The United States’ Democratic Party – America’s Jackasses…

The thing about political symbols is that they can work for you as often as they work against you. The United States’ Democratic Party is a classic example of this rule. The party’s founder Andrew Jackson (president in 1829-37) was dubbed by his opponents in the press as a “jackass”. Whether they meant he was stupid or stubborn is unclear, but, far from being offended, Jackson actually found it funny, and started using the image of a donkey on his …

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The Jazz Musicians’ Jazz Musicians’ Jazz Musicians’ Panel-Game Chairman

For some reason or other, many of us on this side of the Irish Sea tend to prefer our heroes being low-key, understated, and with a blow-dried sense of humour.  Such was the case with a great English gentleman born exactly a century ago.  Humphrey Lyttelton may not sound like the name of someone you’d expect to have a cape and superhuman strength, but he certainly managed to inspire and lighten up the lives of millions in a long and …

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Popcorn-tastic, mate

In his 1994 autobiography My Tune, the veteran disc jockey Simon Bates remarks of his amazement of how low the murder rate inside radio stations has historically been.  Bates evidently knew whereof he was writing, as his book came out a year after his very high-profile resignation from the BBC’s flagship national radio channel Radio 1, and at a time when the station was going through the biggest and most controversial personnel shake-up in its history.  At least one of …

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The Ted Hastings Question

Only a few hours to go until the resolution of (at least) the sixth season of what has easily been the BBC’s best TV drama show of the last 20 years. Speculation has been rife as to whether there will be a seventh season of Line of Duty, or whether writer Jed Mercurio will call it a day with tomorrow’s finale of this one. Perhaps he could do a Star Wars-type prequel series called Line of Duty: Ted Hastings – …

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Who Hired Cock Robin?

It’s something of a running open secret about British politics that being a politician is one of those jobs with no actual job description, and for which you need no qualifications. Another aspect of this open secret is that the higher up a statesman or -woman climbs the greasy pole, the less they ultimately have to do for their job.  This characteristic of our constitution Antony Jay and Jonathan Lynn famously noted in their acclaimed 1980s sitcom Yes Minister, which …

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The Real Reason Why Britain Still Has a Monarchy

If you were designing, or aiming to design, the perfect form of government from scratch, then the verdict on monarchy (in whatever form it came) would be, to cite an old Irish cliché, ‘I wouldn’t start from here.’  Whatever view you take of Meghangate, and its ongoing outworkings, there is no easy way to defend a system where the job of Head of State is reserved for just one family.  I don’t know the full details of what was said …

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It Wasn’t A Sin

One of this country’s top television hits this year arrived in America last night.  Arguably the most powerful televisual way in a long time of conveying the message ‘Some people are gay.  Get over it‘, Channel 4’s It’s A Sin premiered on the channel HBO Max yesterday evening, and the show’s considerably high ratings (Channel 4 say that it has been their biggest-ever drama launch on their All 4 streaming service) and favourable critical acclaim (Rotten Tomatoes have given it a …

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The Battle of Handforth – a subject for future murals…?

The world of Lockdown has certainly proved to be a weird one over the past year. When you’re confined to your home there are only so many activities with which to amuse yourself. Many of us have binge-watched Netflix box sets, binge-read books, binge-listened to entire CD collections – or just binged, generally… Parents have had to learn home-schooling pretty rapidly, Eurovision, the Olympics and Wimbledon were suspended, and Joe Wicks became an international hero in a way that wouldn’t …

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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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