That Pesky Podcaster

Written 3 February 2022 I’m still on a Twitter break, while dipping in almost exclusively on read only mode. I often get the urge to respond or put something out, particularly if kicking back in the pub and scrolling through, but it’s reasonably under control. Goodness, haven’t things blown up at Spotify? I signed up for my free trial a week or so ago (for the music really, I have used Podcast Player for podcasts until now which does me just fine). Neil Young, Joni Mitchell have pulled their music, apparently with the aim of pressuring Spotify to remove the...

Has he gone yet?

I write during a break from Twitter as I try to get a good start to the year’s reading. British politics appears to have settled into the mode that best suits its professional participants in our political parties and in the media that covers it. With each passing day the evidence mounts that Boris Johnson has been less than entirely truthful about his involvement in rulebreaking at No 10. Today it has been announced by Cressida Dick that New Scotland Yard will be cooperating with the Cabinet Office to investigate the ins, outs and what-have-yous of it all. The latest...

Localism: Manifesto for a Twenty-First Century England by thelocalists.org

Written 27 December 2021 This is the fiftieth and probably the last book for me of 2021, and was unusual for a couple of reasons. First, it is one the very few books I have read recently that I have read as a physical book. I got a kindle a few years ago and while I know that many people just prefer physical books I prefer reading on a kindle nowadays and cleared most books out of the house about three years ago. Secondly, I bought the book directly from thelocalists.org via their twitter account @localmattersENG. The book is short,...

The Prize: the Epic Quest for Oil, Money and Power by Daniel Yergin

Written 12 December I heard about this book rather in passing while listening to an an episode of Demitry Kafinas’s Hidden Forces podcast. It is a big read and took some time to get through. It covers the history of the oil industry from the second half of the nineteenth century. What a story it is, huge in scale, immense in its impact on humanity and central to any serious reading of economics and politics. Of course everyone professes to know how important oil is, but this book really does convey that its importance is far more foundational than we...

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...