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Is UKIP's star fading?

As UKIP seeks to instil discipline amongst its cadres, it finds itself walking a thin line between maintaining the populist rhetoric that harnessed its appeal to the “left-behind” and building a more polished, mainstream image.

Putin still has plenty of friends in London

If we take a brief look back at our history of “getting tough” with Russia, we can see where our political and financial elites really stand.

Helena on the establishment

Anthony Barnett (London, OK):  Helena Kennedy has emailed to say, "thank you for your response to the article on Jonathan Powell. I  was taken aback by the jibe of "preening" but then those of us who  have been Blair's critics have to expect this kind of thing. The idea  that Powell is  "of the establishment but anti-establishment" is  ridiculous. What he really means is that he is not underpinned by any  belief system. He thinks that one establishment - that of the Right  was replaced by one of the Left - if only it had been true. There  might then have been greater change. Instead we got more Thatcherism,  more privatisation and even more centralised government. Those who ran Blair's machine, like Powell and Alastair Campbell and Philip Gould  will get away lightly yet they too profoundly damaged our politics,  urging Blair on. As for preening - yuck. I can think of those who did, men as well as women. But we have to take this stuff on the chin."

Tales of our political class II: the Blair hex

Peter Oborne (London, Daily Mail): Is Cameron making a decisive impact as an alternative to Brown? The Sunday Times have just given him a YouGov 16 pt lead in the wake of his family offensive including his ITV package when they let in the cameras to observe the Camerons with their children including their disabled son. Apparently he was not so happy about the picture of him and the pr man Alan Parker swimming together off the golden sands of South Africa, which the Mail on Sunday ran and OK picked up on. Given the lamentable performance of the government, there is still a feeling that Cameron is simply too like New Labour. Basically Cameron is emerging as the heir to Blair with a similar promiscuous affection for the super-rich and their creatures, such as Parker and the Freud pr agent who is married to Elizabeth Murdoch.

He'll save every one of us

Jon Bright (London, OK): Was toying with an Anthony the Great metaphor ("And when Tony looked at the breadth of his domain, he wept, for there were no more high profile international jobs to apply for") but have gone with Flash Blair instead ("I love you Tony - but we've only got 14 hours left to save the Earth!") for the latest installment in TB's post-PM attempts to achieve omnipresence.

Tales of our political class 1: sandboys

Anthony Barnett (London, OK): According to today's Mail on Sunday this is a picture taken last month of David Cameron and Alan Parker enjoying a little time off in South Africa. Parker heads Brunswick the leading PR firm that once employed the Prime Minister's wife and his new Chief of Staff Stephan Carter also Gordon Brown is a godfather to one of Parker's children and Parker's sister works in the Cabinet Office where she polishes the PM's image.

Around Lord Levy's table

Peter Oborne (London, Daily Mail): Anthony thank you for the post about Aitken, Ashcroft and Levy. I have been a political journalist for fifteen years, and have never once heard of regular Friday night dinners thrown by Lord Levy. So why does Ian Katz calls them "famous"? My guess is that Katz is using this misleading language to make it seem natural that as a reporter he should attend. It also obscures the fact that, far from being famous, these were not just private dinner parties they were secretive occasions to bind the corporate and political elite to the Blair regime. Katz nonetheless attended one. I hope - as a Guardian journalist who believes in openness and transparency - Katz will now furnish us with the names of all those who were there on the occasions he went including the high court judge and PFI tycoon present with the head of the Met.

Now Ian Blair must go

Anthony Barnett (London, OK): "You and I will never face the challenge of making split second decisions in life and death policing operations," Jacqui Smith argues in defence of Ian Blair, the soon-to-resign head of London's police. She says that the job of "responsible politicians" is to place what happened in its "proper context". Quite, I agree. But the context is no longer about whether Blair should resign because of what happened in those "split seconds". Quite a few things went dreadfully wrong. The Met was asked to account for its systems, under the rubric of health and safety which is unfortunate, but not the point. Blair had the chance to agree that the Met's systems were not adequate then to the emergency, plead mitigating circumstances, give evidence of the improvements put in place to try and ensure nothing like the killing of Menendez should happen again. There may have been a small fine, no lawyers fees and a sense of police accountability. Instead - and this is the key point - Blair decided, with all the time in the world and against advice, to put his organisation up before a jury and argue that it was blameless. This is the kind of decision chief executives have to take and if they get it wrong they have to resign. I made this point in my original post and I am very sorry that the story has shifted onto his responsibility for the event itself, where he has a case, rather than to his decision to fight any admission of systemic culpability. That was a career ending mistake. It really matters because it is part and parcel of the 'Political Class' (see Peter Oborne's book) treating itself as being above the law. Now that the London Assembly Police committee have voted that he should resign, it is intolerable for him to defy them. The police must accept they are accountable.

The rise and rise of special advisers

Andrew Blick (London, Houses of Parliament): One unexpected feature of the Menzies Campbell resignation is that it provides further confirmation of the rise of the special adviser. Since these ministerial appointments were introduced in 1964 they have provided, amongst other things, a means by which political elites replicate themselves. The parliamentary front benches bulge with former special advisers, including, for Labour, the last three Foreign Secretaries; as well as Ed Balls, James Purnell and Andy Burnham; and for the Conservatives David Cameron (who worked for Norman Lamont and Michael Howard) and Oliver Letwin (Keith Joseph and Margaret Thatcher). I could go on, but I think the point is clear. It is a safe bet that more ministers in the future will follow this career path. Through this means one generation of rulers is in effect choosing the next when they appoint them as aides. But surely the Liberal Democrats, who have not been in power, are not part of this trend? In fact they are. Their new acting leader, Vincent Cable, was a special adviser to John Smith in the James Callaghan government. How long until a former special adviser becomes Prime Minister?

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