Kathryn Snowdon   |   May 1, 2016    4:37 PM ET

Barack Obama held on to his title as comedian-in-chief after making a series of jokes at Donald Trump's expense at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner on Saturday.

The US President drew plenty of laughs with his barbed remarks to a ballroom filled with journalists, politicians, and film stars.

Trump, who attended last year’s dinner, was absent from last night's event.

The US President joked that it should be the perfect place for Trump — a room full of reporters, celebrities and cameras.

 “Is this dinner too tacky for the Donald?” Obama said.

“Is he at home eating a Trump steak, tweeting out insults to Angela Merkel? What is he doing?”

Obama commended Trump's foreign policy experience, noting that the businessman previously owned the Miss Universe pageant and "has spent years meeting with leaders from around the world - Miss Sweden, Miss Argentina, Miss Azerbaijan".

He also said that Trump's property experience might come in handy when it comes to closing the controversial Guantanamo Bay detainment facility.

He joked: "And there's one area where Donald's experience could be invaluable, and that's closing Guantanamo - because Trump knows a thing or two about running waterfront properties into the ground."

The British royal family also made it into Obama's speech, as the Democrat described the pains of being a lame duck president.

"Last week Prince George showed up to our meeting in his bathrobe," Obama cracked. "That was a slap in the face."

Obama took a few more swipes at the presidential race, noting that "next year at this time someone else will be standing here in this very spot, and it's anyone's guess who she will be".

It is not the first time that the 54-year-old leader has poked fun at Trump.

In 2011, Obama joked that he would be releasing his official birth video - a jibe directed at the 69-year-old property tycoon who frequently questioned the president's birth certificate.

A clip from Disney's The Lion King was subsequently played to a room full of laughing journalists, politicians and celebrities.

Among the film and television performers at Saturday's event were Helen Mirren, Jared Leto, Bryan Cranston, Will Smith, Jeff Goldblum, Rachel McAdams and Tom Hiddleston.

Proceeds from the dinner go towards journalism scholarships and reporting awards.

Waiting for Trump's Wall? Europe's Already Busy Building

Andrew Legon   |   April 30, 2016    5:07 PM ET

If there are five stages of grief then we should all get started with the process now. After months of nervous laughter and disbelief it looks like Donald Trump will get the nomination. He'll be one step closer to the presidency. And with it, one step closer to making good on promises like building a Great Wall of Mexico. This is his big idea to stop people crossing the border into the United States. At 65ft high and counting it's now taller than the lie that he's a self-made billionaire. But for many on both sides of the Atlantic it's simply not long enough (no penis jokes from the presidential candidates please). There's probably a fair few that would want Trump to be more ambitious; a big ask for a man who thinks he had a chance to sleep with Princess Diana. After all, the US needs protecting from criminals and rapists. And Europe needs defending from tired, hungry and war-torn refugees. Though they're all the same thing if you read certain sections of the press.

For many Europeans on the other side of the political spectrum the US election has been a disturbing spectacle. We've all watched a little too smugly at Trump's ranting and raving. The idea of walling off the USA's southern border seems so preposterous. The problem is we've been so obsessed rolling our eyes at America (Europe's favourite past time) that we've failed to see our own reflection staring back at us. The fact is, Europe will soon have more physical barriers on our national borders than during the Cold War. From Sweden to Serbia we've been very busy with bricks, cement and barbed wire. All in the name of solving the refugee crisis. Yet we think America's the one with the problem. We're like a neighbour tutting at plans for a new fence as we peer over the bricks and mortar we've already put up the year before. Remember when Europe used to cheer when walls that divided us fell? No longer.

Ask people about the walls we're building now and those that actually have an inkling of what's going on will claim it's different. They'll say the iron curtain was a prison. That it kept people trapped, poor and persecuted under Soviet oppression. The walls we're building now are to keep people out, they'll argue. But think about it for just a moment; it all depends on being lucky enough to face the right side of the barrier. Walls can imprison people outside or in, it really doesn't matter either way. If you're trying to escape the Soviet Union or Syria, a wall is a wall, blocking your escape from whatever terror is upon you. Why are people so quick to say it's different now? Draw your own conclusions. Although a lot of people no doubt agree with Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán - Putin's very own 'Mini-Me' in the heart of Europe. He's quite clear on the issue. Europe needs to keep out Muslims, he said, to keep the continent Christian. Presumably that means most of my friends and I are about to be kicked over every wall between here and the Balkans and will be refused re-entry, for being agnostic, atheist and at best, apathetic? But then they do say that whenever God closes a door somewhere He opens a window. So perhaps we could sneak back in that way?

Forget morality for a moment though. Building barriers to keep people in or out solves very little. "Show me a 50-foot wall and I'll show you a 51-foot ladder" said former US Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano. Whether it's immigration, drugs or terrorism, walls rarely work. They're one of the bluntest tools in geopolitics; big, ugly monuments to failure. Like any tool, they have their place, but by and large walls are failed policies designed to address a failure of policy.

Take the current refugee crisis. You may think this problem starts and ends in Syria. But as human rights organisations like Waging Peace have been saying for years, we've happily let other crises slip under the radar. Mention Darfur and Sudan to almost anyone and they'll tell you the problems ended years ago. They don't see that the wars and persecution have continued. Or that they've spread to other parts of the country. Little wonder that numbers of Sudanese families on refugee lists have ranked high for years, making Sudan consistently one of the top-five sources of refugees worldwide according to the UNHCR. Despite this, the UK government and its European partners have recently decided to give money direct to the government, despite its responsibility for most of the violence people are fleeing. This won't work, because it doesn't address the problems which force people to come. For the same reason, walls won't stops them arriving on European shores.

If refugees and asylum seekers had safe, legitimate routes into Europe do you really think they'd be piling into boats, using all their savings to risk the lives of their children? They're braving the sea because it's their last means of escape. The EU is 500 million strong. If we acted collectively - with other countries worldwide as well - the numbers could be managed. Our grandparents managed it, under far worse conditions than today. It happened again three decades later when 4 million fled Indochina. But now? The walls are up. Those made of bricks, mortar and barbed wire. And the ones we've built in our minds, from ignorance, stereotypes and misguided self-interest.

