the United Kingdom never seems more like an anxious, fading empire than when it is enacting fear-based, reactionary policies designed to placate the most extreme elements of its populace.

A confident country, comfortable with its place in the 21st Century, doesn't need to create straw men or scapegoats. A confident country takes one look at the tired, poor, huddled masses on its doorstep and says:

'My fellow Americans, tonight, I'd like to talk with you about immigration. For more than 200 years, our tradition of welcoming immigrants from around the world has given us a tremendous advantage over other nations. It's kept us youthful, dynamic, and entrepreneurial. It has shaped our character as a people with limitless possibilities - people not trapped by our past, but able to remake ourselves as we choose'.

That's right: Britain's preening, swaggering 'special friend' has upstaged it yet again, to great effect. President Obama's speech from last week was the polar opposite from Prime Minister Cameron's remarks today. It hit all the right notes in announcing unilateral executive action to tackle America's enduring immigration dysfunction. He admitted that the system is broken, challenged opponents for being obstreperous, and acknowledged the 'hypocrisy' of the middle classes for supporting a status quo where we're perfectly happy for the dreaded 'other' to 'make our beds and pick our fruit', so long as they stay in the shadows.

Were his remarks motivated by a complicated combination of political point-scoring, concerns about his legacy and frustration at the opposition's perpetual refusal to support any of his policies? Probably. But it doesn't matter. Because beyond the inspiring rhetoric was a clear-eyed assessment that even as his administration had carried out more deportations than any President in US history, 'tracking down, rounding up, and deporting millions of people isn't realistic'. And it isn't. Not just logistically, but philosophically: the President identified migrants of dubious legality as 'our classmates, our neighbours, our friends', and recognised that by and large, people do not leave their homelands 'in search of a free ride or an easy life'. They come 'to work, to study, to serve in the military and... contribute to America's success'. These people have become part of the everyday fabric of American life.

The United Kingdom's immigration concerns are different from those of the United States - the issue is not so much about being overwhelmed by irregular migrants as it is addressing the realities of a growing population and a shrinking economy. But the answer is not wild-eyed hysteria and barely concealed racism. The United Kingdom should be exulting in the fact that it has created a vibrant, thriving nation that proves irresistible to so many, not cowering behind the widespread dissemination of false information in a desperate attempt to cleave onto an obsolete notion of what being 'British' really means.

The modern world is multicultural - in Britain, in America, in Europe and beyond. Clinging to outdated nostalgia of a time when middle-aged Anglo-Saxon men ruled the roost is a recipe for disaster. Britain needs to stop romanticising 'us' and stop demonising 'them'. Britain needs embrace it immigrant hordes for the incredible resources that they are, and reclaim its rightful place as a power broker in the 21st Century. But first, Britain needs to stop being afraid.

Ned Simons & Mehdi Hasan   |   November 27, 2014    3:15 PM ET

It is one of the most famous selfies ever taken. Last year, during the memorial service to Nelson Mandela, president Obama and David Cameron posed for a picture with the prime minister of Denmark, Helle Thorning-Schmidt.

However it turns out Thorning-Schmidt was actually hoping to snap a picture of just her and Obama. In an interview with The Huffington Post UK, Stephen Kinnock, the Danish prime minister's husband, reveals that Cameron was only in it because he managed to "muscle himself in".

The claim is rather at odds with what Cameron told parliament last December. The prime minister claimed he had been asked to lean in for the photo. "When a member of the Kinnock family asked me for a photograph, I thought it was only polite to say yes," he told MPs.

stephen kinnock
Stephen Kinnock with his wife, Danish prime minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt

As well as being Thorning-Schmidt's husband, Stephen Kinnock is the son of former Labour leader Neil Kinnock. He is standing as the Labour parliamentary candidate in Aberavon at the general election.

He told HuffPost: "Yeah well, for me, the most striking thing about the selfie was our prime minister muscling in on the left.

"She was sitting and chatting with Obama, then the selfie idea somehow emerged, and then suddenly Cameron appeared in shot and managed to muscle himself in on the picture."

Knnock is one of the select few to have actually seen the famous, or infamous, selfie. Thorning-Schmidt, he said will one day "later down the track" release it for public consumption.

In the full interview with Mehdi Hasan, Stephen Kinnock speaks about growing up as the son of a political leader, on why Labour must not be seen to be "hectoring business", and imagines what went through Ed Miliband's head when he ate that bacon sandwich.


Thomas Tamblyn   |   November 26, 2014    9:34 PM ET

The CIA has submitted plans to wipe all the emails of every employee three years after they leave the company.

Worryingly this decision is actually as a response to a government sanctioned initiative to clean up the way that governmental agencies deal with their email archives.

Gizmodo has scoured the report and found that while most of the agencies have a policy of seven years, both the CIA and Homeland Security have opted for just three years.

The only records that would be kept would be those of top 22 officials within the agency.

Unsurprisingly this revelation has concerned quite a few people, including Lee Tien, a staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation:

"I'm concerned that destroying this data might destroy data that's material to policy questions about government action,"

Tien goes on to point out that while this -- from a transparency point of view -- sound worrying, the National Archives' decision is grounded in good sense.

