In the late 1990s I lived in Zimbabwe for a while. Following the recent death of Robert Mugabe, I’ve been re-reading the diary I kept while I was there. I just came across this report of a conversation I had, with a former solider in the Rhodesian army. Continue reading “Did Margaret Thatcher Foil An Assassination Attempt on Robert Mugabe in 1980?”
Jolyon Maugham QC is the director of the Good Law Project, who has co-ordinated several of the big Brexit-related court cases, including the Cherry and Miller cases currently at the Supreme Court.
Interviewed on the Remainacs podcast earlier this week, Maugham pointed out that many of the people who cheered on Boris Johnson’s dodgy prorogation of parliament would not be at all happy to see the same power in the hands of a political opponent. What would Jeremy Corbyn do with the power to shut down parliamentary scrutiny when it got too inconvenient?
Well, the recent hullabaloo at the Labour Party conference in Brighton demonstrates that there are plenty of people in the Labour party who share the anti-democratic instincts of Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings. Continue reading “Would You Hand The Proroguing Power to Labour’s Hard Left?”
Yesterday, Boris Johnson met the president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker. Together they seem to have injected a note of optimism into the Brexit talks. Apparently, Juncker’s comment that the precise terms of the Irish ‘backstop’ are negotiable, so long as all its objectives are met by other means, is a splinter in the EU’s otherwise straight bat.
Meanwhile, prominent ‘Lexiters’ Stephen Kinnock MP and Caroline Flint MP met with E.U. chief negotiator, Michel Barnier. On Newsnight later that evening, Kinnock reminded us that there is a large group of Labour MPs who are eager to vote for a Brexit ‘deal’. The same programme also reminded us that the twenty-one Conservative party MPs who lost the whip earlier this month did so because they were opposed to ‘No Deal.’ They too could vote for a Withdrawl Agreement. Continue reading “The Winston Churchill–Boris Johnson Analogy That No-one Talks About”
A common intervention in the Brexit debate—made by politicians, celebrities and in hoi polloi vox pops up and down the country—is that the British people want the politicians to ‘just get on with Brexit.’
Recent proponents of the phrase include David Attenborough and Lord Rose, who previously chaired the Remain campaign.
‘Just Get On With It’ has a beguiling charm. It’s a simple, memorable phrase, and it sounds pragmatic, down-to-earth and a little bit bolshy. That’s why so many people repeat it.
But simplicity is not a virtue when we’re talking about leaving the EU. ‘Just Get On With It’ is a solution for those people who either haven’t thought about the problem enough, or who do not care about the consequences of a rushed, half-cocked Brexit.
Either way, its an intellectually lazy argument, for many reasons. Let me count the ways… Continue reading ““Just Get On With It” – The Laziest Possible Brexit Intervention”
Earlier this week, the House of Commons seized control of the parliamentary timetable, and passed its own piece of legislation through the chamber. The House of Lords then passed it without amendments, and the European Union Withdrawl Bill (No. 6) will become law early next week.
The law forces Prime Minister Johnson to ask the European Council for an Article 50 extension, if an exit deal has not been agreed by 19th October (a few days before the scheduled departure on the 31st). It is a way of legally binding the government from proceeding with a No Deal Brexit.
Since then, there has been a constant refrain from supporters of the PM’s policy (call them Leavers, or Brexiteers or whatever) that parliament’s actions are thwarting the will of the 17.4 million people who voted to leave the EU. The Prime Minister said:
It is a Bill designed to overturn the biggest democratic vote in our history, the 2016 referendum. It is therefore a Bill without precedent in the history of this House, seeking as it does to force the Prime Minister, with a pre-drafted letter, to surrender in international negotiations
The implication here, parroted by people up and down the country, is that ‘leaving the EU’ is synonymous with the May/Johnson vision of ‘hard Brexit.’ That is, a ‘how’ founded on a sheaf of red lines and the threat of No Deal.
Depending on who says this, it may be an uniformed mistake, a ‘category error’ or a deliberately misleading piece of propaganda. Either way, it’s wrong… and it’s another thing that needs to be debunked succinctly, over and over again. Continue reading “The ‘Whether’ and the ‘How’ of Brexit”
Ever since Boris Johnson became Prime Minister last month, I’ve seen countless social media posts by my friends, and people with like-minded political views, branding him an ‘unelected’ PM.
It’s true that Mr Johnson was not leader of the Conservative party at the last General Election in 2017. That was Theresa May.
But under our parliamentary system, that doesn’t matter. We don’t directly elect a Prime Minister. We elect members of parliament, and those who can agree on enough come together to form the government. Continue reading “Please Stop Calling Boris ‘Unelected’”
I’m pleased to report that I have written a book review for Tor.com, one of the world’s foremost science fiction / fantasy websites.
The book is Palestine +100, which (according to its publisher, Comma Press) is the first ever anthology of Palestinian science fiction. It features a dozen stories of speculative fiction, all set a century after the establishment of the state of Israel—an event that Palestinians call the Nakba (catastrophe).
The book’s authors seem to be in dialogue with each other. They ask, first, the extent to which their people must let go of their past in order to secure a future; and second, how much their past defines who they are. Moreover: how does the presence of the Israelis and their nation-building project impact on what it means to be Palestinian?
You can read the entire review on Tor.com, which I hope prompts you to read the book.
Much hilarity on social media about this New York Times article about an aspiring writer who set up a lacklustre podcast.
Each week, the friends, neither of whom had professional experience dispensing advice, met in a free room at the local library and recorded themselves chatting with an iPhone 5. “We assumed we’d be huge, have affiliate marketing deals and advertisements,” Ms. Mandriota said.
We’ve hit ‘peak podcast,’ apparently and everyone is getting in on the podcasting game – especially anyone who wants to be considered an ‘expert’ in some field or other. Continue reading “Peak Podcast and the Purpose of Online Publishing”
The consultation to the British government’s Online Harms White Paper closed this week. English PEN and Scottish PEN made a submission, arguing that the government rethink its approach.
The government proposal is that a new ‘duty of care’ is placed upon online platforms like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to protect their users. If they expose users to harmful content—ranging from terrorist propaganda and child porn, to hazily defined problems like ‘trolling’ — then a new regulator could sanction them.
This sounds sensible, but it presents a problem for freedom of expression. If the online platforms are threatened with large fines, and their senior management are held personally responsible for the ‘duty of care’ then it’s likely that the online platforms will take a precautionary approach to content moderation. Whenever in doubt, whenever it’s borderline, whenever there is a grey area… the platforms will find it expeditious to remove whatever has been posted. When that happens, it is unlikely that the platforms will offer much of an appeals process, and certainly not one that abides by international free speech standards. A situation will arise where perfectly legal content cannot be posted online. A two tier system for speech. Continue reading “Online Harms: A Few Times When The Algorithms Chilled Freedom of Expression”
Following the Lachaux case at the Supreme Court earlier this week, I wrote an op-ed for Press Gazette on its implications for free speech and press standards.
After a period of uncertainty, the Lachaux judgment returns the section one standard to that applied in Cooke. The publisher’s response to a complaint can really make a difference to the “serious harm” assessment.