What happened to the Republican Party?

In ten days’ time, despite the best efforts of the Republicans, Joe Biden will be sworn in as America’s next President, and its political system will continue to operate unimpeded – again, despite the Republicans’ best efforts.  Yes, the events of Wednesday in Washington DC were shocking, and Donald Trump has been a chief executive like no other, having, over his four years in power, plumbed the depths somewhat as to what an American president could or should be allowed …

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Partition at 100: the British Problem

Northern Ireland and its history have fascinated me continuously pretty much ever since I first learned how to use an atlas when I was a kid. Looking at political maps, I would internally wonder why this corner of the island of Ireland was a different colour from the rest – though it took me a little longer to query what a “political map” was, and what a “relief map” was, and what exactly is so “relieving” about seeing the outlines …

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Happy Birthday Emmanuel Goldstein

Scapegoating is always so helpful in politics, is it not?  It’s so cost-effective, and saves so much trouble.  Rather than admit to your audience that there are no easy solutions to the problems facing your people, and that things are a lot more complicated than was previously thought, all you need to do is affect some fake moral outrage and point the finger at [insert identifiable target here].  The practice has been used as long as politics has existed, of …

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A Short History of the “L” Word

The American poet Robert Frost was only partly joking when he said a Liberal was definable as ‘a man too broad-minded to take his own side in a quarrel.’ Liberals of both (or more) genders have of course historically taken a side: their own. Now that a new decade has begun, and another important anniversary is being marked today, and there are question marks over how much longer liberalism is likely to last, now seems as good a time as …

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Boris Johnson and the Records to Avoid

All British prime ministers, however, humble they appear on the surface, keep at least half an eye on their likely place in the history books. No 10 Downing Street’s current occupant has never even attempted to be humble, so is obviously no exception. Having lusted after the job for so many years, Alexander Boris DePfeffel Johnson wants to make his mark as an exceptionally memorable head of the British government. Indeed, the job of prime minister is essentially not unlike …

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Ye are many – they are few (Part 2)

Early November is traditionally a time for people all over Britain to remember, through fire and socializing, a man who risked everything to mount a determined challenge to the authority of Parliament. In south east Wales, however, it isn’t just Guy Fawkes who is on popular minds round about this time. This year is the third straight year that people in Newport have been remembering the Chartist Uprising of 1839. They’ve been doing it in style: each year it has …

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The First RTW Trip

Most of us have dreamt at one point or another of going around the world, and in an age of accessible and increasingly affordable air travel we are considerably more blase about it than earlier generations. Exactly five hundred years ago the first attempt at doing this began – though few (if any) of the men involved in it had any notions of doing it to “find themselves”. As with a lot of these ostensibly romantic voyages, it was all …

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A Sound That Will Not Fade Away

The alarming thing about popular music since the 1950s is how short the life expectancy for some musicians has been, compared to other professions. It’s almost as if premature death has been the necessary price paid for immortality and appreciation – after all, how else would someone as (arguably) overrated as the Doors’ frontman Jim Morrison be remembered today? It’s especially good, therefore,to be able to mark the 80th birthday today of one of the genre’s greatest and most influential …

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‘Ye are many – they are few!’

Amid the ongoing debate over Brexit, how it is to be effected, and how British democracy is to be respected, it is easy to forget how often the concept of democracy is taken for granted – at least on the east side of the Irish Sea. The complaint is frequently levelled that people all too often prefer to vote in the X Factor or Big Brother than in either national or local elections. Then again, democracy has never evolved in …

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The Last Tory PM? – or – Johnson, Hunt, and the Party Crasher Factor

Today’s the day, then. Later on we’ll find out which of the last two men standing for the role of Her Majesty’s Executor of Thankless Tasks will get the job. Whoever it is, be it the Blond Bungler or the unofficial Minister for Rhyming Slang, will have an unenviable No 10 in-tray. There are absolutely no guarantees, given (among other things) the parliamentary arithmetic awaiting them, that Brexit will pan out the way they say it will – though both …

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The Ultimate British Ignoble Prize

