breaking news from the world of ideas

by Freddie Sayers
Friday, 9
September 2022

Church sings ‘God save the King’ for the first time

UnHerd filmed a spontaneous — and historic — service at St Anne's Kew yesterday evening

It was supposed to be a service of prayers for an ailing Queen, but minutes before the 7pm start last night the news went out.

Giles Fraser, as well as being an UnHerd columnist, is vicar of St Anne’s Church in Kew Green — a church with centuries-long royal connections. Amid the uncertainty of yesterday afternoon, he invited his congregation in for a spontaneous 7pm service, and allowed UnHerd to be there with our cameras to capture the moment. At 6:34pm the BBC News alert reached everyone’s phones that the Queen had died.

Immediately, he began to ring the church bell, still audible across the green despite the traffic and the planes overhead. Members of the congregation began to drift in, some of them tearful. ...  Continue reading

by Freddie Sayers
Wednesday, 27
July 2022

WHO’s Susan Michie: my politics are my business

Freddie Sayers spoke to the new WHO Nudge Unit chair to discuss the politics of public health

When Professor Susan Michie’s appointment as the new Chair of the World Health Organisation’s “Technical Advisory Group on Behavioural Insights” was announced on Monday, almost every news report mentioned that she is a longstanding member of the British Communist Party.

“Communist British scientist dubbed ‘Stalin’s nanny’ who wanted face masks and social distancing FOREVER is given top job at World Health Organization,” read the Daily Mail headline. “British professor who is member of the Communist party appointed as chair of WHO advisory group,” said the Telegraph. “WHO appoints Communist Party member who said face masks should continue ‘forever’ as chair of advisory board,” said GB News. And so on. ...  Continue reading

by Freddie Sayers
Tuesday, 19
July 2022

Tory leadership latest: Liz Truss becomes the favourite

Polling triggered an anti-Penny campaign in the media

We’ve had two pieces of information in the past hour on who will be the next prime minister. First, Kemi Badenoch is out — after an extraordinarily successful campaign, leaving Rishi Sunak to face either Liz Truss or Penny Mordaunt. Second, the poll of Conservative party members that matters most, YouGov, has been re-run and the results are very different to last week.

It reveals that the membership are making up their minds day by day on the candidates they will shortly be asked to consider. The commanding lead Penny Mordaunt had over all her rivals last week has been lost — she now trails both Liz Truss (and Kemi Badenoch, as it happens) in direct head-to-heads. The question of whether the polling triggered the massive anti-Penny campaign in the Right-leaning media will never be answered, but either way it seems to have worked. ...  Continue reading

by Freddie Sayers
Friday, 15
July 2022

Note to MPs: YouGov is not wrong about Penny Mordaunt

The polling company has a near-perfect record for leadership elections

Asked this morning on Radio 4 about the YouGov poll showing a commanding lead for Penny Mordaunt among Tory party members, Liz Truss supporter Iain Duncan Smith rolled out an old classic: “the most important thing is not to look at what the polls say.”

Well, actually Iain, that’s not such a great strategy. Pollsters YouGov (at which I used to work) have been eerily accurate in forecasting every major party leadership election of the past era.

When Jeremy Corbyn entered the 2015 Labour leadership, he was considered a tokenistic Old Left candidate, an irrelevance, a feature of every Labour leadership election for decades. Only when the first YouGov poll of Labour members showed him leading the pack with a stunning 43% did the realisation — and panic — about his potential victory set in. The rest is history. ...  Continue reading

by Freddie Sayers
Wednesday, 1
June 2022

Meet the ultra-royalists camping at Buckingham Palace

For some people, the monarchy means a great deal

It is the day before the Jubilee and outside Buckingham Palace is full of people in uniforms shouting instructions and making preparations. There are Union flags hanging all the way down the Mall and St James’s Park is filling up with Portaloos. Close to the palace itself, a small group of ultra-royalists have pitched tents in the rain to make sure they get front row seats for the coming days’ parades. We wanted to find out what motivated the intensity of their love for the Queen — so we went down there to find out. 

Viewed from one angle, it’s easy to have a chuckle at the lengths they’ve gone to. For what? To catch a glimpse of a minor royal, or a golden carriage? And yet, for these royalists it is far from a joke. The existence of the monarchy evidently provides a real sense of security.  ...  Continue reading

by Freddie Sayers
Tuesday, 22
February 2022

Was Grace Lavery silenced by her own community?

She pulled out of an UnHerd event after pressure from fellow trans activists

Grace Lavery is a prominent trans activist and professor of Gender Studies at UC Berkeley in California. As part of the promotion of her new book, Please Miss: A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Penis, about living as a transwoman since 2018, she had been offering to debate a “gender critical feminist”. She specifically invited The Economist’s Helen Joyce, author of Trans, to do so. Joyce agreed in theory — but nobody would host the event. It was considered too fraught and too much of a risk that Grace would pull out.

At UnHerd we believe it is important to talk about difficult topics — amazingly, this would seem to have been the first in-person discussion between a gender-critical feminist and a trans activist. So we agreed to host the potentially difficult conversation. We managed to find a date, venue, format and title that both Helen and Grace were happy with. I would moderate, as someone who has no corner to fight in this discussion — Grace’s team found me to be “a great, steady moderating presence” in my YouTube interviews. ...  Continue reading

by Freddie Sayers
Tuesday, 15
February 2022

Louis Gave: What the Moderna share price reveals about vaccines

The financial markets have been underwhelmed by the data

Pre-pandemic, Moderna was a $9 billion company. But by the time Covid had spread around the world the biotech company’s value grew to $35 billion. Then came the advent of the vaccines, of which Moderna was one of the leading manufacturers, and the company’s net worth soared to an eye-popping $195 billion in September of 2021.

Given the large numbers of countries recommending boosters, one might expect the Moderna share price to keep rising. But, strangely, the opposite has happened. Since the end of November 2021, the company’s share price has actually been declining dramatically, falling from $368 to $147 at the time of writing. ...  Continue reading

by Freddie Sayers
Friday, 4
February 2022

What Munira Mirza’s departure really means

The departing Head of Policy was in charge of fighting the culture war

You don’t leave a boss you have been working with for 14 years because he made a single ill-judged gaffe in the House of Commons. Munira Mirza’s elegantly expressed resignation, apparently on the basis of the Jimmy Savile comments, is surely about much more than that.

The timing of her walk-out is interesting. It suggests she thinks Boris is doomed and that she is considering her next moves. She made her announcement half an hour before Rishi Sunak’s presidential address on cost of living. Might this suggest she has thrown her lot in with the Chancellor, and that with Cummings in the wings, Sunak could be the new vehicle to get the old gang back together? We will see soon enough. ...  Continue reading

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