breaking news from the world of ideas

by Debbie Hayton
Tuesday, 2
March 2021
Reaction
16:38

Why is the NYT perpetuating myths about trans life in Britain?

Readers of The New York Times might be wondering how trans people manage to survive in the UK. From the other side of the Atlantic the newspaper depicts a hostile climate where both the Left and the Right are out to get us.

Last Friday they published an interview with British transgender stand-up comedians Jen Ives and Bethany Black. The piece explains that, although life might not be a bed of roses for them, they manage to laugh at the world. But underpinning the story is the assumption that life in Britain is a daily struggle for transgender people.

I just don’t think it’s true, and I say that as a transgender person on this side of the pond. I also stand up in front of audiences — I am a teacher — and my life experiences seem no different to my colleagues. My pupils and their parents seem to care far less that I am trans than I know my subject and I can teach well. Surely these were the goals that transgender people set out trying to achieve? ...  Continue reading

by Harry Goodwin
Tuesday, 2
March 2021
Response
11:24

Cambridge University’s cosy relationship with China

Today’s edition of the Telegraph reveals that researchers at the University of Cambridge have worked on projects with the nuclear-weapons laboratory at the Chinese Academy of Engineering Physics (CAEP). This latest revelation is not surprising. For nearly a year, I’ve been investigating links between the University of Cambridge and the Chinese government. In that time, I’ve found my university’s dealings with Beijing often defy belief.

Only last month, a new Civitas report showed that Cambridge researchers have co-operated on gyroscope research with China’s National University of Defence Technology (NUDT). The gyroscope laboratory at NUDT is a listed military facility, and is currently under Japanese sanctions because of its crucial role in China’s missile development programme. ...  Continue reading

by Peter Franklin
Tuesday, 2
March 2021
Chart
07:00

What’s spooking Rishi?

Why is the Government talking-up tax rises? Surely, what our pulverised economy needs right now is a tax cut.

Well, yes — a confident Chancellor would be unveiling as much stimulus as possible in this week’s Budget. But if you want to know what’s got Rishi Sunak spooked, take a look at the following chart:

Credit: FT

This shows bond yields — i.e. the rate of interest at which the money markets lend to governments. As you can see, these are ticking-up quite sharply. The idea that governments can borrow at “record low interest rates” cannot be taken for granted.

There has to be some limit to each country’s debt mountain — and by demanding a higher return the bond markets are sending a signal that those limits are within sight. ...  Continue reading

by Mary Harrington
Monday, 1
March 2021
Debate
15:00

Blood on the virtual street at Clubhouse

Clubhouse, an iPhone app that allows users to create and join virtual ‘rooms’ for audio conversation, has caused considerable stir in the 11 months since its founding, attracting two million weekly active users and a $1 billion January valuation.

Under the social constraints of Covid, an app enabling relatively free-flowing and spontaneous social interaction has generated intense interest. Between the longing to connect and the sense of exclusivity fostered by its invite-only nature, Clubhouse’s user base is swelling, skewed heavily towards an internationalist, broadly libertarian, tech and investment outlook. ...  Continue reading

by Theo Davies-Lewis
Monday, 1
March 2021
Idea
11:05

Boris should make St. David’s Day a national holiday

Gwnewch y pethau bychain mewn bywyd. Do the little things in life. Saint David’s most famous maxim will be uttered across the world today, as the global Welsh remember their patron saint. Saint David’s Day, or Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Sant, is celebrated in a variety of ways — with singing in schools and traditional Welsh dress — but fifteen hundred years after Dewi’s death, 1 March still lacks official status in Wales.

It’s not for the want of trying. Countless petitions have been started over the years calling on the UK Government to make the occasion a bank holiday, since powers to create such occasions in Wales are retained by Westminster. Tony Blair, who was apparently so keen to recognise the distinctiveness of each nation around these isles in 1997, rejected a petition to make Saint David’s Day a bank holiday ten years later. The issue has been a fleeting fantasy for Welsh patriots since. ...  Continue reading

by Henry Hill
Monday, 1
March 2021
Explainer
08:30

Why Tories should welcome the new Scottish Labour leader

Alex Salmond’s extraordinary allegations against the Scottish Government threaten to tear the SNP to pieces, but that isn’t the only front on which unionist prospects may be improving. Yesterday Anas Sarwar was elected as leader of Scottish Labour.

It was not a walkover. Monica Lennon, a Left-winger who starred in this slick but anonymous attack ad, secured a respectable 42% of the vote.

But Sarwar was the favourite, and widely viewed both inside and outside the party as the MSP most likely revive Labour’s fortunes ahead of this year’s Holyrood elections.

Even the Conservatives ought to welcome his appointment, and not only because grassroots Tories prioritise defeating the separatists over avoiding a Labour government. ...  Continue reading

by Freddie Sayers
Sunday, 28
February 2021
Video
19:18

Headmaster: I refuse to make pupils wear masks in class

David Perks is the founder and headteacher at the East London Science School, built on the principle of offering a strong foundation in science and maths and encouraging critical thinking.

When they come back on March 8th, he will not be following government guidance and requiring his pupils to wear facemasks in class.

“I just felt it was completely upside down,” he tells me on LockdownTV. “If you’re going to bring the kids back, we want face to face teaching. Unless you do that, what are we actually doing?”

“We’ve just been doing months of Zoom lessons where the big problem you have with children is they won’t turn their cameras on. To then bring them into school, and instead of getting on with what you normally do, you put a face mask on — it’s like being back at home in a Zoom lesson. It’s just completely antithetical to what we’re trying to do.” ...  Continue reading

by Peter Franklin
Friday, 26
February 2021
Spotted
17:17

Mark Carney has some explaining to do

Mark Carney is Davos Man personified — one of those globetrotting super-leaders untroubled by the messy business of actually getting elected (or, at least, not anymore). Other examples of the caste include Bill Gates, Christine Lagarde, John Kerry and David Miliband. 

These folk don’t have to signal their virtue; it is simply assumed as part of that aura of liberal respectability at that surrounds them at all times. 

Except that Carney’s halo looks a little tarnished today. Since his stint as governor as the Bank of England (and high-status Brexit antagonist), he’s been earning a crust at Brookfield Asset Management which invests in “long-life, high-quality assets and businesses in more than 30 countries around the world.”  ...  Continue reading

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