On Monday, seven MPs resigned from the Labour Party – though not from their seats in the Commons – to form a new ‘Independent Group’ in Parliament. An eighth joined them yesterday, and three Tories today. Few people, arguably including the splitters themselves, have much confidence that the breakaway group can garner significant public support, or achieve any particular objective. They have not yet tried to launch themselves as a political party, but only issued vague murmurings about doing so at some point in the future. Their departure will do nothing to help avert Brexit. The most likely effect – if a breakaway of such unimpressive proportions is to have any significant effect at all – will be to scupper Labour’s chances at the next election, delivering yet another period of Conservative government which few can afford.

20 February 2019

Ten Years On

Thomas Jones

The LRB blog was launched in March 2009. Nearly ten years later, it was creaking at the seams and in need of an update – which, as you can see, we’ve now done. It doesn’t only look different – better, we think – but there have been various behind-the-scenes changes too (i.e. a complete overhaul) so it should all work more smoothly.

19 February 2019

On Qanats

Oliver Miles

A cross-section of a typical qanat. Image © Samuel Bailey

Last year, a walker in the hills west of Guadalajara, Mexico came across a large hole that looked like the entrance to a railway tunnel. (The Mexican Guadalajara is named after the city in central Spain; the word is Arabic, meaning ‘valley of stones’‎.) He walked inside it a long way, noticing that every eleven metres there was a hole in the ceiling admitting sunlight. He had found a qanat.

15 February 2019

Not Enough Insects?

Hugh Pennington

Eriozona syrphoides. Photo © Frank Vassen

A recent review by scientists in Australia of 73 historical studies of insect decline concluded that insect biodiversity is threatened worldwide, and 40 per cent of insect species are threatened with extinction over the next few decades. But there is a puzzle. The classes that are declining fastest are butterflies, bees and dung beetles. No one is going out of their way to eliminate them. Other insects that we attack deliberately and for which extinction would be a cause for celebration are doing well.

14 February 2019

At the Théâtre de la Ville

Sam Kinchin-Smith

Every generation gets the scam artists it deserves. To a list that includes Elizabeth HolmesDan Mallory and Billy McFarland, should we now add the name Ilya Khrzhanovsky, the Russian film director responsible for Dau, which finally opened in Paris at the end of January, and closes this weekend?

12 February 2019

The Thin Blue Line

Harry Stopes

Rough sleeping is up 169 per cent across the country since 2010, along with every other form of homelessness. The rate in Manchester is more than twice the national average. Among major English cities, it’s higher only in London and Bristol. The numbers of homeless people referred to temporary accommodation in Manchester rose 319 per cent between 2010 and 2017. It’s bizarre in these circumstances for Greater Manchester Police to downplay the crisis of homelessness by claiming that the genuinely homeless receive help, and those visible on the street are not really in need. ‘There is plenty of help for those willing to accept it,’ they say.

7 February 2019

The Little Island that Could

Michael Hofmann

Brexit – silly, sappy, snappy word – is not a fact, not an event. It’s a condition. It’s the new weather. Brexitosis is what it is. One would rather just groan, or scream, or swear, or feel seasick about the whole thing. All we know is there’s nothing we can do about it. It’s in the future, and it’s in the past, it’s both something that happened yonks ago (maybe hard feelings left over from 1066, or the Field of the Cloth of Gold, or Malplaquet), and something that is promised still to happen. Hence our peculiar helplessness and strickenness. You can’t fix it in the past, and you can’t fix it in the future. It’s like coming round after an operation – when they took out the wrong organ, and then went and left some of their ironmongery in you, for good measure – and swearing, not like a trooper (I don’t think troopers even swear), but like a patient. 

Read More