Is the deal a dose of reality for the EU?

Hamlet
Image caption Is quoting Hamlet wise in relation to the future of the EU?

"To be, or not to be together, that is the question which must be answered." The President of the European Council, Donald Tusk reaches for his Shakespeare to stress the enormity of the decision before us.

He doesn't spell out that Hamlet is pondering a big existential question - whether or not to kill himself, and so risk an eternity in hell. He may well think that leaving the EU is the global equivalent of being cut off from God's love in a fiery pit for all time.

But the quote is not propitious. Hamlet of course, does not kill himself. But he and almost everyone else ends up dead, sprawled across the stage.

I am sure it is an unintended irony that the only person left alive to survey the tragedy is young Fortinbras from Norway, a country that these days is outside the EU.

There will enough words, wild and whirling, from me and others on the deal and the UK position. For now I want to look at the big picture of what the deal says about the state of the European Union itself and where it is heading. In tabloid speak "How EU feeling?"

Read full article Is the deal a dose of reality for the EU?

Fear and loathing will power drama of EU debate

David Cameron Image copyright AP
Image caption David Cameron's performance will be key to the result of the referendum campaign

The whole world's a stage, and the backdrop to David Cameron's biggest performance so far will be Brussels. If the prime minister fumbles his lines, the curtain call could come early.

We are approaching a moment of high theatre within the long running drama of the UK's referendum on membership of the European Union.

Read full article Fear and loathing will power drama of EU debate

Is 'King Jeremy the Accidental' on the up?

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn Image copyright Reuters

There is an old blues standard with the lyric "I've been down so very damn long, this looks like up to me". By that measure, things are looking up for the Labour leader.

To the fury and frustration of many of his parliamentary colleagues, and the slack-jawed amazement of some lobby journalists, Jeremy Corbyn is still in the job after failing every test they have set him.

Read full article Is 'King Jeremy the Accidental' on the up?

Bowie death underlines power of the obituary

  • 14 January 2016
  • From the section UK
David Bowie Remembered On The Hollywood Walk Of Fame Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption David Bowie's death has been marked across the world

Some sour souls will already be moaning about the tidal wave of tributes crashing all around us following David Bowie's death.

There is an "off" switch not just to life but to the radio and TV.

Read full article Bowie death underlines power of the obituary

Politics past, present and spectres yet to come

  • 25 December 2015
  • From the section World
Vignette from 'A Christmas Carol' by Charles Dickens Image copyright Photos.com

The political year has been full of tales of the unexpected. So this is my Christmas ghost story, of politics past, present and spectres yet to come.

Here we should pause. Pundits and commentators should be haunted by their own failures to predict the most significant events of the year, and I at least acknowledge that our crystal balls were cracked and misty, and must be distrusted.

Read full article Politics past, present and spectres yet to come

The year it all linked up

  • 18 December 2015
  • From the section World
Refugees and migrants arrive on the Greek island of Lesbos Image copyright EPA

"Only connect." When EM Forster urged us to "live in fragments no longer" it was a hope for the future, not a curse.

But it is not a bad epitaph for a year when globalisation bit back and the biggest news stories tumbled into each other, growing like a malign crystal.

Read full article The year it all linked up

West hopes moderates can rescue Syria

Syrian Army forces look on as buses leave district of Waer during a truce between the government and rebels, in Homs Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Rebel fighters have left Homs

The Syrian city seen as the capital of the revolution has fallen, by agreement.

Rebel fighters have agreed a ceasefire and will leave Homs to President Bashar al-Assad's tender mercies.

Read full article West hopes moderates can rescue Syria

Oldham is a fundamental test for Labour

Labour Launch their Oldham West and Royton By-election Campaign Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Labour party candidate Jim McMahon was council leader in Oldham

"People don't want to vote for him. He's not like the leaders I'm used to. That Gordon Brown. I loved Gordon Brown. And Ed Miliband," says the man on the doorstep of the terraced house.

Nostalgia is a wonderful thing.

Read full article Oldham is a fundamental test for Labour

French politics shifts right after Paris attacks

  • 19 November 2015
  • From the section Europe
Statue of Marianne at Place de la Republique, Paris Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Many people have left tributes at the statue of Marianne in the Place de la Republique

Marianne, the imposing woman who represents the French Republic, looms above the crowd, holding in one hand an olive branch, in the other a book, marked: "Human rights".

Not perhaps the most appropriate symbols of this moment in the Republic's history.

Read full article French politics shifts right after Paris attacks

Cameron's EU renegotiations a mere sideshow

porridge bowls Image copyright Thinkstock

So there's Goldilocks, supping with a long spoon, tasting, testing the temperature. Here's what I notice - she no longer cares if the breakfast is denounced as tepid, flavourless fare.

I've long argued that Mr Cameron's problems over renegotiation with the European Union is akin to Goldilocks' porridge problem - finding the temperature that's just right. What is too hot for other European leaders may be too cool for the Eurosceptics in his own party.

Read full article Cameron's EU renegotiations a mere sideshow