In A Suitable Boy, Vikram Seth writes with affection of a placid India's first general election in 1951, and the egalitarian spirit it momentarily bestowed on an electorate deeply riven by class and caste: "the great washed and unwashed public, sceptical and gullible", but all "endowed with universal adult suffrage". India's 16th general election this month, held against a background of economic jolts and titanic corruption scandals, and tainted by the nastiest campaign yet, announces a new turbulent phase for the country – arguably, the most sinister since its independence from British rule in 1947. Back then, it would have been inconceivable that a figure such as Narendra Modi, the Hindu nationalist chief minister of Gujarat accused, along with his closest aides, of complicity in crimes ranging from an anti-Muslim pogrom in his state in 2002 to extrajudicial killings, and barred from entering the US, may occupy India's highest political office. Modi is a lifelong … [Read more...] about Narendra Modi and the new face of India
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The final of the 18th Leeds Piano Competition, which ended on Saturday with the Russian Anna Tcybuleva carrying off first prize, was accompanied by more than the usual amount of self-congratulation. It was Fanny Waterman’s last competition as chairman and artistic director, roles that she has combined with tremendous energy and steely determination since she conceived the idea of the competition in the 1960s, and the tributes to her were heartfelt and thoroughly deserved. Without Waterman, together with the late Marion Thorpe and Edward Boyle – both so important in its formative years, there would never have been a piano competition in Leeds in the first place. But this seems the right time for Waterman to be stepping down, and there is plenty about the competition in its current form for the new artistic directors, conductor and former BBC producer Adam Gatehouse and pianist Paul Lewis, to ponder and reshape. Despite some of the more fatuous things claimed in the tribute … [Read more...] about Can the Leeds Piano competition recover its greatness?
Jeremy Corbyn's supporters were accused of hankering after a 'brave new Socialist dawn' that could destroy the party today after he agreed to a pre-Christmas election. The Labour leader and his top team were branded 'f***ing mad' by one of his own backbenchers after he agreed to a December vote, saying he would be 'going out there to win'. He will order his party to back a rushed plan for a vote on or near December 9 later today, less than 24 hours after he told them to abstain on plans for a December 12 election. It puts him on a collision path with backbenchers who see the party languishing in the polls and fear that he is leading them to a disaster. The MP told MailOnline: 'They are f***ing mad. They think they are on the brink of a brave new Socialist dawn.' They added that the decision was 'proof that turkeys vote for Christmas' and there would be a ‘huge’ revolt, adding: ‘It just gets Johnson completely off the hook.’ Despite … [Read more...] about Labour backbenchers blast Corbynites for chasing a ‘brave new Socialist dawn’ warning that Jeremy Corbyn’s decision to back a pre-Christmas election will spell disaster
The abortion debate in Germany has rekindled after a government decision to narrow the country's prohibition on doctors advertising pregnancy terminations. At present, Paragraph 219a of the criminal code imposes a blanket ban. Following charges brought this year against a trio of gynecologists, Germany wants to precisely define the sort of information doctors are allowed to pass on. A vote on the draft legislation isn't expected until early next year, but Bundestag deputies immediately seized upon the opportunity to put abortion back in the spotlight. The far-right populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, which is staunchly anti-abortion, introduced a special debate session on Thursday afternoon to discuss calls by the youth division of the Social Democrats (SPD) to strike the main abortion laws from the books. The AfD claimed, falsely, that the proposal would have allowed for terminations in the ninth month of pregnancies, for which the populists earned the approbation and … [Read more...] about Relaxed abortion legislation: Proposed German law comes under fire
brexit countdown_bg Created with Sketch. A senior EU politician today joined calls to block a Brexit delay unless Britain holds a general election or a second referendum to break the 'deadlock'. Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament's chief Brexit co-ordinator, said it would be 'unacceptable' for Brussels to push back the UK's departure date in the current circumstances. He said: 'Foreign Minister Le Drian is right: yet another extension for Brexit is unacceptable, unless the deadlock in London is broken. 'Let it be a 2nd ref., new elections, a revocation of art. 50 or the approval of the deal, but not today’s helpless status quo.' The 66-year-old also added that the main priority that needs to be secured is the rights of citezens on both sides of the Channel. 'Whatever Brexit we get, 1 thing must be secured no matter what: the citizens’ rights on both sides of the channel. '@Europarl_EN demands the UK to approve ‘settled status’ … [Read more...] about EU chief Guy Verhofstadt calls a Brexit delay ‘unacceptable’ and suggests an election SHOULD be called as France threatens to veto an extension beyond October 31 despite Remainer MPs’ new law