The Typography of Labour Resignation Letters

Bryant Resignation Letter

This tweet of mine garnered a few fav-hearts and re-tweets, which suggests that this is the sort of thing people are interested in.

Of course, the content of the letters is the really important part, so far as the authors are concerned. But design and presentation is incredibly important, despite being 99% Invisible when done right. We can gather some insights into the thoughts of the authors by how their resignation letter is laid out.

I compiled a Storify of a couple of dozen Labour Shadow Cabinet resignation letters, and added comments about their design.  Continue reading “The Typography of Labour Resignation Letters”

Are Young People To Blame For Brexit?

Vote-shy young people

As people try to make sense of, and come to terms with the result of the EU Referendum, it’s become fashionable to complain about old people. For example, the Independent has a piece entitled ‘How old people have screwed over the younger generation’ demonstrating how younger people voted in greater numbers for Remain over Leave, while older folk did the opposite.

Yes, the senior generations did impose their views upon the junior generations… but that’s only because they showed up to vote.  Since the result was announced on Friday I’ve been looking for figures on turn-out, and found these numbers from Sky Data. Continue reading “Are Young People To Blame For Brexit?”

A Terrible Day, But We Will Regain Our Optimism

Jo Cox newstand

I posted this yesterday evening on Facebook.


The TV news reports about the death of Jo Cox have actually been quite sober. Reporters have refrained from speculating on the motives of the alleged killer. It’s very easy to find a picture of a suspect from friends or family, but the media have declined to grant this man notoriety. Instead they have focus on the life and achievements of someone who was by all accounts remarkable.

During the obituaries, two almost irrelevant facts jumped out at me. She was 41 and only 5 feet tall. These incidental traits are also shared by the person I woke up next to today, just as Brendan Cox must have woken up next to his wife this morning. A rush to get the kids ready, a piece of toast grabbed out the door, and an expectation that we will all see each other again in a few hours. We all did that this morning: me and my family; Jo and Brendan Cox and their kid; You and yours.

And now she is gone, and he is having to tell his kids why.

This is not like getting cancer. This is not like a car accident. This is not like the unexpected death of a pop star, however influential. We do not know whether the killer is mentally ill or whether there are deeper and more sinister reasons for his actions. But this is an act that has emerged from our society. It is part of our political and social history and should loom large in our collective consciousness.

In a blog post that is being wildly shared on social media tonight, Alex Massie says he does not remember feeling as bad about the country as he does tonight. I think 7/7 comes close.

It is indeed a terrible day but I am bizarrely confident that we will regain some optimism. And the reason I think that is because of how quickly we have seen an outpouring of solidarity, and affirmation of ideas of love. Led by none other than Brendan Cox, who put love for family and the human dignity at the centre of his astonishing statement this afternoon.

Led by none other than Jo Cox, who spent her life seeking to make the human experience better for others.

No Plan, No Funds, No Staff

Jeremy Hunt

Junior doctors have been on strike this week, an astonishing thing to happen that, in itself, demonstrates the terrible political diplomacy that Jeremy Hunt, the Secretary of State for Health, has demonstrated as he attempted to push through his agenda.

Mr Hunt’s central talking point is that the policy he is pursuing is a manifesto commitment.  In interviews he suggests that the British Medical Association (BMA) is attempting to block the manifesto commitment, and therefore the will of the British people.

That is not quite true, for several reasons.  First, the manifesto pledge is for a so-called “7 day NHS”, the idea being that routine clinics and elective procedures should also take place at the weekends, when its more convenient for many people.  The manifesto pledge only says that hospitals will be ‘properly staffed’, and nowhere does it say that this will be achieved by reducing the out-of-hours pay for doctors (achieved by re-defining late evening and Saturday work as normal working hours).  It would have been an odd sort of voter who assumed that would be the case. Continue reading “No Plan, No Funds, No Staff”

Legalising abortion in Northern Ireland is vote-neutral for the Westminster parties

Last week, U.S. Presidential candidate Donald Trump provoked outrage when he said that women should be punished for having an abortion.  Unusually for the self-styled maverick, he walked back the comments in subsequent interviews, saying that, actually, the woman is the victim in such cases.  The idea that a woman who seeks an abortion should be criminalised (instead of or in addition to the person performing the procedure) is far outside mainstream political opinion, even in a country where religious fundamentalists have high levels of politically engagement.

