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Jonathan Freedland

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About Jonathan Freedland

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  1. So the Washington journalist who warned me 10 years ago that the internet was doomed, that it would collapse under the weight of all those pages, was wrong. The internet is here and changing everything, the way we work, shop, communicate, even fall in love. But what of society itself? The industrial revolution changed politics completely, leading to universal suffrage, as well as modern socialism, communism and fascism. What will the internet revolution do for the politics of our own age? Last week the revolutionaries were in town, as Google's high command came to London for a major think-in,
  2. Despite mountains of documents suggesting enormous cash sums heading the Saudis' way, the attorney general, Lord Goldsmith, told parliament the investigation was dropped for lack of evidence - and because MI5 and MI6 believed Britain's national security would be in danger if justice was pursued (though, interestingly, the heads of those agencies have refused to endorse that claim). In an incredible sentence, Goldsmith explained that the decision had been made in the wider public interest, which had to be "balanced against the rule of law". But the rule of law should not be balanced against any
  3. Blair is like an outgoing American president in the three months before the inauguration of his successor. Suddenly he can do what the hell he likes, floating into a zone somewhere above politics. His allies say that he's using this freedom constructively, pushing necessary moves like last week's climate change bill and the Freud review of welfare. But there is another, less rosy view of this period - one that the planners of the legacy tour will not like. It is that Blair has found himself beyond the reach of normal accountability, and is exploiting that freedom to distinctly shabby effect.
  4. When the biographers of the future come to record the life of Tony Blair, they should reserve a special footnote for Catherine Tate. The comedian was responsible for a few minutes of television last Friday which captured not only a key aspect of the man who has governed Britain for the past 10 years - but also illustrated the sheer strangeness of our current politics. It was a segment on Comic Relief and I watched it open-mouthed, in a combination of incredulity and admiration. Tate was in Downing Street as Lauren, the Asbo-heavy schoolgirl who asks perennially, "Am I bovvered?" Lauren was on
  5. The House of Commons will be debating, as if it were a matter of controversy, a principle which most other democracies accepted a long time ago - a principle which we send our armies half way across the globe to impose on others by force. It is the principle that people should elect those who govern them. Yes, remarkable as it may seem, that principle still does not fully apply in Britain, even though we like telling the world we all but invented democracy. In Westminster, the self-styled "mother of parliaments", half the business is done by a chamber in which not a single soul has been chose
  6. It's a neat twist on democratic accountability. In last November's midterm elections, Americans sent a message as clearly as they could, short of hiring a plane to spell it out in skywriting above Pennsylvania Avenue: we want this war to end. Bush promised he had heard them - and is promptly doing the very opposite. One New York Times editorial wondered if he had even watched the 2006 election night results or whether he had just curled up in front of a videotaped repeat of the Republican victories of 2002. The Republicans have form in this area, of course. In 1968, Richard Nixon was elected
  7. It's a neat twist on democratic accountability. In last November's midterm elections, Americans sent a message as clearly as they could, short of hiring a plane to spell it out in skywriting above Pennsylvania Avenue: we want this war to end. Bush promised he had heard them - and is promptly doing the very opposite. One New York Times editorial wondered if he had even watched the 2006 election night results or whether he had just curled up in front of a videotaped repeat of the Republican victories of 2002. The Republicans have form in this area, of course. In 1968, Richard Nixon was elected
  8. First, let's lay down the mother of all caveats. The conventional wisdom says Democrats are about to win control of the House of Representatives and could well take the Senate too. But, and here's the mega-caveat, the conventional wisdom in Washington is often very, very wrong. Cast your mind back to election night 2004, when the US media anointed President John Kerry. The warning this time is that Republicans might be fewer in number, but more motivated and therefore likelier to turn out. Note, too, the reports that White House strategist Karl Rove, the election wizard famed as George Bush's
  9. The Americans can't quite believe it. Getting rid of Tony Blair? Are you Brits crazy? Like Thatcher before him, Blair finds that the acclaim abroad lingers even when there is derision at home. Maggie was a legend in the States when she was shoved aside by the Tories, and the same is true of Blair. When he does his farewell tour - part Sinatra, part royal goodbye - he'd be a fool not to make a stop in America. There the ovations are guaranteed. And yet in the US, he might also reflect, is where his troubles began. This week marks the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks which radically altere
  10. Until now, New Labour's political scandals have remained just that - political. Peter Mandelson's run-ins over his home loan or the Hindujas' passports may have cost him his job - twice - but they stayed within the sphere of politics. Battle was conducted in the Commons, on the front pages and in the TV studios - not in a police station. Once the word "arrest" is uttered, a scandal enters a new, and much graver, category. Yesterday's Guardian story revealing that Scotland Yard had embarked on a trawl for all deleted emails relating to gifts and loans to Labour will have come as a warning - an
  11. It would probably be tactless to suggest that Tony Blair start thinking about his place in history this week, just as history seems to be beckoning him a little more urgently. But if he is minded to wonder about a lasting monument to his achievements, a bequest that will convey to future generations exactly what Blair's Britain was like, I have a humble suggestion. He should dig a hole in the ground, lowering into it an airtight box - inside which would be a DVD boxed-set of the BBC2 hit of the season, The Apprentice. Forget all the knick-knacks that usually go inside a time capsule; the bubb
  12. Now this is beginning to feel like a real scandal. There are police inquiries, the first arrest, talk of leads that go "all the way to the top". When you hear that detectives are mulling an interview with the prime minister himself, you know it's big. Every scandal worthy of the name has the involvement of the police. Otherwise it's merely a gaffe, an embarrassment or a row. David Mellor's infidelity was embarrassing; Jeffrey Archer's perjury was a scandal. Ronald Reagan's joke about bombing Russia was a gaffe; sending arms to the contras was a scandal. The allegation that a crime has been co
  13. Tomorrow marks the 30th anniversary of Harold Wilson's resignation as prime minister. For most people under 40 that fact will mean little; many will struggle to place the name. And yet, at the time, Wilson's departure was a political earthquake, wholly unexpected and assumed to have reshaped the national landscape. For Wilson had been at or close to the top of British politics for 12 years, spending all but four of them in Downing Street. For a large chunk of the 60s and 70s, the words "prime minister" instantly evoked the face and flat Yorkshire vowels of Harold Wilson. Now, though, he is al
  14. The honeymoon's over - or at least it should be. After all, we've had two months of it; ever since David Cameron wowed the Conservative party conference in Blackpool, the man has been carpet-bombed with love. First, the Tory faithful swooned for him when he delivered a speech without notes, then the media fell even harder. (Some suspect it was the other way round, with Conservatives only realising they had been swept off their feet when the TV correspondents told them they had.) Since then the bouquets and perfumed letters from the press have not stopped coming; the love-in has had no let-up.
  15. Paris is in flames and it's more than a city which is burning. The presidency of Jacques Chirac, already battered, is being consumed before our eyes. The French political class, shaken by the No vote in May's referendum on the European constitution and the rejection of the Paris bid for the 2012 Olympic Games, is feeling the ground tremble. Not since 1968 has there been such a widespread and sustained challenge to the French state. But the greatest threat of all is to an idea, one that has held firm since the first days of the Republic. If that idea is now shrivelling in the flames of Lille a
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