"There is a certain irony in questioning the government's reasons here, because privacy advocates normally cheer this kind of move, it's kind of sad. I want to applaud the government for choosing to discard unnecessary data about people. But we have good reason to question the government's reasons because of what we've learned about what we've NOT been told."

According to Gizmodo the plans are still very much in the early stage so if US citizens feel that this is not the right way to go about saving money then they'll have the option of speaking their mind and potentially reversing the decision.

Stephen Kinnock: Can He Complete the Journey His Father Started?

Mehdi Hasan   |   November 25, 2014    4:50 PM ET

It might be an understatement to say that the Labour Party's parliamentary candidate for the safe seat of Aberavon, in south-east Wales, isn't your typical Labour candidate.

His father happens to be a former leader of the party; his wife is a Social Democratic prime minister.

Meet Stephen Kinnock, son of Neil and husband of Danish premier Helle Thorning-Schmidt. Oh, and also son of Glenys, former Foreign Office minister and ex-MEP, and brother of Rachel, adviser to current Labour leader Ed Miliband.

Like Will Straw, son of Jack Straw and now Labour's candidate in Rossendale and Darwen, Kinnock Jnr has been dismissed by some critics on the right, including Tory minister Liz Truss, as a "red prince".

Does he think his surname, and his family background, have helped or hindered his nascent political career?

"It's break-even," Kinnock tells me, with a wry smile. "If I look at my selection, there were houses whose doors I knocked on - and I think I knocked on the doors of every single member of the Aberavon Labour Party - where I got a very warm welcome from people who I had not met before.. who had a huge amount of respect and affection for my dad. But there were just as many people who were disillusioned and.. did associate him, and my name, with the Labour Party establishment.

"In many of those cases, I had to win those people over and say.. don't vote for me because I am a Kinnock and don't vote against me because I am a Kinnock, vote for me because of who I am and what I've done.. Vote for me on that basis."

stephen kinnock

Stephen Kinnock with his parents and sister in 1987

We are sitting across from one another in a noisy cafe in central London. I order a whopping chunk of chocolate mousse cake; the tall and wiry Kinnock, dressed in a crisp, white, open-neck shirt and light grey suit, quietly asks the waitress for a "tiny sliver" of carrot cake. He looks much younger than his 44 years.

What was it like growing up in the the politically-charged home of Neil and Glenys Kinnock in the 1980s? Under the constant glare of the (right-wing) media spotlight?

It was "surreal", he admits, because you "see somebody you have your breakfast with, your lunch with, your dinner with, and their face is all over the front page of the newspapers. That is a bizarre experience."

There was also, it seems, the bullying he had to endure in school on account of his father being the (much-mocked) Leader of the Opposition. His classmates at the local comprehensive were "merciless" and there was a "lot of pisstaking" of Kinnock Jnr. "Every single Sunday night, [Spitting Image] would be on and then every single Monday morning, some smartarse in school would make a few comments about [my dad]."

Nevertheless, he adds, "Dad becoming a public figure was a good thing for me because it made me work even harder and try even harder as I always felt I had to be twice as good as the next person in order to prove myself.

"There is an inbuilt assumption in people that if you've got a famous father or mother you somehow get preferential treatment. And I realised from a very young age that I would have to be twice as good as the next person in order to prove myself."

Kinnock was selected as the Labour candidate for Aberavon, in March, by the narrowest of margins - 106 votes to 105. If elected to parliament next May - which is pretty likely, given the 11,039-seat majority he inherits from retiring MP Hywel Francis - he will be the first child of a Labour leader to become an MP since Arthur Henderson Jnr in 1966.

What made him want to ditch a well-remunerated career in the private sector for a a very public life in parliament?

His answer is pretty blunt and will, I suspect, hearten those on the left of his party: "We live in a country where the wealthiest five families are richer than the entire bottom 20% and that's motivation enough for me to want to be actively involved in politics for the Labour Party."

stephen kinnock

Kinnock campaigning with local Labour activists in Aberavon

He also says he wants to bring greater diversity to the Parliamentary Labour Party. But can a white, middle-class man in his 40s really help further the cause of diversity in the Commons?

"I think diversity is diverse," he responds, "and that means a range of different things. Of course, it's about gender balance, it's about having the right mixture in terms of black and ethnic minority [politicians], and of course we have more to do on that and I can't offer much on that side. I totally and readily accept that.

"But I do think diversity is also about our professional backgrounds and where we're coming from and what we can contribute in terms of our experience and it's really important that the Labour Party has good connections into the private sector and understands where business is coming.. and I think that I can add to the mix and bring diversity from the point of view of my professional background."

Kinnock is a managing director at Xynteo, a strategic advisory firm based a few hundred yards from the cafe in which we're sitting, and focuses on the green agenda and what he calls "better corporate citizenship". Prior to joining the firm, he worked for the British Council in Brussels and the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Geneva.

stephen kinnock

Kinnock worked on the continent for the World Economic Forum and the British Council

From his vantage point at Xynteo, Kinnock believes "business is changing" and Labour needs to change the way in which they "frame" their conversation with the corporate world. "There is an increasing number of CEOs out there who get it; they understand the appalling stuff we see from the banks [and] the fact that the global economy was brought to the brink of catastrophe in 2008 because of a 'get rich quick' mentality.. There is an increasing number of business leaders who get that. I'm not sure the Labour Party sees that the tectonic plates are shifting.

