Recent Articles



UKIP wins the xenophobes: breaking down the Eastleigh result

by John B     March 2, 2013 at 6:45 am

You’d need a heart of stone not to laugh at the Eastleigh result. The coalition parties viciously tore strips off each other in the campaign (for a party normally opposed to employee protection laws, the Conservatives are remarkably and creditably concerned about workplace sexual harassment all of a sudden).

The biggest winner, despite only nabbing second place, was a party resembling a mad scientist’s chimera of the Tea Party and the Five Star Movement. The Tories were an dismal failure. And Milibandian Labour continued its trend of doing absolutely nothing exceptional by doing absolutely nothing exceptional.

However, it would be deeply unwise to take the raw numbers from Eastleigh and conclude that David Cameron is buggered, that the Lib Dem vote will hold up at the next election, that anyone really cares very much about Europe, that the Tories need to tack to the right in general, or that Labour can’t win in the South. How do we know all this? Weirdly, thanks to renowned philanthropist and psephologist Lord Ashcroft.

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Could the Bishops vote be a setback for the Church of England’s (relative) liberal feminism?

by John B     November 22, 2012 at 9:03 am

The Church of England’s General Synod rejection of female bishops is a sad thing. Rob is understandably cross.

I don’t wholly disagree with him, but I think it’s worth remembering that the Church of England:

  1. was created by a woman (Henry VIII’s Church rejected the authority of the Pope, but remained Catholic in doctrine; it was Elizabeth I who turned it into a solidly Protestant church after Mary I’s attempt at Catholic, erm, revivalism);
  2. is headed by a woman (Liz’s namesake, defender of the faith);
  3. had a massive “yes” vote to the ordination of female priests from both the House of Bishops (0% female, 94% ‘yes’) and the mixed-sex House of Clergy (29% female, 77% ‘yes’);
  4. saw the vote defeated for failing to achieve a two-thirds majority in the mixed-sex, non-ordained House of Laity, made up of democratically elected representatives of churchgoers (46% female, 64% ‘yes’).

The all-male boys-club dinosaurs voted almost solely for equality, the still-male dominated clergy were overwhelmingly for equality, and the mixed-sex representatives of the Church’s congregation (which is itself about 65% female) were the most bigoted of the lot.

In other words, if the Church wasn’t so keen to give regular churchgoers a say, female bishops would totally be a thing already, and the massive blow to both PR and moral authority of voting for discredited Pauline nonsense wouldn’t have happened.

Or to address Rob’s specific point: the people who benefit from the Church being part of the state; the people who are part of the state in the sense that he means, are overwhelmingly in favour of the church meeting civilised, liberal egalitarian norms.

The Church is only inegalitarian in the only sense in which it is separated from the state: because the people who vote in House of Laity elections – people who make it to the Anglican church every week, you get the idea – are vastly more bigoted than its clergy, its bishopry, and the population at large.

Far better if it were governed by the democratic will of all the people who it represents (the majority of English people still identify as Church of England), or none at all.

I was going to add, I don’t know why the female-dominated C of E congregation choose to elect representatives (both male and female) who hate women.

But on reflection, I’m pretty sure it’s that, although many women whose views mirror those of Ann Widdecombe in rejecting the C of E’s modest levels of inclusivity and egalitarianism have opted to join the Roman Catholic Church (which, obviously, has none of either), some have stayed with what they know. Sadly, yesterday’s vote is likely to keep them on board for longer.

UPDATE: thanks to Colin in the comments below, and others on Twitter, for pointing out that I’ve misunderstood the House of Laity electoral system. I thought it was chosen by STV from an electorate of church congregations; it isn’t. It’s chosen by STV from an electorate of Lay Members of Deanery Synods; they are the ones who are elected by parishioners – so there’s an extra step of busybody-with-too-much-time-on-their-hands between the congregation and the House of Laity.

Dow is the least disgraceful Olympic sponsor

by John B     July 29, 2012 at 5:57 pm

Mr Boyle’s Olympic kick-off was bloody amazing. I was cynical about the whole scenario, but it was one of the actual best things ever. Celebrating the things that make the UK worthy of having, not the Michael Gove crap. Culturally, beautifully excellent.

