The recent spate of milkshake protests against the far right began in Warrington on 2 May. A young Asian man was being harassed by Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (a.k.a. ‘Tommy Robinson’, formerly of the BNP and EDL, now Ukip). As henchmen bristled around him, he defended himself with what came to hand. Yaxley-Lennon got another dousing in Wigan the next day, and Nigel Farage caught a banana and salted caramel coating in Newcastle earlier this week. Various professional hyperventilators have decried the apparent coarsening of British politics and predicted a rapid skate down a slippery slope. But this form of grassroots censure has a long history. George Eliot wrote of Mr Brooke being ‘disagreeably anointed’ under a ‘hail of eggs’ while campaigning in Middlemarch.

21 May 2019

Thinking inside the Box

Gill Partington

d.p. houston’s poetry collection Boîte de Vers is completely unreadable, but not in the sense that it’s bad. It could well be, but I have no idea because it comes in a sealed box.

20 May 2019

You win or you die

John Lanchester

Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen

Game of Thrones is arguably responsible for a quarter of my not being able to speak Spanish. Has it been worth it?

17 May 2019

Power Plays

Benjamin Markovits

The first mistake I made when I joined the basketball team in Germany was admitting I spoke the language. It would have been weird not to – it would have been very weird. But sometimes over the course of the year, I imagined what it would be like for people around me (coaches, players) to talk naturally with each other in the expectation that I couldn’t understand them. It would have given me an edge.

16 May 2019

Drawn from Life

Gillian Darley

One of Margaret Gillies’s illustrations for the 1842 Report of the Children’s Employment Commission

The Report of the Children’s Employment Commission, published in 1842, was compiled by Dickens’s friend Richard Henry Horne. The result of a three-year investigation, it was unprecedented, not merely for the level of shocking detail and first-hand evidence, but because it was illustrated. And most of the 26 images were by Gillies.

15 May 2019

Safe, Solid and Unquestionable

James Butler

Saturday’s Times carried on its front page a protracted complaint by the headmaster of Stowe School that Oxbridge was actively discriminating against the beneficiaries of private education, and that any complaint about the staggering overrepresentation of the privately educated in every avenue of British life was born of the same reasoning as the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. It was a particularly inept rendition of a favoured right-wing talking point: that any analysis which talks in terms of groups or classes is already merrily chugging along to the gulag, with precious individuality flattened under its wheels.

13 May 2019

The Measles Scandal

Hugh Pennington

Graphical representation of a measles virus particle, from the CDC Public Health Image Library

In 2004 I described the basis of attacks on the MMR vaccine as ‘unsubstantiated speculation masquerading as science’, and finished the piece: ‘I despair.’ Measles is now busier in Europe than it was fifteen years ago.

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