Aid and Other Dirty Business

Written 15 September I finished this a couple of weeks ago and as I found it pretty thought provoking thought I’d set down a few thoughts. The title is somewhat misleading: the book is by no means an anti-Aid screed but does describe well how Aid sometimes comes up short. It also sets out a realistic vision for what a more effective system of International Aid would look like. Giles Bolton is obviously a bright and highly motivated chap and wrote this in the mid-noughties following stints with DfID in Rwanda and Iraq. He comes across very much as an...

Tacking Left on Economics, Right on Culture

I thought I’d chance my arm at setting out some semi-serious thoughts on what “leaning left on economics and right on culture” might actually mean in practice for a UK government in 2021. We are told this is the electoral sweet spot, but I don’t think the current Government’s heart is in it at all and it certainly doesn’t have the talent to achieve much. As for the opposition, well… I started out with a thread then decided it properly belonged in a (quickly put together) blog post. The train of thought was prompted by this tweet: The last reforming...

The End of the End of History

Written 28 July I enjoy podcasts and have tuned in occasionally to Aufhebunga Bunga, the “global politics podcast at the end of the end of history”, so I thought I’d pick up the book which has just recently been released by its founders. The podcast sets its stall out pretty clearly: it’s on the old-fashioned Left and against the Neoliberal settlement that started in the West in the late 1970s and has since conquered the world, so I wasn’t expecting a balanced take on politics. The book is easy to read (it’s only about 200 pages long) and for someone...

International Aid

Written 14 July 2021 I didn’t follow yesterday’s debate in Parliament closely in which the Government won the vote to move away from the 0.7% of GDP target. I doubt I missed much. I’m writing something down on this because I have spent a few years up close and personal with International Aid (in Egypt in the mid-1990s) and never really quite got to the bottom of what I think of it all. I’ll see if writing my thoughts down gets me any closer to a conclusion or a more settled position. I suspect it will help but I doubt...

Labour (mainly, again)

I am writing on the morning after another by-election in a so-called Red Wall seat. Keir Starmer will be enjoying his muesli more than he perhaps expected as Labour managed to hold on in Batley and Spen in what sounds like a fairly depressing contest. This is without a doubt a better result than losing the seat, and much better than many expected, even allowing for the usual tiresome expectations management game played by all the parties, low turnout and the presence of George Galloway, an unpleasant and toxic politician but nevertheless one that on the whole I’m glad we...

Should We Stay or Should We Go by Lionel Shriver

Written 30 June 2021 Having read, reread and loved her novel The Mandibles I knew that I wouldn’t be able to resist this latest one from Lionel Shriver and in fact I downloaded and read it without even waiting for the kindle price drop. It’s the story of a well to do married couple, a doctor and a nurse, who having seen close up what ageing and dying means in modern day Britain decide to enter a suicide pact. They enter this pact in the early nineties at the age of about fifty and expect it to come into effect...

Official statistics

Written 24 June 2021 The story this week in the BBC on the EU resettlement scheme seems to me to have pretty wide ranging implications. Maybe it’s just me though: I find stories in the statistics/economics/public policy/Brexit space pretty interesting, but I accept that this puts me in a small minority! Anyway, the story concerns the numbers of EU nationals applying for settled status in the UK as the deadline approaches and the BBC coverage is here. It appears that as at 31 May 2021 some 5.6 million applications had been made under the scheme. The UK government is currently advertising...

The Remembrance of Earth’s Past

Written 24 June 2021 I thought my next venture into the science fiction genre would be to read The Dispossessed by Ursula Le Guin and while it’s still on the list I didn’t find myself approaching the prospect with any real relish so looked for something else. These books were recommended to me on Twitter and having read the review of the first book in the series I thought I’d give it a go, or at least read the first book The Three-Body Problem. I have started writing this review despite being just half way through the third and final...

Green Philosophy

Written 17 June 2021 Having read and reviewed his Fools, Frauds and Firebrands just a short time ago I wasn’t expecting to read something else by Roger Scruton for some time.  But sticking to resolutions is something I’ve never been terribly good at, so here I am reviewing another book of his. I think it came up on my kindle at a particularly appealing price, so maybe that is what tipped me into downloading it. Anyway, I found it a much more interesting and engaging book in every sense. It is easier to read, touching on a narrower and more...

The Left Hand of Darkness

Written 23 May 2021 I came upon this book while searching for my next read and it popped up in a number of lists of can’t miss science fiction. Written in 1969 and set on a planet inhabited by “ambisexual” or androgynous humans who mainly live in a state where the male/female distinction is redundant it has also gained real status as it deals with the absence of our conventional notions of gender, so it is pretty topical. The book is part of a series of six novels (the Hainish Cycle). It is not difficult to find reviews eulogising the...