The Olympics, being sponsored by people with money, are sponsored by a wide variety of organisations who do terrible things. McDonald’s and Coca-Cola do, well, come on, you’re human and capable of reading. Visa have barred people with Mastercards from using their cards in the vicinity of the arena. This shit is disgraceful.

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Is the future of news dependent on rich oligarchs?

by John B     June 27, 2012 at 9:30 am

In the wake of a punch to the face from phone-hacking, and a kick to the balls from shrinking print revenues, News Corporation is contemplating splitting its TV assets from its print ones.

The plan would be to remove the newspaper drag from the share price, and hopefully bypass some of the regulatory fallout from News International’s behaviour. An obvious problem here is that Bad News would be, well, bad news.

Analysts at Nomura have worked out that future profit declines will only be in the region of 5% a year – and that the global newspaper division (including digital) revenues will show slight overall growth. To me, that sounds optimistic.
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Why the Wisconsin defeat isn’t an omen for Obama

by John B     June 7, 2012 at 5:25 am

After a massively high-spending recall campaign in Wisconsin, union-busting Republican governor Scott Walker has held onto power with a slightly increased majority. But he lost control of the state senate.

Naturally, the oh-so-left-wing US media are spinning this as Terrible Democrat Defeat, Disaster Due for Obama in November, etc.

It has been pointed out in various places that the Walker campaign spent $7 for every $1 his opponent could muster. But this is not really a feasible plan for the November election (not even for someone with Mitt Romney’s wallet).
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On Beecroft: it is already quite easy to sack people

by John B     May 24, 2012 at 2:37 pm

On the incompetent Mr Beecroft‘s attempt to take labour relations back to the 1830s – note that in private sector workplaces in England & Wales without union recognition agreements, all of the following are the case:

There are straightforward processes available to sack lazy/incompetent workers which, if you follow them correctly, take less than six months from when you first notice the problem with their work and don’t lead to complicated legal action.

I’ve personally dismissed people in this way. Anyone denying that is either lying or has no idea what they are talking about.
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It’s not just the NOTW that needs to be destroyed

by John B     July 11, 2011 at 6:41 pm

Gordon Brown isn’t the most loved Labour leader ever. But he has a bit of an air of authenticity to him: the kind of man who wouldn’t sell his kid’s illness for political advantage, for example.

So whenever the details of his first kid’s death and second kid’s illness [*] appeared in the Sun, it genuinely made me think less of him. After all, it’s a perfect NewLab, Alastair Campbell media strategy to humanise the dude.

But it turns out that Brown never leaked to the Sun at all, and that this – like, apparently, every other story News International has won – was obtained by thievery.
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In defence of Monarchies

by John B     April 19, 2011 at 9:02 am

My lack of interest in the forthcoming Royal nuptials is about as total as it gets. However, people will keep writing about it, and I don’t always look away from their articles in time…

So Johann Hari has written a fairly boilerplate piece about the monarchy, and why the UK shouldn’t have one. He sensibly and rapidly deals with the fatuous points that monarchists make about tourism and ‘defenders of democracy’.

But there’s also this:
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Barclays paid a billion quid in tax – but not to us

by John B     March 1, 2011 at 3:04 pm

It’s become a well-reported trope over the course of a weekend that Barclays only paid GBP113m in UK corporation tax in 2009.

Various people of various ideologies have reacted to this disclosure, some by blockading Barclays branches, some by making fairly irrelevant points about tax losses.

But the truth, found in Barclay’s 2009 annual report – is a bit more complicated.
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The Observer bravely stands up for punishment without trial

by John B     February 14, 2011 at 1:58 pm

There was a very odd piece in Sunday’s Observer, running under the headline MEPs putting child pornographers’ rights ahead of abuse victims, claim campaigners.

The piece, written by veteran home affairs correspondent Jamie Doward, says – as a reported fact in the piece, not as a quote from a pressure group:

The European parliament’s civil liberties, justice and home affairs committee (LIBE) will meet in Strasbourg tomorrow, when it is expected to approve a controversial measure that would compel EU member states to inform publishers of child pornography that their images are to be deleted from the internet or blocked. Child pornographers will also have to be informed of their right to appeal against any removal or blocking

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