Recent Articles

We should face up to faith schools

by Simon Barrow     September 1, 2008 at 4:40 am

There are several phases in most campaigns for equality and social justice. First denial that there is any real problem, then attempts to ameliorate it, then an admission that something substantial needs to change, and finally (hopefully) some substantive action.

That is the reason for the launch today of Accord, a new coalition making the case make the case that every state school in Britain should be open to all, irrespective of differences in belief and background; that schools should be places where those whose paths might not otherwise cross learn how to listen to one another, learn together, value one another and build a common future together.

Accord is in some respects an unlikely coalition. In addition to a teaching union, a religious think-tank and a humanist organisation, its backers include secularists and Hindus, Christians and Jews, people of various faith backgrounds and none.
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Yes, but can Obama beat McCain?

by Simon Barrow     May 7, 2008 at 7:59 pm

The game looks pretty much up for Hillary Clinton now, as John Zogby makes plain. Lawyers notwithstanding, the hope of seating the ‘lost’ delegates of Michigan and Florida to pull the margin back to under 100 is a pipedream. George McGovern is the first major figure to call on Clinton to stand down. And if Barack Obama can get promises from 40-50 ‘super-delegates‘ in the next day or so, the race for the Democratic nomination should be over.

I’m much more sceptical about Obama than many people I know (including many around here). In practice, I don’t think he’ll be as progressive as is wished or assumed, nor Clinton as regressive as her campaign has sometimes sounded. Andrew Stephen in the New Statesman is right:
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Leafleting us into submission

by Simon Barrow     May 1, 2008 at 10:21 am

So how goes the vote your way? Here in Exeter we’re not exactly at election fever pitch. Most people seem more concerned about unleaded petrol going over the £5 a gallon mark, and whether City will make it back into the Football League – having narrowly missed out in last season’s play-off final at Wembley.

Then again, the candidates and their publicity machines haven’t treated us to a feast of sophisticated argument or a panoply of significant fact.
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England and St George?

by Simon Barrow     April 26, 2008 at 10:04 am

So what did you do for St George’s Day, then? It was on Wednesday, in case you weren’t looking. I found myself down the pub in Exeter that evening, watching the football (or the absorbing chess match, as it turned out) between Manchester United and Barcelona.

The place was as ethnically unmixed as the southwest can be, and draped in red and white crossed flags. When one of Barca’s black players was fouled early in the second half, a man wearing a St George hat duly yelled, “What’s wrong with that? First the ball, then the nigger!”

There were general giggles of amusement, and to my shame I decided against marching across the room and verbally jousting with half the bar. I try to challenge racism whenever I can. But the atmosphere around that remark was more than casually threatening.
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Paddick stations?

by Simon Barrow     April 25, 2008 at 10:01 am

The BBC1 Question Time special last night, featuring “the three main London mayoral candidates”, was as depressing a tit-for-tat charade as I’ve seen for some time. The ratio of insult to fact or argument was far, far too high. Maybe I just don’t go to hustings enough these days.

Particularly disappointing was Brian Paddick, God’s new lieutenant. Alternating between ineffectually smug and an unconvincingly macho, he didn’t use his central position on the podium to evince authority or offer anything new. Instead he sounded rather like the school rich kid trying to brag about how clever and decent he is. Embarrassing.

Ken made a direct play for Lib Dem second preferences, claiming he agreed with them on 90 per cent of issues and citing his own past support for Ed Davey. Pluralism or panic? Paddick (revealing that we gravitate to his second name, huh?) then accused him of telling people how to vote and claimed that he and Boris were equally bad.
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Twittering politically

by Simon Barrow     April 19, 2008 at 6:11 pm

Twitter is the thing we’re all supposed to be waffling about right now, ever since some Downing Street fixer hit on to letting everyone know the intimate manoeuvres of the PM in the US, plus the writer’s own progress through the complex world of comparative hot beverages and muffins.

It works like this. The PM’s meeja minders come up with a ‘new media’ communication wheeze which isn’t really that new at all. Then old media journos wake up in time simultaneously to pronounce it a desperate piece of wannabe PR (because the spinners are doing it) and the latest thing in cool (because, hey, we’ve finally caught up!).
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Manipulating politics through religion

by Simon Barrow     March 24, 2008 at 6:00 pm

There’s often a row about religion over the Easter holiday, usually involving a pronouncement made a bishop that the media has half-grasped and wants to turn into a good old scrap between believers and others.

This year, however, the bundle has been much more political. It was kicked off by Cardinal Keith O’Brien’s gaudy intervention in the debate about the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill continue reading… »

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