French presidential finalists — incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy and Parti socialiste candidate François Hollande — faced off Wednesday night in what commentators are calling the most animated debate in the history of French presidential debates.
In short, Sarkozy jumped into the arena as attack dog on any number of issues — defending his record on the economy in France and in the eurozone, and going on the offensive on any number of cultural issues, such as immigration. Hollande, in turn, gave as good as he took from Sarkozy, showing that he could rebut the president’s jabs persuasively, forcefully and calmly.
For me, the debate is crystallized by a snarky exchange over Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former IMF managing director and Party socialiste heavyweight who, until he was charged with raping a housekeeper in New York last year, was the favorite to win the Socialist nomination and the French presidency:
“I won’t accept lessons from a political party that was enthusiastically uniting behind Dominique Strauss-Kahn,”Sarkozy said in a hard-fought debate four days before France’s election.
“I was sure you were going to bring that up,” Hollande retorted. “You put him at the head of the IMF.”
In any event, the result is a presidential race with a dynamic fairly unchanged from the pre-debate dynamic, with Hollande leading by anywhere from six to nine points in advance of Sunday’s second-round vote. If anything, Hollande gained a little ground — by pushing back at Sarkozy, he showed he is not quite the squish everyone assumes him to be.
Ultimately, I can’t help thinking that the debate is a metaphor for the second round so far: a lot of motion, but not a lot of movement. Continue reading Hollande and Sarkozy move beyond debate: motion without movement
At a time when the United Kingdom is falling back into double-dip recession and the Conservative Party is falling to a nearly double-digit gap in opinion polls against Labour Party (under the leadership of the rather inexperienced Ed Miliband, at that), why is Boris Johnson so seemingly poised to swamp today’s London mayoral election against former mayor Ken Livingstone?
Johnson has led, however narrowly, throughout the mayoral campaign, and in late April opened up a significant polling lead on Livingstone. Indeed, he seems to be widening his vote even as Livingstone tries to nationalize the election into a choice between Labour values and Conservative values (ironically, given his spotty history with the party).
You could probably count any number of reasons why this should not be the case. Johnson’s record as mayor is not incredibly accomplished. He’s presiding over a London that has watched its status as a global financial capital take quite a hit. And he’s just as much of a pampered old Etonian as the current Tory leadership of prime minister David Cameron and chancellor of the exchequer George Osborne, who are under fire nationally for their budget cuts program at a time when UK growth is slipping and unemployment is rising.
Livingstone, the first mayor of London, can point to significant success in his time in office from 2000 to 2008. He revamped London’s public transport system, even if his proposed congestion charge proved controversial. He led the way on registry of same-sex couples way back in 2001, long before the UK Civil Partnerships Act in 2004. Livingstone led the campaign to win the Summer Olympics to London, which will be held later this year. He also led the city with calm and dignity in the face of the July 2005 terrorist bombings, while giving voice to many of the anti-war concerns than neither mainstream Labour nor the Tories voiced over the war on terror.
A maverick willing to stand on principle against his own party, Livingstone even found himself kicked out of Tony Blair’s Labour Party for a while for having the audacity to win the 2000 mayoral election without Blair’s blessing (Blair grudgingly readmitted Livingstone after his landslide win in the 2004 mayoral election). There’s a strong case to be made that Livingstone offers better policies, while Boris offers only glib personality. Boris represents a party that now owns the UK’s sluggish economy, but voters trust him nearly 2-to-1 as better for London’s economy. Livingstone has pledged to cut transport costs by 7%, but Johnson still leads on transport issues.
So what gives? Continue reading There’s something about Boris