Deconstructing Debate: The Divisive Sub-Text of British Political Language

Schona Jolly   |   April 29, 2016    5:16 PM ET

Trading insults in high places is a feature of British political life. But sticks and stones can be thrown too far, injuring the very constituents whom our politicians are elected to serve and represent. Whether freedom of speech gives us the limitless right to offend has been debated endlessly in newspaper columns. Wherever that line should be drawn generally, however, differs for our politicians. Theirs is a duty to represent their communities and to strive to do so in a way that respects both the dignity of their office, and their responsibility to society as a whole. Their privileged position in society brings both rights and responsibilities, which should not be lightly discarded or abused. Their words, heavily publicised in this day and age, can and do have ripple effects.

The last week has been poisonous in British politics. Ken Livingstone, clinging desperately, pointlessly, to a faded limelight, made sure of that. Never mind both the fallacy and insult of his suggestion that Hitler supported Zionism, never mind the oil he must have known he was pouring over the damage done - and seeking to be remedied - by Naz Shah, Livingstone should have known that his provocative and unnecessary remarks would have inflamed, hurt and offended many people. Any attempts to pass off criticism as blurring the line between criticism of Israeli government, entirely legitimate, and anti-semitism are self-serving. The boundaries being argued as to whether his actual words were racist misses the point. His comments were obviously offensive, bound to make the Jewish community feel targeted and were both stupid and irresponsible.

Sadiq Khan was right to hold him to account for his words immediately. A London Mayor - past, present or future - is representative of one of the most diverse cities in the world. London isn't so weak that provocative words can bring us tumbling down. But language, descriptions, insinuations, they all matter. They matter to the children in the playground who are taunted or abused for their difference. They matter to communities who already feel disenfranchised, who feel criticised every which way they turn. They matter to the rest of the world who look at us on our island, squabbling about our place in the global pecking order. How do we treat each other? It's not a new-age liberal question, but a genuine reflection on the values we proudly proclaim as British, and the society our equality laws seek to protect. How the majority views the minority, and how the minority considers the majority form an important basis for our confidence and identity as a stable and forward-looking democracy. So, words, descriptions, insinuations matter.

However, amongst other ugliness, what the last week has shown is that they only matter selectively. The present Mayor's comments on President Obama's "part-Kenyan" ancestry last week appear already forgotten, shrugged off again by now as the foibles of a harmless maverick immersed in his ambition for leadership. Yet, how is it possible for someone, anyone, to remain credibly in the race for Prime Minister having made a comment so divisive, so harmful to the aspiration of an equal, modern society. It surprised many at the time. Perhaps it should have stunned even more. What that comment betrayed was an insinuation that only a white person could view history rationally and objectively, the history of Empire no less. That is not a one-off racist "joke", it denigrates whole communities and populations. It suggests a person of mixed race or non-white "ancestry" automatically identifies with that that 'other' part of his or her identity above all else. It suggests he or she is affected above all else by his or her colour, rather than allowing that to be another part of each individual's own complex identity. It is a comment from the present Mayor of London that completely undermines those of us whose ancestors come from different places. And since that would be a great many Brits, it involves at least those of us whose skin colour betrays those different places. It tells us that we don't properly understand. That our viewpoint may be tainted, irrational. It introduces a new point of division. And that division is borne exclusively of race.

It is precisely that division which has sat like an ugly sore on the Conservative campaign for London Mayor. It is the sleight of hand which explores ancestry, religious and racial background and suggests a person may not be fully trusted because of it. It creates links where there are none. It diffuses logic by a plea to the irrational subconscious mind that fears difference. It is a sleight of hand that arises from a culture in which it has become acceptable for even the Prime Minister to call people, suffering people, a "swarm". We might hope we are beyond simplistic and offensive name-calling (although Twitter timelines yesterday showed no evidence of that), but it feels increasingly like we have slid into newer, dangerous territory, one aided and abetted by a selective and hypocritical pursuit of those whose language is abhorred, and those whose words are ignored. This isn't about Ken Livingstone, or Boris Johnson, or party politics, or political correctness gone mad. This is about the language of subtext, used by those within positions of power, rippling outwards and trickling down.

We look across the Atlantic and laugh at the crassness of Trump, and the voters who support him. We look with disdain at race relations in France. But we need to deconstruct the debate that is happening in this country. The more we accept political language that demeans and divides, the more willing we are to accept the deconstruction of the other. We cannot permit the normalisation of denigrating, racialised sub-texts to seep into our communities.

Livingstone may have been the ugly icing on the cake this week, but it was a cake made and enjoyed by many others in political life. Decades of progress in race relations and equality are being damaged by casual and misplaced agendas. It's been a miserable week in British politics. I keep thinking, I keep wishing, surely we can do better than this?

Ryan Barrell   |   April 29, 2016    4:42 PM ET

The Obamas and Kensington Palace recently started trading light-hearted trash talk on Twitter ahead of the Invictus Games, and it's culminated in what can only be described as a strange video of the Queen and Prince Harry watching a video from the US First Family.

Needless to say, Twitter users jumped at the chance to make fun of it and started suggesting what else Prince Harry might have been showing his grandmother on his phone.

(You might need to click on the pictures to see them properly.)

He could've been Rick Rolling her...

Or looking at funny pictures of Jeremy Corbyn...

Or Corbyn's deleted tweets...

Maybe something a bit less safe for work?

Or some visual trickery?

Or just some of the usual things that go around on Twitter...

They might've been reading some scientific studies...

Or watching some old episodes of Big Brother...

Maybe they were looking at Prince Harry's Twitter...

Or some old family pictures...

We don't even want to know why the Prince would have this on his mobile...

Or maybe just some funny pictures.

In case you missed it, the Heads-of-State Twitter exchange began with Michelle Obama tweeting the royal with the challenge: “Hey, @KensingtonRoyal! Are you ready for @InvictusOrlando? Game on.”