Meanwhile in the United Kingdom, a woman has been given a criminal record and a three-month suspended sentence for aborting her baby in Northern Ireland. Continue reading “Legalising abortion in Northern Ireland is vote-neutral for the Westminster parties”

The New Snooping Bill Needs a Total Rewrite

Don't Spy On Us

Yesterday I wrote again in defence of politicians.  Many of the frustrations that give rise to ‘anti-politics’ are borne of people not understanding how politics works: there is a constant need to compromise and any hard choice will end up disappointing people.

Sometimes, however, the anti-political feeling is justified.  I have rarely been as angry with politicians as I was when the coalition government passed the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act in just two days in 2014.  This legislation made lawful a number of mass violations of privacy that the security services had been caught doing without public or parliamentary consent.  The politicians from all parties made mendacious arguments in favour of the new law, claiming an ’emergency’ when there was none.

From that low point, my faith in parliament is slowly being restored. Continue reading “The New Snooping Bill Needs a Total Rewrite”

Anti-Politics as a Debt and a Cancer

Donald Trump

The Trump candidacy is looking ever more likely.

Here are a couple of opinion pieces noting the rise of the anti-politics he represents and why leaders within the Republican Party are now unable to stop him.

First, Josh Marshall, the editor of Talking Points Memo, describes the political ‘debt’ to the truth that the Republicans have racked up in recent years. Continue reading “Anti-Politics as a Debt and a Cancer”

Peter Tatchell’s Surprising Support for the Homophobic Bakers

Ashers Bakery

Remember the controversy about the ‘gay cake’?  Last year, a bakery in Belfast refused to make a cake with a pro-gay marriage slogan.  A court ruled that the bakers had discriminated against a customer on the basis of his sexual orientation, contrary to equality legislation.  The customer, Gareth Lee, was awared £500 in compensation.

The case will be considered in the Appeal Court this week.  Ahead of the hearing, the veteran gay-rights campaigner Peter Tatchell has published a surprising article defending the bakery.  There’s a version on the Guardian comment pages, and a longer version sent to Peter’s mailing list.

I recommend reading the entire article, but the crux of Tatchell’s argument is this:

It is discrimination against an idea, not against a person.

The bakery refused to support and propagate the idea of same-sex marriage.  Lee was not refused service because he was gay, but because of the message on the cake.

This is a subtle point but also a persuasive one.  The implications loom large.  Tatchell asks:

Should a Muslim printer be obliged to publish cartoons of Mohammed or a Jewish one the words of a Holocaust denier? Will gay bakers have to accept orders for cakes with homophobic slurs? … If the current Ashers verdict stands it could, for example, encourage far right extremists to demand that bakeries and other service providers facilitate the promotion of anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim opinions. It would leave businesses unable to refuse to decorate cakes, print posters and emblazon mugs with bigoted messages.

Freedom of expression and freedom of conscience surely means the freedom not to engage in the commerce of distributing ideas that you oppose.

I’d previously written off the Asher’s case as exactly analagous to the case of the Bed & Breakfast owners who refused service to a gay couple—This blog has previously discussed the issues raised by such cases. However, Peter Tatchell’s article has persuaded me otherwise.

The Medium of Icing

Who would have thought that patrsies are political! Almost 10 years ago, this blog also discussed the Medium of Icing.

Rhodes, Political Correctness and the Censorship of History

You’re all aware of the controversy surrounding the Cecil Rhodes statue at Oxford University, right?

To recap: Cecil Rhodes (1853-1902) was the colonialist, businessman and white supremacist whose career in Southern Africa had huge impact on the continent.  The celebrated Rhodes Scholarship programme at Oxford University was established by his estate. As such, there is a statue of him at Oriel College at Oxford.  Some current students are campaigning to have the statue removed on the grounds that Rhodes was a racist and not someone who should be glorified in stone.

This campaign is happening in a milieu of renewed debates about freedom of expression and decency at universities.  I am against ‘no platform’ policies,  and against the abuse of useful innovations such as Safe Spaces and Trigger Warnings as a way to shut down offensive speech. Continue reading “Rhodes, Political Correctness and the Censorship of History”

Bloggers Plug the Democratic Deficit

I’m quoted in this Herald article about bloggers in Scotland.

Robert Sharp of English Pen, however, stressed that online sources and bloggers were now replacing newspapers in much of rural Scotland – putting themselves at risk.

He said: “The Highlands and Islands cannot depend on the established media to hold decision-makers to account.

“It is bloggers who plug the democratic gap, and they need a simple, clear law.

“If our rights are written in statute and not confusing case law, they would know where they stand and will be better equipped to scrutinise the people with money and power.”

Continue reading “Bloggers Plug the Democratic Deficit”