"So there is a potential new alliance with business that can be forged but it doesn't start with going in and hectoring business about all the things they're doing wrong.. If we go in with [a] positive approach, we will get much more traction with the business community."

There are those on the right of the party who say Labour, despite a latter-day 'prawn cocktail offensive' from shadow chancellor Ed Balls and shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna, hasn't done enough to woo big business. The likes of Tony Blair and Peter Mandelson have warned that the Labour Party can't afford to go into another general election without any public endorsements from the UK's leading captains of industry. Does Kinnock agree?

"I accept that we are not where we should be," he replies. "We are missing a trick. I don't think it is too late. There is time to do some of that outreach and get two or three big business leaders to endorse us, and endorse what we stand for, going into the next election."

balls umunna

Kinnock warns Balls and Umunna against 'hectoring' big business

He wants to reach out to business but he also wants to fight inequality - is Kinnock on the left or the right of his party? Is he New, Old or even Blue Labour? The candidate for Aberavon tells me he doesn't like such "labels" before conceding he is on the "left, the centre-left" of his party. His argument is that "British politics, for the past 30 years, has been dominated by a Thatcherite orthodoxy and Thatcherite consensus and what it's done is... it's pushed wages to a level that's far too low as a proportion of our total GDP.. and I think a big reason for that is the decline of collective bargaining."

Kinnock describes himself as "a big fan of moving to sector-based collective bargaining because I think that's the way that we can really restructure our economy so that it's much more about wages than it is about profits. That's the way to address the cost of living crisis."

He checks himself. "Now, I guess an opinion like that puts you on the left of the party. However, looking again at the continent of Europe, sector-based collective bargaining is at the heart of the Nordic model, is at the heart of the German model and, in fact, the business community loves it. So I don't know if it's a left-wing policy really; it's a pro-business policy [and] a more mature way of running industrial relations."

He continues: "Equally, I think there's a strong case for making the living wage compulsory because, again, I think it's about creating a high-wage, high-value added economy.. and making that case on the basis of paying down the deficit."

Kinnock, who calls himself "unashamedly Keynesian", says "you will never cut your way to balancing the books. The only way you balance the books is through sustainable growth which is what gives you the tax receipts that you need to pay down the deficit. So I am making the case that these left- and right-wing labels don't really work because I am saying something about making the living wage compulsory, which might label me as a left-winger, but I am doing so from the point of view of economic competence."

It's a persuasive argument and what Kinnock call, "a business case for more progressive policies.. Economic competence seems to be connected to your ability to cut, where in fact it should be connected to your ability to stimulate growth."

Given his business background, it isn't surprising that Kinnock sees himself as a pragmatist and wants to present himself, to his electorate and to the media, as a hard-headed realist and problem-solver. He talks passionately and eloquently about the need for long-term planning and cross-party consensuses. Echoing pre-2008 Barack Obama, he stresses the need for cross-party cooperation and for bipartisan approaches to the big issues of our time.

"I think one of the reasons people have become disconnected and alienated from politics is because it seems like we're involved in these cat fights all the times, between parties, and we're less interested in actually solving problems and coming up with real practical solutions.. that stick. You can't just every five years tinker with the NHS or tinker with our energy policy or tinker with our education policy. You need solutions that can stick."

After praising Ed Miliband for his recent party conference speech in Manchester, in which the Labour leader laid out his "six national goals" for "the next ten years", Kinnock says his party should "identify four of five areas.. of strategic national interest, and actually look to to build cross-party consensus around them. If you look at the way politics works in continental Europe that's absolutely in their DNA, and they look to reach out and build those long terms plans and if you can do that on apprenticeships, on industrial strategy, on energy, on education, we could actually get some certainty in the system [and] commit to a ten year plan.. as a good basis for moving forward."

Has his experience living and working on the continent, and in Denmark, in particular, made him a fan of coalition politics? "Yeah, I think that we now live in a multiparty democracy and that is a natural evolution of British politics. And we've got to wake up to that fact: it's politics for the 21st century.

However, he adds, coalition politics from Labour's perspective requires a "changing of the political culture, and I hope some of my experience could be brought to bear to make that happen".

Can Labour win a majority next May or should it be preparing for an inevitable coalition with the Liberal Democrats?

"Labour can win a majority," he tells me, stressing the word 'can', before continuing: "We, of course, will be pushing to try and secure a Labour government and it would be fantastic if we had the ability to do that as the Labour Party alone but I think realistically we must now be prepared for coalition."

From Kinnock's perspective, Labour has "plenty of common ground with the Lib Dems. We've got to make a broad and generous offer and I hope that any party that we're going into coalition with is prepared to reciprocate and make that broad and general offer".. I think with the Lib Dems we can make [coalition] work."

Some in his own party would argue that even the prospect of a coalition government is beyond the Labour Party right now - due to the unpopularity of party leader Ed Miliband and the constant talk of coups, plots and divisions.