It was accompanied by a video clip of the herself and the President where she addresses the camera: “Hey, Prince Harry, remember when you told us to ‘bring it’ at the Invictus Games?” The President points an accusing finger at the camera, instructing him: “Careful what you wish for,” while a uniformed aide backs up the challenge with a sweeping hand gesture and the word “Boom.”

Prince Harry was quick off the mark, responding “Wow @FLOTUS and @POTUS, some @weareinvictus fighting talk there! You can dish it out, but can you take it? - H.”

The young royal followed this up with the tweet: “Unfortunately for you @FLOTUS and @POTUS I wasn’t alone when you sent me that video - H.”

A video response quickly emerged from the Kensington Palace twitter account, which revealed the Prince showing the Queen a leaflet featuring the participants in last year’s games. 

Her Majesty is seen perched on the sofa in front of a roaring fire, nodding along indulgently as her grandson points out athletes.

The pair are interrupted from their reverie by Harry’s mobile phone – to the tune of Hail to the Chief of course.

The prince plays the video to the Queen, to which she grins, and exclaims: “Oh really, please!” Harry turns to the camera for his own “drop the mic” moment, uttering the same phrase.

Sara C Nelson   |   April 29, 2016    4:16 PM ET

Prince Harry and the Obamas have been engaging in some high level trash talking ahead of the Invictus Games in Florida this year – and even the Queen is getting involved.

The exchange began on Friday with Michelle Obama tweeting the Royals with the challenge: “Hey, @KensingtonRoyal! Are you ready for @InvictusOrlando? Game on.”

It was accompanied by a video clip of the First Lady and the President where Mrs Obama addresses the camera: “Hey, Prince Harry, remember when you told us to ‘bring it’ at the Invictus Games?”

Mr Obama points an accusing finger at the camera, instructing him: “Careful what you wish for,” while a uniformed aide backs up the challenge with a sweeping hand gesture and the utterance “Boom.”

Prince Harry was quick off the mark, responding: “Wow @FLOTUS and @POTUS, some @weareinvictus fighting talk there! You can dish it out, but can you take it? - H.”

Sounding a little less sure of himself, he added: ".@FLOTUS @POTUS How on Earth am I going to top that? H."

The young Royal came good however, following up with the intriguing message: “Unfortunately for you @FLOTUS and @POTUS I wasn't alone when you sent me that video - H.”

A video response duly emerged from the Kensington Palace twitter account, sharing a mic drop to end all mic drops forever.  

In a warming scene, the Prince is seen showing the Queen a leaflet featuring participants in last year's games. 

Perched on the sofa in front of a roaring fire, Her Majesty nods along indulgently as her grandson points out athletes.

The pair are interrupted from their reverie by Harry’s mobile phone – to the tune of Hail to the Chief of course. "Oh, it's Michelle," he murmurs. 

The Prince plays the Obama's video challenge to the Queen, to which she smiles wryly, and exclaims: “Oh really, please!”

Harry then turns to the camera, uttering his own "boom" and expansive hand gesture. 

Game on indeed.  

The Prince, who is patron and founder of the Invictus Games Foundation, recently announced the USA had taken up the challenge of hosting the next event in Orlando from 8 - 12 May. 

He said: "I am absolutely delighted that the United States has taken up that challenge and will host the next Invictus Games in 2016. I have no doubt that the USA will set the bar even higher than London did and put on a great show." 

Seven Ways Trump Follows in the Footsteps of Ronald Reagan

Simon Phillips-Hughes   |   April 27, 2016    5:26 AM ET


The cliché of the 2016 campaign season is that Donald Trump is rewriting the rules of American politics, but he isn't. The history of the quadrennial contest is rich with multi-ballot conventions, slanderous mud-slinging and fratricidal party in-fighting, and more often than not they signal genuine political change.

Strictly speaking, Trump's candidacy most parallels that of the former Governor of New York, Theodore 'Rough Rider' Roosevelt. We will see very soon if Trump's supporters will split the party and storm out of a contested convention as T.R.'s did before the third-party 'Bull Moose' run, or if he can replicate the astonishing Republican landslide of 1904. Both these energetic, self-promoting easterners championed an acquisitive and anti-immigration 'Americanism' with surprisingly progressive calls for government activism.

But Trump's relationship to Ronald Reagan, the post-war candidate he most resembles, while obvious to some rank and file, is more nuanced and dimensional than to Teddy Roosevelt. There are big differences in policy, personality and philosophy between the two men; in many ways Trump is trying to undo the neo-con consensus Reagan ushered in.

Yet to change the party in his image, the 2016 front-runner is using a similar mix of political and leadership attributes it is worth comparing to better understand. So here we go.

1. Great Hair

Reagan and Trump share the larger-than-life personal brand the greatest and most fondly remembered US political figures have always cultivated, and in the age of television that begins with appearance. Remember, LBJ's Great Society changed America forever but JFK's smile originally fronted the package. In the same way, Reagan's (often witheringly funny) biographer Edmund Morris described him at seventy, thus:

'Broad as a surfboard and almost as hard, superbly balanced, glowing with health and handsome enough for a second career in the movies. Hair so dense and fine as to amount to a Marvel Comics helmet'.

Apparently Reagan's characteristic pompadour took decades off him, a trick that doesn't seem lost on Trump.

2. Great Communicators

Of course, this is only a flourish of the wider ability of both men to connect with audiences as career showmen. From silver screen to small screen, Reagan and Trump have mastered the medium of their time to 'huge' political effect. While Reagan moved from sports radio commentating to motion pictures, Trump has parlayed bit parts on the big screen and sporting events to prominence in reality television. And just at the time voters tired of the scripted 'one-to-many' speeches the former and Obama perfected, along comes the latter's unscripted, 24/7, interactive format to better convey the part. In both cases the medium is the message, and that is confidence and competence.

