The new power behind the unions

Trade unions are about to become more powerful again. You may not have noticed it: trade unions aren’t much noticed now. But in the aftermath of Covid, and as the nature of work changes, they are renewing their purpose and their membership. Specifically, their female membership: a trade unionist in the United Kingdom today is more likely to be a woman than a man.

Not only are they powering growth in membership, they are to the fore in campaigns, organising and policy. And while it’s always dangerous to ascribe special moral properties to women bosses as against their male equivalents, it may be that their growing number could mark a difference. ...  Continue reading

Paedophilia is not progressive

Now that safe spaces and universal acceptance have become the norm, it is fashionable to tolerate all kinds of proclivities and inclinations in the name of diversity. But until recently, we respected the nebulous line that faintly dissects the parameters of what we consider to be good and evil. Not so today, where there is a growing campaign to destigmatise everything, even if doing so requires us to unpick the moral fabric of our society.

How else are we to explain the two most disturbing causes trumpeted by modern progressives: of paedophilia and of polygamy? To some extent, they can’t be compared. Polygamy remains legal in a number of countries — from South Africa and Malaysia to Iran and Morocco. Paedophilia, on the other hand, has long been considered beyond the pale, and is effectively banned across the world. Most countries have an age of consent — and those that don’t, such as Sudan and Afghanistan, require a couple to be married before sex is legally allowed. ...  Continue reading

Does depression exist?

It’s not as strange a question as it might sound. Does depression exist? I don’t mean to imply that those with depression should just “pull themselves together”: of course depression symptoms exist (and are sometimes life-ruining). And of course those symptoms often overlap with each other, which certainly implies that there’s a common cause. But is there a thing we can point to in someone’s brain — or some identifiable part of their psychology — that’s called “depression”?

In their understandable desire to get on with trials that might help people who are suffering, many researchers have sidestepped the question of what depression actually is. Instead, they’ve simply agreed on a definition and stuck to it. The Beck Depression Inventory is a questionnaire routinely used to diagnose and define depression: if you’ve ever spoken to your GP about feeling low, you might have come across it. It’s named after Aaron Beck, one of the most important figures in the history of psychiatry (who died aged 100 on November 1st this year). He came up with 21 questions that cover guilt, feelings of failure, weight loss, insomnia, and suicidal thoughts, among other common depressive complaints. ...  Continue reading

The Greek myth that created the West

My ancestor Georgios Sisinis was a leading figure of the Greek Revolution and, by all accounts, a man of large appetites — for food, women, and violence. His bearded, heavy-lidded features hang in portrait in the Natural Historical Museum of Greece in Central Athens; a far less impressive reproduction adorns my living room wall. He fought in several battles during the War of Independence, provided a load of the troops for the war in the south, and afterwards, as Speaker of the revolutionary National Assembly, he invited Ioannis Kapodistrias to return to the country as the first head of state of independent Greece. He then became President of the Greek Senate, only to end up rowing furiously with Kapodistrias and resigning from frontline politics. ...  Continue reading

Freelancers have always been stroppy

We’re making a series for radio and we’d like to pick your brains… We don’t have a budget for this project but the exposure will be fantastic… Please come and talk to our students, I’m sure we could cover the fare…

Five years in the freelance galleys have made me familiar with every imaginable formula wielded by salaried cheapskates in order to acquire work, knowledge and ideas for nothing. The digitally-driven age of “free”, in which a vast expansion of corporate and institutional power rests on the exploitation of barely-paid or even unpaid casual labour, has compounded the ancient toxins of Grub Street with a fresh poison of wheedling, entitled hypocrisy. ...  Continue reading

Who is Éric Zemmour?