Does Kinnock Jnr agree with the stinging verdict on Miliband delivered by his father's former chief of staff, Charles Clarke? In an interview with me in July, Clarke, who served as home secretary under Tony Blair, said Kinnock Snr had "far, far more qualities than Ed Miliband as a leader" as "Neil was a fantastic leader and brought Labour back towards victory".

There's a pause from the Labour candidate for Aberavon. He chooses his words carefully. "It was a very different time and very difficult to make those connections."

Referring to the battle with Militant Tendency in the mid-1980s, Kinnock says his father's "greatest achievement as party leader was to save the Labour Party from an existential crisis and that defined him and defined his leadership and, clearly, Ed has not had to go through anything like that. So I think it's very difficult to compare the two as the circumstances are so different."

neil kinnock

Labour faced an 'existential crisis' under Neil Kinnock, says his son

I remind Kinnock of his dad's claim that Miliband has had it "worse" than he did when he was Labour leader between 1983 and 1992. Is there is an analogy to be made between Kinnock then, especially in the early 1990s, and Miliband now - in particular, their treatment at the hands of a hostile, Tory-supporting press?

He nods. "Politics is a contact sport and certainly if you're leader of the Labour Party you've got to be ready for a monstering by the media and that goes with the territory. So I don't think theres a huge difference between the monstering my father got and the treatment that Ed is getting. That goes with the territory. The only way to deal with it is to get on the doorstep and talk to people directly.

"Forget about going through the media. Get out there!"

Kinnock wants Miliband to adopt a Jim Murphy-style 100-day, 100-town tour, getting up on crates and boxes to address people directly in their public squares and high streets. "I'd like to see Ed doing more of that. He needs to get out and talk to people - talk to our members, talk to our voters and let's get everybody on the same page and fired up for the election next year."

He adds, with only the faintest hint of pride: "Of course that was something my dad was brilliant at."

What about the people around Miliband? The Labour leader's office - his aides, advisers, spin doctors, all based in the Norman Shaw North building in Westminster - has come under intense attack from both right-wing commentators and backbench Labour MPs. Some suggest those closest to Miliband are demoralised and divided over the correct strategy to adopt in order to boost their leader's image and standing; others claim his advisers are out of touch and out of their depth.

Unsurprisingly, Kinnock - whose sister Rachel works as an aide to Miliband in Norman Shaw North - doesn't agree. "If it's such a desperately unhappy place why has nobody left? People are absolutely passionate about getting Ed into Number 10 and they will do whatever they can. You take the rough with the smooth."

However, he adds, Miliband needs "to listen" to his aides and advisers. He cites the recent and "ridiculous" media furore over the Labour leaders's inability to eat a bacon sandwich in full glare of the television lights. "I am pretty sure there were people around Ed advising him that there were cameras and it was a little bit risky to do that but, of course, he went ahead and did it. He's his own man.. I can imagine the thought process was: 'I am going to eat this bacon sandwich. I want to eat it now. That's it.. I am my own man.'

"But the fact is you have got to weigh up the risk of all the crap that comes out of a story like that. It's trivial and ridiculous but that is, unfortunately, the media age in which we live and sometimes you have just got to go with the grain rather than against it."

ed miliband

Ed Miliband struggled with his bacon sandwich - but should he have listened to his aides?

Kinnock spent much of his childhood watching his father being bashed by his political opponents and has spent much of his adult life watching his wife being bashed by hers.

Helle Thorning-Schmidt has been prime minister of Denmark since 2011, and the leader of Danish Social Democrats since 2005. She was the country's first female premier and the party's first female leader.

Kinnock married Thorning-Schmidt in 1996; they met four years earlier while postgraduate students at the College of Europe in Belgium. "I was 23 and she was 26," he recalls, before joking: "Obviously if at that time when we met she had said i am definitely commited to a career in representative politics and here is a crystal ball.. I am going to become the leader of the Social Democratic Party, I probably would have called a taxi and left." He laughs and then says to me, in a very serious tone: "I am proud of what she's achieved."

Is it it weird to be married to the prime minister of a country? There's not many people in the world who can say they are, and even fewer men who can say that. What's it like?

"It's funny, really, because, yes, she's the prime minister of Denmark but also my wife and mother of my children and when we are at home hanging around on the sofa and watching TV it doesn't feel weird at all. It feels like 99% of what other families do on a Saturday evening."

I can't help but interrupt and ask: do they watch Borgen together on Saturday evenings?

He chuckles. "We have watched Borgen. I quite enjoyed the first series but thought the second series went a bit off the rails and became implausible so I gave up on it."

Kinnock says he is a "feminist" who is "absolutely passionate about women moving forward taking on the big jobs and breaking through the glass ceiling". "I am immensely proud of what Helle has achieved and I hope that Helle can be a role model to other women who can see that it is possible to be a great mother and be very successful in your career."

And is she really the only leader who does her own washing, as Kinnock has claimed in the past?

"Yeah, she is. We don't have any help at home." Well, he adds, apart from Helle's mother who is their "rock".