3. Great timing

Just as Reagan answered the retrenchment and perceived weakness of Jimmy Carter's Democratic administration at the end of the Seventies, so Trump has a generational opportunity to provide an optimistic alternative to Obama moving forward, promising better times ahead.

If he can do this- in a way Mitt Romney was unable to- he will renew the cycle of American politics with conservatism again in the driver's seat. Because just as Carter was the electorate's response to an unacceptable Republican in the disgraced Richard Nixon, Obama's election was also a backlash, against war and recession under George W Bush.

So Trump, like Reagan, could rebrand the GOP not only by replacing a defeatist Democrat but also the memory of the last unpopular Republican that paved the way for them.

4. Not a Southerner

Trump is not a Southerner. This obvious likeness would be unremarkable were it not for the fact he has been able to win solidly in the South in any case. Like Reagan, whose South Carolinian campaign manager Lee Atwater pioneered the GOP 'Southern Strategy' of winning over conservative southerners, neither rely on domicile below the Mason-Dixon Line for their popularity. Far from being a handicap, their common regional authenticity means Trump's New York directness is the campaigning analogue of Reagan's sunny California optimism, and contains national appeal.

5. Popular policies

So instead of the cut-glass constitutional conservatism of party creatures like Cruz or Palin, Reagan and Trump share a decades-long journey from vocally supporting the liberal democratic politics of their states only to side with the right-of-center nationally.

The result is a less ideological, more populist approach to policy which challenges party orthodoxy and vested interests; in Reagan's case this was the supply-side his future running-mate called 'Voodoo economics'. In Trump's it is reframing the trade argument. In both cases, the candidate is in personal control of policy.

6. Leadership

All this means, in the words of the New York Post's guarded endorsement, that Trump is 'a potential superstar of vast promise'. And here's the thing: any situation that needs turning around requires strong leadership, but especially managing American politics, even aside from the mind-bending responsibility.

That's because the US Constitution creates alternate power bases outside the executive branch that most national leaders don't have to contend with: congressmen and senators elected independently of their leader and each other; the Supreme Court, raucous press and powerful lobbyists; even pols from the same party at the state and local level. It's a wonder anyone agrees to do it.

As so much has been written about the potential dangers of Trump, let's consider the potential upside of his leadership style: a professional manager smart enough to know what he does not, with a track record of surrounding himself with people who do; a non-partisan prepared to look at problems with an open mind and propose entrepreneurial solutions; and the stature, like Reagan, to use the 'bully pulpit' of the presidency to rouse ongoing public support to see his program through.

If awkward pols on The Hill aren't playing ball or break ranks for narrow reasons, I'm sure Trump will relish turning the evening news into an episode of 'The Apprentice' to knock some heads together, and so will the viewing public.

7. Reinvention

Finally, perhaps the way Trump most recalls Ronald Reagan is in the way they differ. Republican presidents and the conservative movement ever since owe their position, ultimately, to Reagan. George H W Bush won promising to uphold his legacy and his son only won with the name recognition that conferred. Even his detractors still mimic him. But paying lip service to the man the Weekly Standard called 'The Colossus' simply isn't enough to win any more.

Instead, Trump's poll numbers emanate from Reagan's technique of reformulating the GOP coalition to include middle-of-the-road voters, even if different times call for different solutions to make that happen. This is what he means by 'Common Sense Conservatism'.

As we enter the general election Trump will increasingly resemble Reagan in any case, for the same negative claims made against him: that he is an extremist, that the White House is no place for a low-brow entertainer, that he is too unpopular with too many. The revival of the US probably rests on how the people react to that view, just as they did some thirty-five years ago.

Who Can Replace David Cameron?

Will Black   |   April 25, 2016    8:22 PM ET

The Tories and their media can be like a broken record in their questioning of Jeremy Corbyn's ability to lead the country. However, as David Cameron has already said he will not lead the Conservative Party for a third term, a more pressing question is which Tory is going to be able to take the reins from Cameron.

The issue will no doubt come into sharper focus after the EU referendum, but it is worth considering the options now. The Party does not seem to be spoilt for choice.

A recent Ipsos MORI poll, commissioned by London Evening Standard, found Corbyn to be leading both Cameron and George Osborne, in terms of satisfaction with their leadership. Some 35% were satisfied by Corbyn's leadership, against 34% for Cameron and 27% for Osborne. The poll came in the wake of a budget that had cross-party condemnation and led to a U-turn on disability benefits, far from Osborne's first.

Osborne is in the extremely unfortunate position of appearing not only cruel and callous but also inept. Like a Mr Bean of the vampire world. His ruthless austerity has been seen as an attack on the most vulnerable, but also as ineffective in that he has not hit targets for reducing the UK's budget deficit. The endless floundering between attempts to appear tough and the inevitable U-turns and spinning makes him look out of his depth and dazed by reality. This perception is reinforced by intermittent footage of him looking more like someone in a 5am chillout room than poised for high office.

Beyond all the funny footage of the man some now call Giddyone Osborne, the serious issue is that he has perpetually disregarded fundamental economic and social realities in order to push an austerity agenda that simply hasn't worked for people. It seems highly unlikely that such an unpopular Chancellor of the Exchequer would be a credible prime minister.

If Osborne is a man struggling to appear ruthless and ending up looking like Mr Bean, Boris Johnson is someone who uses the mask of a clown to try to hide a ruthless and, some might say, callous, personality. His desire for the limelight has backfired as people have found out a lot about Boris since his first stint as an MP. Since being sacked as a shadow minister, in 2004 for lying about an affair, Boris' clown mask has changed for many, I suspect, from fleetingly amusing to rather disturbing and irritating.

While he is seen by some as a 'big hitter' in the Leave campaign, he has a lot of baggage that could well thwart his leadership ambitions. His grubby old mask may not be enough to distract voters from his infidelities, his role in a plot by an embittered friend to beat up a journalist, or his description of Africans as "piccaninnies" with "watermelon smiles". These things tend to be remembered, especially when he does things like use President Obama's ethnic origins as a way to disparage his enthusiasm for EU harmony. Less shocking than the above, but to a trained journalist still quite outrageous, is Boris' history of fabricating a quote when working as a reporter, for which was sacked.

