US Election 2016 - Do Millennials Hold the Key?

Jon-Christopher Bua   |   April 29, 2015   12:00 AM ET

Once again I attended the White House Correspondents Dinner and according to White House estimates there were 2,700 attendees most vying for their moment in the limelight.

At this less star-studded and a bit more serious Spring Gala two sobering thoughts dominated the evening's "off the record" conversations as well as the official "entertainment".

As we applauded the real star of the evening, Barack Obama, we collectively came to the realisation that for this greying world leader it would be the last time he would be holding court as the nation's top Democrat at the White House Correspondents Dinner.

Although Obama will preside over one more WHCD, by this time next year the Democratic Party's presumptive nominee will be the shining star of the Democratic Party - whoever that may be.

The other topic of the evening's speculation was who would win the White House in just 18 months.

'Never be too sure' - my motto!

At a similar moment in the run-up to the 2008 election, I wrote my thoughts in a Sky News Blog entitled 'Hillary v Rudy: The Main Event'.... Enter Barack Obama and all bets were off!

While there seems to be a growing number of possible candidates interested in vying for the top spot, my revised list keeps growing.

For the Democrats, those who may even consider challenging the most dominant, and some say pre-ordained, Hillary Clinton include Joe Biden (VP and Fmr Senator DE), Martin O'Malley (Fmr Gov MD), Jim Webb (Fmr Senator VA), Bernie Sanders (Sen VT), Brian Schweitzer, (Fmr Gov Montana) and there is still talk of Elizabeth Warren (Sen MA), Lincoln Chafee (Fmr Gov RI), Andrew Cuomo (Gov NY), Mark Warner (Sen VA) - and the list continues to grow!

For the Republicans at the moment the possible contenders are Jeb Bush (Fmr Gov FL), Chris Christie (Gov NJ), Rand Paul (Sen KY), Marco Rubio (Sen FL), Ted Cruz (Sen TX), Paul Ryan (Rep WI), Ben Carson (surgeon), Rick Perry (Fmr Gov TX), Bobby Jindal (Gov LA), Scott Walker (Gov WI), Mike Huckabee (Fmr Gov AR), John Kasich ( Gov OH), Lindsey Graham (Sen SC), Carly Fiorina (Fmr head of HP), Rick Santorum (Fmr Sen PA), Michael Bloomberg (Fmr Mayor NYC), Donald Trump (businessman) and yes possibly Mitt Romney (Fmr Gov MA and 2012 GOP Presidential Candidate). This list also keeps on growing!

Had enough? Hard to keep track?

Perhaps we should take the advice of former House Speaker and winner of the South Carolina Republican Primary in 2012 with 40% of the votes, Newt Gingrich when faced with the daunting task of seizing up the overwhelming number of potential Republican Nominees for 2016 - don't worry about the numbers, the voters will have no trouble narrowing down the field.

The Democrats will hold their national convention the week of 25 July in Philadelphia, the 'City of Brotherly Love' while the GOP will put their best faces forward the week before in Cleveland.

The long primary process has always been a challenge for both Democrats and Republicans since it gives the extreme elements of both parties far too much influence on the selection of their party's nominee.

As a consequence, Mitt Romney, to appease the real conservative wing of his party, had to go so far to the right he seemed uncomfortable in his own suit during the debates and his opponent Barack Obama skilfully let him know it.

Hillary Clinton, who seems so far out in front will have a similar challenge in the months to come.

Her task will be to ward off left-wing progressives the likes of Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders in an effort to prove once again that she is the "champion" for all people, including the down-trodden.

In the final analysis, the most critical questions for all the candidates both Democratic and Republican alike aside from - Am I raising enough obscene amounts of cash from individuals and entities I would otherwise not be caught dead even talking with? - are the following:

1. Am I passionate enough and do I have enough fire in the belly to capture the hearts, minds and imagination of the American people?

2. Are the American people and the potential voter even paying any attention?

3. Am I the person the American people are interested in seeing and hearing from for the next four years?

4. Am I the person the American people are interested in seeing on the world stage representing them and protecting them for the next four years?

5. Do I have any new ideas?

6. Can I not totally screw up and get caught doing so on someone's iPhone?

7. Is what I stand for and what I have to offer relevant to the new crop of voters emerging since Obama's first overwhelming "Yes I Can" victory in 2008?

If you, Dear Presidential Candidate, can answer a rousing YES! to all of the above questions, you might have a crack at becoming the next President of the United States.

That is if you really and truly understand question number seven.

The real story of this next election cycle will be that of a "generational war" and the passing of the torch to the next generation.

Up till now the largest group of America's potential voters has been the infamous and most despised "baby boomers" - I've always hated that term - those born between 1946 and 1964. This has been the largest and richest segment of the voting age population and the audience that most politicians courted - along with the senior citizens of course.

As members of the World War II "greatest generation" are dwindling - like it or not 'Dead Heads' - baby boomers are taking their place as the "new senior set" and their priorities are shifting.

Those of this maturing generation who actually read cumbersome old news papers and get their daily dose of the news on actual "TV sets" have been the target of savvy advertisers who for decades understand this changing phenomenon only too well.

Just think of how cleverly the pharmaceutical industry has targeted the national evening news hour audience and convinced those who still watch TV news just how many diseases they may have or might be getting before the end of the broadcast.

Just this year the "millennial generation" has surpassed the "baby boomers" in pure size.

