breaking news from the world of ideas

by Elizabeth Oldfield
Friday, 18
October 2019
Reaction
07:30

How Russell Brand won me round

When I met Russell Brand this week for his podcast Under the Skin I began with mixed feelings. I have a background in radio and television, where Brand’s reputation, especially amongst women, is poor. Most of the hostility is from a while ago, before his public clean up, marriage and treatment for sex addiction, but women have watched too many men burnish their reputations and rise too swiftly after a fall from grace to be immediately forgiving. His comments a few years ago about leaving the childcare to his partner didn’t add to my sense of meeting someone I’d immediately click with.

I’ve changed my mind. ...  Continue reading

by Chris Curtis
Thursday, 17
October 2019
Explainer
16:51

Not so fast. Boris Johnson will have an uphill battle with voters

Besides the challenges it faces in Parliament, Boris Johnson will be keeping an eye on how his deal lands amongst the wider general public – particularly if it’s going to be a key part of his General Election campaign.

And whilst it’s still too early to say how the deal will go down, the Conservative Party leader certainly faces a challenge.

The first difficulty is that voters have moved to the extremes over Brexit in recent years, meaning there isn’t a very large pool of voters who sit in the middle ground who may be inclined to support the deal. This was one of the main reasons that Theresa May’s deal struggled to win the public over, and just 15% supported it when it first came back. ...  Continue reading

by Ed West
Thursday, 17
October 2019
Spotted
14:09

Important news of the day: the Eleanor Cross is safe

Big news for our country today, I think we can agree. Yes, the Eleanor Cross in Northamptonshire, one of only three surviving 13th century monuments built by Edward I to commemorate his late queen, is off Historic England’s “endangered list” of buildings.

Work had begun earlier this year after the cross had become seriously dilapidated.

The crosses mark the route taken by Eleanor of Castile’s corpse after she died in Lincoln in 1290. Edward and Eleanor had been married for 36 years, having been betrothed in childhood, but unusually for royal marriages theirs was a genuine love match and he didn’t even have illegitimate children. ...  Continue reading

by Freddie Sayers
Thursday, 17
October 2019
Seen Elsewhere
10:16

The politics of Donald Trump’s stoopid language

The letter from Donald Trump to President Erdogan of Turkey that emerged on Twitter last night is so bafflingly childish that even his most ardent supporters are stuck for words. The White House had to confirm its authenticity as so many people presumed it was a fake:

White House confirms authenticity of Trump letter to Erdogan, dated 10/9: “History… will look upon you forever as the devil if good things don’t happen. Don’t be a tough guy. Don’t be a fool! I will call you later.”
First reported by Fox Business. pic.twitter.com/lImxfhb2j1

— Peter Alexander (@PeterAlexander) October 16, 2019 ...  Continue reading

by Peter Franklin
Wednesday, 16
October 2019
Reaction
18:53

There is nothing wrong with neoliberalism… as a word

A tweet from Ezra Klein, co-founder of Vox Media:

No, sir, it would not. ‘Neoliberalism’ is not the loveliest of words, but it is a useful one — referring to a particular era of capitalism, i.e. the one we’re living through now.

One can debate precise definitions, but neoliberalism is what replaced the post-war model of capitalism — in which government was heavily involved in the productive side of the economy. In the 1980s and 90s, a wave of privatisation and deregulation rolled back the frontiers of the state — but not all the way. The welfare state, despite some reforms, stayed very much in place. ...  Continue reading

by Freddie Sayers
Wednesday, 16
October 2019
Video
10:36

Hassan Damluji: How to build a global nation

I sat down with author and Deputy Director of the Gates Foundation Hassan Damluji to discuss his new book, The Responsible Globalist.

His central idea is that globalists need to learn from nationalists about the importance of ideas of belonging and identity. The only way they will succeed, he argues, is by replicating those same feelings at a global level.

What I really like about Hassan’s book is that he takes seriously the complaints of populist voters over the past few years – for example, he thinks individual countries must be able to control their own pace of immigration. He doesn’t demonise them as dark regressive forces that need to be put back in their box. ...  Continue reading

by Mary Harrington
Tuesday, 15
October 2019
Reaction
17:45

LeBron James kowtows to China

Last week there was some kerfuffle when Daryl Morey, general manager of basketball team the Houston Rockets, tweeted in reference to Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests “fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong“. He was forced into a partial retraction of this comment following a furious reaction from Chinese basketball fans and backers, though the NBA subsequently appeared to stand by Morey.

Then, Lakers basketball hero LeBron James poured burning oil on already-troubled waters with an ambiguous comment, in which he appeared to row back from supporting freedom of speech in favour of a more collectivist stance: ...  Continue reading

by Peter Franklin
Tuesday, 15
October 2019
Idea
12:45

Late Capitalism? Don’t you believe it.

Late capitalism? Don’t you believe it. A timely blogpost from Branko Milanovic reminds us that the capitalist system, love it or hate it, is far from on its way out:

Geographically, capitalism is now the dominant (or even the only) mode of production all over the world whether in Sweden where the private sector employs more than 70% of the labour force, the United States where it employs 85% or in China where the (capitalistically-organized) private sector produces 80% of the value added.

This was obviously not the case before the fall of communism in Eastern Europe and Russia, nor before China embarked on what is euphemistically called ‘transformation’ but was in reality replacement of socialism by capitalist relations of productions.

- Branko Milanovic

Furthermore, he says, capitalism (especially the tech sector) is creating new markets (and thus turning non-capital into capital) all the time – “a huge market for personal data, rental markets for own cars and homes… market for housing of self-employed individuals.” ...  Continue reading

by Ed West
Tuesday, 15
October 2019
Reaction
06:30

Where’s the EU outrage at Spain’s brutal sentencing of separatists?

The Spanish Supreme Court has sentenced leaders of the Catalan independence movement to a combined 100 years in prison on charges of sedition, following their failed attempt to secede from Spain two years ago.

Oriol Junqueras, former deputy leader of Catalonia, received 13 years, while former leader Carles Puigdemont is still in Belgium but will face extradition if Madrid gets its way. Carme Forcadell, former Speaker of the Catalan Parliament, received 11 and a half years for “rebellion”, her crime being to not prevent a debate on independence.

As with the French police’s casual brutality towards Gilets Jaunes protestors (compare and contrast with the way our police treat Extinction Rebellion like they’re on a gap year) so the Spanish violence towards Catalan separatists was a reminder that they do things different on the continent. Can you imagine policemen from the Home Counties being sent up to Glasgow to crack heads because the SNP had dared to hold a referendum? ...  Continue reading

by Philip Collins
Monday, 14
October 2019
Debate
16:22

Trust me, Tony Blair is not as brilliant as you think

Phil Collins, Times columnist and former speechwriter for Tony Blair, responds to Freddie Sayers’s recent UnHerd piece, How Tony Blair Destroyed the Centre Ground

I don’t myself agree with Tony Blair’s position on Brexit. I don’t want a second referendum and I think we should leave, with a deal. If one emerges from the current negotiations I hope enough MPs vote for it. 

However, I’m afraid I just cannot share Freddie Sayers’s view that Tony Blair is this brilliant. He massively, hugely over-rates his capacities, almost to the point of derangement.  

“More than anything else, this shift explains why political and public opinion is now irreconcilably divided; more than anyone else, it’s thanks to him,” he writes.  ...  Continue reading