May 2022


19 May 2022

Astonishing Devotion

Matt Foot

The home secretary, Priti Patel, spoke this week at the annual conference of the Police Federation of England and Wales in Manchester. ‘Nobody does a harder job or a better one than the police,’ she said. ‘And no one does more, in my view, to make our country great. And nobody gives greater public service.’ The opening section of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act, which received royal assent last month, enshrines a new ‘police covenant’. Introducing the idea in February 2020, Patel said: ‘Too many officers are paying the price for their astonishing devotion to public duty … This covenant is a pledge to do more to recognise the service and sacrifice of our police and to deliver the urgent practical support they need.’

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18 May 2022

Aristotle’s Four Causes

Eli Zaretsky

According to Aristotle, we cannot understand something unless we understand what causes it, but ‘cause’ for Aristotle was a complex, multi-layered concept. In the case of the present war between Ukraine and Russia, Aristotle would have described Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as the efficient cause – the immediate precipitant – but would have argued that a fuller understanding must include the material history of Europe; the form given to that history by the Second World War and its long aftermath, which left the US in effective control of the continent; and the overall or final direction of history at stake in the conflict. I want to focus here on the form given to the conflict by America’s preponderant role in European politics.

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17 May 2022

Stolen Time

Liam Shaw

In Hogarth’s An Election Entertainment, depicting the 1754 Oxfordshire by-election, a placard lies on the floor: ‘Give us our Eleven Days’. The slogan refers to the adoption of the Calendar (New Style) Act, which caused eleven days in September 1752 to be removed from the calendar. The idea that there were actual riots over the erasure bobs up like a historical beachball no matter how often it is punctured. It’s all too easy to imagine people taking to the streets in outrage at the bureaucratic theft of time. UK universities were invited to begin their submissions to REF2021 in February 2020. 

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17 May 2022

Who’s best?

Paul Taylor

The results of REF2021, the latest iteration of the Research Excellence Framework assessing the quality of research at UK universities, were published last week. My institution, UCL, is boasting that it came second, above Cambridge and beaten only by Oxford. Cambridge is boasting that it came third, but behind Imperial and the Institute of Cancer Research; institutions that shouldn’t quite count, it implies, since neither covers the full range of academic endeavour. Imperial, however, is clear that it has been shown to be the UK’s top university. The same claim is made by Oxford.

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16 May 2022

Shireen Abu Akleh 1971-2022

Mouin Rabbani

Shireen Abu Akleh, a veteran al-Jazeera journalist, was a fixture on Palestinian and Arab TV screens for more than two decades. Intrepid, sympathetic, intelligent and trustworthy, she had reported on developments in the occupied territories since the late 1990s. She was shot dead by the Israeli military in the early morning of 11 May. There was shock, grief and outrage throughout Palestine and the Middle East. Israel has killed more than forty-five journalists since 2000, but the case of Abu Akleh has taken the practice to an entirely new level.

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13 May 2022

I am not a robot

Eliane Glaser

On trains, futile reminders to ‘keep your belongings with you at all times’ and totalitarianism-lite security announcements are repeated at a nonsensical, intolerable frequency. In supermarkets, the faux friendliness of self-checkouts compounds the irritation of forgetting once again that the bagging area is on the left. Being misinformed that ‘your call is important to us’ is increasingly superseded by the even more infuriating chatbots.

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13 May 2022

These are our neighbours

Joel White

On 13 May last year, people in Glasgow turned out to surround a Home Office van in the middle of a morning immigration raid at a house in Pollokshields. As a member of Glasgow No Evictions Network, living on a nearby street, I was one of the many people involved, from the string of initial WhatsApp messages and the early chaos as people blocked the van, through the eight hours of stalemate between police and gathering numbers of protesters, to the tears and elation when the van doors finally opened and the two men inside were released. Almost exactly a year later, a similar mobilisation last week outside a restaurant being raided in Nicolson Square, Edinburgh came to a similar (if less protracted) end.

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12 May 2022

Why did they trust Johnson?

Daniel Finn

The big mistake that Jeffrey Donaldson’s party made was misdiagnosing the political moment of 2016 and after. They saw it as an opportunity for their brand of unionism, which would bring it closer to the British political mainstream. Instead it has proved to be a wedge between Northern Ireland and Britain, as was always likely with a project that rested on a specifically English nationalism.

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11 May 2022

On Reproductive Justice

Edna Bonhomme

The leaked Supreme Court draft opinion that threatens to overturn Roe v. Wade concerns the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organisation, a 2018 Mississippi state law that bans abortions after the first fifteen weeks of pregnancy. If Roe v. Wade is overturned, then the Jackson Women’s Health Organisation – the last remaining abortion clinic in the state of Mississippi – will have to close its doors. Most of its patients are African American and working-class women.

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9 May 2022

Victory Day

James Meek

The strangest thing about the Victory Day parade in Moscow this year was the absence of victory. Normally it’s there, the victory over Nazi Germany, a safely won triumph, unchangeably in the past, veterans and the glorious dead honoured, the country rebuilt, and in his speech today Vladimir Putin went through the motions of commemorating it. But this year, for the first time since the original Victory, Russian troops are openly fighting a war against the descendants of their Ukrainian former comrades-in-arms, on land whose evocative toponymy casts doubt on Russia’s traditional representation of May 1945.

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6 May 2022

Mademoiselle Jukebox

Lucie Elven

The news that François Mitterrand had a ‘long romance’ with the pop singer Dalida, confirmed by her brother this week, didn’t come as a surprise – my hairdresser told me as much several years ago. By 1998, eleven years after her suicide, Dalida had eclipsed her lover: a public poll to identify the most influential French person of the last thirty years had her at number two, second only to Charles de Gaulle. But abroad her allure faded, perhaps because she inspired awful biographical materials. A curse seems to hover over those who try to replicate her on paper or celluloid.

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5 May 2022

Among School Children

Zofia Stemplowska

My cousin teaches at a primary school in Warsaw. Visiting in April, I asked her what her new Ukrainian students were like. ‘They are all different,’ she said. Some Ukrainian refugees at Polish schools are taught in parallel programmes but others have joined regular classes. National limits on class sizes have been lifted. A Ukrainian school opened last month in central Warsaw. Some children have online lessons with their teachers from Ukraine. Some may not go to school at all. If I had saved my children from being shelled and living in basements, I might also prefer for them to play.

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3 May 2022

Trapped in an Imaginary World

Izabella Scott

The podcast series Sweet Bobby tells the story of a Sikh woman, Kirat Assi, who was subject to an elaborate online deception that lasted almost a decade. She fell in love with a man she met online named Bobby, a cardiologist living in New York, part of her wider Sikh community. After a serious accident in 2014, Bobby made Kirat his lifeline, and began to exert strict control over her life in London. He turned out to be an invention of Kirat’s cousin, Simran, a woman ten years her junior, who was running a network of more than fifty fake profiles centred on Bobby, many imitating real people. (There was a real Bobby, too, who lived in Brighton and had no idea his images were being repurposed.)

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