Although they have not been as reliable a voting block as the seniors or boomers, their involvement in the electoral process was part of the reason that Barack Obama won in 2008.

This generation grew up in tough economic times where a good education was not a guarantee of a good job or a successful future.

They think and live differently from previous generations.

Many do not own or even think about owning cars or TVs.

They are wizards of social media, the good, the bad and the ugly - "It is all relevant when speaking truth to power."

Because of the anaemic and slowly recovering US economy, they are often forced to stay home or return home to live with their parents until they can find a job that would allow them to go it alone.

Millennials are not dumb or slackers. They are extremely bright, entrepreneurial and socially aware.

Like the boomers they feel they have inherited a mess and would like to make some real changes.

This potentially very powerful group of young Americans can in fact have a major impact on this upcoming presidential election cycle.

If they feel that real change is hopeless, they will stay home and the older generations with all their problems will rule the day... That day being 8 November, 2016.

If they feel they have an opportunity to affect real change and put their mark on history, with the right push from the candidates, they can make a difference in their own lives and the country's future.

President Kennedy was fond of saying:

"For in a democracy, every citizen, regardless of his interest in politics, 'hold office'; everyone of us is in a position of responsibility; and, in the final analysis, the kind of government we get depends upon how we fulfil those responsibilities. We, the people, are the boss, and we will get the kind of political leadership, be it good or bad, that we demand and deserve."

A noble thought, indeed. And don't forget to vote, seniors, boomers, Gen Xers and millennials!

Our future depends on it.

Sarah Ann Harris   |   April 28, 2015    9:26 AM ET

As rioting continues in Baltimore, Donald Trump has taken it upon himself to wade into the debate - and the reaction has NOT been good.

The entrepreneur seems to have decided that the violence sweeping through the Maryland city is all down to Barack Obama.

Earlier today he tweeted: “Our great African American President hasn't exactly had a positive impact on the thugs who are so happily and openly destroying Baltimore!”

donald trump

People were quick to tear into the businessman.

Jessica Brennan tweeted: “Donald Trump has lost his mind. How is Obama's race in any way relevant to the #BaltimoreRiots ?! Idiot.”

Paul Boardman said: “Donald Trump with the same dangerous rhetoric and 'reasoning' that characterised America's racist past and divided a nation. Awful comments.”

Nikki Leigh posted: “Donald Trump really doesnt get it. #wedontcare.”

Julie Anne said: “Can someone just sew Donald Trump's mouth shut and revoke all social media so we never have to hear from him again.”

Ian Fortey added: “This is how disgusting, hateful and racist Donald Trump truly is.”

Violence broke out in Baltimore near the funeral of a black man who died in police custody earlier this month.

Freddie Gray suffered a fatal spinal injury while in custody on 19 April.

Rioting quickly spread through the city with hundreds of people looting shops, burning buildings and police cars, as well as throwing bricks and other missiles at officers.

Rioters also smashed windows and cut hoses as fire crews battled blazes.


A state of emergency has been declared in the city.

Gray’s family has spoken out against the violence, saying it is no way to honour him, according to Sky News.

His twin sister Fredericka said: "I think the violence is wrong.

"I don't like it at all."

Paul Vale   |   April 26, 2015    7:46 PM ET

NEW YORK -- Barack Obama delivered a gag-filled speech at the White House Correspondents' Dinner on Saturday, hitting the audience with a string of zingers at the expense of his political opponents, some of his friends and, of course, the media.

Among the quips at the D.C. showpiece were lines on Obamacare, climate change, Hillary Clinton and the raft of Republican candidates running for the 2016 GOP nomination.

"Just this week Michele Bachmann actually predicted that I would bring about the biblical end of days. Now, that's a legacy," he said. "That's big. I mean, Lincoln, Washington, they didn't do that."

Watch the full speech above...


Caroline Frost   |   April 23, 2015    2:47 PM ET

Russell Brand had Barack Obama and his Administration in his sights during a Q&A session, following the debut screening of his new film 'The Emperor's New Clothes'.

Watch what Russell has to say about the US president above.

Russell was debuting his new documentary, which he filmed with acclaimed director Michael Winterbottom, and which explores how the brunt of the economic crisis in this country is being borne by the poorer members of society, while bankers continue to collect their bonuses.

russell brand

Russell has a mission, and it's to upset the apple cart

In the film, Russell also doorsteps the Daily Mail's owner Lord Rothermere, visiting his house and asking him to explain his non-domiciled tax status. Watch him in action here...

At the screening, Russell promised the crowd he's not done now he's finished his book and the film, there's more where that came from...

This week, Michael Winterbottom spoke to HuffPostUK about making the film with Russell, and the surprise he got when they went to the City of London to film the bankers that were the subjects of their wrath.

“When we were filming in the banks, even the city workers would come up and ask for a hug,” said Michael. “These were the people we were railing against in the film, but they didn’t seem to mind. Russell has a strange attraction that crosses over these boundaries.”

Click here for the rest of the interview, including why the director thinks Russell is the perfect person to talk about inequality...


The Taller Than Mountain, Deeper Than Ocean Friendship - Notes on a China-Pakistan Love-in

Catriona Luke   |   April 23, 2015   12:21 PM ET

On a world globe if you trace your finger due south from Gwadar, the port on Makran coast in Pakistan's far west, it ends up, uninterupted by land, in the vast pale blue of the Arabian ocean. From Gwadar sea travel is permissible in any number of directions - into the southern hemisphere, up the cul-de-sac of the Persian Gulf, to India and Sri Lanka, but most interestingly to the east African coast.

