breaking news from the world of ideas

by Will Lloyd
Tuesday, 27
September 2022

Dad jokes galore as Keir Starmer meets Gary Neville

The pair were like star-crossed lovers at last night's event

ACC Liverpool

It’s possible that Keir Starmer has never been this happy before. When he walked into the auditorium yesterday evening with Gary Neville, his grin was so wide you could have fit every delegate, and their mobility scooters, in his mouth. He looked delighted.

Neville-Starmer are perfectly star-crossed. Theirs is a love whose month is ever May. Neville described Starmer as “trustworthy — he has integrity”. All Labour had to do was “get behind him” and power would roll into the party’s hands. “You are absolutely spot on Gary,” Starmer swooned at one point. “Gary’s right.”  ...  Continue reading

by Francesco Borgonovo
Tuesday, 27
September 2022

Italy’s Right-wing alliance is not as stable as it seems

Giorgia Meloni will have to play a delicate balancing act

Observing the initial results of the Italian elections, one fact appears very clear: everyone has lost except Giorgia Meloni. Italy’s soon-to-be first female Prime Minister obtained three times as many votes as Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, and well over double Matteo Salvini’s League.

But, in many respects, the under-performance of Meloni’s Right-wing rivals could actually have a destabilising effect on her coalition. Her relationship with Berlusconi and Salvini has never been as close as the media has made out, and these two wounded allies can cause her problems.

Although Berlusconi was never a serious contender for office, his party’s 8.1% of the vote is significant. He intends to make his presence in the alliance felt, signalling to Meloni that he sees himself as kingmaker of the coalition. Were Meloni to try to isolate him or his party, Berlusconi could easily return the favour by joining forces with other parties. As the Right’s most pro-EU voice, the media tycoon has maintained ties with elements of the centre-Left, meaning that if Meloni pushed it too far with Ursula von der Leyen, Berlusconi could threaten to form a new government with other political forces (including Pd). ...  Continue reading

by UnHerd Staff
Monday, 26
September 2022

Will the hard Right sweep Europe?

Freddie Sayers discusses Italian populism with Ralph Schoellhammer

The rise of the Christian, ultra-conservative candidate Giorgia Meloni in Italy marks a strange split in European politics. Post-Brexit Britain is now in the minority of countries that have not seen a recent Rightward populist uprising.

The French election was disrupted by Marine Le Pen, the Sweden Democrats have ousted the centre-Left from power and Right-wing Vox have gained ground in Spain.

With the cost of living crisis worsening, culture wars raging and sanctions against Russia biting, will more countries fall for what some call ‘neo-fascists’? Or will certain parts of the media prove to be exaggerating the threat of hard-Right figures like Giorgia Meloni? ...  Continue reading

by Aaron Bastani
Monday, 26
September 2022

I hate to admit it, but Keir Starmer is good at politics

The Labour leader is a ruthless pragmatist

The most mentioned word in Niccolo Machiavelli’s Prince, that handbook in how to deploy power, is ‘necessity’. More than virtue or fortune it is necessity — and grasping what is necessary to achieve a particular end — that is central to his vision of political skill. While he may have the charisma of a damp cloth, Keir Starmer seemingly understands that, besides much else in Machiavelli. Increasingly it is the word that defines his two-and-a-half years as Labour leader. It is why he should be regarded as a formidable politician.  

Why did Labour’s conference kick off with a rendition of the national anthem? The simple answer is because the Queen passed away. The political one is because — to Starmer’s mind — it was necessary. It was necessary to rebut claims of being insufficiently patriotic, and it was necessary to generate optics which the media could identify as a shift with the past. Does Starmer believe any of it? Who knows. After all, the man eulogising the institution of monarchy was purportedly a republican into his 40s. But that doesn’t matter. It is necessary.  ...  Continue reading

by Naama Kates
Monday, 26
September 2022

The incel movement isn’t getting ‘more extreme’

A new Washington Post investigation recycles old tropes

Taylor Lorenz’s latest piece for the Washington Post warns that ‘the online incel movement is getting more extreme’, according to a new report from the Center for Countering Digital Hate, an American think tank, and its brand new Quant Lab. 

The report is the ‘culmination’ of an investigation spanning 18 months, containing ‘more than one million posts’ from the web’s ‘most prominent [incel] forum’. The report was also covered by the BBC and the Times, despite the fact that these sorts of AI linguistic analyses of the very same forum have been done ad nauseum by researchers and students at various points in their academic careers.  ...  Continue reading

by Peter Franklin
Monday, 26
September 2022

Giorgia Meloni crushes her friends as well as enemies

In yesterday's Italian election, even her political allies went backwards

In Conan the Barbarian (1982), a victorious general asks Arnold Schwarzenegger “what is best in life?” — to which Arnie infamously replies: “To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women!”

In other words, winning is not enough — others have to lose. 

As Giorgia Meloni savours the taste of victory this morning, there will be those who see her as an all-conquering barbarian — the Right-wing populist who took her Brothers of Italy (FdI) party from just 4% of the vote in 2018 to a commanding first place in yesterday’s Italian general election.  ...  Continue reading

by Mary Harrington
Monday, 26
September 2022

Was the fake boobs teacher a hoax?

Whether or not it was satire, it shows where the power lies

Last week there was internet uproar at the discovery that a male teacher in Ontario goes to work wearing breasts so huge they’d be absurd by the standards of a seaside postcard.

Photographs of this individual, known as “Kayla Lemieux”, were reportedly leaked by students uncomfortable with the situation. The fake breasts are indeed so gargantuan, and the nipples so prominent, that it’s difficult to see how anyone could wear them except as either fetish gear or a prank. In Ontario, though, the Human Rights Code forbids discrimination against anyone on the grounds of ‘gender expression’, a category of such seemingly infinite flexibility that it appears to cover wearing absurdly enormous prosthetic breasts to your teaching job in a secondary school. Accordingly, the school has defended Lemieux. ...  Continue reading

by Andrew Lilico
Monday, 26
September 2022

Five tests for Trussonomics to succeed

Liz Truss can still win in 2024 — but she needs things to go her way

The weekend’s newspapers were full of attacks on Friday’s mini-budget. Commentators on Right and Left seem almost united that the first week of this new administration was risky, politically ham-fisted and overall makes a Labour government in 2024 significantly more likely.

But she might just get away with it. There are five main factors that, if enough of them fall the right way for the Government, could set Liz Truss up with powerful momentum going into the next election. This what what she needs to happen:

1. Falling inflation
Johnson, Thatcher, Callaghan, Wilson, Heath — none of these leaders survived rapidly rising inflation. Truss could not survive it either. She needs inflation to fall well below the current rate of 10%.
 ...  Continue reading