Historian turned TV pundit, Éric Zemmour, has been steadily climbing the polls in France to become the second favourite to challenge Emmanuel Macron (closely after Marine Le Pen) in next year’s presidential election. But he is yet to declare his candidacy. During his visit to London at the weekend, we spoke to supporters and Mr Zemmour himself to understand what’s behind his campaign. Watch the full interview:

 

Why anarchy has come to America

As Britain is only a distant province of America’s soft-power empire, it’s been relatively easy to turn the volume down on Kyle Rittenhouse discourse. Even so, it’s been unsettling to watch the same events assembled into two irreconcilable stories.

In one, a white supremacist shot anti-racism protesters in cold blood, and was acquitted because of his skin colour. In the other, a teenager tried to defend a community from violence, and ended up shooting two criminal lunatics in self-defence.

But why are these stories so irreconcilable? It’s a good rule of thumb that where people find it impossible to agree, it’s usually because there’s a fundamental difference in their assumptions about the world. ...  Continue reading

Boris Johnson needs a Willie

Boris Johnson may have disgraced himself in front of the CBI this week, but we all have our off-days. While the symbolism of an embattled Prime Minister losing his place is irresistible, the fact is that any speech can go wrong. 

Remember Theresa May’s coughing fit in 2017? Unlike her time in office, it went on-and-on. And if that wasn’t enough she was also interrupted by a protester and by a piece of the set falling down. 

Yet while May’s mishaps weren’t her fault, the same can’t be said for Boris on Monday. His bizarre digression on the merits of Peppa Pig was the most unforced of unforced errors. So was his impression of a rumbling car engine (“arum arum araaaaaagh” — according to the official transcript). Judging the mood of an audience isn’t always easy, but a PM ought to know the difference between a gathering of business people and a kindergarten class.  ...  Continue reading

Is the WHO inventing diseases?

Can you be addicted to video games? In 2018, the WHO decided to create a new entry in its big book of recognised diseases, the International Classification of Diseases, or ICD-11. That entry was “gaming disorder” or “internet gaming disorder” (IGD), also known as gaming addiction, which involves “impaired control over gaming… gaming [taking] precedence over other life interests and daily activities… [and] negative consequences”.

You can even be treated for it. You can get specialist treatment at a dedicated NHS clinic. South Korea has gaming “rehab centres”. Gaming addicts have “lost interest in their own lives” and “​​do not feel the passing of time in the real world”, according to a doctor who treats the condition there. ...  Continue reading

The importance of Freddie Mercury

I think most gay men of my generation remember where they were when they heard that Freddie Mercury had died. It was 30 years ago today and I had been Out, as we used to say, since 1980, more or less (I was 15: I told a girl who I knew could be relied on to tell everyone, saving me some legwork). It was a peculiar period of retreat in my life. I was working as a Clerk in the House of Commons, and for that moment was no longer Out. For some reason, I was sharing a flat in the only conspicuously non-gay bit of London I’ve ever lived in, Parson’s Green. A long-term relationship was not working out. I was not having the best time; and then I caught flu. ...  Continue reading

The Left’s Covid failure

Throughout the various phases of the global pandemic, people’s preferences in terms of epidemiological strategies have tended to overlap closely with their political orientation. Ever since Donald Trump and Jair Bolsonaro expressed doubts as to the wisdom of a lockdown strategy in March 2020, liberals and those on the Left of the Western political spectrum, including most socialists, have fallen over themselves to adhere in public to the lockdown strategy of pandemic mitigation — and lately to the logic of vaccine passports. Now as countries across Europe experiment with tighter restrictions of the unvaccinated, Left-wing commentators — usually so vocal in the defence of minorities suffering from discrimination — are notable for their silence. ...  Continue reading

Why I am fleeing to the hills

In our current era of wildly overheated political discourse, there are few things as remarkable as the gap between people’s stated preferences (what they say they believe) and their revealed preferences (what they actually do). We see this in the recent trend for liberal Americans, particularly in the country’s northwest, to begin a speech with a preamble acknowledging that they stand on land stolen from one Native American tribe or another, without showing any intention of actually divesting themselves of their property and returning it to the tribe in question: it’s a purely rhetorical device, and surely quite insulting in its effect.  ...  Continue reading