The un-Britishness of Brexit

“Two World Wars and one World Cup, doo-dah, doo-dah”. Did they really mean it? On one level I had always assumed they didn’t. About the World Wars, that is. Even as a child, with limited awareness of the war, it struck me as obtusely solipsistic and historically dubious. But there are often moments when I’ve been left wondering. At the time of writing, the UK government is conducting an intense internal debate about customs union options that are either impractical or delusional, and in any case have been rejected by the European Union. Just as they have previously rejected the cherry picking “three baskets” proposal. That being one of many phrases, along with the likes of “ambitious managed divergence” and “Canada plus plus plus”, that have fallen by the wayside over the last few months. As one observes this farcical nonsense unfolding, an obvious thought is to wonder how it came to this – yes, of course, it is in large measure the dilettante Cameron’s fault. But another thought is to behold how many members of the cabinet, along with the architects of the Leave coup, are so unlike my experiences of the British people over a decade. There just seems to be something fundamentally un-British about this whole Brexit caper.Read More »

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Fraying at the edges?

This writer has been observing goings on in Catalonia with a degree of interest over several months, and is still far from reaching a definitive position on the topic of Catalan independence. But there are still sub-positions to be taken, tending on either side of the debate, and which this blog will take this opportunity to ruminate on here. In a general sense, cultural, culinary and linguistic differences, even the vagaries of divergent political traditions, are things that can be celebrated. On the other hand, while chewing this nationalist cud, I have to acknowledge my bewilderment at contemporary identity politics in most of its forms, even while observing that it is a big deal for many people.Read More »

What place does technology have in creating an inclusive future?

We are living through a period that is experiencing a step change in technological capability. It is happening at a more rapid rate than previously witnessed in human history, and it is happening against a turbulent backdrop where we could be on the cusp of systemic economic and political change. The context in which this change is taking place is important to understand, as the further diffusion of technology is viewed largely with fear, as it is held to be a force that will exacerbate trends that are already fomenting so much dissatisfaction in the world today. Yet technology cannot be suppressed or wished away, and it’s important to remember we have a certain agency in shaping it. Technology will have a strong bearing on what whatever new system emerges, and how that new settlement affects people’s everyday lives.Read More »

Remembrance of sleaze past

The Crimson Feather has been stifled for the last half year, but is ready to flutter again, with a return that can be described as a tentative first examination of what continue to be turbulent conditions. As we move into 2018, reflecting on the year just past makes for chilling reminiscence. Thus I will stay inside a comfort zone of sorts, and use the first column of the year to compare the present era unfavourably with the last time the Conservative Party was in power in the UK during the sleaze-ridden 1990s, as gruesome as that period seemed at the time. For yes, the miseries of today really do make the 1990’s feel like the good old days, a decade that one needs to be brave to stick up for. A lot of the music stank, even allowing for exuberant Britpop nostalgia and other niches of quality. Haircuts have aged very badly. There is a dearth of great movies from that time, and one of the best might be forever more sullied not just by the extensive predatory antics of one of its leading stars, but also its director.Read More »

Will there still be a Labour Party on June 9?

Democracy is in as much trouble in Britain as it is in many other places that would style themselves as such, no matter the frequency with which its citizens are invited to the polling station. And they are being invited again, by a government that is intending to deploy a national poll as a weapon of mass electoral destruction. It has the appearance of a blatantly opportunistic move to decimate the Labour Party, but let’s not be too precious about that. Politics is a contact sport, and it makes sense to kick an opponent when they’re down, to make sure they don’t get back up again. Let’s just not swallow the fiction that there’s anything patriotic or necessary about this. For the Prime Minister, an election might remove some limitations to her freedom of action to operate domestically, but it will make negligible difference to her negotiations with the EU27 over the coming two years, as has already been pointed out.Read More »

Enjoying the kakistocracy?

kakistocracy /kakɪˈstɒkrəsi/ – government by the least suitable or competent citizens of a state.

