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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“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

RDN on immigration on BBC Scotland

The Call Kaye programme asked me what I thought about immigration in view of the news that Scotland had experienced a 370,000 net immigration in a decade. (I think this number derive from a Migration Observatory report, Migration in Scotland.) I said immigration is a mixed blessing and that England, having experienced a lot of it, was within its rights to now want a bit of a breather, to benefit both incomers and "hosts" (yes, I can convey inverted commas on steam radio). What followed rather surprised me. It should not have, and would not have had I read Iain Martin's excellent piece on immigration (and Scotland, and the Union) in Standpoint (December 2013). Read more...

Published

05 December 2013

Selsey: The jewel of Manhood

[This updates in June 2017 a piece which first appeared in late 2013.] All my life, like my father and grandmother before me I have known and loved Selsey, in West Sussex. It is the town at the tip of the Manhood peninsula south of Chichester, and famous for the Bill (its beak pointed at the sea). It has for years had Bunn's, Europe's biggest caravan park and now - abutting that - there is a brand new instant wetland, also Europe's largest of the kind. It is, in fact, a-buzz with change and far livelier than previously. Recently, I have taken to day-dreaming about Selsey's future. Read more...

Published

24 November 2013

Parris’ “Conservative Futurism” developed a little….

Matthew Parris is spot-on in his "Futurist Conservatism" piece ("Dig deep, sow seeds and watch Britain grow: The UK needs HS3 as well as HS2. We need two new cities and more technical colleges. We need long-term vision.", The Times, 9 November 2013) Libertarians will roll their eyes, as will Luddite Conservatives: the idea of optimistic, forward-planning conservativism is an oxymoron. So be it. Conservatives like planting trees in their broad acres, why not new towns in yours or mine too? Read more...

Published

10 November 2013

“Hannah Arendt”: a fine movie

This is tricky. I have spent  no  more than half an hour, ever, reading Hannah Arendt and none at all reading about the contemporary reaction to her "banality of evil" pieces in the New Yorker. Nothing daunted, I will risk riffing on the similarities between Hannah Arendt and Ayn Rand, partly because they were contemporaries; partly because both are the subject of bio-pics; but mostly because they seem to touch on the same verities. Read more...

Published

23 October 2013
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