Hollande’s Successor

The French presidential election has seen countless ‘firsts’: an incumbent president not standing for a second term; his party’s candidate getting only 6 per cent of the vote; a final round that includes neither of the two main parties; a likely winner with no party at all; a losing candidate who delivered speeches via hologram. More »

Bad Colour

‘The music came across the airwaves and suddenly it felt as if the world was actually changing,’ Keith Richards said in 2003:

Things went from black and white or grey to full Technicolor: no army, there’s rock’n’roll music and as long as you’ve got a bit of bread you can buy anything, you don’t need to queue. All of these things combined created a very strong thing in England for our generation. It was a breath of fresh air and a promise of real possibilities, instead of the prospect of simply following in our fathers’ footsteps, which was pretty gloomy.

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Towards Beachy Head

Some elections are landmark events. As in 1918, 1945 or February 1974, they’re called not simply because another lustrum has elapsed but because some major issue requires resolution (‘What will postwar Britain be like?’; ‘Who governs Britain?’). Brexit is obviously the big issue overshadowing this election, but there’s far less distance between Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn on Brexit than between her and Kenneth Clarke or Michael Heseltine, dinosaurs bedded in the Euro-swamp where May herself still languished not a year ago. More »

On the March for Science

‘I’ll interview you in a minute,’ a man with a dictaphone said to me at the entrance to the Science Museum on Saturday. A sociologist from Brunel University, he was there to conduct field research, asking people why they were on the March for Science. The crowd – archaeologists and neuroscientists, physicists and psychologists, academics and the ‘sci-curious’ – was quieter than the average London protest, chanting occasionally: ‘What do we want? Evidence-based research. When do we want it? After peer review.’ More »

Bring Back Condorcet

Going into the first round of the French presidential election, four candidates have polling figures between 19 and 23 per cent. The shooting of a policeman in Paris on Thursday night won’t do any harm to Marine Le Pen’s chances of making it to the second round. In 2002, her father narrowly beat the Socialist candidate, Lionel Jospin, into third place (16.9 to 16.1 per cent), setting up a second round contest with Jacques Chirac that he lost by the record margin of 18 to 82 per cent. Since the 13 other candidates, who between them took 47 per cent of the vote in the first round, were more left than right-wing, it is quite possible that Jospin would have won the second round if only he had got that far. Almost certainly, several of the 13 would have beaten Le Pen. More »

In Berlin

A washed-out railway embankment between Keetmanshoop and Lüderitz, c.1910

‘Colonialism as a form of violent foreign rule was legitimised by a racist ideology of European superiority,’ says the board that greets you at the Deutsches Historisches Museum in Berlin. In a slightly too small room, hundreds of objects are laid out in clusters along a line representing the Greenwich Meridian, a ‘symbol of Eurocentrism’ and the anchor for a system that European powers used to navigate, conquer and impose borders on large parts of the world. The objects – carved elephant tusks, commercial images for coffee brands, whips – tell the story of the German Empire. More »

At the Slaughterhouses

rondpoint

On my first visit to Algiers, in 2002, I met a friend for dinner in the abattoir neighbourhood. The city’s great slaughterhouses are among the oldest in North Africa. ‘There is nothing like the meat in the abattoirs,’ my friend insisted. We ate skewers of grilled lambs’ kidneys: rich, salty, succulent cubes of meat served with nothing but baguettes to wrap them in.

The abattoirs are now the site of a future ruin, slated for destruction to make way for a new national assembly. In 2013, a group of artists circulated a petition calling on the government to turn them into an arts centre that would preserve their memory as part of Algeria’s cultural heritage. Hassen Ferhani, a young filmmaker, spent two months inside a slaughterhouse. The result is an oddly beautiful film, Dans ma tête un rond-point (‘A Roundabout in My Head’), which Ferhani presented last week at the Anthology Film Archives in New York City. More »

Why did Labour MPs vote with the government?

It’s a done deal. Theresa May has bagged the two-thirds Commons support that, under the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act, is needed to call an election before term. The big question is: why did most Labour MPs vote with the government? Given the situation, they should eye an early election with as much relish as badgers do shaving brushes. But no, the ivory-handled bristle has got the brocks crowding the lobby. Less than a quarter of the PLP didn’t back the government: a handful voted against; around fifty abstained. More »

When Yes Means No

The outcome of the Turkish constitutional referendum to expand President Erdoğan’s powers was a foregone conclusion from the moment it was announced. The results were nevertheless surprising because they showed how resilient the opposition in Turkish society is.

Turkey has been under an oppressive ‘state of emergency’ since 21 July 2016. Declared after the failed coup attempt on 15 July (and set to continue for the foreseeable future), it has given President Erdoğan nearly unlimited powers. Tens of thousands of people have been arrested and more than 100,000 sacked, including thousands of academics, judges, prosecutors and union activists. It is a good bet that anyone left in a civil service position in Turkey is either an Erdoğan crony or someone who knows how to keep their head down. The president has captured most state institutions which are supposed to be autonomous or free from political pressure, including the Electoral Board. More »

Mélenchon’s Rise

On 9 April, the left’s late-runner for the French presidency, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, held a rally in Marseille. He called for the formation of a Sixth Republic while his supporters – 70,000 of them, according to his campaign team – roared ‘Résistance! Résistance!’ Five years earlier, almost to the day, he stood in the same place, for the same purpose, sharing the same message at a very similar time: weeks before the first round of the presidential election, with his campaign enjoying a sudden late surge in support. Mélenchon hasn’t changed much since then, but the political atmosphere around him has transformed. More »

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    • andrewjmc on Why did Labour MPs vote with the government?: With reference to the support of working class Labour supporters in Brexity areas: Professor John Curtice, who's generally believed to know a thing or...
    • alpan on When Yes Means No: Ayşe Zarakol is generally on point, though I'm not sure what is gained by labeling the whole event a "foregone conclusion." Buna ne gerek vardı ger...
    • andrewjmc on May’s Gambit: @semitone: Professor John Curtice doesn't think you're right about Labour voters in Leave constituencies voting 'Leave'. He thinks it may be a politic...
    • Nick on May’s Gambit: There is also the timing of the Brexit negotiations themselves. Those around the Cabinet table may have started out by believing their own rhetoric, ...
    • deano on The Usual Rhetoric: US itself has never been shy of using chemical weapons, even nukes in SE Asia, Japan, etc. Justification being it helped to *save* lives..

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