China has been busy in Africa for decades, once, during the Cold War selling arms and competing with the Soviets for anti-west alliances, more recently for the extraction of raw materials. Copper, bauxite, and now farming is part of its economic development portfolio. According to a report in the Economist (Empire of the sums, August 2014), there are 100 million Chinese in Africa, doing things as various as running brothels in Liberia, engineering projects in Mali, copper mines in Zambia and farms in Mozambique. It is thought that China's Export-Import Bank made $62.7 billion in loans to African countries between 2001-2010, some $12.5 billion more than the World Bank, but those figures may be conservative. What is certain is that China, and the Chinese, are held in some resentment by ordinary people for ruining the eco-systems and environment, overturning the rights of small landholders, flouting local laws, adding to corruption and empowering undemocratic regimes.

From China's point of view extracting raw materials has come with the difficulty of transporting it back to its homeland ports. There was the long sea journey through the Malacca Straits; there are the stand-offs with the US and Japan in the south China seas with periodic scraps over the Spratly Islands, and an increased US fleet presence in the area since June 2012. (Leon Panetta announced at the time that by 2020 around 60 per cent of the US fleet would be deployed in Asia Pacific waters.) Earlier this month Beijing accused the US of hypocrisy over Obama's comments that China is using its "sheer size and muscle" to intimidate other nations in the south China seas.

Against this background China has offered a package of $46bn to Pakistan for road, rail, electricity, gas (and defensive) development. The port of Gwadar, facing straight into the vastness of the Arabian sea, is to be linked to the Karakorum Highway via road and rail networks, as a designated "corridor". So the logistics of Africa trade in raw materials becomes many times easier for China.

Gwadar, with a history that includes foreign suzerainty, can probably take it. A 10km by 2km ocean facing block of land known as Koh-e-Bahtil, reached by a long spit with bays on either side, it is one of the oldest settlements on the Makran coast. The Portuguese built a trading and defensive fort there in the sixteenth century, as they did in the collection of islands that became Bombay, but abandoned it in 1581 and set fire to the city. Bombay was ideally located to become a prosperous mercantile and trading centre, Gwadar, out on a limb and facing the dusty Arabian peninsula was not. In the eighteenth century it was under the control of the Khan of Khalat, who conceded it to the brother of the Sultan of Muscat - the nearest Arabian kingdom to the Makran coast - under whose dominion it remained until Pakistan bought it back in 1957, for the equivalent of £3 million.

But there are questions about the rest of the China package. The route of the "corridor" from the Karakorum reaches Islamabad and then instead of heading straight down in a westerly direction via Mianwali, Dera Ghazi Khan, Larkana (rail offshoot to Sibi), Sehwan Sharif and into Balochistan, instead does a loop around Lahore - close to the Indian border - to Multan, Bahawalpur (Pakistan airbases), Sukkur, before reaching Karachi and heading west to Gwadar.

Back in the 1960s the Karakorum Highway (KKH) was about opening up geographical and economic links between China and Pakistan, over and through the Himalayas, but one of its motors, after the 1962 China-India war about borders, was geopolitics and military. China and Pakistan formed a fairly steady alliance against India until the Soviets moved into Afghanistan in 1979, when the friendship was supplanted by Saudi and American aid. The alliance had always been exploited to America's advantage. When Nixon and Kissinger wanted to break the ice with China in the early 1970s, they used the Pakistan diplomatic corridor; in return, and by means of quid pro quo, they turned a blind eye - and encouraged - the Pakistan military's disastrous and unlawful action in Bangladesh, which resulted in 300,000 civilian deaths.

The China deal this time also looks contrived. It is a plus that Pakistan receives infrastructure development money, because for the last 40 years that has also come from the Gulf, and on the condition that the country be subverted ideologically (and would host extremist groups and the Taliban).

The control that the oil-rich Gulf has held over Pakistan may finally begin to shift. The gas pipeline from Iran into Pakistan - so long forbidden by US administrations who insisted Pakistan take its gas, improbably, from Kazakhstan (Tough US warning on Iran gas pipeline, Dawn, March 2012) and the warning of "consequences" to Pakistan by Hillary Clinton is now forgotten, perhaps because the deals in post Nato "withdrawal" Afghanistan have had to include Iran, China and Pakistan. But when there was a China flurry in Pakistan three years ago, an American diplomat let slip on twitter that China would have investment rights in Sindh from 2014 and the $46bn package from China to Pakistan could not have happened without a shift in US geo-strategic policy. The US may have done a deal with China over Pakistan: that they could further open up Gwadar and trading routes south, because that eased tension for the US in the South China Seas.

But within Pakistan the deal is still, on balance, most likely to benefit the defence establishment. Four Chinese submarines, presumably for Gwadar, have been arranged on a neat financial package for the Pakistan military. Recent figures from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute figures for 2004 - 2014 show that Saudi Arabia's defence spending has increased by 156 per cent, China's by 201 per cent. Plus Internet censorship technology blocks more in China than in Pakistan at present, but there are some who would like that to change. There should be real concern for Balochistan, Pakistan's poorest and most deprived province, still fighting for its right to be heard and not to be harassed by the military, should part of the package of China's $46bn to Pakistan include lessons in the suppression of the Tibet people and the economic plunder of their land and damage to the eco-systems.