She’s gone (or will be in a fortnight’s time). Oh, ah. What went wrong? Even if they’re not thinking of Hall & Oates lyrics, generations of historians will doubtless ask that question several times. Opinion is already divided among the political commentariat: some, like former pro-Brexit Daily Mail columnist Peter Oborne, believe Theresa May was just unlucky in the tasks that she had received; others, like Steve Richards of the New European, reckon she was doomed from the outset. Regular …

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Welcome to the Weimar Kingdom

So, we’re not leaving just yet, then. Or, possibly, not at all. Our Prime Minister sought another short extension from the rest of the European Union before Article 50 is invoked, and ended up getting a slightly longer one, complete with warnings from Donald Tusk not to waste any more time. As was always likely to happen. Anyone who remembers their schooldays knows that, if you’re given two years to do an essay, and have a team of writers and …

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Biblical Blizzards, Bloody Meadows, and B Day

Only two months to go, then, till what the comedian Zoe Lyons has dubbed “B Day”. Buckle up, peeps, it’s likely to be a bumpy ride, whatever happens. We’re in trouble, though: our Prime Minister has so far failed to secure a withdrawal agreement acceptable to Parliament, much less an actual final deal. The various promises made by the winning side won’t be delivered (you know, the extra money for the health service, countries lining up to do trade deals …

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A Great and Just War?

There’s something about the greatest political and social upheavals in world history that make them particularly well addressed by poets. The First World War was no exception, with one poet in particular having a reasonably good go here: Watching, we hear the mad gusts tugging on the wire, Like twitching agonies of men among its brambles. Northward, incessantly, the flickering gunnery rumbles, Far off, like a dull rumour of some other war. What are we doing here? What, indeed, were …

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Sailing West to Uncertainty… and Disaster

Nations soar or sink according to decisions made about how they are run, and this was seldom truer than of Scotland, 320 years ago this month. In the closing years of the 17th Century a combination of unpredictable woes and poor, ill-informed leadership set off a chain of events that ultimately led to the end of Scottish independence – and, coincidentally, the creation of a state known as the United Kingdom (and, by extension, the official beginning of the British …

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People Will See Us and Cry…

One of the advantages of having several different hobbies is that I get the chance to look at things through different lenses. Aside from blogging I am also into reading, hiking, poetry, dance fitness, and amateur dramatics, and the last one can often feel quite therapeutic – but then, pretending to be someone you’re not for two hours a night can hardly fail to be. Currently I’m involved in a production of the musical Fame, set in a performing-arts school …

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The 8th Across the Sea: Irish Women in Britain on the Abortion Referendum

Tomorrow voters in the Irish Republic go to the polls, on the question of whether the Eighth Amendment to the country’s constitution (which guarantees the unborn the right to life, thus outlawing abortion in the country) should be repealed. The question has of course been debated across Ireland for long before Taoiseach Leo Varadkar promised the referendum shortly after he took office last June. The debate is also raging among Irish women based in Britain. What do they think of …

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I Preferred Groucho…

I know visitors to Slugger tend to shy away from articles with deliberately provocative opening statements, but I’m going to do it anyway: Marx Was Right! Well, how could he not be? Especially when you can see for yourself the evident reasonableness in his best-known pronouncements: From the moment I picked your book up until I laid it down I was convulsed with laughter. Someday I intend on reading it. I don’t have a photograph. I’d give you my footprints, …

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Ode to Mr Lehrer

Good morning! This is a new departure for me, as it’s the first time I’ve ever contributed a poem to these pages. I don’t know how often poetry appears in Slugger, but if it’s not very often I guess this probably won’t be damaging to anyone or anything – except possibly my own reputation…. Anyway, today is the 90th Birthday of one of America’s finest satirists – a musician who began his life as a lecturer of mathematics at Harvard …

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The Booze-up that Changed the Course of History

Being as I am a fan of AJP Taylor, I have long been of the view that Cock-Up- rather than Conspiracy theories of History tend to hold more water – that the great events of the past were shaped more by blunders and mishaps than devious cunning and ingenuity. This is borne out by, among other things, the various misunderstandings that shaped the development of the French Revolution, and eye-popping governmental incompetence that lay behind the outbreak of the Russian …

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