Thorning-Schmidt has visited Aberavon to support her husband's candidacy and help him fundraise for the election. So, what did his local party members in south-east Wales make of a female foreign leader who's been dubbed by some as 'Gucci Helle', due to her designer wardrobe? "It was great. She came to the dinner with Aberavon CLP [Constituency Labour Party] and she [took to it] like a duck to water because, basically, the Danish Social Democratic Party is the sister of the Labour Party."

stephen kinnock

Thorning-Schmidt won over members of Kinnock's local Labour Party in January 2014

The members of both parties, Kinnock tells me, have "exactly the same values" and his wife "is a class act in talking with and engaging with" such activists, wherever they are in the world. "She basically said all she had to do was come and change the language from Danish to English," he recalls. "It was a great evening." (“She mixed well at the fundraising event," a local councillor later told the Evening Standard. "You wouldn’t have guessed she was the prime minister of Denmark; she was great, an ordinary person.")

In December 2013, Thorning-Schmidt appeared on newspaper front pages across the world when a 'selfie' she posed for with Barack Obama and David Cameron at the memorial service for Nelson Mandela in Soweto went viral online.

cameron obama selfie

Thorning-Schmidt poses for that now-notorious selfie with Obama and Cameron

Defending himself in the House of Commons, Cameron later said that "when a member of the Kinnock family asked me for a photograph, I thought it was only polite to say yes".

It's a version of events that the Danish prime minister's husband seems to dispute when I ask him for his reaction to that (now infamous) photo.

"Yeah well, for me, the most striking thing about the selfie was our prime minister muscling in on the left."

So, hold on, the picture was only supposed to have been of her and Obama?

He nods. "She was sitting and chatting with Obama, then the selfie idea somehow emerged, and then suddenly Cameron appeared in shot and managed to muscle himself in on the picture."

Kinnock, of course, is one of the few people on earth to have seen the actual selfie - rather than the picture of the selfie being taken - and says, with a cheeky grin, that Thorning-Schmidt will one day "later down the track" release it for public consumption.

Kinnock and Thorning-Schmidt have two daughters - Johanna, 18, and Camilla, 15. The former lives and studies near her father in Wales while the latter is with her mother in Denmark. How hard is it on the couple, and on the kids, to have to live apart like this?

"The thing is that our kids they know how passionate Helle and I are about what we're doing," he says, "and how passionate we are about making a difference and they know that we'll only be happy if we are engaged and involved in doing that so the last thing they want is a grumpy mum or a grumpy dad sitting around getting frustrated."

Maybe so, but it can't be easy, can it? Ed Balls and Yvette Cooper struggle to find time for a 'date night' - and they're in the same party and same country.

"Yeah, it is hard sometimes," he responds. "You do live apart for periods of time. I know that her job is quite unusual but I do think there are a lot of people out there who spend time apart, people with increasingly international careers or if your'e married to someone in the army.

"People go away and spend time apart and in some relationships that really works.. We've been very fortunate that it works for us."

As he's mentioned his daughters, I ask whether he could ever imagine a third generation of party-political Kinnocks? And if Johanna or Camilla did decide to run for parliament, would it be in the UK or in Denmark? "Johanna has been based in the UK now for the past couple of years," says Kinnock. "She's also applying to go to university in the UK. She's becoming quite rooted and anchored in the UK; if she were to decide to go into the politics it would be more likely on the British side." (But this is all, he reminds me, a purely "speculative conversation".)

Returning to the subject of his wife and her rather, er, unique job, I wonder how strange it'll be if he ends up serving in a future Labour government, perhaps even in the Foreign Office - Kinnock speaks five languages and has worked in seven countries - while his wife remains prime minister of Denmark? Would there be any kind of potential conflict of interest? How would they handle their respective careers and duties then?

"I don't think there is a precedent for it," he counters, laughing. "We don't know. I also think certainly for the first years, if I do manage to get elected, I'll be focusing on getting my feet planted in the constituency, campaigning on local issues and getting my feet under the desk in Westminster."

He continues: "Maybe because of my business background, perhaps there's a role [for me] more around [the department for] Business, Innovation and Skills. Who knows?"

Could he go all the way to Number 10 Downing Street? Complete the journey that his father started yet twice failed to finish?

I point out to the younger Kinnock that the seat he is contesting in May 2015 was once held by Ramsay MacDonald, Labour's first prime minister. Does he have what it takes to follow in the latter's footsteps?

He may not be a member of parliament yet, but he knows how to dodge a question. "This is a constituency with an incredibly proud Labour history. We're standing on the shoulders of giants.

"We're very proud of that history, and we must never forget that history, but we must also move forward."

Keep your eye on this Kinnock: he's clever, articulate and ambitious. And maybe precedent-busting, too.

He may think series two of Borgen was implausible, but a British minister married to a Danish prime minister might seem to many people like something straight out of the plot of a Scandinavian television drama.

Ryan Barrell   |   November 25, 2014   12:06 PM ET

Secret recordings and undercover opponents have been hugely perilous for politicos ever since the Watergate Scandal poisoned Richard Nixon's career in 1972. Even when retired, people like David Mellor are always at risk from a sly iPhone, a forgotten lapel mic or a hidden camera when they're ranting or, heaven forbid, being truthful.