There are many other examples I could list that would throw into question Boris' integrity, sincerity and work ethic, and these will no doubt be brought up again and again if Boris puts himself forward in a leadership challenge. Now the public knows what it does about Boris and can see behind the clown's mask, I would be very worried for the rationality of the UK public if they allow him to become prime minister. So who are we left with as a viable option? Theresa May?

May's controversies may not be quite as ludicrous as those created by Boris, but these are no less significant. More than 18 months into the role of Home Secretary she refused to take responsibility for border checks being relaxed. Instead she blamed others and abolished the UK Border Agency. Two years into the role May gained the dubious distinction of being one of only two Home Secretary in Britain's history to be convicted of contempt of court. This conviction was for disregarding a legal agreement to free an Algerian man from an immigration detention centre.

I suspect some people will feel pity for May's stress levels during some of the fiascos she has been involved with. For example, steering the Home Office during the slow motion car crash that ensued when Abu Qatada seemingly ran rings around an army of QCs at the government's disposal, to avoid deportation. But feeling sorry for someone is not a good enough reason to allow them to be prime minister. Amid the wrangling with Qatada, May looked increasingly distressed in photos, as though actually haunted.

The spectre of Qatada still appears to be haunting May and leading her to poor judgement. Just this week she caused an outcry by suggesting that the UK should withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights regardless of the referendum outcome. Shadow justice secretary, Charles Falconer, described her suggestion as ignorant, illiberal and misguided, and said she was "sacrificing Britain's 68-year-old commitment to human rights for her own miserable Tory leadership ambitions".

If May believes Boris has burned his bridges by being an outspoken leave campaigner, she might have hoped her comments would allow her to straddle both sides and at gain some credibility among pro-Brexiters. However, she may have lost credibility among many more people, given that, as Lord Falconer pointed out, we cannot be a member of the EU and withdraw from the convention. She might find that all her interjection has done is remind us of the Qatada fiasco and that she was is charge during the mess.

Looking today at bookmakers' odds on the next prime minister, Theresa May is well behind Boris and Osborne and not far behind unpopular Michael Gove. Given that these people are considered favourites, any forward-thinking Tories must hope that a less well-known horse can come from behind, who isn't saddled with the heavy baggage of the likes of Osborne, Johnson and May.

Paul Waugh   |   April 25, 2016    8:44 AM ET

The five things you need to know on Monday April 25, 2016…

theresa may


After the hammering they got on the economy last week, it’s no wonder the Leave camp are focusing this week on their stronger card: immigration. The Home Secretary’s admission on Marr yesterday that ‘free movement makes it harder to control migration’ was a statement of the obvious but still a gift to the Outers.

Theresa May has her own speech on the EU, her first big intervention in the campaign. We’re told neither the Remain camp nor No.10 (and they are effectively the same thing most days) were given advance vetting and you can see why: it has some lines that are pitched clearly with a future Tory leadership bid in mind.

May will hint the UK should block Turkey’s application (which is certainly not the No.10 line), or at least create some new kind of membership without freedom of movement (though some Brexiteers may say that’s exactly the kind of ‘associate membership’ they want for the UK).

May will say: “We have to ask ourselves, is it really right that the EU should just continue to expand, conferring upon all new member states all the rights of membership?… Do we really think now is the time to contemplate a land border between the EU and countries like Iran, Iraq and Syria?”

Of course, this is kinda academic as no one seriously thinks Germany will ever allow Turkey full membership. And all EU states have a veto on accession, including the UK. But it’s more about telling Tory voters she’s on their side. Just as significant will be May’s shot across Michael Gove’s bows, saying it is Strasbourg not the ECJ in Luxembourg that poses the bigger threat to the UK.

In the Times, Gove ramps up his rhetoric on migration warning of the ‘unquantifiable strain’ on the NHS, while Boris uses his Tel column to say the Inners are ‘crowing too soon’ about the Obama Effect. Yet the row over Boris’s own ‘part-Kenyan’ jibe (his worst misstep of the entire referendum campaign) continues to rumble on. When even Nigel Farage is distancing himself from such remarks, you know something’s up.

Still, on the Today programme, IDS offered a feisty defence of his fellow Vote Leaver as he attacked No.10’s ‘cosy little conversation’ with the US President over our place in the trade queue.

IDS said there was “nothing worse” that those who “hurl a name like racism” at opponents, and “I find that absurd”. Specifically on the part-Kenyan line, the former Work and Pensions Secretary said Boris may have been ‘clumsy’ but ’he simply referred to one of the reasons why he [Obama] may have a lack of regard for the UK”.


The first all-out junior doctors’ strike looms tomorrow and things are getting more fractious by the hour. On Good Morning Britain, a junior doctor quit live on air. Jeremy Hunt is playing hardball, rejecting the compromise offer of a pilot scheme proposed by Labour and the Royal Colleges. What’s the real difference between Hunt’s ‘phased rollout’ and a ‘pilot schemes’? Political control over the process.

Although Heidi Alexander’s offer was praised by many of her colleagues as the kind of ‘constructive opposition’ Labour needs to engage in more frequently, Hunt’s response will only fuel the determination of those on the Left who think there can be no compromise with this Government. The Health Secretary seemed to smell blood, sensing the first change in Labour’s position amid fears that backing the strike could do the party real harm.

Tories were struck by Alexander’s line on Murnaghan yesterday when it appeared that she was accepting the principle of Hunt’s new contract. Even some junior doctors didn’t like her line when she agreed with Hunt that ‘if you go into hospital on a Sunday morning in an emergency, you should get the same quality of care as if you go in on a Tuesday afternoon’.

Labour has a political messaging problem if the strike does go ahead: it needs a straight answer to the question ‘do you support this strike?”. Last night on Radio 4’s Westminster Hour, Diane Abbott had no hesitation: “they have my support” she said. Jeremy Corbyn will be tempted to say the same, but his Shadow Cabinet are determined not to get boxed in.

