We’re all in this together. But what happens when we’re not?
Earlier this week I posted a tweet that got plenty of attention.
When the COVID-19 antibody test becomes available, it will split the country – and the world – into two types of person: those who are immune to the virus, and those who are still susceptible.
In the long term, when we have established ‘herd immunity,’ this won’t matter.1 But in the short term it could prove incredibly divisive, and cause the disintegration of solidarity and co-operation that our country has demonstrated so far.
Continue reading “Will the #COVID19 Antibody Test Break Our Discipline and Make Things Worse?”
Over on Twitter, CNN journalist Daniel Dale highlights Donald Trump’s “speaking mistake”…
Donald Trump has a particular style of bullshitting. He will assert something, and then qualify it with a “maybe” or a “probably.” Politicians the world over will obfuscate and mislead, but the way Trump does it is particularly noticeable. Its almost like he is a child, play-acting at being a politician.
Each of these qualifications — the “maybes” and the “probablies” — has a profound grammatical effect on the sentence. They render the assertion he has just made meaningless. But in the flow of a speech, the audience (and annoyingly, the journalists) don’t always pick up on the trick.
I’ve come to realise that this is the President’s way of trying to give himself plausible deniability for each lie. Those equivocations are Donald Trump’s ‘tell,’ the vocal quirk that betrays the fact that he’s just making shit up as he goes along. Every now and then I bookmark examples.
Continue reading “Trump’s Particular Style of Bullshitting”
Journalists Laura Keunssberg and Robert Peston have egg on their face this week, after they both breathlessly tweeted the news that a Tory staffer had been punched by a Labour activist in Leeds.
When video emerged of the incident, it turned out that no assault had taken place. One man accidentally brushed past the hand of another.
Both Keunssberg and Peston posted follow up tweets to apologise and share the video. But in giving an explanation for their inaccuracy, they enraged people further. Both journalists gave the excuse that ‘sources’ had told them it was true. Continue reading “Would It Break Journalism If Sources Who Lied Were Named?”
In 2016, Barack Obama nominated Merrick Garland to the United States Supreme Court. In a historical break with precedent, the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) refused to confirm Garland to the Court, or even hold the traditional confirmation hearings.
In doing so, he dredged up a 1992 speech from Joe Biden, who was then a US Senator for Delaware. Back then, Biden had floated the idea that the president (at the time, George H. W. Bush) should wait until after the presidential and congressional elections before appointing a Supreme Court judge. Justifying his inaction in 1992, Senator McConnell cited the ‘Biden Rule’ in speeches, as if it were an established congressional custom. The seat remained open until after the 2016 presidential election, when Donald Trump nominated Neil Gorsuch instead. Continue reading “Let’s rebrand the #PeoplesVote as ‘The Cummings Plan’”
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”
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.
The recent EU parliamentary election campaign saw the birth of a particular form of political expression: milkshaking.
The practice began when a man in Leeds, irate at having to talk to UKIP candidate and race-baiter Tommy Robinson, threw milkshake over him.
Other people started throwing milkshakes at other right wing candidates. Nigel Farage refused to disembark his campaign bus in one location, having been ‘milkshaked’ at a previous stop.
The phenomenon prompted a wave of political discussion, hot-takes ans hang-wringing. Was it akin to ‘punching a Nazi’ or other types of political violence? Or was it in the tradition of that time-honoured tradition of throwing eggs at politicians? Continue reading “On Milkshaking”