From a misogynistic joke by Godfrey Bloom to George Bush wanting Hezbollah to "sort their shit out", here are some of our favourite examples of politicians being caught on tape.

Hagel's Resignation Shows Failed Foreign Policy Knows No Party

Simon Phillips-Hughes   |   November 25, 2014    1:48 AM ET

Whether he fell on his sword or was pushed, Chuck Hagel's departure is the latest in a series of foreign policy missteps. It leaves the administration bereft of a Veteran Secretary of Defense at the most dangerous time in recent memory. And if Hagel's appointment as a Republican Senator to a Democratic administration was hailed as a rare example of bipartisanship, his resignation can be seen as an emblem of that failed approach, too.

But Hagel's departure points to dysfunction not just within the Obama administration but the foreign policy establishment in general. It is the parties and the wider system that have been unable to deploy power effectively against a resurgent Russia and the murderous ISIS, to provide the reassurance of steady American leadership.

Hagel, of course, was never a neo-conservative hawk but came from a generation of Republicans and Democrats alike whose defining experience was Vietnam. Their greatest life lesson was that the military should never again be led by politicians into an open-ended engagement without the clear prospect of victory.

American politics and world events move so quickly that we sometimes forget that it took the first Gulf War to fully exorcise the ghost of Vietnam. General Colin Powell's doctrine of overwhelming military superiority to include ground troops and widespread public support for military action meant the expulsion of Saddam Hussein's forces from Kuwait was achieved speedily, honorably and completely.

Also less recognized is how relatively cautious President Reagan's military actions were in the last decade of the Cold War. Powell writes in his autobiography that the 1983 invasion of Grenada raised concerns about the ongoing operational effectiveness of the military in conducting even that limited incursion, particularly in field communications. Nor did Reagan follow those who denounced Carter's détente with the Soviet Union and argued for the forced liberation of Eastern Europe in the 1970s.

No, we had to wait for the presidency of George W Bush and the twenty first century, paradoxically, for the shrillest Cold War advocates of unilateral action to gain the levers of power and turn the clock back on the Powell doctrine.

The neo-conservatives who set the policy of regime change in Iraq and the backdrop to today's foreign policy debate have more in common with the apologists of the Obama administration than they would ever admit. For they were in fact radicals, arguing for a partisan departure from the doctrine of containment that served the US and the world so well for the last half of the twentieth century. Many of the intellectuals like Bill Kristol and Paul Wolfowitz who provided the ideological justification for the Iraq War also originally came from a left-wing Democratic tradition that emphasized increased social welfare and unionism alongside unqualified opposition to 'tyrants'.

It was this approach and the resulting unacceptable costs of the second Iraq War that led to an equally radical counter-revolution in foreign policy in the election of Obama, informed by far-left groups like MoveOn.org, promising an end to 'hawkish' foreign policy at all costs. But that led to, essentially, the surrender of the hard fought gains in Iraq and Afghanistan, leaving us with the worst of both worlds.

And so we arrive at the current situation of the Obama administration and seemingly daily crises. Decision-makers are still caught between the forces of an administration whose main initial conviction was that America has done too much to re-shape the world in its image and an emboldened but divided Republican opposition who have no clear answers of their own, but have resisted action when and where it is most needed. Most independent observers agree that ISIS is the result of the Syrian civil war, where Congress blocked military intervention.

The real-time significance of Hagel's departure is probably to try and turn a page on this paralysis. But it also, unfortunately, points to all the work that has to be done by Obama or his successor. The real price has yet to be paid, because the costs of inaction have been piling up for years. If the United States now has to ramp up military spending and defense posture against Russia, China and Islamic extremism, it will only be facing down problems it could have nipped in the bud- 'Obsta Pricipiis' - in the tradition of the American Revolution.

The good news is that although foreign policy has been trapped between the rock of a reactive Democratic administration and the hard place of an obstructionist GOP, partisanship in foreign policy is not a given.

In 2008 both parties considered presidential candidates with thoughtful foreign policy platforms that recognized America's unique and exceptional role in the international order. Governor Bill Richardson, former ambassador to the UN under President Clinton set out a plan to deal with resurgent threats with allies that foresaw challenges to international peace and even public health risks like Ebola. Mitt Romney was pilloried by Obama in 2012 for 'Cold War thinking' when he predicted Russian adventurism and has always understood that vigilance is the first priority of the American leader.

So Hagel's unhappy tenure is only the latest chapter in how polarization Stateside can wreck the ship of state abroad. But perhaps it will encourage genuinely bipartisan leadership that leaves the ideological divisions of the late twentieth century, and the hubris of the early twenty first, behind it. I'm sure that is a legacy he would welcome, from someone who already has much to be proud of.

Is the US Presidential Turkey Pardon a Big Load of Baloney?

Xavier Toby   |   November 24, 2014    1:43 PM ET

Every year the US President pardons a turkey.

Quite an honour, which may be more useful if bestowed on a person.

I'm sure plenty would agree to dress up as a turkey, and even behave like a turkey, in order to avoid ruining the spirit of the day.

