Peter Rhodes on voting for a president, Tony Blair's ambitions and the history of sawing women in half

Read the latest column from Peter Rhodes.

The comeback kid?
The comeback kid?

Of all the thousands of words penned about Trump's warriors trashing the Capitol last week (while Trump stayed safely away), I like this from the American writer and novelist Marilynne Robinson who described it as a “tantrum-by-proxy.”

From this side of the water, it's obvious that the United States needs a serious political makeover, starting with a common-sense means of choosing its president, as opposed to the drawn-out, complex and confusing collegiate system.

A sane system would whittle the contenders down to two and then elect the next president on a simple majority of all the voters in the land. That way, every vote counts, just as it counted in Britain's Brexit referendum when millions who had never voted before realised they could make a difference.

Another thing America desperately needs is a Labour Party. Why, in such a divided and unfair society, is there no political movement espousing even the mildest dose of socialism? Here is a great nation run by and for the benefit of capitalists yet any attempt to cut the cake more fairly is howled down as communism and / or the work of the Devil. The States must be the only nation on earth where the workers are cheerleaders for the bosses. America seems to have an infinite capacity to create political movements of the extreme Right when a party of the Left would represent a great mass of Americans.

There is talk of Tony Blair coming back into politics, in much the way that Charles de Gaulle popped up as leader of France after a 13-year gap. The problem for Blair is that his career ended with, and will always be tainted by, the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives. I interviewed him four times and I never understood the Blair-worship cult. He was a bit like a school prefect, trying to be stern but desperately wanting to be popular.

Yet people change and mature. Some of the things Blair has been saying about the pandemic have been reasonable and useful, and no-one doubts his enthusiasm nor his matchless global connections. Evidence of his desire to re-enter politics, at a ripe old 67, is so far limited to scattered reports of “secret conversations” with the Government. And as any hack will tell you, the great thing about “secret conversations” is that sometimes they're so secret that they never really happened.

Magicians everywhere will be celebrating a special event this weekend. Sunday marks the 100th anniversary of sawing a woman in half, first demonstrated by an English magician, Percy Thomas Tibbles who used the stage name Selbit. It became a light-hearted illusion for cabaret and TV shows. But back in 1921 this display of men exercising power over women was tied up with gender politics. Selbit invited the suffragette leader Christabel Pankhurst to make an appearance as his victim. She declined.

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