The professionals might decry such a claim, but sometimes armchair psychology is really easy. It’s a game probably most people play with national leaders, especially at a time like ours when so much political power around the planet is being held by people who shouldn’t be allowed to have any. To survey the global landscape of power in 2017 is to behold so many figures occupying a spectrum of egregiousness that ranges from the Machiavellian to the inadequate, from malfeasance to maladroitness, it feels not so much a time to think about creating a better tomorrow, more crossing fingers that there will be a tomorrow at all.Read More »

Culture stasis

This blog had not intended to go into hiatus for two months, but life intervened in various ways that left me with neither the time nor the energy to offer any commentary about the world around me. Since then, the United States ignored my warning to ignore the siren call of Donald Trump, Brexit head bangers seem ever more poised to visit chaos and long term decline on the UK, and another swathe of great entertainers have gone to their reward (of these, the career of George Michael has some relevance to what I will subsequently write). And now we are in 2017, which seems the scary sort of number some of us partly imagined, and partly hoped, would never come around. It is the year of the setting of The Running Man, in which Arnold Schwarzenegger tries to survive a sadistic game show, two years after the setting of Back to the Future Part II, in which self-lacing technology for shoes and hoverboards are commonplace, and already twenty years beyond the setting of Escape from New York, in which Manhattan is depicted as a giant maximum security prison. Read More »

Hold your nose and vote for Hillary

During last week, as I began thinking about this blog, Hillary Clinton was a very short price favourite to take the US presidency. Given what I have chosen to write, it being predicated on a Clinton victory, I’m not sure how useful an exercise it might turn out being if she ends up being turned over on account of a very late October surprise delivered by the FBI. I have deliberately avoided the fluff, the non-stories, the irrelevant nonsense of this campaign where it’s been possible, and I haven’t made up my mind where these new revelations fit in. Plainly some of the information that has leaked out over the summer and autumn is of some significance, and with wide ranging implications, including what it says about the role of the fourth estate itself. Attempting to shun the noise and the heat admittedly doesn’t leave a whole lot left where Election 2016 is concerned, but I still don’t feel particularly uninformed. And I vowed that after 2004, having committed so much time to keeping abreast of that campaign, I wouldn’t waste so much of my time again. Especially when the guy I was rooting for, John Kerry, turned out to be such a lousy candidate. To be fair, he has since been a pretty decent, fairly well-intentioned Secretary of State, which is one of many things that makes one wonder about the dignity stripping contortions and compromises that running for the top job seems to require.Read More »

The Corbyn Supremacy

Whither the suicide pact formerly known as the Labour Party? If, as expected, we see a comfortable repeat victory for Jeremy Corbyn in the leadership race when the results are announced on Saturday, we can expect a continuation of the psychodrama that has wracked the party of Hardie, MacDonald, Attlee and Wilson over the last year. If Owen Smith – a more impressive front bench spokesman than leadership candidate – should miraculously defy expectation, it would probably have the effect of confronting us with another kind of psychodrama, as the new members who have flocked to Corbyn would be reluctant to reconcile themselves to a reverse takeover by the Parliamentary Labour Party. Turning to Corbyn’s foot soldiers, somehow I have managed to get myself on Momentum’s mailing list, and I receive regular messages enjoining me to help keep Jeremy’s show on the road. To maintain the momentum, as it were. The most curious notion that jumps out of these emails is encountered in the regular references to “Jeremy’s leadership”, delivered without irony naturally, but which would strike many observers as impossibly contradictory.Read More »

An era when a truer measure of virility is softness

In 2009, this writer stood no more than 20 metres from the orator delivering what can fairly be described as one of the most famous speeches of the 21st century so far. I was standing among a crowd that has also been subjected to the most withering contempt from writers on both the left and the right in the intervening years. I must insist, however, that I was carrying neither an American nor a Czech flag in Hradčany Square on that hazy Sunday morning, and I only ever whoop and cheer for live music. But let’s broadly concede that those attending were uncritically appreciative of the new US president, and there were no noises hinting at scepticism as he called for a world free of nuclear weapons. At that time, Barack Obama’s aura was very strong, and, recalling how the powerful sun hadn’t yet penetrated that morning’s cloud, watching him mysteriously emerge on to the stage against a wall of nebulous white did accord with the exalted status he then widely enjoyed. His stock remains fairly strong, if only by comparison with the process by which his successor will be elected, but that’s for another time. And indeed a previous musing. Returning to the Prague speech, many on the right scoffed Obama, declaring it irresponsible to even hint at the United States relinquishing its nuclear power status when there are so many bad actors in the world seeking such a capability for themselves. Left wing commentators held that the Empire would never give up their weapons of mass destruction, and that this was just a shameless PR exercise by Mr Hopey Changey. Both strands of opinion sneered at the “adoring” crowd, and I’ll admit I’ve never gotten over my sense of resentment at being dismissed so lightly.Read More »