Politics & campaigns.

This is not a party political site and not very partisan in any way. My emphasis has tended to be on the quality of debate and campaigning, and especially on the need to appreciate represtentative democracy (government through elected representatives whose own views matter), and to be sceptical of the claims of vox pop, "the people", social media, Crowd Wisdom, and "direct action".

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RDN on tax and morality

I more or less said what I meant to at this event for Christian Aid/JustShare in the lovely St Mary-le-Bow, in the City. Read more...

Published

11 June 2014

Spirituality, altruism and the right-wing

I have been asked once or twice about the "change of heart" which lay behind my "change of mind", as I became more right-wing. Leave aside that my "radical" or "progressive" or "green" tendencies of the late 1970s were deviations from my previous and more recent thinking, here is an account of where my "heart" was and is, and how it relates to some big ideas of left and right....  Read more...

Published

23 May 2014

Loving the fake (#2 of 2): Human zoos

I love the "problem" of tourism and - most sharply - the problem of the "human zoo". Almost all our travel, at least where it involves looking at people rather than landscape or animals, has a dimension of anthropological voyeurism. Much of it is a matter of play-acting amongst imagined peasantries or primitives. This has now reached new heights of self-consciousness, and is blissfully funny as well as serious.... Read more...

Published

24 April 2014

Rory Stewart’s middling account of the Middleland

Rory Stewart, Tory MP for Penrith and the Border and previously a diplomat in some chronic "borderlands" (ex-Yugoslavia and Afghanistan) has given us a TV (and, I gather, a book) account of his love of what he calls the Middleland, between England and Scotland, which he now represents. It's exhilarating stuff, but is it tosh.....? Read more...

Published

16 April 2014

“Scrap the BBC!” Mk II

The BBC is likely to become very small, or even disappear, if not paying the TV Licence fee becomes a civil offence (is decriminalised, in the jargon). What an extraordinary turn-up for those of us who thought the BBC an absurdity but also thought that its dismemberment would probably have to wait a generation. That is roughly where I was when I wrote "Scrap the BBC!" in 2006. Here is how things might turn out.... Read more...

Published

24 March 2014

Darwin vs Spencer: Chicken, egg or German Romantics?

BBC R4 had a great In Our Time episode last week. It discussed Social Darwinism and taught me (I fear for the first time) to wonder which came first: the sociology, as in social, or the biology, as in Darwinism? Put it another way: who was the precursor of whom? Who got to evolution - and got to its messages - first? Was it our obvious hero Charles Darwin, or the famous old villain, Herbert Spencer? Naturally, I was rooting for Spencer.... Read more...

Published

25 February 2014

Building trust: Character or accountability?

There was a fascinating vignette of modern government when the former head of GCHQ (the government’s listening post), Sir David Omand, was quizzed by Keith Vaz, the chairman of the House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee during on a session on counter-terrorism. (The Home Affairs Committee, 11 February 2014.) Sir David argued - rightly, and counter-intuitively - that character was a better guarantee of probity than transparency. Well, there was more to his argument than that... Read more...

Published

23 February 2014

Somerset Levels flooding: who’s levelling with us?

It's 30 years since I spent serious time researching the Somerset Levels and its precarious balance between farming and wildlife, which of course hinges on how much flooding to allow. That was for my book, Wild Britain. Where are we now? Read more...

Published

12 February 2014

RDN on LBC on AGW, Met Office & PMQs

I had an interesting outing on Iain Dale's LBC show yesterday, invited to comment on the Met Office's apparent disavowal of David Cameron's remarks in Prime Minister’s Questions on the recent storms and possible, likely or probable links to climate change. I remarked, perhaps a little casually, that the Met Office's tune - I should perhaps have emphasised tone - had changed somewhat. Once quite the cheer-leader for what one might disparagingly call alarmism, it now seems to emphasise uncertainty. Read more...

Published

10 January 2014
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