As I’ve said before, consultants have had a long time to prep for covering their colleagues today. The real issue will be if the BMA will ever call another all-out strike.


Will Nicky Morgan use today’s Education Questions (and Wednesday’s Education Select Committee hearing) to finally offer some reassurance to worried Tory backbenchers? As noted here, the Telegraph’s James Kirkup last week reported one possible concession, to allow the best performing councils to run their own multi-academy trust (MAT) chains. Today, the Times repeats that but also says Morgan is looking at plans to allow councils to continue to force academies to take pupils with special needs and to expand to meet demand for new places.

Labour is unimpressed, pointing out NiMo (Morgan’s nickname among spads) had privately offered the MATs plan to Tory MPs in the last fortnight - and many had been singularly unmoved. Lucy Powell thinks the concession is not sufficient and the key test will be if the Queen’s Speech bill has powers over good and outstanding schools.

Speaking of councils, Labour’s battle of managing expectations for May 5 continues. John McDonnell told 5Live’s Pienaar last night that the party will try to "hold onto what we possibly can”, which didn’t sound like a forecast of a great night. The Telegraph has a new John Curtice analysis saying Labour is set to lose 170 councillors and a string of town halls.

In another education nightmare, nurseries are warning that parents will need to give up work to look after their children - if the government doesn’t axe the requirement for nursery staff to have at least a C in GCSE English and maths.

June O’Sullivan chief executive of the London Early Years Foundation had a startling statistic on the Today prog: apprentice numbers have dropped by 96% since the new rules in September. Of course many privately run nurseries are already struggling with the bottom line over the Government’s free childcare expansion.


Watch the Channel 4 News clip that’s tickling the Remainiacs camp right now. But will the Be-Leavers have the last laugh?


So, just how many Tory rebels will abstain or vote with the Opposition today on child refugees? The Alf Dubs amendment to take in refugees from Europe, not just from the camps in and near Syria, will be voted on as the Immigration Bill returns to the Commons this afternoon.

Labour peer Dubs, who was himself rescued from the Nazis by the Kindertransport scheme, has sent a new letter to MPs: “The Government has tried to muddy the water with a concession that will not help a single child who is alone and vulnerable in Europe. I am making a plea to MPs from all parties to stand up on Monday, ignore their party whips and find a voice.”

The Indy claims unto 10 Tories could rebel, but I’m told the whips expect abstentions rather than votes against. Heidi Allen is one of the most outspoken Tory MPs on this topic (read her HuffPost interview HERE). She’s one of several who could be swayed if the Home Office changes its stance. But right now, Theresa May is digging in.

The real problem will come tomorrow when Labour and Lib Dem peers are ready to ping-pong the bill back. No.10 doesn’t want even the smallest crack in its no-refugees-from-the-EU stance, believing that would create the pull factor that has led to Merkel’s problems. Let’s see.


The Mirror has a scoop on its front page with a letter from BHS bosses suggesting the biggest high street collapse since Woolworths (in 2008) could happen as early as today. There are 11,000 jobs at stake but ministers are hardly likely to offer some steel-industry style intervention given many analysts say the retailer just hasn’t kept upto date with online shopping.

So, why are ministers watching with a wary eye? Well, the state-backed pension protection fund could be called on to help with the £500m pensions black hole that makes BHS so unattractive to buyers. Sir Philip Green, a bogeyman for many tax campaigners, has offered £80m for the pension fund. He sold the firm for £1 to a consortium led by a man who had twice been declared bankrupt. There’s a certain irony that Sports Direct (under fire over its own workers’ rights) is the firm many want to rescue BHS.

Meanwhile, the FT reports that restaurant chain Zizzi has cut perks like tips and free food in order to cope with the rising minimum wage. ‘Retail politics’ became a dirty word in recent years, but politics about retail seems to be back.

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Johnson 'Trumps Himself Out of a Political Future'

Simon Sapper   |   April 24, 2016    6:09 PM ET

I've never liked his politics, but I've always thought Boris Johnson had a high level of native wit and no little intelligence. His attacks on Barack Obama's intervention in the Euro Referendum debate seem to suggest both have "gone south".

This seems to be having been a building crescendo over the past week. The US position is "paradoxical". "Boris Rage at "Ridiculous, Weird Obama" blasted the Mail on Sunday on its front page. It is "hypocritical" says Johnson because the President wants the UK to give up sovereignty, something inconceivable in the US, and, because of his part-Kenyan heritage, Obama has a historic dislike of the British empire - a remark which caused outrage (though more for it's arguable racism than it's stupidity). All things considered "for the US it is do as I say not do as I do"

For a clever man, Johnson seems to have lost the plot - irrespective of how/if you intend to vote on 23 June.

Put simply, Boris has his history wrong. Yes, it is hard to imagine the US "giving up sovereignty" but this is the wrong standpoint. US states (50 of them) have already done what Johnson says the US would not. They formed the USA. They fought an exceptionally bloody (and in Europe, rather overshadowed) civil war to test the boundary between state and supra-state powers. It is still a big issue - look at the apparent contradiction between the US constitution and discrimination against the transgender community in North Carolina. Look how hard it is to move on health care or gun control. But there is an overarching structure that each state has ceded power to. Goodness, the USA even has a common currency.

With justification therefore, Obama can offer a view on the UK/EU relationship from a nation that has eaten the pie, worn the t-shirt, and still arguing about the self-same issues.

And of course, Britain likes Barack. Most of know what a big deal a black President is given the level of racism still in the US. He has huge credibility and charisma.

And although countries naturally don't like others poking their noses into their business, he is entitled to a view: "They are voicing an opinion about what the United States is going to do; I figured you might want to hear from the president of the United States what I think the United States is going to do"

Let's not be dewy-eyed about the notion of a US foreign policy free of self-interest. But we all have a right to be treated with more respect than we are currently getting in the EU debate. In the wise words of eminent newspaper man Stig Abell, Johnson has just "trumped himself out of a political future"

Paul Waugh   |   April 24, 2016   12:24 PM ET

Boris Johnson faced further embarrassment over his ‘part-Kenyan’ attack on Barack Obama after even Nigel Farage distanced himself from the remarks.