It is also true that $46bn in global terms is not a great deal. The war in Afghanistan cost $1tn. You would encourage the Pakistanis to grab it and run, and know that they can close the infrastructure "corridors" at a time when it suits them. But it's possible that the Pakistan military may use the China package to their own advantage: to suppress Balochistan, to nestle more prominently against the border with India.

None of this anachronistic behaviour will do any good. The most devastating blow Pakistan could inflict on any of its historic "aid" donors - the United States, Saudi Arabia, China - is to come to peace, and allow economic development, with India. It will happen in time anyway. Why not sooner rather than later?

Between 1947 and 1970 Pakistan had a modest foreign debt of just $3bn and was one of the world's best users of foreign loans. The impact of Gulf oil money from 1974, matched by the US from 1979, was devastating for Afghanistan and for democracy in Pakistan, since it favoured Pakistan's military. The civilian, foreign-funded projects of the 1990s including the Islamabad-Lahore highway and the yellow taxi scheme were beneficial, but vast sums disappeared in kickbacks.

Mostly, for the quality of life of 190 million citizens, when only a fraction of aid ever goes on healthcare, education, the China deal is not good. Pakistan's democratically elected government will have to fight every step of the way to prevent environmental damage, and to protect human rights and internet freedoms. But a small welcome development for Pakistan, after Saudi Arabia's Wahabbism, is that China's religious ideology is capitalism.

Obama Says Nay to 'Pray Away the Gay'

Otto Squire   |   April 16, 2015    1:56 PM ET

"Thank Jesus, I'm Cured" said no gay person ever. So it's nice to see Barack Obama condemning the horrendous psychiatric therapies designed to 'repair' gay, lesbian and transgender youth. A leading politician speaking out about an unscientific and damaging set of treatments shouldn't be seen as progress, but it is. Negative attitudes towards homosexuality are still commonplace, and in the land of free speech, often brazenly expressed. Barely a month has passed since a Californian lawyer proposed the Sodomite Suppression Act, under which 'sodomy and buggery' would become punishable by "bullets to the head or by any other convenient method". (A bullet in the head for a bit of bum-fun seems excessive, but I question whether a good spanking would deter these deviants). The country is a messy patchwork of wildly divergent attitudes, reflecting a host of unanswered cultural and constitutional questions, but it's quite clear that things are getting better. America is getting its head straight gay.

Only fifty years ago consensual homosexual activities such as sodomy and brunch were punishable crimes. Federal law now recognises same-sex marriage, and it's legal in over thirty states. In several where it isn't, such as Arkansas, Michigan and Nebraska - a Federal Judge has ruled to strike down the bans (which only remain in place while they appeal the decision). Moreover, until recently there were discrepancies between the privileges afforded to married heterosexual and homosexual couples. A major development came in June 2013 when the Supreme Court removed a key part of the Defence of Marriage Act, and in one stroke of the pen, gay American men became entitled to the same federal benefits as their beaver-loving counterparts. Canadians - get your head out the gutter!

Things are changing fast, and it really isn't that surprising. Many will be blaming the media, but a gay kiss on TV is only a symptom of the cultural shift. There isn't one root cause, but the discussion cannot be had without mentioning the waning fortunes of the most important of American institutions, the Church.

According to the Hartford Institute of Religion Research, only forty percent of Americans now claim to attend church on a weekly basis (and it turns out that half of these are telling porkies - anyone familiar with Proverbs 12:22 will know that 'lying lips are abomination to the Lord'). Churches are closing fast, over four thousand a year, and many of those which remain open and attended are changing their message. The Presbyterian Church USA recently joined a number of denominations in accepting gay marriage, redefining its definition to "a commitment between two people, traditionally a man and a woman". They are, of course, in the minority, but their actions can be viewed as an attempt to stay relevant in a rapidly changing climate. And in light of the facts, the sensible money is on the trend continuing.

This all sounds great right? It is, but gay marriage is still illegal in over a quarter of US states, which runs counter to the self-evident truths and unalienable rights found in the Declaration of Independence. During the sixties it was often said that you cannot deny your citizens their civil rights while promoting freedom and democracy abroad. This is as true today as it ever was. A fabulous wind of change is blowing through the States, but there's still some way to go

The First Female 'Leader of the Free World'?

Hannah Cottam   |   April 15, 2015    4:12 PM ET

As the world's worst kept secret was revealed this Sunday, we learnt that Hillary Clinton announced her intention to run for President of the USA.

Not only was Clinton the first to announce her intentions, just eight years on from her defeat by Obama in the Democratic nomination race, but at this early stage it seems that she is expected to be the frontrunner for the Oval Office, with several US news outlets offering their support.

Of course, the main story surrounding this announcement is the fact that the 45th President could be a women, and many are once again offering their opinions on whether or not her sex is relevant to the decision to elect her as President.

In some ways it is surprising as a British female, who grew up with Margaret Thatcher as Prime Minister that this issue causes such debate. When you consider the number of female leaders we have seen around the world it is clear that the States are behind the times in accepting women in senior positions. At the moment there are 11 female heads of government, including Angela Merkel the Chancellor of Germany, who many describe as the leader of Europe. In other ways it's a fair representation of what can be seen in US businesses, where only 27% of CEOs are female, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

So what are the barriers to more women taking leadership roles? Pew Research Centre conducted research into beliefs about female leaders, by surveying almost 2000 Americans in 2014. They found that when it came to the characteristics of a leader, most believed that men and women were pretty evenly matched in ability. It was perceived that both genders were equally equipped in terms of intelligence and capacity for innovation, women in fact were deemed better on compassion and organisational abilities, with men only outperforming women on risk taking.

