breaking news from the world of ideas

by William Clouston
Monday, 25
January 2021
Event
07:00

40 years on from its creation, the SDP has another chance

One of my cherished political possessions is a ticket signed by Former Foreign Secretary David Owen to a Social Democratic Party meeting I attended in the Summer of 1981. I was 15. Months earlier, my father had left the Labour Party and like thousands of others had joined a new party aiming for a new type of politics. The event which triggered the biggest challenge to the two-party system in British political history happened on this day 40 years ago with the publication of the Limehouse Declaration.

My memories of the meeting itself are now quite distant but I recall a packed hall and a sense of excitement. The SDP offered a unique blend of politics — social market, state and nation. Long before Blue Labour or Red Tories made reference to the combination, I recall Owen repeating the words, “that’s the blue in our colours… and that’s the red”.  ...  Continue reading

by Ralph Leonard
Friday, 22
January 2021
Spotted
17:28

Lana Del Rey, Laschian conservative

Recently, Lana Del Rey, revealed the artwork of her upcoming album ‘Chemtrails Over The Country Club’ on her Instagram page, including a black and white cover showing Del Rey and several of her friends seated around a table.

Anticipating blowback from naysayers, presumably for being insufficiently ‘diverse’, the winsome chanteuse proclaimed: “yes there are people of colour on this record’s picture and that’s all I’ll say about that.” In a BBC Radio One interview, she further bolstered her stance: “I got a lot of issues but inclusivity ain’t one of them…I just feel like if that’s really what people are gonna say, I have an answer for them.” ...  Continue reading

by Paul Embery
Friday, 22
January 2021
Explainer
16:10

The Fire Brigades Union has nothing to apologise for

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) is being lambasted across the media today, accused in a report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) of acting as an obstacle to the engagement of firefighters in the national response to the pandemic.

As ever, it is crucial to go beyond the headlines and examine the facts.

Last year, as the pandemic began to take hold, FBU leaders reached a tripartite agreement alongside fire and rescue service chiefs and local government employers that would see firefighters pitched into the front line of the response.

The agreement was ground-breaking: established industrial relations processes were streamlined to ensure firefighters could swiftly be mobilised to undertake the most critical work — work that sat well outside of their contractual role and for which many had received only the most basic training. ...  Continue reading

by Aris Roussinos
Friday, 22
January 2021
Reaction
14:00

Joe Biden’s European conundrum

Following a peaceful transition of power in the imperial capital yesterday, local rulers are performing their traditional role of ingratiating themselves with the new order and repudiating any connection with the old regime. In Europe, the EU Commission’s president Ursula von der Leyen thanked Biden for “the inspiring inaugural address and for the offer to cooperate,” promising that “Europe is ready for a fresh start.”

Certainly, on climate change and the Green New Deal, claimed priorities for both the Biden administration and the EU, there is much room for renewed cooperation. Yet in the broader sweep of foreign policy, America and Europe’s interests and worldviews are increasingly divergent, and while it may suit Europe’s spokespeople to blame the rift on Biden’s newly-departed predecessor, holding the alliance together will remain problematic. ...  Continue reading

by Peter Franklin
Friday, 22
January 2021
Response
11:47

Brexit was not a ‘Whiggish’ project

Is Brexit really a Whiggish project? James Hawes seems to think so, judging from his review of Robert Tombs’ new book (This Sovereign Isle: Britain, Europe and Beyond) in The Spectator.

He mocks Tombs for comparing the campaign for Brexit to the Glorious Revolution. It’s this sort of thing which contradicts Tombs’ otherwise Tory take on British history, he argues.

But Hawes makes some rather dodgy historical comparisons of his own: “England is indeed well governed and peaceful — so long as its elite remain united. Whenever they split (the Reformation, the Civil War, 1715, 1909) the result is bitter strife.” ...  Continue reading

by Rory Waterman
Friday, 22
January 2021
Behind the news
10:21

Geoffrey Chaucer: a victim of the university diversity drive?

A few days ago, management told the English department at the University of Leicester that they’d no longer be teaching Geoffrey Chaucer — or any medieval literature for that matter. In response, an English lecturer at the university tweeted: ‘Leicester yesterday announced redundancy consultation with specific plans to … cease teaching medieval areas, and reduce early modern. You can probably imagine how I feel.’

I can. But I think we should all feel something similar.

This academic also tweeted a screenshot of the university’s rationale: to ‘strengthen English’, and provide room for ‘modules on race, ethnicity, sexuality and diversity, a decolonised curriculum, and new employability modules’. My eyes nearly fell out at this — because I know Leicester already has these things covered, robustly and fruitfully. ...  Continue reading

by Peter Franklin
Friday, 22
January 2021
Explainer
07:00

The basic flaw in British Government

There are many things wrong with the way we’re governed, but the core contradiction is identified today in a new report from the Institute for Government.

Despite being one of the most centralised countries in the western world, the innermost part of the UK’s central government is pathetically weak.

That’s not a comment on any particular Prime Minister, but rather on the structures that support Prime Ministers in their role as head of government. The report’s author, Alex Thomas, argues that the bit of the civil service that is meant to do this — the Cabinet Office — is woefully underpowered. ...  Continue reading

by Tom Chivers
Thursday, 21
January 2021
Factcheck
18:02

Latest infections data may be less gloomy than the headlines

We’ve been in this third national lockdown for nearly three weeks now. Covid-19 deaths are at an all-time high: 1,800 were reported on Wednesday. Schools are closed, bars are closed, we can’t see our friends or family.

It is pretty disheartening, therefore, to read that there is “no evidence of a decline” in infections since the lockdown began. The headlines are based on Imperial College’s excellent REACT-1 study, a survey that randomly samples the population and estimates the total prevalence, just as an opinion poll estimates voting intentions.

The headlines are, on the face of it, correct. The most recent REACT-1 data, round 8a, covering the period 6 January to 15 January, found about 1.58% of its respondents to be positive. Round 7b, the one before, found only 0.91%. That’s an increase of well over 50%, and all ages and subgroups showed a rise. ...  Continue reading