The UKIP leader told SkyNews that he didn’t disagree with the Mayor of London, but said it had been a mistake to “be seen to be attacking the man and not the ball” on the issue of Brexit.

The US President gave an unceremonious slapdown to Johnson on Friday over his suggestion that he had an “ancestral dislike of the British Empire” because of his Kenyan father.

Today - just days after himself claiming Obama had a ‘grudge’ against Britain thanks to his Kenyan roots - Farage suggested that the Mayor of London had gone too far.

“I’m not saying Boris was wrong, but if you’re seen to be attacking the man and not the ball then that’s not where we need to be,” he told Sky’s Murnaghan programme.

Presenter Dermot Murnaghan instantly challenged him, saying “but you’ve done it”. Farage replied: “I’ve been saying it for some years…I’ve said for some time that Barack Obama is not a pro-British President…”

The reaction on Twitter was swift.

And some couldn't resist pointing out the time when Boris had literally tackled the man not the ball, in a England v Germany charity football match.

Johnson sparked a vociferous backlash on Friday when he used an article in the Sun newspaper to suggest that the US President was opposed to Brexit - and had removed a bust of Winston Churchill from the White House - because he had an ‘ancestral’ loathing of the British Empire.

Yet on the BBC’s World at One programme that same day, the UKIP leader had gone even further, declaring: “I think Obama, because of his grandfather and Kenya and colonisation, I think Obama bears a bit of a grudge against this country”.

Former Tory Cabinet minister and leading Vote Leave campaigner Liam Fox also distanced himself from Boris's reference to Obama's Kenyan roots.

"All through the debate I've said we need to stick to the issues," he told BBC Radio 4's The World This Weekend, when asked .

"We should not be bothering about what personalities are involved nor personalising it, because that risks diverting away from the main issues."

Chuka Umunna, who also appeared on Sky News, widened out the criticism of Boris to declare that he had now shown that he was ‘unfit’ to ever become Prime Minister.

The former Shadow Business Secretary said that the Mayor’s remarks about Obama’s Kenyan heritage were ‘disgraceful and embarrassing’.

Umunna said: “This [Eu referendum] campaign has exposed Boris Johnson…[he’s] simply not fit to hold the office he aspires to, which is Prime Minister of our country. And of course there’s going to be a change of Prime Minister before the general election.

“This kind of divisive rhetoric is simply indefensible.

“I’m part-Nigerian. Nigeria was a former colony of the UK. I don’t think colonialisation is terribly defensible…[to suggest] somehow to hold that view means you love Britain less… that was essentially the suggestion in what Boris Johnson said.

“Which I think a whole swath of Britain’s diaspora communities, people who have come to settle here, people who have got a background like mine, find deeply offensive.”

Obama refused to name Boris in his response on Friday, simply saying that he had replaced the Churchill bust with one of Martin Luther King because it seemed ‘appropriate’ to do so as the first ever African-American President.

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell was in no doubt what had motivated the remarks

On Saturday, Johnson appeared to backtrack on his remarks.  Asked if he had intended to imply Mr Obama was anti-British, he replied: 'Not at all, not at all….I think obviously people will make of the article what they want.

“I'm a big fan of Barack Obama - I was one of the first people to come out in favour of him ages ago.

'But I think there's a weird paradox when the President of the Unites States, a country that would never dream of sharing its sovereignty over anything, instructs or urges us politely to get more embedded in the EU, which is already making 60% of our laws.”

Jack Sommers   |   April 23, 2016    4:18 PM ET

Read More: uk news, Barack Obama

This is the moment a student came out as transgender in front of Barack Obama at his town hall event.

During the Q&A session earlier on Saturday, Maria Munir, stood up to say they did not identify with a binary gender, before they had told their parents.

"I'm about to do something terrifying which is come out to to you," the 20-year-old said, apologising for getting "emotional" and trying not to cry as the crowd applauded.

"It means that I don't fit because I'm from a Pakistani-Muslim background which inevitably has complications .. I wish that yourself and David Cameron would take us seriously as transgender people."

Maria, a third year politics with international relations student at University of York, added that the Equality Act offered no protection from discrimination to non-binary people and asked about the US states that had recently passed laws deemed anti-LGBT.

Obama answered he was "incredibly proud of the steps it sounds like you've already taken".

He joked that when Maria had said they would do something like "come up here and dance with me".

He also said Cameron was "ahead of the curve" on LGBT rights. 

He added: "You should feel encouraged just by virtue of the fact that social attitudes have changed on this faster than I have seen on any other issue.

"It doesn't feel fast enough for you and those impacted by it and that's good. You shouldn't feel satisfied. You should keep pushing.

The trend lines are good on this. We're moving in the right direction partly because of courageous and active young people like yourself. So stick with it." 

Maria later tweeted they were "inundated" with support after what happened.

Speaking to BBC Newsbeat afterwards, they said: "It was something the President said about acting crazy - that if you need to get a social issue across sometimes you need to act a little crazy.

"At that moment I felt my pulse intensify and thought that I've been sitting on this issue for such a long time. I haven't come out to my parents, I just thought, it anyone in the world is going to accept me for who I am it should be the President of the United States. "

Jack Sommers   |   April 23, 2016    2:25 PM ET

Jeremy Corbyn has followed Prince George's example and turned up for his meeting with US President Barack Obama dressed down.

Obama has come to Britain to voice support for the UK's EU membership and may be under the impression that the only person who dressed up to meet him is David Cameron.

He met two-year-old future monarch Prince George, who showed off his indifference to leaders whose power came from being elected by wearing his dressing gown.

Corbyn arrived to meet Obama at Lindley Hall, central London, without a tie.

There had been some doubts over whether the meeting would go ahead. As this is not a state visit, opposition leaders are not automatically granted an audience with the president.

