Citizens of Nowhere: A revisionist history

Yesterday, while blogging about the resignation of Theresa May, I mentioned her infamous ‘citizens of nowhere’ speech at the Conservative Party conference in 2016.
At the time, those words were seen as a clear attack on the pro-European, pro-EU, ‘Remain’ cosmopolitanism that many people were expressing after the referendum shock. Mrs May, it was judged, had taken a side in the culture war, and allying herself with a narrow nationalism.
Three years later, that phrase has become a damning shorthand for Theresa May’s hostility to migrants.
While writing my earlier blog post, I read the speech. And actually, the context of her ‘citizens of nowhere’ line is the culmination of an attack on… millionaire tax dodgers. Continue reading “Citizens of Nowhere: A revisionist history”

Quoted in The Bookseller Condeming a Visa Refusal


An Iranian childrens’ book illustrator Ehsan Abdollahi has been denied a visa to visit the Edinburgh International Book Festival. Publishers have branded the decision “disgusting”.
The Bookseller broke the story and I’m quoted in Heloise Wood’s report, commenting for English PEN. Continue reading “Quoted in The Bookseller Condeming a Visa Refusal”

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”

Our humanity drowns in the Mediterranean

Should the EU act to save illegal immigrants from drowning in the Mediterranean? Superficially, this question sounds a bit like one of those dilemmas presented by moral philosophers: do you switch the path of the runaway train so it kills one old man instead of a family of six?
But in this case, the question is not a like-for-like, life-for-life comparison. Instead, it boils down to whether we

    1. save the lives of dozens, or perhaps hundreds of illegal immigrants; or
    2. try to save a few million Euros of costs incurred by the Italian navy

    … and I suppose, a few million more Euros caused by the inconvenience of being stuck with a boat-load of Africans without identity documents.
    Students in ‘Introduction to Ethics’ seminars should not find this example particularly troubling. Since we are not weighing up human lives, a few humane heuristics will see us through. One of those is that if its a choice between people and money, you save the lives. When confronted with someone in clear and present danger, and the power to save them, we should not sit on our hands and watch them drown.
    Really, what is so hard about that? Continue reading “Our humanity drowns in the Mediterranean”

    Media Fail

    Over at the Spectator, Alex Massie analyses an Ipsos-Mori poll on some of the beliefs the British people hold about our country and the way the Government operates.
    To pick just one statistic:

    Then there’s this doozy: 29% of respondents think the government spends more on unemployment benefits – the Job Seekers’ Allowance – than on pensions. In fact, pensions cost 15 times as much (rightly so!).

    Apparently the British public is similarly misinformed about the propoertion of Muslims in the country, the number of immigrants, the budget of the Department for International Development, the rate of teenaged pregancies, and the crime rate.
    Massie shies away from calling the British people stupid, though the headline to his post ‘Abandon All Hope’ suggests this is what he thinks.  And clearly this poll shows that we are, indeed, a highly ignorant bunch.
    But I think it would be wrong for we the public to take the blame.  To my mind, this poll shows that we are being failed by our media.  Their primary purpose is surely to keep us informed about what is going on in our democracy, and clearly they are not doing that job effectively.  That’s not something that Alex Massie cares to consider in his article.