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Friday, 27 March 2020

British politics, deference and sexuality - An episode from the 1960s

An exchange from the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse between counsel and the veteran Labour politician Lord (Dick) Taverne.

Wednesday, 11 December 2019

Gays in the media, 1983-2007

A few months ago, the gay journalist and campaigner Terry Sanderson published a complete collection of his Gay Times "Mediawatch" columns from 1983 to 2007.  The columns, which dealt with coverage of homosexuality in the British media, form a valuable resource on this aspect of British social history.

Thursday, 26 September 2019

Cavaliers and Roundheads

In this post, I want to write about a basic divide which Brexit has exposed between authoritarian and liberal views of our constitution.  Let's call it the divide between Cavaliers and Roundheads: supporters of strong executive power versus supporters of strong Parliamentary control of the executive.

Hardline Brexiteers are Cavaliers because we have a hardline Brexit government, and they are reverse-engineering their views backwards from that - but it's worth bearing in mind that it didn't have to be this way.  The authoritarian and liberal views of the British constitution are much older than Brexit, and it is only chance that has put the Brexiteers on the Cavalier side.

Saturday, 7 September 2019

Brexit and World War II

The UK's national identity is intimately bound up with its victory in World War II.  This is largely because that was the last time that we won anything important, even though the victory also belonged to the rest of what was then the British Empire, the USA, the Soviet Union and the Free French forces.

References to World War II have accordingly become a cliché of the Brexit debate.  This post rounds up some of the occasions on which the cliché has been deployed by supporters of the Leave side.

Monday, 22 July 2019

Deckchairs Rearranged

Useless May is now finally about to leave Number 10 after three years in office.  It has seemed like a lot longer.  May is undoubtedly the least successful Prime Minister in modern times: Callaghan, Major and Brown were titans of statesmanship by comparison.  Part of the explanation for her fate is her own flaws and weaknesses: she was popular until people found out what she was like.  She is a living example of how quiet, socially awkward individuals can be overpromoted because everyone assumes that they must be good at the technical stuff.  Capax imperii, nisi imperasset, as Johnson might write in one of his Telegraph columns.  But this isn't just the story of one individual who was inadequate to her role.  Theresa Mary May is the fifth Conservative prime minister in a row to lose her job over Europe, and she will probably not be the last.

There is every likelihood that the Tory Party will turn on Johnson too, sooner rather than later.  He can't go on making incompatible promises to his warring factions: he is going to need to start taking some decisions.  There is a good chance that his time in office will be a short one - but he can still do a lot of damage in the meantime.  He must be one of the few people in the United Kingdom who is even less suited to the premiership than May.  He is Donald Trump with an Oxford degree.  A charmless cultivated eccentric of the sort that this country has produced for centuries.  A man whose only fixed political principle seems to be a manchild's resentment at having to follow rules (an instinct which, not coincidentally, shines through his writings on the European Union).  A journalist who was fired for lying and whose current newspaper defended an Ipso complaint with the argument that it was obvious that his columns were not meant to be taken seriously.  His latest pronouncement - that Brexit is quite a lot like the moon landings when you think about it, so we can do it if we believe hard enough - is so desperately ludicrous that he probably more or less believes it.

Sunday, 7 April 2019

Myths of Brexit - A Note

The 17 million voted for a "no deal" Brexit.  A customs union with the EU - let alone membership of the single market - would be a betrayal of the referendum result.

That is what we are currently told by the more zealous Brexiteers.  But are these claims true?

Friday, 5 April 2019

The New Cavaliers

Last Friday, Lisa Nandy, the Labour MP for Wigan, posted an extraordinary statement on Twitter:
Today outside Parliament I and others were accosted by people shouting f****** traitor as we tried to get in to vote. Our staff were advised to leave the building for their own safety. There were armed police everywhere.