It was somewhat surprising this past week to hear the Tories announce their plan to ‘simplify’ the country’s fragmented, privatised rail system. It was even more surprising to see some on Twitter interpret this to mean that the government will ‘nationalise’ the rail system. It plans to do no such thing, of course. But the story, and the misconceptions around it, can help shed light on the Conservatives’ overall strategy — and the dire state of UK politics.

Quite.

First, the most important point: the Tories do not plan to ‘nationalise’ the rail system. The initial BBC headline claimed that the…


If the cascading scandals of the last few weeks have taught us anything, it is this: the Conservatives look out for their own.

Leader of the Opposition Keir Starmer, here pictured fighting for the working-class through the novel means of shopping — or being photographed shopping — in John Lewis.

Now, by ‘their own’, I don’t mean the ‘hard-working families’ that politicians of all parties have pitched to for the past couple of decades. I don’t mean their voters — not most of them, anyway, and certainly not the much-vaunted ‘Red Wall’ ex-Labour voters who swung behind Boris Johnson and Brexit. …


Less than two weeks ago, on Wednesday 6 January 2021, fascism finally, indisputably came to the United States. Moderates, centrists, and those on the non-fascist right have resisted analysing US politics in these terms, even as an authoritarian president shreds norms of political behaviour and disregards the law to advance his own interests.*

There were good arguments in favour of this circumspection. The words we use matter, and to throw fascism around too readily is to risk stripping the term of its power.

The attack on the US Capitol changes that.

A group of the president’s supporters overran the legislature…


Background

Even an extremely competent government would have struggled with the coronavirus pandemic. In fact, around the world, many competent governments did struggle, and are struggling. I am no fan of French president Emmanuel Macron (a ghoulish neoliberal) or German chancellor Angela Merkel (a joyless puritan), but neither is as facially ridiculous as our current prime minister, and each has struggled significantly this year. Australia has handled things better, but not without its share of slip-ups. New Zealand is doing remarkably well. …


As the US election draws nearer and the political temperature steadily increases, repeatedly passing what we would have thought were boiling points a decade ago, some on the Democratic side are allowing themselves to look beyond 3 November and consider the prospect of actually governing. No one can blame them for exercising caution — especially after the shock of 2016. Trump’s defeat is far from a done deal, and my instinct is to focus all our attention on defeating him and securing a peaceful transition.

Lessons from Recent History

However, such a laser focus on securing victory could prove extremely…


Watching this week’s vice presidential debate was a strange experience. The first presidential debate, on Tuesday 29 September, was a spectacle: Biden was unimpressive, while Trump was characteristically deranged and dangerous. Compared to that, there was something almost reassuring about seeing Senator Kamala Harris face off against Vice President Mike Pence. Neither candidate really answered the questions, and we learnt very little about the policy positions of their respective campaigns. Both fudged the truth to some degree, and each let a few personal jabs slip through the insincere façade of civility.

It was, in a phrase, ‘business as usual’.

In…


‘May you live in interesting times’. Allegedly an English translation of a traditional Chinese saying, this phrase has been bandied about a lot over the last four or five years. It’s easy to see why: though it has the structure of a blessing, it is in fact a curse. Few would deny that we now live in ‘interesting times’. But I suspect even fewer would claim to be excited about this. ‘Interesting times’ are for all too many times of suffering — of anxiety, fear, uncertainty, and, in all too many cases, direct threats to life and livelihood.

Indeed, it…


Of all the negative stories spun about the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn, its leader from 2015 to early 2020, the notion that the party was ‘institutionally antisemitic’ was likely the most damaging. It was certainly the most concerning. Where failures of communication, perhaps even equivocation and indecision on the key issue of EU membership, were understandable lapses, antisemitism was surely beyond the pale. I trust that I do not need to explain why that is in this piece. One need not even point to the Holocaust to see how antisemitism poisons and destroys free societies. It is not too…


Cast your mind back to 2009. President Barack Obama has just been inaugurated, in front of the largest crowd ever assembled on the Washington Mall (sorry, Donald Trump). ‘Hope and change’. ‘Yes we can’, and all that. The case for change was certainly overstated, but it’s hard not to look back on the Obama years with some sense of nostalgia — not least because, due in large part to the paucity of decent competition, he remains by some comfortable margin the best president of my lifetime (since 1994, for those of you keeping score at home).

It’s easy to forget…


As I write this, I’m sat in the kitchen drinking coffee on the second day of my self-isolation. Things are quiet. I’m lucky enough to be able to do some work from home, but some writing work is drying up. For some reason, people don’t seem keen to read articles recommending the most beautiful beaches in Spain right now. There’s a palpable sense of anxiety both in the house and out in the world. …

Alex Ryan

Alex left Oxford University in 2015 with a degree and depression. Now he teaches, writes, and tries to play music.

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