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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BBC vs LSE, and the point of journalism

A curiosity of the BBC's undercover trip to North Korea is that hardly anyone has framed the argument in the terms which matter and would once have seemed obvious. Namely: as the debate about the trip went up the chain at the BBC, no-one seems to have considered it important to ask the governing body of the LSE whether it minded having its institutional brand, imprimatur and name hijacked. When asked, the LSE said it wasn't happy. But the BBC and its fans (let's especially include the articulate and usefully clear piece by Robin Lustig in the Guardian) merely repeat the mantra that the BBC was responsibly considerate as to the risk its trip posed to the club-members who accompanied it.... Read more...

Published

17 April 2013

Mrs Thatcher: good for our souls as well as our wallets?

Several Thatcheristes have been putting the record straight: that she didn't "destroy" the unions but democratised them; that she wasn't a wrecker of manufacturing; that she closed fewer mines and shipyards than Labour had before her. But we have had more challenging arguments, too. They hinge on her failure to crush the welfare state, or the left-liberal elite. That was part of her failure to win hearts... Read more...

Published

15 April 2013

Why Mrs Thatcher was hated

Mrs Thatcher was not funny or warm, at least not in public. She wasn't even populist. Unlike The Gipper, it is unlikely that she will ever become a National Treasure. She represented - was like - a very small segment of British society: the lower middle class. Her virtues were those of a stage nanny or governess, as in Mrs Doubtfire, or Mary Poppins, or Anna from The King and I. She was firm, friendly, upbeat, undaunted. She treated us all like children. But above all, she decided that what we all needed was plain speaking.... Read more...

Published

10 April 2013

Is di Canio a Fascist?

I haven't had time to research Mr di Canio's words and works, but the issue raises the knotty problem of what a Fascist is. Most obviously, is it possible to be a Fascist but not a racist? In practice, most if not all Fascist regimes and movements have been anti-Semitic and anti-black, amongst many other anti-nesses. But racism is not really the defining characteristic of the  ideology. Read more...

Published

02 April 2013

Inequality? Mind the culture gap

The income and wealth inequality gap between the top 1 per cent and the remaining 99 per cent has featured a good deal recently. It's getting wider. But it matters very little. What matters is an emerging cultural gap. Read more...

Published

16 February 2013

Margaret Hodge and the Commons’ PAC: Not heroes

Tim Montgomerie of Conservative Home was on the Andrew Marr Show sofa and joined James Landale in doing the now obligatory obeisance to Margaret Hodge for her "brave" work as chairman of the House of Common's Public Accounts Committee. This is all nonsense. Read more...

Published

10 February 2013

Murray’s “Coming Apart”: A fix for US inequality?

This book bears a superficial resemblance to the rest of the angst literature on Anglosphere inequality, but it is much better than The New Few or The Spirit Level. Its use of evidence about the separations between top and bottom in US society seems fairer and brighter. Yet more to the point, though flawed where it most matters (in its proposed solutions), Charles Murray's cultural and social arguments seem far more interesting than most. Read more...

Published

09 February 2013

Straw’s “Last Man Standing”: the fond politician

Jack Straw's autobiography, Last Man Standing, has been well-recieved, and justly so. At the risk of being patronising or condescending, it's worth saying that it is a touching book. I fancied myself admiring its author. I had to remind myself that it might be - perhaps had to be, was perhaps inevitably - a touch self-serving. Here's a little unpicking of all that.... Read more...

Published

07 February 2013

Update on inequality, “The Spirit Level”, and happiness

In 2009, I reviewed the then-new book, The Spirit Level by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett in the Social Affairs Unit website. I thought the highly-influential and much-quoted work very flawed on just about every level. Until very recently, I hadn't noticed that intelligent, informed voices had continued to attack the book's handling of the inquality data. So I thought I'd now provide some sources which may prove useful.... Read more...

Published

29 January 2013

RDN on Mount’s “The New Few”

I had highish hopes of Ferdinand Mount's book, The New Few. Here, after all, was a famously intelligent, civilised and well-informed conservative voice addressing a concern which is widespread: that Britain is badly run, and controlled by rather few people. Actually, the book made one wonder in what sense Mr Mount still feels he is of the right (if he does), not least since almost everything he says is commonly, and rather boringly, said by the left. The following looks at the book in some detail.... Read more...

Published

08 January 2013
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