It's also pretty hard not to forgive someone dressed in a turkey suit, pecking at the ground and squawking. Give it a go yourself, next time you forget to tip someone, arrive late to pick up the kids from school, or rob a bank.

So this presidential turkey pardon has only been regular thing since 1989.

That's right, 1989.

Meaning it's not even as old as Indiana Jones, Ghost Busters or Ferris Bueller's Day Off.

Thanksgiving in the USA goes right back to around 1621, but the turkey pardon itself is not even as old as The Princess Bride and The Terminator. (80s movies are the best.)

A turkey was first presented to President Harry Truman in 1947, however no records mention a pardon. Indeed, there's evidence that he actually ate it.

A president eating a turkey? Outrageous! That's not what they're for! Why wasn't he impeached?

Eisenhower ate the birds presented to him as well.

Kennedy apparently spared a turkey on Nov 18, 1963, just four days before his assassination. The bird was wearing a sign that read, 'Good Eatin' Mr President' and weighed fifty-five pounds, a size which apparently made the president uncomfortable.

This makes perfect sense, especially considering Kennedy's motto was, 'no fat chicks'.

The first president to officially pardon a turkey was Reagan in 1987, who at the time was being questioned over whether or not he would pardon Oliver North for has involvement in the Iran-Contra affair.

In order to distract everyone's attention, he pardoned a turkey instead. It worked too. Nobody noticed that the bird was not Ollie North, proving again Reagan's superior acting abilities, and his lesser known powers as an improv comedy genius.

In 1988 Reagan didn't pardon a turkey, because that year, North had forgotten to organise a secret war.

Then in 1989 George Bush senior made it a regular thing.

For many years the pardoned turkeys were then sent to Frying Pan Park in Fairfax County, Virginia. Probably the best name for any park ever, especially if the turkey's eventual resting place was a cemetery known 'The Fire'.

Meaning the turkeys go straight from 'Frying Pan' and into 'The Fire'. Puns are the best.

The turkeys selected for a presidential pardon are actually a special breed.

Eighty are randomly selected at birth from thousands, and trained to handle flash photography, loud noises and large crowds. Making them a Kardashian with wings.

This field of eighty is then reduced down to twenty, with the final two selected by White House staff. They're renowned for their abilities to pick a turkey. Which explains the secret service.

Two turkeys are currently selected and pardoned each year, in case the first choice turkey becomes unavailable. This is not due to media commitments, or a career on Fox News, but a nice way of saying that one of them might die.

The turkeys up for a pardon fed on the same grain-heavy diet of fortified corn and soybeans as the turkeys raised for slaughter, as it increases their size.

With this diet comes many health problems, and the turkeys frequently die within a year of being pardoned, if they survive that long.

Which makes it less of a 'pardon' and more a refusal to give the bird the assisted benevolent suicide that it craves.

A number of US states have similar turkey-pardoning events, because they lack creativity and can't think of anything more exciting to do.

Recent presidential speeches have mentioned that the tradition dates date to Truman and even Abraham Lincoln pardoning his son's pet turkey, however there's no evidence of either.

There is plenty of evidence, however, that Lincoln was an utter legend, so he might've done it.

Thomas Tamblyn   |   November 21, 2014    7:44 PM ET

NASA's chief technologist has revealed that in some areas humans are already 'halfway' to landing on Mars.

David Miller was speaking to Motherboard editor Victoria Turk about the hurdles that NASA would need to overcome before a manned mission could take place.

He outlined the many obstacles that needed to be overcome, most notable of which being getting the astronauts back to Earth.

orion spaceship


Whereas the Mars One mission considers the possibility of a one-way trip to the red planet, Miller believes that frankly, this approach is unacceptable.

“If we don’t have the technology to come back, I don’t think we have the technology to go.”

Then of course there's the problem of radiation, how do you protect humans from eight months of cosmic rays, including down on the surface where Mars' atmosphere is far far weaker.

While some of these questions remain unanswered MIller is keen to point out that actually NASA is just being remarkably humble about just how far they've come.

“I think one of the things NASA does poorly is that we always talk about the challenges ahead, but we don’t talk about the challenges that we’ve addressed, as I got to NASA and started looking at the programs, I saw that in some ways we are already halfway to Mars with humans. We are there with robots today, but we are halfway there with humans.”

Of course the big question everyone will now want answering is whether, with the current rate of technological advancement, can NASA stay within President Obama's bold target of having humans in orbit around Mars by 2030.

Orbiting and landing are two very different things of course however Miller remains optimistic that the organisation is already well on the way to fulfilling that goal.

Lucy Sherriff   |   November 17, 2014    1:47 PM ET

A student has chastised her university after not being invited to listen at a G20 speech given by Barack Obama - explaining she had even watched all seven episodes of the West Wing.

Ashley Chandler, a student at the University of Queensland, posted an open letter on Change.org urging the institution to "admit that you done f**ked up the Obama speech", and it's perfectly spot on.

"Dear UQ,

I am writing in regards to the recent uproar over President of the United States, Barack Obama’s upcoming visit, and more specifically, in regards to your decision not to invite me. This seems to me to be a scandal that would rank somewhere between Watergate and the 2011 Greenfield incident.

