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...

Shtisel

Written 17 May 2021 I have just finished series 3 of Shtisel on Netflix. Or rather, I watched series 1 and 2 last year, started watching series 3 and then my wife said after watching a couple of episodes that she’d always wished she’d watched the earlier series so we went right back to the beginning and so I watched it all the way through. Israel seems a real hotspot for producing good TV over recent years. Well, I say that and it’s my experience having watched Shtisel itself and before that Fauda, but I have to say I watch...

A Fine Balance

Written 12 May 2021 This novel is described as an epic, it is certainly sweeping and describes the interconnected lives of characters in post-Independence India. Most of the storyline is set during the time of the emergency laws of the mid-1970s and it wraps up shortly after the assassination of Indira Gandhi in 1984. The cast takes in Muslims and Hindus and Parsees, and it is set largely in Mumbai (the big “City on the Sea” in the novel is never named but it is clearly Mumbai).* The book is long, but as with all well written books it soon...

England and Ideology

Written 8 May 2021 I’m writing this as the Hartlepool by election result and most council elections are through but before having final results from Scotland and London. Certainly more than enough to keep the opinion columnists busy, and to be honest it’s unlikely I’ll be able to add too much to the huge amounts that will be written over the coming days and weeks let alone the reams over recent years on the realignment in English politics we are seeing. What we are seeing is the working out through the first past the post system of changes that have...