Recent Articles

Don’t forget where you were when the CSR hit us

by Paul Sagar     October 19, 2010 at 11:25 pm

Most people remember where they were on 9/11. Epoch-changing events have that effect, especially when they are so spectacular and obviously far-reaching in their ramifications. But not all epoch-changing events are spectacular, and they don’t always advertise themselves so obviously.

With that in mind, remember where you were today. The 2010 Comprehensive Spending Review may become a date historians return to.
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Should we really be slamming the Beeb?

by Paul Sagar     October 15, 2010 at 4:21 pm

Sunny draws attention to the latest risible claims of right-wing loon tank Migration Watch.

Apparently, the UK loses £4.6bn educating the children of migrants. Except that figure looks rather shaky when you learn it includes as immigrants anybody who happened to have a foreign-born parent. (So despite having British citizenship, because my mum is French MW count my vast and on-going British education as a pay-out to immigrant families!) As if that method wasn’t bad enough, the Office of National Statistics claims not to know how MW obtained any figures on parent birth place to begin with. Further demolition can be found here.

I admit: different day, same risible nonsense from MW. What actually animates me this morning is Sunny’s gunning for the BBC over its failures to report the MW nonsense as such.
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The very un-conservative George Osborne

by Paul Sagar     October 5, 2010 at 2:17 pm

Yesterday George Osborne announced some big changes.

A cap system that will reduce income, housing and council tax benefit is going to affect a lot of people’s lives. You can read various good analyses here, here, here, here and here. Personally, I’m still reeling from the extent of Osborne’s assault on those receiving state support, disgusted at his fig-leaf excuses about preventing people seeing benefits as a “lifestyle choice”.

But one thing strikes me about these reforms: how cavalier and unconservative the Conservative Party is now being.

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There’s something tragically moving about Vince Cable’s position

by Paul Sagar     September 24, 2010 at 2:23 pm

Last night’s Question Time showed that anger at the Lib Dems is mounting.

For the first half of last night’s broadcast, Cable repeatedly got it in the neck.

But rather than seeing Cable as a traitor, I would urge a little more nuance. There has been no Jekyll and Hyde transformation. The same exceptionally laudable politician remains – but circumstances dictate he play the devil.
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Christians can protest the Pope’s visit too

by Paul Sagar     September 16, 2010 at 2:32 pm

From the age of 11-16, I attended a Catholic state secondary school in Merseyside. During that period I realised two things: that I didn’t believe in God, and that even if I did Catholicism would be a bad vehicle of worship.

My contempt for Catholic teaching in particular crystallised in compulsory Religious Education class, around three experiences. The first is of a teacher telling my class that contraception was a sin, the rhythm method wholly reliable, and that any girl who had an abortion would definitely go to hell.

The second was the same teacher remarking that if people only had sex within marriage then “aids wouldn’t be a problem.” And then replying to my complaint that this was hardly appropriate insight regarding (say) non-Christians in Africa, that this was simply “their problem”.
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Police chief fights the cuts…by threatening protesters

by Paul Sagar     September 15, 2010 at 8:47 am

As Osborne’s Axe begins to fall, pleas for exemption are coming thick and fast. Yesterday police Chief Superintendent Derek Barnett supplied his own eye-catching declaration:

In an environment of cuts across the wider public sector, we face a period where disaffection, social and industrial tensions may well rise… We will require a strong, confident, properly trained and equipped police service, one in which morale is high and one that believes it is valued by the government and public.

Or as the Guardian headlined it: “Police: We can’t take care of cuts protests if you cut us”.
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Gideon Osborne is trying to kill the idea of full employment

by Paul Sagar     September 10, 2010 at 10:50 am

Last night, the heir to a multimillion pound fortune declared that it is wrong for people to get money for doing nothing. This came as part of a special announcement that £4billion more would be cut from benefits than previously planned.

This was certainly not part of a transparent and obvious ploy to get the News of the World/Met Police phone-hacking scandal off the front pages.

In turn, the irony of a party which recently appointed a big-time tax avoider to a senior role – and which has turned a blind eye to a practice costing the UK many more sums than benefit “scrounging” – was quickly lost on everybody.

But Gideon Osborne’s announcement is interesting because it heralds – or at the very least confirms – the death of an idea. And not just any old idea.
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At least Tony Blair’s book title makes sense

by Paul Sagar     August 19, 2010 at 12:02 pm

Tony Blair’s forthcoming memoirs have already been getting some attention.

Obviously, I’m not important enough to have not read them in advance. But nor will I be reading them when they are published. And it’s not just because, as Dave Osler notes, they will contain nothing new (except, perhaps, new lies).

It’s because the title of the book tells us everything we need to know already.
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The case for the expulsion of Alan Milburn

by Paul Sagar     August 16, 2010 at 4:10 pm

Tribalism gets a bad press. It usually carries negative connotations, implies irrational partisan bickering, and is used to cast disdain on opponents (internal or external).

Which is a shame, because tribalism is an important and usually indispensable part of politics. We’d all do better to recall that it has its virtues as well as vices, even if they are often born of necessity.

First, let’s recall what politics is: competition between two or more groups attempting to secure outcomes which the other side not only opposes, but frequently thinks are morally wrong.
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The police and liberalism of fear

by Paul Sagar     July 25, 2010 at 2:42 pm

In his later political writings Bernard Williams advocated an approach to political thinking that he called – following Judith Shklar – “The Liberalism of Fear”.

At its root this approach prioritises an issue which is taken to be the fundamental problem of politics: that of controlling, limiting and ordering violence between individuals and groups so as to allow peaceful relations to exist, and human achievement to flourish.

For Williams the modern liberal western state is a particularly successful – though by no means unproblematic – solution to this basic problem. The modern state, via army, police and other controlled institutions successfully monopolises legitimate violence within a given territory (to borrow Max Weber’s famous definition).
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