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Posts from the ‘Prime Minister’ Category

30
Apr
Italian navy rescue asylum seekers

A Model of Political Preaching: Judicial wisdom on Immigration

I very rarely tweet about talks I’ve heard – not because they haven’t been good necessarily, but because I usually think even the better ones tend not to travel well (usually because they are well embedded into their contexts). But that’s another story. Last Sunday was different. Judge David Turner was speaking as part of All Souls’ short series on flashpoint issues in next week’s General Election. His topic was Immigration. Read more

26
Feb
NBC 141106-uk-migrants mini

Time to stop doubting and learn to love immigration

RANT ALERT (This is v abnormal for me, but I’m quite exercised about it!)

I’m getting tired of people complaining about immigration, and just wish politicians would have the courage to speak up for it. The UK has ALWAYS been a country of immigrants – you just have to look at the history of London’s East End over the last 5 centuries to see this. Read more »

25
Jan
Franz Ferdinand and Sophie embark on their final journey

The Uncertainties of Contingency: What if Franz Ferdinand didn’t die in 1914?

I have stood at the very spot where Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie were shot by Gavrilo Princip 100 years ago. And the impossible “What If” question occurred to me even then. So when I noticed that eminent historian Ned Lebow had published an examination of the issue, I leapt at it. The assassination was such a fluke, so preventable, so absurd that the yearning for a different outcome of that moment is great. As he says at the start (having summarised some of the counterfactual options),

None of these what-ifs strains our understanding of the world because most royal processions do not stray from their intended routes, and most security details would have rushed the archduke and his wife to safety at the first signs of violence. In this instance, the so-called factual, not the counterfactual, is what strikes us as unrealistic and incredible. (p16) Read more »

3
Jun
George Orwell at the BBC

Let the meaning choose the word: Orwell on political language

It has its gainsayers (eg Steven Poole is pretty disparaging, though unfairly in my view) but George Orwell’s Politics and the English Language (the whole essay is online), is prophetic. Of course some of his linguistic concerns are matters of taste and fashion (as Steven Poole rightly notes). But written at the close of the Second World War, this article exposes the sham sincerity and dissembling motivation behind so much political speech and writing. That is the essay’s great virtue. And it has not gone out of date at all. Read more »

7
May
Image: Kofi Annan

Wisdom from the Palaver Tree: Kofi Annan’s impossible job cajoling the world

I have just finished Kofi Annan’s fascinating memoir Interventions. Annan is clearly a man of great stature and influence, who strained every sinew to bring about peace and dialogue during his 10 years as UN Secretary-General but tragically often failed. For all kinds of reasons. But as one might expect (and indeed hope), he has great wisdom to share, even if he cannot claim a string of personal triumphs.

But before a few gems, here’s my brief Amazon review (which you may want to find ‘helpful’?!): Read more »

2
Nov
churchill_1024.jpg

Friday Fun 29: Winston takes his stand on foreign place names

A real gem this week. It’s on display in the painting studio at Chartwell, Churchill’s much-loved home in Kent. I couldn’t resist getting down his points verbatim when we paid a return visit over the summer.

Read more »

10
Oct
Baxter & Whitaker Campaigns Inc

The Lie Factory and the destructive power of political ‘narrative’

The presenting issue behind the article was the hysteria whipped up against Obama’s healthcare proposals in the US – something which those of us with ‘socialised’, crypto-communist medicine in the UK find hard to understand. I do realise that many on the US right are no fools, that the British NHS is far from perfect,  and that there may well be many good grounds for the position(s) they took. But that’s not my point here. My main concern is how politics (left and right) throughout the West now (has to) operates. This was the object of Jill Lepore’s New Yorker investigation a couple of weeks ago, The Lie Factory. Read more »

11
May
John Smith

Memento Mori: Matthew Parris, The House of Commons and the 1994 Death of John Smith

John Smith MP was one of those tragic political should-have-beens. But while Leader of the Opposition riding on Labour’s 23% point lead over the Tories in 1994 and widely assumed to be Prime Minister in waiting, he died 18 years ago tomorrow from a pair of massive heart attacks. He was only 55. For those concerned with public life, it was one of those remember-what-you-were-doing-moments. But the reason for picking up on it here is that I was blown away at the time, and recalled in conversation last week, the piece written by the great Matthew Parris, at the time The Times’ Parliamentary Sketch-writer and oft-quoted by Q. Read more »

22
Jul
Hackgate 2011

Friday Fun 9: Humbert Wolfe’s The British Journalist – #Hackgate The Poem

In the light of recent events, it seems only appropriate to bring this back to the forefront of public attention. You’ve seen the trailer for Hackgate The Movie – now read Hackgate The Poem. Written by Humbert Wolfe in the 1920s, it shows that little has changed over the last century or so… Read more »

