Jeremy Corbyn, rendered in Waterlogue


in the end, I didn’t vote for Jeremy Corbyn in the Labour Leadership election.  I was just too worried about the issue of electability, and therefore the need to show economic competence to the wider electorate. I did not think that potential was something Corbyn adequately conveyed during the campaign.  If Labour lose the 2020 election I think the Conservative programme will become too entrenched with deeply unpleasant and inequitable consequences for our society.

So instead, I chose Yvette Cooper.  Friends and family have derided her for being boring and equally un-Prime Ministerial, but I disagreed.  Her speech on immigration late in the campaign was passionate, and when I saw her speak in person (a couple of years ago) I was mightily impressed.  I think she could have found a way to restore Labour’s economic credibility.  I think she was – and is – electable.

I won’t deny that I was also keen to see a woman elected Labour leader, although I don’t think identity politics should trump policy.

None of that came to pass, however, and Corbyn was the overwhelming preference of party members and supporters. And yesterday a friend sends me this message:

Btw – am seriously thinking about joining the Labour Party now that Khan is mayoral candidate and Corbyn is at the helm. Are you not excited?

Yes, I am. Continue reading Corbyn

You’re not going out dressed like that!

this-girl-took-us-to-churchOn social media, a friend shares the above exchange, on the subject of sexual assault and the clothes women wear.  The responses to the guy who compares women’s bodies to a bank vault are as good a refutation of this line of thinking as any you will see. (h/t Noodlemaz, and here’s a link to the conversation on Tumblr if you want to reblog it.)

There was more debate in the comments to this image.  One person (again, a man) said that refraining from dressing in a provocative manner was just being “realistic” about human nature. He seemed not to have considered the idea that, as thinking beings, a man who forces himself on a woman is not succumbing to human nature, just accepting without question the worst messages of our sexist culture.

This is a blinkered outlook.  There is nothing to say that our society cannot be changed and made better.  Whenever anyone resorts to the idea that something is “human nature” we must remind them that this observation is unlikely to be correct… And even if it were, that should be the start of the conversation, not the end of it. Continue reading You’re not going out dressed like that!

Shocking photographs reproduced in watercolour

I am fascinated with the Waterlogue app, which converts any image into a watercolour.  Most apps and PhotoShop filters that purport to recreate a particular artistic style seem to do a poor job of it – mangling the image but without reproducing the essence of the art form.

Such ‘artistic’ filters are usually used to convey a sense of beauty. The examples from the Waterlogue community all have an extremely traditional subject matter: landscapes, portraits and still life, framed rather conventionally.

I put six of recent history’s most famous yet shocking images through the tool.  The results are below.  They are instantly recognisable, and although the paint removes detail from the images, I find them just as sad as the photographic versions.

Continue reading Shocking photographs reproduced in watercolour


Why we shouldn’t execute Islamic State militants with air-strikes

Yesterday, the Prime Minister re-announced that his Government had targeted British citizens with missiles fired from RAF drones.  Two men are dead.  The Sun and others have cheered the news.  Others have expressed grave concern. Continue reading Why we shouldn’t execute Islamic State militants with air-strikes

Aylan Kurdi on the beach

On the ethics of publishing the photo of Aylan Kurdi

Before I mire myself in questions of when and whether to publish shocking images, I should—must—begin by writing about the fact of Aylan Kurdi’s drowning and the refugee crisis in general.  If the central argument for publishing an image of a dead boy is that it ‘gets people discussing the issues’ then I think I have an obligation to do so, even if these thoughts have been stated earlier and more eloquently, elsewhere. Continue reading On the ethics of publishing the photo of Aylan Kurdi


Mazen Darwish is Free

English PEN today received formal confirmation that all charges against the Syrian journalist and writer Mazen Darwish have been dropped.  He is a free man.

Darwish is the founder of the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM), an organisation that has fearlessly campaigned for free speech in Syria despite the appalling civil war and associated human rights abuses.  Darwish, along with his colleagues Hussein Gharir and Hani Al-Zitani, were detained in 2012 and held without trial until earlier this year. Continue reading Mazen Darwish is Free


We should rethink ‘NSFW’

Here’s a timeline of Facebook censorship of breasts and other anatomical parts.

When I posted this to Facebook just now, I was going to add the abbreviation ‘NSFW’, Not Safe For Work. But that prompts two thoughts. The first is that my work actually involves looking at links and images like those displayed here! I often wonder if I have inadvertently shocked my colleagues who have accidentally wandered past my screen while I was reading some link about porn or violence or racism or something.

Second, its surely a problem that our culture, as reflected in the Facebook image usage policies, deems images such as masectomies, nude drawings, and breastfeeding as “NSFW” regardless of context. Why shouldn’t these images, undeniably in the public interest, be viewed at work?

I reckon we should start labelling images and GIFs from sporting events as ‘NSFW’ because surely that’s the number one content that should not be viewed at work, damging as it is to productivity.


How would Corbyn govern?

With Jeremy Corbyn ahead in the polls and expected to win the Labour Leadership contest, there is plenty of discussion about how he would behave as leader and (possibly) Prime Minister.  For example, The Mail on Sunday has published a frankly hilarious piece of mock futurism by David Thomas: ‘The 1000 days that destroyed Britain‘ warns of blanket re-nationalisations, the abolition of the Bank of England, and—worst of all—a gender balanced Cabinet. 

But surely the best indicator of how Corbyn would govern is to look to the record of another member of the ‘Awkward Squad’ who won power: Ken Livingstone.
Continue reading How would Corbyn govern?

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - JULY 10:  Labours candidates for Leader and Deputy Leader Liz Kendall,Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper  and Jeremy Corbyn take part in a hustings in The Old Fruitmarket, Candleriggs on July 10, 2015 in Glasgow, Scotland. The four candidates for the Labour leadership Andy Burnham, Liz Kendall, Jeremy Corbyn and Yvette Cooper faced questions on a range of issues including immigration, welfare and the economy.  (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

Could Corbynism compromise with Blairism?

The thing that irritates me about the Labour Leadership campaign is the Manichean approach adopted by everyone. We hear talk of schisms and splits and the “soul of the party” as if Corbyn is presenting such a different vision for the party that the Venn Diagramme of values and polices has no overlap between him and the other candidates.

This cannot, in reality, be true. But what troubles me about the overall tone of the debate is that it has made me doubt whether the losing faction, whichever it may be, will work with the person who wins. Continue reading Could Corbynism compromise with Blairism?


Hack the Paparazzi Market

The Duke and Dutchess of Cambridge are angry at the paparazzi pursing Prince George and Princess Charlotte in public places.

Here’s one idea that might make the paparazzi go away – undercut them.

How about the Royals employ a photographer to take a steady stream of snaps of the family, in a similar manner to Barack Obama’s official Whitehouse photographer.  Snaps of official engagements would likely be free and creative commons.  But images where the personal photographer ostensibly has exclusive access could be made available to agencies for a fee.  The money paid for any particular image could be donated to one of the Duke and Dutchess’s many charities.  Quite a large fee could be charged, and yet still undercut the paparazzi’s asking price, making images of the Royals far less profitable.  The harassment should dissipate.

Yes, this does equate to the selling of privacy and not something I’d choose for myself.  But for the children that our perverse political system designates as future Heads of State, it may be a better option than what they endure at the moment, and help those less fortunate in the process.