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It is a hard time to be on the centre-left. Across the west, politicians who were once seen as representing the future now struggle to be heard above the cacophony of populist figures from the fringes. Tony Blair, Bill Clinton and Gerhard Schröder embodied the common sense ideals of their age. Now they are all out of favour in their home lands.

Even during the financial crisis, the centre left seemed to have all the answers; that state intervention was the necessary and right thing to do in the face of a teetering system they helped to create. Yet today Conservatives are in power in the UK, US and Germany with social democrats either absent or irrelevant. How can the centre-left come back from the margins? Our FT View editorial argues that social democrats must find their authentic voices again — they should represent something, not just split the difference with their opponents.

The challenge facing the centre-left is immense. The old coalition of working class voters and metropolitan liberals that propelled it into power has been broken by populist promises of lower migration and a return to the manufacturing industry of yore. Even if these promises cannot be kept, they create a strategic headache for social democratic politicians.

Person in the news: Jay Hunt, formerly of Channel 4, is heading to Apple Europe to help beef up its TV content. The tech giant has the resources to make a serious play into this competitive market and Ms Hunt has a track record of success in the UK.

The JFK secret: Henry Mance looks at the tranche of files released about the assassination of President Kennedy and comes to a surprise conclusion: there was no shadowy cabal after all. Imagine if such unexpected actions came from unexceptional people?

Opinion in review: Xi Jinping and China's global ambitions has been the main topic on our opinion pages this week. This week’s Communist party congress has cemented the leader’s position and showed a new confidence in China’s global ambitions. Our comment and analysis digs into how “soft” its “soft power” intends to be.

Best of the rest

The Week Trump Won — David Brooks in the New York Times

How Brexit has made Britain the new sick man of Europe — George Eaton in the New Statesman

The Coming Russia Bombshells — Kimberley A. Strassel in the Wall Street Journal

That sound? It’s Westminster’s sex pests rehearsing their excuses — Marina Hyde in The Guardian

Mass migration threatened to overwhelm Sweden. But now there is hope — Fraser Nelson in The Telegraph

What you’ve been saying

Scrapping Nafta cannot help the losing side — letter from Pinar Cebi Wilber in the US

“It is true that trade policies have winners and losers, but their net impact is a win for the country. As Paul Krugman eloquently put it in a recent World Trade Organisation discussion, scrapping Nafta with the aim of helping the losing side is like ‘the motorist who runs over a pedestrian and then says: “Oh, I’m very sorry. Let me fix that.” So he backs up and runs over him again.’”

Comment from mastermind on There are alternatives: late Brexit or no Brexit by Philip Stephens

“I have a practical suggestion. For the transition to be effective and to delay some of the damage to the financial services sector as well problems for manufacturing and agriculture, the UK should remain a full member of the EU and the Article 50 would come into effect on March 2022. That would allow time to negotiate what would be on offer as the alternative arrangement, and there could actually be some serious work on what would be involved in the adjustment of legislation and regulation. No ‘Henry VIII powers’ to circumvent Parliament and democracy.”

Jesuit explorers adopted a learn-it-all mindset — letter from Ivan Bofarull on Paul Amanda’s piece about St. Ignatius’s model of global enterprise.

“Today, when companies want to embrace transformation, some start by launching their moonshots on the edge (radically innovative projects away from the core business), but those at corporate level are often struggling to unlock the organisation's explorative mindset: they keep looking out to the future only as an extrapolation of the past. The most difficult task for them is to shift from a ‘know-it-all’ to a ‘learn-it-all’ mindset, because constant learning means accepting your own vulnerability. Corporate innovation can find inspiration in reading the adventures of the 16th century Jesuits.”

Today’s opinion

Poker’s Ivey case shows the casino failed to protect its hand
There is a shady area of practices that are not illegal, but frowned upon

Person in the News: Jay Hunt, television’s hit-picker, moves to Apple
The hire will help the tech company to polish its brand as it moves into content

Larry Summers’ blog: What I am for on tax reform

Fats Domino, musician, 1928-2017
Self-taught singer and pianist who ushered in the beginnings of rock and roll

Xi Jinping and China’s global ambitions
Beijing is showing a new confidence globally in its model. But how ‘soft’ is China’s ‘soft power’?

EM Squared: Investors yet to be persuaded by Uzbek reforms
Foreign greenfield investment stalls even as new government moves ahead on reform

Henry Mance: JFK files secret revealed — there is no shadowy cabal after all
Maybe events are just determined by the unexpected actions of unexceptional people

James Kynge: China harnesses big data to buttress the power of the state
Beijing uses technology to try and solve the age-old problem of a centralised system

Free Lunch: ECB can do better than ‘normalising’ monetary policy
Directly targeting long-term interest rates would stabilise the euro

FT Alphaville: Stephen Kotkin explains how Stalin defined the Soviet system

Undercover Economist: AlphaGo Zero shows how business is losing the innovation game
Corporate laboratories once bankrolled basic fundamental research of the highest importance

FT View

FT View: Big tech rolls on, and the trust regulators roll over
Break-ups are not called for, but the time to block deals has come

FT View: The reversible rout of social democracy
The centre left can think and campaign its way back to relevance

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