News Picks: Ireland’s political crisis, Phone hacking, China, Palestine Papers

Ireland

The worst Taoiseach in the State’s history – Events in Irish politics have taken an almighty turn since my last post and have, frankly, descended into utter chaos and farce.

After seemingly his finest hour Taoiseach Brian Cowen reversed all his good work with a politically suicidal attempt to parachute six new people into his cabinet after resignations across the board by Ministers who would be retiring at the election.

He then resigned as leader of Fianna Fail but retained his role as leader of the country prompting the junior coalition partner, the Green Party to withdraw from government. Ireland’s cabinet now consists of just seven people, some with three portfolios and the longest job titles in the world.

There will be final effort to push through a finance bill this week but the desire for change has grown even stronger than it already has been over the weekend and a general election is just weeks away.

Phone hacking/BSkyB takeover

Cameron and Murdoch’s son attended private dinner – Aside from the implications of Andy Coulsen’s resignation last week on David Cameron’s judgement there is also the issue of News Corporation’s attempts to takeover BSkyB, a move feared by many in the UK media, not least because of the phone hacking allegations surrounding the Murdoch owned News of the World, which are unlikely to go away.

The Independent today reports that that Cameron met with James Murdoch, Rupert Murdoch’s son and chairman of News Corp. in Europe and Asia, late last year. However the PM’s spokesman today said any discussion about News Corp’s proposed takeover of BSkyB would have no bearing on the decision of the Culture Secretary on whether or not to allow the move.

The PM’s spokesman would also not comment on whether the Cameron has any plans to meet with Rupert Murdoch when he comes to London this week in what many see as his attempts to get a hold a crisis that is engulfing his media empire.

China

China grooming Hu’s successor – Much was made of Chinese President Hu Jintao’s visit to the White House last week where he was given a full state banquet by President Obama. But it’s unlikely Hu will return to the US with his successor already being groomed to takeover, probably next year.

Profiled in the New York Times, Xi Jinping, the current vice president, is unlikely to alter China’s direction in the world although he could be more popular amongst Communist Party members. How much influence he will wield in an increasingly peripheral position as president of the world’s second-largest economy and fastest-modernising military power is unclear.

Palestine Papers

Leaks show there is no peace process – The leaking of documents relating to discussions about the Middle East peace process show just how much of a gulf there is between what is said in public by political leaders and what is offered and argued in private. This could be said of any political discourse in any country in any part of the world, but it’s all the more crucial here because of the volatility of the region.

As Channel 4 News’ Lindsay Hilsum points out, there is much concentration on the perceived weakness of the Palestinian negotiators, but she asks why did the US not push Israel into more concessions?Why did Middle East envoy Tony Blair not offer more praise for what the Palestinians were prepared to offer?

Truth is, in my view, that this merely confirms the status quo of US-Israeli relations that have been this way for decades. Whilst some may point to an increasing appreciation of the plight of Palestinians in recent years, namely George W. Bush becoming the first US president  to call for a two state solution, the reality is that the US nor Israel really don’t want this to happen.

The up shot of this latest leak (which has nothing to do with Wikileaks by the way), is the certain death of the two state solution and, worse still, possibly further violence and war in the region.

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Brian Cowen, the pint(s), and the shame

Cowen (left), not last week, but at some other session

You may have heard last week about the Prime Minister who got himself into a bit of bother by having one too many the night before a rather important morning radio interview. It was an interview in which he performed rather poorly, which didn’t go unnoticed across the world.

This is the kind of story you might hear in some far off land or it might be something that Silvio Berlusconi would get up to in Italy. It’s the kind of thing that gets reported in the “And finally…” section of the news bulletin. You listen to the interview and sure enough the leader of the country is a bit hoarse and not all that articulate.

But this was no foreign outpost, no latest cock up from Berlusconi this was in fact the Prime Minister or Taoiseach of Ireland, Brian Cowen who is supposed to be sorting out a country whose finances are in such dire straits, the International Monetary Fund is dangerously close to stepping in. But instead Cowen is partial to the odd pint or twenty the night before an interview with Morning Ireland, the Republic’s equivalent of the Today programme here in the UK.

Imagine if you will, David Cameron going on Today at 8.10am sounding a bit worse for wear after a heavy night during the party’s conference in Birmingham next month. His voice is hoarse, his words are stumbling out and he’s not altogether 100%. More than likely, this just wouldn’t happen.

In fact anyone going on the Today programme for a testing interview is unlikely to indulge too much the night before as they want to be at their best for an important, agenda setting ten minutes where they will be grilled by John Humphrys or in this case Morning Ireland presenter, Cathal Mac Coille.

Going on the lash the night before an early morning start where you have an important engagement is something you do as a student. It is not something you do when you are the Prime Minister of a country that is proposing to make £3bn worth of cuts that will place an extra burden on the already crippled tax payer.

The job of running a country that is in economic turmoil is one for serious people and yet Ireland has been lumbered with some cute hoor who enjoys a pint and a sing song and embarrassing the country in front of the world on national radio.

The most galling thing is that he wasn’t even elected, stepping in when Bertie Ahern stepped down as Taoiseach in 2008 in the manner of Gordon Brown replacing Tony Blair in the year before.

But at least Gordon Brown was a serious man, a little too serious for some people’s liking but Brown never took the piss out of the taxpayers by getting pissed and embarassing himself and his country. No, that’s been the job of Brian Cowen who remains in charge but by the skin of his teeth.

Talk of a heave is rife and the man who would replace him is Brian Lenihan, the finance minister, who continues to perform his role despite being stricken by pancreatic cancer. A serious man. That is exactly what Ireland needs right now. Not some cute hoor who has done enough damage as it is.