During the same survey, those questioned were asked to identify what they believed to be main barriers to female leadership the most common responses were:
• women are held to a higher standard than men
• the public aren't ready for female leaders
• women don't have sufficient support within their business or political party.

I was surprised to see that those surveyed didn't believe family commitments to be the biggest obstacle, but also delighted to see that there is no doubt when it comes to performance. What this research reveals is that it isn't practicalities or ability holding women back, it is perception.

What I admire about Clinton is that she's stated time and time again, that when it comes to running for President her gender is irrelevant. She is running because she believes that she is the most qualified for the job and her experience as a lawyer, a senator and a secretary of state, certainly suggests she is.

As a legal recruitment specialist, every day I work with a number of highly professional and experienced solicitors and in my experience, my male clients are happy to aggressively sell themselves, whereas often, female clients with the same or more experience, simply don't feel comfortable to say that they are the best person for the job. It's seems like for some women, it is easier to play down their achievements, when really they should be shouting them loudly for everyone to hear.

If women are to lead, then more women must lead. Women must apply for senior roles, sell their abilities and say that they are the best person for this job. But equally our political and business leaders need to prioritise ways to enable this. Not only are they potentially missing out on the best talent if they do not, they are also discouraging the next generation.

This is why Clinton winning the Election could be the most significant event in addressing gender imbalance not only in politics, but within business. Hillary Clinton herself said that "When women participate in politics, the effects ripple out across society". If the leader of the free world is a woman, then what can't women do?

Leaders Who Put Their Predecessors on the Podium Should Proceed With Caution

Richard Hytner   |   April 13, 2015    4:44 PM ET

Ed Miliband took one of the more controversial risks of his election campaign last week. This was not his encouragement of his wife Justine to tell-all in the interview with the Mirror, detailing how she and Ed first got together. Most readers were seriously impressed that the man rudely derided as Gromit had bagged a date or two with the accomplished economist Stephanie Flanders. Nor was the greatest risk Miliband took his contentious plan to scrap non-dom status. This merely confirmed the Labour leader's readiness to trade whatever residual scrap of support he had among Britain's wealth creators for a further populist injection of super-rich resentment.

No, the big risk the Labour leader took last week was the Blair risk, inviting the former PM to take to the podium on his behalf to dispense another well-polished, perfectly pitched and impassioned monologue to the masses.

When some of the polls were hinting that Miliband's boldness in policy choice and clarity of beliefs were just beginning to pay off, why wheel out the much unloved, opinion-dividing former leader? Until then, Miliband had gone to extraordinary lengths to distance himself from the three-times election winner; his questionable war-waging and personal wealth-seeking wholly at odds with the new man's narrative. New Labour is out. Old Labour is the new red. A moment of madness from Miliband?

Inviting Blair to shine a glimmer of electoral limelight on a single issue - Europe - was carefully judged by David Axelrod and Miliband's campaign team. Blair, they know, is as queasy about visible alignment with Miliband on most issues of substance as Miliband is aware of the electoral hazard of too close an association with Blair. The clue is in this particular passage from the speech Blair made in Newton Aycliffe on 7th April:

He [Miliband] showed that on this [the European issue], as on other issues, he is his own man, with his own convictions and determined to follow them even when they go against the tide. I respect that.

One might imagine that, 'even when they go against the tide' was a scriptwriter's late amendment to 'even when they go against the Tony.'

In his speech, Blair talked of the near death experience for the UK of the Scottish referendum, when the SNP looked like they might win the day. The avoidance of that death in large part can be attributed to the excellent oratory of another former Labour leader and Blair's own successor, Gordon Brown. Until that brilliant intervention, Brown's leadership reputation was seriously damaged by his failing in the highest office and he had been all but abandoned by his party. The once toxic Brown is once more in huge demand, this time to help Labour reverse its disastrous polling in Scotland, where the party languishes 24 points behind the SNP.

Blair and Brown offer two recent examples of when it can make sense to bring the leader back in from the cold. In both cases, the interventions were discreet by design, a swift in and out, before too much lingering resentment could resurface of decisions that went awry under their leadership.

Hillary Clinton is about to find out, however, whether it always makes sense to draw on the deposits of goodwill felt for former leaders. One of them, President Obama, gave Mrs Clinton's candidacy the thumbs-up yesterday with trademark generosity of spirit. The President described Mrs Clinton as a formidable candidate when she stood against him in 2008, and an outstanding Secretary of State in his first term in office: "I think she would be an excellent president."

One suspects President Obama knows full well that, his light touch endorsement made, Hillary Clinton, if she is to take his place in the White House, will need to demonstrate clearer blue water between them than she covered in her autobiography "Tough Choices".

It is the other former President, her husband, who represents the bigger challenge for Mrs Clinton. Is Mr Clinton capable of making a contribution when even a cameo-only appearance is likely to steal the show? It is more Mr Clinton's magnetism than Mrs Clinton's lack of stature (she has plenty) that suggests there should be no more than the merest hint of Bill in Hillary's shadow. To deny the dynastic connection would be foolish, to play it right down is a surer way for Mrs Clinton to win. Voters know who the former First Lady's First Husband will be. Should Jeb Bush win the Republican nomination, he, too, will face the same dynastic draw-down dilemma. If you were managing Jeb Bush's campaign, just how much visibility would you give his dad?