18
Jul
corruption kills - kampala

Hackgate, Corruption and African perceptions of the West

During the 4 years we worked in Uganda, I would have this conversation with students all too often. They would despairingly deprecate African states for their oh-so predictable corruption, nepotism and despotism. It would be shrugged off and perhaps accompanied by a green-eyed comment about western political systems. And indeed, when chatting with friends back home, they would often enquire whether X or Y countries were doing ‘worse or better these days’ – shorthand for whether their respective rulers were now more, or less, openly corrupt and oppressive. Such is the caricature many outsiders have of Africa – and of course, there’s no smoke without fire, etc etc. Read more »

1
Jul
Scarfe Yes PM

Friday Fun 7: PS What Whitehall Thinks of Canterbury

I said last week that I was offering the final instalment of Whitehall Wisdom. Well, I subsequently realised that I had omitted perhaps the most pertinent of the lot – the tangled web that has been weaved in the name of Church and State relations. This is primarily the result of that perfect CofE primer, the episode entitled The Bishop’s Gambit. Read more »

24
Jun
Scarfe Yes PM

Friday Fun 7: Final Lessons from Whitehall

We come at last to the final instalment of Whitehall Wisdom. It’s more a random string of pearls than a topical arrangement this time, but still worth its weight in gold. Read more »

17
Jun
Scarfe Yes PM

Friday Fun 6: Interpreting Civil Service Speak

One of the acute difficulties of British etiquette is the profound problem of meaning – there can be a huge disparity between the literal/surface meaning of words and the actual intended meaning as all visitors to these shores find to their confusion and even peril. For those wanting a general introduction to the phenomenon, you can do a lot worse than checking this excellent EU translation guide. Read more »

10
Jun
Scarfe Yes PM

Friday Fun 5: How to Manage your Government Minister

Here are some further lessons from Yes Prime Minister. This time, mainly from Sir Humphrey, on the art of managing your department minister, however senior he or she might be. Read more »

27
May
Scarfe Yes PM

Friday Fun 3: The political education of Bernard Woolley

This week we follow Bernard as he comes to terms with some of the realities of political life, usually as a result of the instructions from his mentor and overlord, Sir Humphrey…

Read more »

20
May
Scarfe Yes PM

Friday Fun 2: The stumbling wisdom of Jim Hacker

This week we witness some moments where Jim Hacker, Minister and then Prime Minister, struggles to master the tricks of the Civil Service Trade…

Read more »

13
May
Scarfe Yes PM

Friday Fun: Some realpolitik from Sir Humphrey

Have decided to start a new regular slot: Friday Fun. Well, the weekend is just round the corner so why not?

This week we have some lessons from Sir Humphrey Appleby, that great mandarin of mandarins. Read more »

2
May
beer-vs-coffee-fptp-av

To A/V or Not to A/V

I’m certainly no psephologist (though I do totally and absolutely love the word). But as we approach this referendum on Thursday, I’ve been feeling torn. I think I’ve worked out what I think but am not completely settled yet. And even if I was, I don’t think I would tell you. What I say now is probably (certainly) full of psephological flaws… Read more »

16
Apr

Canning’s Riddle

George Canningwas Foreign Secretary, and briefly Prime Minister. But he is also credited with this little work of genius (which is perhaps one of his most lasting legacies).

A Riddle

There is a word of plural number
A foe to peace and tranquil slumber.
Now any word you chance to take
By adding “S”, you plural make;
But if you add an “s” to this,
How strange the metamorphosis!
Plural is plural then no more
And sweet, what bitter was before.

What is the word?

Can you solve this without googling it?! Read more »

5
Apr

Truths behind the genius that is ‘Yes Minister’

Having been a long-term, obsessive devotee of Yes (Prime) Minister, I enjoyed picking up this little dip-in fan’s miscellany about the series, not least because of the Jay & Lynn introduction. Here are a few treats:

The fruits of authenticity

[The] quest for authenticity produced unexpected benefits. We discovered that truth was not just stranger than fiction, it was also funnier. We often found that if an episode wasn’t really working, the answer was to go back to our expert advisors and probe a bit further; time and again this would produce the idea that we needed.

There were three plot ideas in particular that we hit on in this way. There was a crisis meeting in the minister’s sleeping compartment in the overnight train to the party conference. There was the announcement on television of a Christmas benefit for pensioners after the civil service had refused on the grounds of administrative impossibility, and there was the teetotal reception in an Islamic country where the UK delegation set up an emergency communications tent full of bottles of Scotch to top up the chaste orange juice supplied by their hosts. They all happened, but we would never have thought of them ourselves. (p3) Read more »

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