In Confusion

I moved to Belfast from the south of England a little more than a year ago. In conversations about politics I’m a well-meaning dunce, teetering on the line between not quite grasping the complexities of the situation and misunderstanding it so flagrantly that everyone’s embarrassed. I need to have things explained to me slowly and carefully. More »

A Joke in Very Poor Taste

As Britain woke on Friday morning to discover that Theresa May had flushed her Commons majority down the drain, people found themselves having to learn about an unfamiliar party on which May (or her successor) would be relying to get anything done. The titles of the hastily commissioned primers – ‘So, Who Are The DUP?’; ‘Who are the Democratic Unionists and what do they want?’ – told their own story. The Democratic Unionist Party is Northern Ireland’s largest political force and was until recently the principal coalition partner in one of the UK’s devolved governments. But most of the time, what happens in Belfast or Derry is deemed irrelevant to political life on the other side of the Irish Sea. More »

England in 2017

For the time being the election has left the country with rulers that neither see, nor feel, nor know, but leech-like to their fainting country cling. Theresa May has put together a coalition of convenience, formed of incompetents whom she’s too weak to sack, and the DUP, whose votes she can’t do without. Her weekend reshuffle recruited such stellar talents as Gavin Barwell and Michael Gove, the renowned environmentalist, to the praetorian guard. One theory, that Tory grey eminences have demanded she stay on, makes her out to be too weak even to sack herself. May has already had to reassure Ruth Davidson, the lesbian leader of the Scottish Tories, that some of the Orange people’s unreconstructed attitudes on family values are unlikely to find their way into official policy. Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill, joint chiefs of staff at Number 10, have taken one for the team leader, rather as John Ehrlichman and Bob Haldeman did in a vain bid to shield Nixon. On Saturday evening, Downing St said that the coalition was a done deal, only to be contradicted by the DUP. Over in Brussels, Eurocrats awaiting the kick-off of the Brexit negotiations must be quaking at this show of national strength. More »

Destination Brexit

Since she unexpectedly started up and began to move on her election campaign, Theresa May has looked a lot like a driverless car – one of those vehicles built by Apple or Google that is supposed to be able to drive itself to its destination autonomously, using the vast computing power and clever sensors provided by its powerful designers to trundle safely from the car park to the shops and back without any intervention from a human at the wheel. Just punch in where you want to go – Brexit, via a quick stop at General Election to fuel up with extra seats – sit back and let the computer do the work. More »

May’s Failure, Corbyn’s Achievement

Well, that came as a surprise, certainly to me. My meticulously calibrated model proved almost as bad at gauging public opinion as Theresa May. Yesterday in Edinburgh I dropped into Ladbrokes on Nicolson Street. There were large pictures of Corbyn and May in the window; all the punters inside were scanning the racing pages. I looked at the prices on the betting machine and the shortest odds (10/3) were on the Tories’ getting 351 to 375 seats. I thought better of putting a tenner on. More »

What’s behind the Saudi blockade of Qatar?

Qatar, unlike the other Gulf states, is tied to Saudi Arabia by its adherence to the form of Sunni Islam described by everyone else (but not themselves) as Wahhabism. The family of Muhammad bin Abd al-Wahhab in Saudi Arabia, known as the Al ash-Shaikh, has been the partner of the House of Saud and guarantor of religious orthodoxy since the state was founded. The Qatari royal family, too, claims descent from bin Abd al-Wahhab. But it has declined to join the Saudi-led anti-Iranian and anti-Shia crusade. Like Kuwait and Oman it has important shared interests with Iran and has kept the door open to diplomacy. More »

Through a Glass Darkly

So here it is, the last throes of a campaign that began with Brexit and has ended with terrorism. In between, Theresa May’s foibles have blossomed like a suburban cannabis plantation under the arc-lights of scrutiny. For all the cosseting from her handlers, May has looked ever more frail and flailing as the campaign has worn on, which the terrorism brouhaha has barely concealed. May can scarcely moan about the personalisation of an election that she sought to fight on her own personality. Verbal and other tics obtrude. A pet tag is ‘I have been completely clear that’, which generally prefaces either content-free blather, or a false denial of having fudged or U-turned. Her angularity, faulty judgment and sheer want of imagination make her look like a beneficiary of the Peter principle. More »

The Price of Quitting the Paris Agreement

An energy-intensive industrial coalition spent tens of millions of dollars to ensure the United States’ withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement. The Competitive Enterprise Institute, the American Energy Alliance, the Heartland Institute, Americans for Prosperity and forty other free-market think tanks that signed an open letter urging Donald Trump to pull out were bankrolled by, among others, ExxonMobil and the Koch Brothers, the Kansas-based billionaires who control refineries and pipelines that process 600,000 barrels of crude oil a day. More »

Sado-Austerity v. Moderate Social Democracy

This election was made, as Proudhon said of the 1848 revolution, without an idea, beyond that of bunkering the Tories in power and shielding them against blowback from Brexit. Their strategy assumed that people had made up their minds about the party leaders’ competence, and that voters were fixated on Brexit, so cluelessness elsewhere wouldn’t matter (though the government seems clueless about Brexit, too). Hence the uncosted Conservative manifesto. More »

Farc Guns for Hire

Six months after a peace accord was signed between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, coca production in the country is said to be at its highest level in two decades. Rafael Alcadipani, a public safety researcher at FGV university in Rio de Janeiro, says that the Colombian peace process could make Latin America less stable. ‘It has a definite impact in making the connection between Colombian and Brazilian gangs stronger and the illegal drug trade stronger,’ he told me. ‘We’re getting information from intelligence services that the Farc and the PCC’ – the Primeiro Capital Command, a São Paulo gang – ‘have been in touch. There are some particular drug routes in the Amazon where the two groups meet and negotiate. My understanding is that the war is ending in Colombia and a war is starting between drug gangs in Brazil, so retired guerillas could be hired.’ More »

  • Recent Posts

    RSS – posts

  • Contributors

  • Recent Comments

    • piffin on Who supplied the gun?: It's a shame our fire-safety regulations aren't equally well admired.
    • Lashenden on Who supplied the gun?: Legally buying any firearm in the UK is very far from being 'scarily easy'. Despite much media misinformation, the misuse of legally held firearms by ...
    • Stu Bry on Sorry Not Sorry: Labour did not win this election but have a realistic path to a majority in the next one whenever that may be. They have also taken away the Tory majo...
    • kadinsky on Sorry Not Sorry: It's the strategies of his PLP critics that ought to be examined and questioned. If they hadn't monstered him for two years Labor would likely be in g...
    • woll on Sorry Not Sorry: A little self-righteous? Corbyn did better than expected but did not win or come near winning, against a very poor Tory campaign. In addition, in vari...

    RSS – comments

  • Contact

  • Blog Archive

Advertisement Advertisement