Fail, Britannia

Poor Gordon Brown.

The Scot took the reins of the Labour party and the prime ministry from Tony Blair in summer 2007, shortly before London's financial firms (which provided a huge part of British corporate earnings) cratered, the housing bubble burst, and the global economy went to hell.

In the last few months, Brown has also faced a political scandal of Clinton-type absurdity and proportion. The London Daily Telegraph unearthed evidence that numerous members of parliament had abused their expense accounts, meant for work-related costs, like travel. Hundreds of thousands of pounds went to paying for: mortgage payments for a house that does not exist, pornography, "poppy wreaths," "life coaching" classes, plasma-screen televisions, a "floating duck island," and "moat" and "paddock" repairs. (I think I need to become a British MP).

And yesterday, Labour was routed in local elections -- a bad portent for the national election Brown must hold in the next year. The party won just 23 percent of votes, and Labour lost hundreds of local councilors.   

Increasingly, members of the Labour party and other Britons have called for Brown to fall on his sword. But what would happen if he did? And how could Labour impeach him?

If Brown stepped down, Labour would nominate choices for a new leader, hold a special conference, and vote in a winner, who would become prime minister. If the party wanted to oust him, at least 70 of Labour's 350 members of parliament would have to call for a leadership contest. That seems unlikely, although prominent members of the party have come out against him -- such as former Women's Minister Meg Munn and Pensions Secretary James Purnell, who quit yesterday.

Brown seems to have survived the local elections, reshuffling his cabinet today. But there are still rough waters ahead -- the European election results will come out on Sunday night. An opposition group has said they may attempt an ouster at a special Labour meeting on Monday.

Truth is, if Brown is ousted, it will be more for politics than policies. I doubt Brown could have done much better with financial crisis (what he did during his decade-long tenure as chancellor of the exchequer is another question); economists, such as Paul Krugman, have suggested his forceful policies softened the blow. The expenses row wasn't his fault either. Still, his leadership has been less than inspiring to members of his own party, who are turning against him.  

Responding to the suggestion he needs to quit, Brown alliterated forcefully: "I will not waver, I will not walk away, I will finish the work."

We'll see if he holds on.

Kirsty Wigglesworth - WPA Pool/Getty Images


The jihadisphere reaction to the Obama speech

Over at Jihadica, recent FP contributor Thomas Hegghammer has been parsing the reaction to Obama's Cairo speech on jihadi Web sites and message boards:

In a widely diffused and entertaining post, a contributor named “Abu al-Bashar” describes a daydream about Egyptian Salafi Ulama confronting Obama. The text is written like a short skit which goes something like this (loosely translated):

“Here are our ulama from Egypt: Sheikhs Yasir al-Barhami, Muhammad Hussain Ya’qub, Ahmad al-Sisi, Abu Ishaq al-Huwayni, Tal’at Zahran, Muhammad Hasan, Muhammad Ismail al-Muqaddam and Mahmud al-Misri. They hear about Obama’s visit to Egypt and decide to convene a meeting in which the following conversation takes place.

Ismail gets angry and says we have been silent for long enough.

Hasan asks: what about Obama? He is coming here to salvage relations with the Muslim world.

Al-Huwayni intervenes: But he’s coming here while is armies are killing Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan and supports the Jews in their killing of Palestinians.

Burhami says: The bottom line is that Obama the pig is coming here to slaughter us and he smiles at us in the process.

Al-Sisi sayd: Sure, but Obama the pig is coming here, so what should we do?

After long discussions, the scholars announce their decision, which consists of two steps.

First, a statement, denouncing Obama’s visit. It would be distributed on the satellite tv stations and on the internet forums and on facebook, and in all newspapers and journals, in Arabic and English and French. Second, a demonstration on the day of the speech. All preachers and scholars and their students would go to the location where Obama will deliver his speech and show their opposition.

- The end -

Here Sheikh Muhammad Husain Ya’qub intervenes, saying ‘I retract my positions’.”

The final part is quite funny – even in a dream official ulama lack moral courage.

 This is more disturbing:

The third and most widespread type of post focuses on tactical issues such as the detailed program of Obama’s visit, the size and nature of his security attachment and the prospects of carrying out an assassination. One writer quoted the Saudi opposition abroad as saying observers and Saudi security officials fear for Obama’s life in Saudi Arabia. He argued that the recent shooting in Jubayl is indicative of a surge in pro-al-Qaida sentiment in the Kingdom. The fact that the perpetrators of the Jubayl shooting have not been caught further worried the authorities. Most responses to the post expressed hope that Obama be assassinated, but one commentator drily noted that Obama comes and goes as he wishes so long as the royal family is in power.

Another post by “Baghdad al-Khilafa” presented a more detailed “Plan for killing Barak Obama” in Egypt. It included a picture of Cairo university followed by the note: “the best way of killing Obama: Suicide belt, suicide belt, suicide belt.” Then followed detailed instructions on how to manufacture a suicide belt, including links to downloadable instruction videos.