Polygonic

That weren't no DJ, that was hazy cosmic jive

What price ambition? Lessons from the coalition

It’s interesting keeping up a blog about both Canadian and UK politics (and photos of my dinner to boot) as I come to see (or maybe imagine) all kinds of ways one scenario can inform the other. The UK’s coalition government should be mandatory reading for Canadian parties looking for insights as to how it might work, and I think the recent history of Canada’s Liberal Party needs to be studied by the UK’s Labour Party, as they get about finding a new leader, identity, and ambition.

Labour’s new leadership will be announced later in the week, so for now, to the state of the coalition. If Canada one day gets a Liberal/NDP government (let’s fantasize that it doesn’t require Bloc support, please?), how might the governing parties relate to each other? What fortunes for the NDP, as the presumed junior partner? Experiencing simultaneously the dizzying highs of unprecedented influence over government action, and the nerve-wracking lows of intrapartisan discord, as party puritans condemn any perceived sell-out, I suppose? That’s the case for the Liberal Democrats, anyway.

The Lib Dems are currently holding their annual party conference. A chance to review the year that’s been, and to set the stage for that which is coming. As the first conference since coalition, I had feared it would feature a lot more wailing and gnashing of teeth, but so far the need to appear not on the edge of a collective nervous breakdown seems to be holding. Nick Clegg is making the case for party unity; faith that coalition is not a soul-selling betrayal; that the Conservatives may be big and bad but partnership is a virtue; and that the Conservative agenda is being moderated by the progressive impact of the Lib Dems in coalition.

A few of Clegg’s quotes from the weekend party conference:

The Liberal Democrats and Conservatives are, and always will be, separate parties with distinct histories and different futures. But for this parliament we work together to fix the problems we face and put the country on a better path. That is the right government for now.

and

People have got used to us being outsiders against every government that comes along. Maybe we have got used to it ourselves. But the door to change we want was opened, for the first time in most of our lifetimes. Imagine if we had turned away. How could we ever have asked the voters to take us seriously again?

and

[We won’t] suffer some mysterious cross-contamination in Whitehall which means that we will suddenly warp into something different. You can share power with others and still retain your values.

There is lots of commentary that NDP folks are hopefully taking notes on. Visit here and here and here for a few views.

UPDATE: One can always speak too soon – there is some emerging discord at the Lib Dem conference after all. The party has voted against its leadership’s cooperation on the government’s new free schools policy. It was a non-binding vote, and won’t actually force Clegg to back away from supporting the policy (already passed anyhow), but it does come as an embarrassment for him.

Clegg’s main conference speech will take place later today – curious whether he’ll acknowledge what’s just happened, or what his reception will be. Stay tuned folks.

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Filed under: Canada, Politics, UK, , , ,

Jong-un’s long road

With less than a month before the anticipated Korean Workers’ Party Conference in September, North Korea Leadership Watch has posted an insightful piece about what the conference may mean in the context of leadership succession.

Party Conference a Coronation?

The post draws from a Korea Herald interview with Sejong Institute analyst Cheong Seong-chang, who goes a long way in identifying who’s providing tutelage to heir-somewhat-apparent Kim Jong-un:

Jong-un’s uncle Jang Song-thaek tutors him on the country’s finances and relations with China while Kim Young-choon is in charge of the military. Jang and Kim Young-choon are two of the four vice chairmen of the National Defense Commission, the country’s de facto supreme guiding organ.

Jong-un consults O Kuk-ryol, another NDC vice chairman, on operations against South Korea, Joo Kyu-chang on the North’s defense industry, Woo Dong-cheuk on international counter-espionage operations, Joo Sang-song on public security, Cho Myong-rok and Kim Jong-gak on military politics, and Lee Yong-moo on the private sector. All of them are members of the NDC, “elected” to their posts in April 2009.

It goes some distance to reinforce the supremacy of the National Defence Commission that it has produced so many of Jong-un’s regents and advisors, and/or incorporated these mentors into its own fold within the last couple of years. Jang Song-thaek, Jong-un’s uncle and principal advisor and mentor, is the most powerful of these NDC officials – Cheong notes that:

“Jang manages the finances of the NDC, the Cabinet and the security organs controlled by the NDC such as the secret police, the military intelligence unit, the prosecution and the court. He is also known to be responsible for North Korea’s relations with China.”

As to what is expected to be decided at the Party Conference itself, I suppose it’s the wrong way to look at it. The Party Conference will approve, rather than decide, questions of succession, which have presumably been decided by the NDC by now.

So a presentation of Kim Jong-un as the real heir apparent could be made, though Jong-il has been cited as wanting the Conference to be a “quiet affair,” which could well suit the NDC and the KWP interests as well – especially considering that we haven’t seen much evidence of any revolutionary narrative yet being built around Jong-un (where does he fit in Kim Family mythology, what are his “supernatural” qualities?). As such, there may only be inference to Jong-un’s future through some formalisation of new positions that point to a pretty incredible career trajectory. And, as Michaëlle Jean once said after tasting raw seal heart in Canada’s Arctic, “Take from that what you will.”

Blindly hoping that we’ll be some the wiser in September.

Filed under: Korea, Politics, , , , , , ,

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