If you find yourself in a position where you quite fancy a leg-up from a former leader, here's how to offset your fear that it may go wrong:

1. Agree - explicitly - the role for the returnee. Please, Tony, will you promote this very specific, single issue for us? Please, Gordon, help save a few seats for us in Scotland, but no need to mention, say, the economy.

2. Agree - explicitly - how long you wish the former leader to stay in the limelight. If given half the chance, some former leaders will linger just that little bit longer than you'd like. Exit stage left, not pursued by the paparazzi. In Blair's case, best have an Uber waiting to take him straight back to the airport.

3. Define - exactly - how close an association you want others to infer from the returnee's appearance. You are - and need to be - your own man or woman. Sticking to the principles of your predecessor is more convincing than a cosmetic expression of your predecessor's confidence in you, however sincerely that is made. If you don't share the same world view, insist on seeing every word of the script. Miliband asked Blair to back his position on Europe. Had Blair given explicit support for much else, Miliband could have kissed goodbye to his entire campaign. The deal worked for both men. We shall see if it works for the electorate.

4. We respect leaders who are trustworthy and competent. Keep any former leader deficient in either quality well out of shot.

Richard Hytner is Adjunct Professor of Marketing, London Business School, and Deputy Chairman, Saatchi & Saatchi Worldwide. His book, Consiglieri: Leading From The Shadows, was published by Profile Books in the US and the UK in 2014 and in China and Russia later this year.

Jack Sommers   |   April 13, 2015    2:06 AM ET

After years of speculation, Hillary Clinton has announced she will run to be US president for a second time, saying: "Everyday Americans need a champion. I want to be that champion."

Clinton has been expected to make a second bid for the presidency since Barack Obama appointed her Secretary of State after defeating her in 2008.

If elected, she would be the first woman to be US President, the most powerful elected office in the world.

As she did in 2007, Clinton began her campaign for the nomination with a video.

Getting Started

I’m running for president. Everyday Americans need a champion. And I want to be that champion. -H

Posted by Hillary Clinton on Sunday, 12 April 2015

"So I'm hitting the road to earn your vote. Because it's your time. And I hope you'll join me on this journey," Clinton said at the end of a video, which features people describing their aspirations.

She plans to head to the early-voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire, looking to connect with voters directly at coffee shops, day care centres and some private homes.

Only after about a month of these events will Clinton will give a broader speech outlining more specifics about her rationale for running.

The former secretary of state, senator and first lady enters the race in a strong position to succeed her rival from the 2008 campaign. Obama said she would be "an excellent president".

Clinton will face pressure from left of her party to adopt a more populist economic message focused on inequality. Some liberals remain sceptical of Clinton's close ties to Wall Street donors and the centrist economic policies of her husband's administration. They have urged her to back tougher financial regulations and tax increases on the wealthy.


"It would do her well electorally to be firmly on the side of average working people who are working harder than ever and still not getting ahead," said economist Robert Reich, a former labour secretary during the Clinton administration who has known Hillary Clinton for nearly five decades.

The Republicans did not wait for her announcement to begin their campaign against her. The party's chairman, Reince Priebus, has outlined plans for a broad effort to try to undermine her record as secretary of state while arguing that her election would be like giving Obama a "third term."

Republicans have jumped on Clinton's use of a personal email account and server while she was secretary of state, as well as her handling of the 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya.

Former Florida governor Jeb Bush, brother of former president George W. Bush, said in his own online video, on Sunday: "We must do better than the Obama-Clinton foreign policy that has damaged relationships with our allies and emboldened our enemies."

hillary clinton

Clinton would be the first woman elected president

Clinton is the first Democrat to get into the race, but there are some lower-profile Democrats considering challenging her.

The party's nominee will have to overcome history to win election. In the last half-century, the same party has held the White House for three consecutive terms only once, during the administrations of Republicans Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

Besides Zayn, The Thing That Upsets Bill Maher The Most

Caroline Frost   |   April 8, 2015   12:55 PM ET

If you’re a fan of One Direction in general and Zayn Malik in particular, the name Bill Maher may not be one you knew a week ago, but is now one that surely fills you with venom.

Bill is the US satirist that strangely compared the departing pop star with the Boston Marathon bomber, and Zayn’s fans were not impressed - #Respect4Zayn being the hashtag that revealed their wrath.

However, it’s by no means the first time Bill’s courted controversy with his comments and, on the eve of his arrival in London for a stand-up gig at Hammersmith’s Apollo, he’s sounding pretty serene about the prospect of any threats coming his way – from any offended listeners to his various rants on extremism, women, Sarah Palin… (we spoke before Zayn-gate, but I suspect such fresh controversy won’t be prompting any kind of PR U-turn from Mr Maher).

bill maher

Bill Maher is unruffled by the prospect of offence - "I'm used to it"

“Yes I feel vulnerable, but I’m used to it, for over 20 years,” he chuckles down the phone. “There’s too much conformity in this country, we need people who speak out.”

The chuckle is impressive when I work out it must be 2am where Bill is, at home in LA, and I’m the first of a string of international chats. “I’m a night owl,” he explains.

