Brexit Plus Plus? Here's What Happen's Next, America

The day before the U.S. presidential election, Donald Trump declared that the result would be poll-defying “Brexit Plus Plus” election upset.
He was sort of right, in that he pulled off a surprise electoral college victory (although, since Hillary Clinton won the popular vote Mr Trump’s ‘plus plus’ suffix might be said to be inaccurate).
Americans would do well to remember that the surprise ‘Leave’ vote in the UK on 23 June was not the culmination of a chaotic political period, but the beginning of one.   Continue reading “Brexit Plus Plus? Here's What Happen's Next, America”

My Gut Tells Me Theresa May Will Be Our Next Prime Minister

The perils of not posting your blog post immediately after you’ve written it!  I wrote this last night when the two main leadership contenders were Boris Johnson and Theresa May, and he was the bookies’ favourite.  Now Michael Gove has entered the race saying “Boris is not a leader”, Johnson’s odds have lengthened significantly and Mrs May is now the favourite.  I don’t know how that affects the principles I set out below.

The Conservative Party has begun the nomination process to elect a new party leader and therefore our next Prime Minister.
Boris Johnson is the favourite but my gut tells me that Theresa May will win.
Making pronouncements based on what one’s intensities say is a perilous practice. Often you end up talking shit or vomiting nonsense. Allow me to offer some head-like reasoning for what I feel in my waters. Continue reading “My Gut Tells Me Theresa May Will Be Our Next Prime Minister”

On the Paralympic Boos
Apparently, the booing of Conservative politicians as they present medals to Paralympians has become a bit of a Thing. First George Osborne, then Teresa May (apparently, Boris Johnson got a big cheer, but then, he’s a Veblen Politician to which normal political rules do not apply).
I’ll say first off that it makes me a bit sad. It must be uncomfortable and odd for athletes receiving the medals. Not what they imagined when they set out on their Paralympic journey.
However, that does not mean that the jeers were wrong or should be condemned.
First, is there not a cynicism to the politicians presenting the medals in the first place? It feels like they are trying to piggy-back on the goodwill that the Olympics generated. If this is the case then they deserve whatever reception they get!
Second, I think it is an example of people using whatever means are at their disposal to dissent. I am reminded of a couple of things: Obama 2008 supporters misusing the features on the My Barack Obama website to protest his FISA policy. Or, the Jeff Goldblum speech from Jurassic Park: “Life Finds A Way”. In the absence of a good method to express disapproval of a Government, people will use what ever means are available, be that the arrangement of Teddy Bears, the licking of ice-cream, or the shouting of a common religious phrase from roof-tops.  I am not saying that the British political system is comparable to the authoritarian regimes in Iran or Belarus, but even in an advanced social democracy people can still feel alienated and disenfranchised by the political system.
Finally, these boos cannot be dismissed as the co-ordinated actions of an already partisan group (as a slow clap at the Women’s Institute or the Police Federation or at the TUC might be described). These are a diverse group of citizens from every demographic in the country. The jeers are part of a real and widespread sentiment: that they happen to the extreme discomfort of both the politicians and the Paralympians is part of the message.

Veblen Royals

The Sun argues that it is in the public interest to publish naked pictures of Prince Harry. I say it is in the public interest to keep them out of the papers. It reinforces the notion that celebrities (and for better or for worse, Royals are a form of ‘celeb’) can operate by different standards of behaviour to the rest of us.
We’ve been here before. Remember when upstanding moral beacon Prince William groped a Brazillian teenager, Ana Ferreira? Antics that would and should get you thrown out of the nightclub, and maybe even a visit from the police in other circumstances, are waved away as ‘just a bit of fun’ or ‘spreading wild oats’ if you are a Royal. People were less understanding when Mike Tindall was caught on camera in a lap-dancing club, but he is only married to a Royal.
The double-standards we grant to some people was amusingly highlighted by Hadley Freeman in The Guardian yesterday:

He is the Boris Johnson of the royal family, a buffoon whose every antic only improves his public standing.

In economics, a Veblen Good is a status symbol that defies the usual assumptions about price and demand. Such goods becomes more sought after when the price increases (for example, Rolls Royce cars). In such a way, Prince Harry is the Veblen Royal, where the things that would sink a less likeable member of the Royal Family (Prince Edward, say?) only increase his stock. Boris Johnson is a Veblen Politician.
Should public figures aspire to Veblen status? No. The problem with the concept is that it is arises due to arrogance and unnatural wealth. We deplore Veblen goods when we encounter them in economics, and we should not encourage the Royal or Political variations either. The excessive attention only encourages the behaviour… and the behaviour usually involves demeaning other people.


Cycling home on Friday, I was unwittingly caught up in the London Cycling Campaign’s ‘Flashride’ across Blackfriars Bridge. They want the speed limit on the bridge to remain at 20mph but apparently the Mayor of London isn’t heeding the request, and it will become more dangerous for cyclists later this year.
In protest, several hundred cyclists rode together over the bridge, in full compliance with the Highway Code. I was able to take a little bit of footage of the happening.

Without wishing to boast or come across as some kind of syncophantic Mac fanboy, I must note how easy it was to capture and edit the footage. I was able to whip out my birthday iPad on the central reservation, take a couple of minutes of HD footage, and then cycle off down The Cut and homeward. It took all of ten minutes to edit the footage in iMovie and the longest part of the process was the HD upload to YouTube. The speed of ‘broadcast’ and ‘publication’ these days is truly revolutionary – causing a genuine shift in power away from elites.