breaking news from the world of ideas

by Alan Wager
Monday, 20
September 2021
Chart
07:00

How the Lib Dems can break the blue wall

Focusing on ex-Tories, not a 'progressive alliance', is the right strategy

‘Tories repelled by Johnson can help the Lib Dems knock down the blue wall’, read yesterday’s Observer as Sir Ed Davey rose to speak at the Liberal Democrats’ virtual party conference. Over the last few months, the party has been in a buoyant mood, excited by the fact that they may have found a potent electoral strategy: namely, targeting disillusioned 2019 Tory voters in the south.

We should be careful about reading too much into one result, but the Chesham and Amersham by-election win in June gave Davey more than a symbolic victory. It could also be a blueprint for the party’s long-term recovery: scoring victories in constituencies in the south of England, reinforcing their status as the ‘anti-Conservative’ alternative and picking off disgruntled voters who backed the Tories in 2019. Our new working paper – ‘Breaching the Blue Wall’ – examines how likely that strategy is to succeed.  ...  Continue reading

by Aris Roussinos
Friday, 17
September 2021
Response
17:27

AUKUS is a risky bet on American hegemony

How confident should Australia and the UK be that US dominance will last?

The announcement of the new Pacific AUKUS security triad has naturally given rise to a great deal of technical speculation: on whether the Australians will choose a British or American SSN design, what degree of nuclear infrastructure the Australians will acquire, and what timeframe the partnership will take to materalise. Fundamentally, though, the AUKUS alliance is a political one: a statement not just of Australia’s desire to maintain its autonomy in the face of China — by far its largest single trading partner — but also of its commitment to an American-led international order.

The United States is the greatest single beneficiary of the announcement, in that AUKUS is a major vote of confidence in its ability to win the coming challenge. It is, as a senior Biden administration official announced: ...  Continue reading

by UnHerd
Friday, 17
September 2021
Video
15:15

Bari Weiss: there are signs of sanity returning

The writer tells Freddie Sayers why she is optimistic about the future


Fighting — or even participating in — a culture war is a dangerous business. It is especially so when that war is being fought behind enemy lines. So when Bari Weiss was hired by The New York Times as an opinion editor after Donald Trump’s election victory in 2016, it was a risky move.

A self-described classical liberal, Weiss was hired to bring more conservative and centrist voices to the paper, but she quickly found herself at odds with its hyper-progressive staff. Tensions reached a breaking point when NYT writers complained about Senator Tom Cotton’s op-ed calling for the troops to be sent in during the BLM protests — something Weiss had helped to commission and edit. ...  Continue reading

by UnHerd
Friday, 17
September 2021
Video
14:00

Tim Pool: 10 years on, Occupy activists have flipped

They now champion causes that used to be associated with the Right

Today marks the ten-year anniversary since the founding of the ‘Occupy’ movement. The protest began in the financial district of New York City, in response to the perceived failure of the government to punish Wall Street for the 2008 financial crash. Traditional media figures were often banned from attending the rallies, replaced by bloggers and gonzo-journalists like Tim Pool.

Many of protesters were young millennials disillusioned with party politics, and who embraced Left-wing economics as an alternative to capitalism. The prevailing mood was anti-establishment, with activists trialing new forms of internal governance – such as the infamous ‘progressive stack’. Identity politics quickly gained a foothold in proceedings, and before long the movement imploded under the weight of its own contradictions. ...  Continue reading

by Dominic Sandbrook
Friday, 17
September 2021
Reaction
11:45

Sir Clive Sinclair: a visionary ahead of his time

He didn't get everything right, but foresaw trends decades ahead

One of the odd things about writing very recent history is that you spend so much of your time with people who were once immensely famous but are now almost completely forgotten. The home-computer pioneer Sir Clive Sinclair, who died yesterday, is such a person. During his early-1980s heyday, he was one of the most famous businessmen in the land, perhaps even the most famous.

Here’s just one example. In the spring of 1983, with a general election looming, the Observer interviewed Margaret Thatcher about her economic shock therapy, and asked her to name a single British success story. ‘The obvious and quick one is the Sinclair home computers,’ she said immediately. Then she recalled her trip to Japan a few months earlier: ...  Continue reading

by The Secret VC
Friday, 17
September 2021
Behind the news
10:41

The Theranos stories they don’t tell you about

Outrageous fraud is common in the world of venture capital

With so much media focus on Elizabeth Holmes — currently on trial for fraud — you might think that cases like these, of outright fraudsters raising huge money from gullible venture capitalists, are few and far between. But as a VC myself I can tell you: most venture funds have their own Theranos story — they just prefer to keep them quiet.

VCs are always looking for “visionary” founders, but the line between visionary and conman is wafer thin. They often have to make big investment decisions within a few days (the original Google investment was made over a weekend), which means that the scope for fraud is immense. When it does happen, it’s often better to write it off quietly than sue and face embarrassing headlines. After all VCs expect 40% of investments to go to zero. ...  Continue reading

by Katja Hoyer
Friday, 17
September 2021
Explainer
07:00

The Merkel era was not Germany’s golden age

A new poll finds that a plurality of Germans miss the old days

On the eve of Angela Merkel’s political retirement, most Germans are feeling gloomy about their country’s future. A new poll showed that the majority believe Germany’s best days are behind it, with an astonishing 52% believing that the country’s ‘golden age’ has past. A plurality of other Europeans agree that the star of the continent’s largest economy is fading.

It is tempting to link this dent in Germany’s self-image and its prestige in Europe to the departure of Angela Merkel. In her sixteen years in government, she has shaped European policy and loomed large in the public perception as a stabilising force. The ECFR’s report goes as far as to claim that ‘without Merkel, the foundations of Germany’s leadership role in the EU will be significantly weaker’ while the Telegraph also speaks of ‘enduring support for the outgoing Mrs Merkel across the bloc.’ ...  Continue reading

by Jonathon Kitson
Thursday, 16
September 2021
Reaction
14:42

The AUKUS pact is bad news for France

Australia's new security partnership with the US and UK is a snub to Paris

An exhausting cabinet reshuffle last night left little attention for arguably the most important political story of the day. The UK, US and Australian governments have announced a new security partnership, focusing on the Indo-Pacific region. The headline news is that Australia will join the elite club of nations who possess nuclear submarines. Although not as quiet as diesel electric submarines, the range, power and diving depth make them fantastic assets for serious naval powers.

AUKUS (the term for the pact) doesn’t just cover submarines, but promises deeper cooperation on AI and other security technologies. The significance of the agreement is made even clearer by the transfer of nuclear technology. If you can build a nuclear reactor, you can arguably build nuclear weapons, and for obvious reasons the US is very careful about whom it shares this knowledge with. Previously, the US has only helped the UK build nuclear submarines. ...  Continue reading