I’ve not got long to flit through the various hot topics of the week and get his unique take on events, but first – why London, and why now?

“I love London, and before I’m dead, respectively,” he explains. “I’m not getting any younger.”

“I’ve been to London four times, we share a language.”

How IS the special relationship faring, I wonder, in the Cameron-Obama era?

“It’s invoked on both sides all the time,” says Bill. “Especially when we want someone to go to war with us.

“It’s still intact – we were birthed from you, we still enjoy the common cultural heritage and values. It’s great to have friends when the going gets tough.”

angela merkel

Bill Maher is irked by Barack Obama's absence from the Charlie Hebdo demonstration in Paris

And is it particularly tough right now? It seems not, according to Bill, who invokes history and begs me to keep the ISIS threat in perspective.

“It’s not unprecedented. Both your country and mine has faced down fascism, my mother was in wartime London when the bombs were dropping, and the outcome was uncertain.

“We have an environmental threat that grows daily, that’s much bigger than any Islamic threat or nuclear threat.

"The US shouldn’t be involved over there, I say let the civil war unfold. Let Saudi Arabia and Iran fight ISIS, we sold them the planes after all.

“What ISIS wants is for us to overcommit, it’s baiting us into overreacting.”

Despite this, Bill remains furious about not just the tragedy of Charlie Hebdo in Paris, but also his own leader’s response.

“I wasn’t surprised by what happened, no,” he starts. “Islamic terrorists are hellbent on committing acts such as those.

“I was very surprised and disappointed by the US lack of representation at the demonstration in Paris that followed. I guess my President was washing his hair that day.

“He can attend the funeral of a dirtbag in Saudi Arabia (I’m guessing he means King Abdullah), but can’t get to an event attended by 44 world leaders.”

(It’s 2.15am now on Bill’s side of the call – and it sounds like he’s just warming up.)

Bill’s TV show ‘Real Time’ frqeuently ignites media fire from both sides of the political divide. In the last six months alone, guest Ben Affleck accused host Bill and author Sam Harris of religious stereotyping – Bill says of that now, “It’s good to start the debate” – while scholar Reza Aslan slammed him for suggesting female genital mutilation was an Islamic problem.

“I’m the Liberal,” Bill tells me, with the equanimity of one who has defended his corner many, many times. “I’m defending women’s rights, gay rights, and people somehow have a problem with me standing up for them.”

What’s interesting is how frequently, whatever the debate, Bill returns to the environment. Despite his selecting a chocolate of a topic each day to incite, stimulate, enrage his audiences, it’s clear the environment stays close to his heart underneath everything else.

“I’m bleak about it,” he admits. “I’m somewhat hopeful about everything else, but I do wonder if we haven’t already passed the tipping point. A day doesn’t go by that we’re not harming this planet.”

He’s quick, though, to remind me, he remains a funny man at heart – “full out comedian of 35 years standing” – and anyone attending his Hammersmith gig will be assured of lots of chuckles (although perhaps not any One Direction fans who happen to be passing).

“All these people we’ve been talking about, they’re just players on the world stage,” Bill finally reminds me. “I want to make people laugh. I take comedy very seriously.”

Bill Maher will play Eventim Apollo London on Saturday 23 May - click here for ticket info.


Sara C Nelson   |   April 7, 2015   10:43 AM ET

US President Barack Obama’s Easter address was rudely interrupted this year by airborne invaders.

Of the honey-making variety.

The President was reading Maurice Sendak’s Where The Wild Things Are to children at the White House Easter Egg Roll when a small squadron of bees gatecrashed the event.

As a ripple of unease sped through his audience, Obama exclaimed: “Oh no, it’s a bee!”


'That's OK guys, bees are good': President Obama attempts to quell the panic

Once the fear had evolved into screams of terror the President tried to calm his young charges, assuring them: “That’s OK, guys, bees are good. They won’t land on you. They won’t sting you, they’ll be OK.”

But the children refused to be calmed, shrieking back: “They sting and they’re scary!”


The President attempted to restore order once more, insisting: “Hold on! Hold on! You guys are wild things! You’re not supposed to be scared of bees when you’re a wild thing!”

The South Lawn features its own beehive, and the White House uses honey from it in the kitchen, Politico writes.

And Obama himself has taken a personal interest in the preservation of the humble honey bee by last year announcing a task force to help save the dwindling population.

Iran: the New Chapter

Robin Lustig   |   April 6, 2015   12:00 AM ET

It's a deal. Or, to be strictly accurate, it's a framework deal, which means that Iran and the six major powers with whom it's been negotiating over its nuclear research programme still have a few i's to dot and t's to cross.

Even so, it's definitely worth celebrating. Not so long ago, there was a distinct possibility that Israel, with or without tacit US approval, might launch air strikes against Iran, with incalculable consequences for the region.

It's only three years since the then US defence secretary Leon Panetta was reliably quoted as saying they he believed there was "a strong likelihood" that Israel was about to start bombing Iran. Five years before that, a senior retired Israeli military official said: "If the Americans do not take military action against Iran, we'll do it ourselves."

And only a matter of weeks ago, the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu was in Washington to make a deeply controversial speech to the US Congress on the perils of doing a deal with Tehran. The Obama administration, to its credit, ignored him.

So the announcement from Lausanne on Thursday night was immensely significant. But so was the first phone call that President Obama made after the deal was done - to King Salman of Saudi Arabia. (Mr Netanyahu, it seems, had to wait.)