The Labour leader emerged after almost 90 minutes later - wearing a tie - to say the meeting was "excellent". He told reporters the pair touched on a number of topics, including the European Union (EU) "very briefly".

Though he put a tie on and wore a proper suit, it is unclear whether he sang the national anthem to Obama, thereby completing the hat trick of what David Cameron told him to do previously.


Corbyn said the US president congratulated him on being elected leader of the Labour Party.

Christopher York   |   April 23, 2016    2:06 PM ET

When you were a toddler you might have been allowed to stay up late for a birthday or maybe New Year's Eve.

If you're Prince George, things are a little different.

The two-year-old was allowed to be up a little past his bedtime in order to meet Barack and Michelle Obama while rocking a dressing gown and slippers.

The US president said: "I guess you all know why I came this week,

"It's no secret. Nothing was going to stop me from wishing happy birthday to her majesty, or meeting George, who was adorable."


Unsurprisingly, the £27 bath robe in question has sold out online.

Elsewhere, Obama's visit has proved slightly more controversial

The Brexit campaign has been told to “get a grip” after going into meltdown as it reacted to Barack Obama’s pro-EU intervention.

The president’s warning that leaving the EU would leave Britain at “the back of the queue” for American trade deals has been hailed as a decisive boost for David Cameron’s campaign for Britain to stay in the EU.

It triggered a meltdown among senior figures on the Leave campaign, which branded the outgoing president irrelevant and a “lame duck”.

Nigel Farage claimed the fact the president used the word “queue” rather than the more common American equivalent “line” showed the remark was written for him by Downing Street.

“He said Britain would be at the back of the queue, no American would ever say ‘back of the queue’, Americans don’t use the word ‘queue’, Americans use the word ‘line’,” the Ukip leader told BBC Radio Four’s Any Questions.

“Therefore, what Obama said when he said we would be at the back of the queue, he was doing the bidding of Cameron, and Number 10, and doing his best to talk down Britain, and I think that’s shameful.”

Times journalist David Aaronovitch called this claim “bloody silly”.

Jack Sommers   |   April 23, 2016   11:23 AM ET

The Brexit campaign has been told to "get a grip" after going into meltdown over Barack Obama's pro-EU intervention.

The president's warning that leaving the EU would leave Britain at "the back of the queue" for American trade deals has been hailed as a decisive boost for David Cameron's campaign for Britain to stay in the EU.

It triggered a meltdown among senior figures on the Leave campaign, which branded the outgoing president irrelevant and a "lame duck".

Nigel Farage claimed the fact the president used the word "queue" rather than the more common American equivalent "line" showed the remark was written for him by Downing Street.

"He said Britain would be at the back of the queue, no American would ever say 'back of the queue', Americans don't use the word 'queue', Americans use the word 'line'," the Ukip leader told BBC Radio Four's Any Questions.

"Therefore, what Obama said when he said we would be at the back of the queue, he was doing the bidding of Cameron, and Number 10, and doing his best to talk down Britain, and I think that's shameful."

Times journalist David Aaronovitch called this claim "bloody silly".

Ukip MEP Patrick O'Flynn, who jokingly asked if German Chancellor would follow up by threatening to "invade" Britain if it left the EU, argued with Guardian journalist Rafael Behr.

He said: "I think Dave's procuring of thing threat fails a basic patriotism test and we must call him on on that."

Boris Johnson, the Brexit campaign's most colourful backer, has not responded to Obama's gentle castigation of him on Friday evening.

Johnson wrote a column saying the "part Kenyan" president had an "ancestral dislike" of Britain. He claimed Obama had removed a bust of Churchill from the White House.

Obama said he had merely moved the bust to another part of the White House, saying he "loved" the wartime prime minister.

Justice Minister Dominic Raab joined the angry backlash against Obama, saying: "This is really about a lame duck US president about to move off the stage doing an old British friend a favour.

"I have got no doubt that future US trade negotiators are going to look to other opportunities - I think the British will be first in the queue, not at the back of the queue."

Obama also said Britain could not secure a trade deal US "any time soon" if it leaves the EU because Washington's focus would be on reaching agreement with Brussels.

Former Tory leader and ex-work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith moved to switch attention to immigration as he insisted the living wage would provoke a "stampede" to Britain from poorer EU nations.

He wrote in the Daily Mail: "I cheered the introduction of the national living wage, but when take-home pay in Britain is already more than five times higher than in the poorest EU countries, such a jump in wages will surely lead to another stampede to our borders.

"To make the living wage work for British people, we need to be able to control the number of people coming in."

Tory former defence secretary Liam Fox said Obama's views would be irrelevant after the looming US presidential election.

"We have a referendum at the end of June, presidential elections are in November, so whoever it is that will be at the helm of the United States won't be Barack Obama. So, to an extent, whatever he says today is largely irrelevant," he told BBC2's Newsnight.

"It will be the next president, and the next congress, who will be in charge of any trade arrangements."

Leave backer and former foreign secretary Lord Owen told BBC Radio Four's Today programme Obama's trade embarks had been "crafted" in Downing Street.

At a joint press conference with Cameron, the president stressed the referendum was a "decision for the people of the United Kingdom" and he was "not coming here to fix any votes".

He added: "I think it's fair to say that maybe some point down the line there might be a UK-US trade agreement, but it's not going to happen any time soon because our focus is in negotiating with a big bloc, the European Union, to get a trade agreement done.

"The UK is going to be in the back of the queue."

Cameron said the referendum was the "sovereign choice of the British people" but added: "As we make that choice, it surely makes sense to listen to what our friends think, to listen to their opinion, to listen to their views, and that's what Barack has been talking about."

On Saturday, Obama attended a town hall-style meeting in London, where he urged young people to ignore cynics telling them they cannot change the world.

He told them to"reject pessimism and cynicism" and "know that progress is possible and problems can be solved".

He added: "Take a longer, more optimistic view of history."

He received a standing ovation and called Prince George, whom he met on Friday, "adorable."