I am, naturally, upset/outraged/hurt/offended/aggrieved by UQ’s decision not to invite me. From what I can tell, I tick all the boxes. I study law and political science, I hold a leadership position in the university, I am a scholarship student, I have represented UQ internationally, was once on Millionaire Hot Seat, have seen all seven seasons of the West Wing, and hell, I even went to College. Given that I have satisfied all the criteria – well, so far as I can tell as UQ hasn’t actually given information on the basis they allocated tickets– you can surely accept that I am justifiably upset/outraged/hurt/offended/aggrieved. I mean, What about me? It isn’t fair. I’ve had enough and I want my chair at the Obama speech.

This is not just about me, though. I write on behalf of the scores of deserving UQ students who have been thrown under the proverbial bus (I say proverbial because, of course, actual buses are not running thanks to this). There are many, many students who have contributed much to the UQ community who should have been offered the opportunity to attend, some even more deserving than me (maybe). How about UQ Ambassadors who whore themselves out at Open Days and every other weekend to spruik the benefits of UQ to young, naïve high school students who don’t realise that they’re about to enrol in an elitist, nepotistic university with little regard for its students or the practical skills they need to develop in order to thrive in their chosen career? From a marketing stance, surely you should have kept these guys happy so they could rave to prospective students about the opportunities UQ has offered them? Now they’ll have to awkwardly (and probably bitterly) answer questions about Obama’s visit with ‘Oh, no, despite the enormous contribution that I make to UQ,I was not invited to this event. You can rest assured, regardless of what you do for UQ, you will probably be treated with the same contempt and utter disdain by the administration. But QTAC closes soon so make sure you put UQ first!’. There’s also those in the UQ Advantage programme, those studying disciplines directly relevant to this speech, student leaders in clubs and societies, the list actually goes on and on and on (and on).

With countless deserving and sensible-choice students excluded from the list, it leaves us in a position where we are unable to do anything but assume there must be some ulterior motive at play, some great conspiracy or discrimination. I’m inclined to think it is probably misogyny. After all, I am a woman and I was not invited and we all know that correlation is always causation. Furthermore, I have an ethnic friend who was not invited. Seriously, UQ? We all know that you make a killing off international students. Perhaps this institutional racism is not the best way to sure that up for the long term? Although I suppose you’re probably less concerned about international student revenues given upcoming fee deregulation.

Apart from this, the only conclusion I can draw is that you guys are just idiots and when the White House told you that Obama wanted to speak to ‘college students’ you forgot that in America that just means university students and gave 400 tickets to those who just happen to reside on campus (Chris Withers, 2014). Not only is this stupid and unfair, but I think it’s also probably unwise to further perpetuate the divide between college kids and ‘day rats’. Maybe it’s just me, but I thought that segregation was a bad thing. I wonder what Mr Obama’s views are on it. While it was nice of the Vice-Chancellor to finally deign to speak to the plebs who pay his wages in a statement today, it is definitely more than a bit rich to claim that this allocation was ‘based on the logistics associated with exceptionally tight timeframes’ given that there are guests attending from other universities who clearly do not reside within the exclusion zone.

This is a choice that smacks of UQ being too lazy to allocate tickets based on merit. It’s like you guys just put fairness in the ‘too hard’ basket. But I ask you, my friends, where we would be if Martin Luther King Jr had put fairness in the too hard basket? If Vida Goldstein had put fairness in the too hard basket? If Reform had put fairness in the too hard basket? (Okay, I was joking about that last one. They did #thanksreform. Though, to be fair, I am inclined to believe that this claimed ‘consultation with the student union’ is just Pete passing the buck).

Perhaps the worst thing about this entire process is that it seems to fly in the face of everything Barack Obama stands for. He was the one who told us all that ‘Yes, we can’, but, literally, we can’t. We can’t attend his speech because you won’t let us and have insisted upon the most ridiculous and inequitable way possible of doling out tickets. I mean, come on, even Griffith and QUT seem to have done a better job. On top of it all, you’re also restricting the access of students to their campus and important academic resources during the middle of final exams, all so that you can get your name in the international media. You’ve subordinated needs of students at a crucial time to your desire for fifteen minutes of fame and you’ve also closed the gym. I shudder to think of all the gains that stand to be lost. For shame, UQ, for shame.

I’ve always been told that it is good to follow constructive criticism with a compliment of something that has been done well, so I must commend your sense in ensuring that the speech takes place out of firing distance of the Grassy Knoll. Your handling of this event in all other respects, though, leaves a lot to be desired. I can assure you that I intend to appeal your decision to exclude me to the Senate, and would encourage all other students to do the same. I have also received legal advice that should the Senate go against me I have recourse to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal and that all I’ll have to do is run up there, put my case, and you can go and get stuffed.

Sour grapes aside, I, and the students I have presumed to speak on behalf of, of course, understand completely that only a limited number of tickets can be offered to such an event. Indeed, as once pointed out by the preeminent economist, Jonathan Black, pie is a scarce resource. However, it is my passionate belief that just because there is only a limited amount of pie, doesn’t mean that there isn’t a better way to cut it.

Kind regards,

A concerned student, with the support of other concerned students"