Because the Saudis are every bit as worried about the prospect of a stronger Iran as the Israelis are. If this deal is good for Iran - and if sanctions are lifted, it will be very good indeed for Iran - then the thinking in Riyadh is likely to be that it's bad for Saudi Arabia. It's not just sectarian rivalry between Sunni Riyadh and Shia Tehran: it's also good, old-fashioned strategic rivalry in one of the most febrile regions on earth.

It may even be that the Saudis' unusually assertive military intervention against Shia rebels in Yemen was at least partly due to Riyadh's determination to send a message to Tehran: you may get a deal in Lausanne, but you won't automatically get what you want elsewhere.

So let us assume that the Iran nuclear deal does stick: how likely is it that for the first time since the 1979 revolution, relations with Washington will return to something resembling normal?

Not very, is the short answer, at least as long as Iran's leaders continue to back President Assad in Syria, Hizbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Palestinian territories. On the other hand, in Iraq, where Iranian fighters are in the forefront of the ground war against Islamic State while US warplanes are in action overhead, the two countries look almost like allies.

And here's something else that's worth considering: what will be the effect in Iran itself of the Lausanne deal? It will be presented, obviously, as a tremendous victory for the leadership - but although President Rouhani has been backed by the country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, he still has plenty of hard-line opponents who will try to prevent the deal being finalised.

Rouhani owed his election victory in 2013 to a promise to get the crippling economic sanctions lifted by, in his words, "increasing mutual trust" with other countries. If he can demonstrate that his approach has paid off, he will be much strengthened politically and his critics will be weakened.

As the American security analyst Fred Kaplan wrote: "Tehran's rulers have long justified their alliance with terrorists and their repressive domestic policies by raising alarms about the threat from demonic America."

So if that threat is receding, might Rouhani then be tempted to recalibrate Tehran's support for Hizbollah and Hamas? Or will he want to buttress Iran's proud reputation as an implacable enemy of Israel by continuing to support hostile Palestinian and Lebanese groups on its borders?

Iran has been immeasurably strengthened since the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 (yet another example of the Law of Unintended Consequences). It now plays a crucial role in Iraq, it has foiled the attempted overthrow of its ally in Damascus, Bashar al-Assad, and in Lebanon Hizbollah is a vital political player. Most recently, its Shia allies in Yemen have forced the president to flee.

The shape of the Middle East has changed, and is continuing to change, beyond recognition, first as a result of the wave of unrest that was briefly heralded as the Arab Spring, and now by the Iran nuclear deal. No one can predict what it will look like when stability returns.

The regional analyst Abdel Moneim Said Aly, director of Cairo's al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, wrote in Foreign Policy: "I am 67 years old - I lived through the 1956 and 1967 wars, the Arab-Israeli peace, the revolutions and coup d'états. Despite all that, I never had the same uncertainty that I have now about the region. Everything is possible."

Sara C Nelson   |   March 31, 2015   10:31 AM ET

A former Ukip candidate has suggested Israel should kidnap US President Barack Obama and put him on trial in the style of a Nazi war criminal.

Hendon candidate Jeremy Zeid made his comments on Facebook as he shared a story about the US declassifying documents about Israel’s nuclear programme.

In a post revealed by the Hope Not Hate blog, which was later deleted, he wrote:

facebook jeremy zeid

“Once Obama is out of office, the Israelis should move to extradite the bastard or ‘do an Eichmann’ on him, and lock him up for leaking state secrets. After all, what’s sauce for the Pollard goose is sauce for the Obama gander, don’t you think?”

Pollard is a reference to the US imprisonment of Jonathan Pollard, who was jailed for selling classified information to Israel.

In response to a comment Zeid added: “Nah just kidnap the bugger, like they did to Eichmann, who suddenly found that he’d woken up in Israel. The problem is that Israeli jails are far more humane and adherent to human rights than American ones.”

barack obama

Zeid has suggested Israel kidnap US President Barack Obama

Nazi mastermind Adolf Eichmann fled to Argentina after the Second World War, though he was kidnapped by Israeli agents in 1960, spirited to Israel, tried and executed.

Zeid told the Times Series he has stood down as the party’s candidate for Hendon but insisted he sticks by his comments "100 per cent".

He told the Jewish Chronicle: “All I said is that we should ‘do an Eichmann’ and extradite him. It is a private opinion.

“Remember that phrase ‘Je Suis Charlie?’ Well, freedom of speech.


Adolf Eichmann, flanked by guards, in the Jerusalem courtroom during his trial in 1961 for war crimes committed during World War II

“People can spin it anyway they want. If people do not like it, well, I am sorry.

“I have not stepped down because of Ukip. Every time I mentioned the NHS or economy everyone was just obsessed with race.

“I am done with politics because people focus on the minutia.”

Last year Zeid caused outrage after claiming some parts of London were being “ethnically cleansed” of white people, The Independent reports.

He later wrote the tweet was “badly worded”.

Chris York   |   March 30, 2015    2:48 PM ET

Despite the millions of dollars of security, helpers and state-of-the-art transport, Barack Obama can still be caught out by the humble step.

We've all been there - negotiated some stairs just a little too enthusiastically forcing us to perform some pretty hasty emergency maneuvers.

Luckily Obama is apparently pretty much unflappable and his recovery is suitably adept which is fortunate as those steps from Air Force One are really high...

air force one