mcgillianaire: (India Flag)
What I wrote on 25 April 2016:

"The Indians are playing a lot of shorter-format matches in the first half of this year, but they've got 14 Tests scheduled from June to December. Kohli is the only player who averages over 50 in ODIs and T20Is. My biggest hope for him is to become the first to average over 50 in all international formats. He currently averages 44 in Tests and if he can keep up this form and translate it into the longer-format, there's a chance of that happening."

After his latest marathon effort at the crease and with a match to spare, the Indian Test captain averages 50.53. In a year where the political and sporting outsider has challenged the orthodoxy, one legend-in-the-making has offered a constant reminder of all that is still well with the established order and the greatest iteration of its greatest sport. Thank you, sir, for the entertainment. Long may it continue!
mcgillianaire: (Union Jack)
There's an interesting short essay available for free from the London Review of Books authored by emeritus historian Dr Ross McKibbin dated October 1991. It reflects upon a re-assessment of the Wilson and Callaghan governments, in light of Thatcherism, and in anticipation of the general election that took place in April 1992. Two extracts in particular caught my attention, as each could easily have been re-written for the current turmoil afflicting the Labour Party. Plus ça change...

"The Labour Party has been peculiarly disabled in the last ten years because so many of its own members have written off its history. Thatcherism was in practice distinctly vulnerable to attack – but not by a party which had denied its own past. How people choose to ‘remember’ the Wilson and Callaghan governments is consequently something to which the Labour Party should urgently attend: only if they ‘remember’ them benevolently (or at least not malevolently) can Labour hope to re-establish itself securely as a governing party. Yet there is still no evidence that the Labour leadership wishes to attend: on the contrary – as Mrs Thatcher did with the Heath government – they seem either to pretend that the Wilson and Callaghan governments did not exist or that they were mistakes for which the Party must endlessly atone."

[...]

"If an ideological alternative to the Conservative Government is to be made acceptable to the electorate, both folk memory and the Labour Party will have to change their minds about the 1964 and 1974 governments and the Labour Party will have to do it first. The Labour Party has committed the cardinal rhetorical error of any political party by apologising for its own past: the Conservatives may ignore their own past, but they never apologise for it. Labour has done this partly because of the utopianism of many of its activists – to them the best is always the enemy of the good – and partly because of a certain timid and innocent defensiveness. Labour always plays the game by other people’s rules. A measure of this defensiveness is the extent to which the Labour Party is happy to be thought the ‘caring’ party but is plainly less happy to be thought the ‘competent’ party, even though there seems no logical reason why it could not be both. It thus apologises for the Wilson and Callaghan governments because the activists said they fell below perfection while those in economic and cultural authority said they failed. But there are entirely adequate justifications for these governments which the Labour leadership should start making. Although it seems scarcely possible, the majority of the electorate still believes that the Conservatives are more ‘competent’ economic managers than Labour, and this basically means that they think the Tories are more fit to govern. We can be fairly certain that as an election approaches this belief will become more intense – much to Labour’s detriment. The Labour leadership must, therefore, assert that the Wilson and Callaghan governments were more ‘competent’ than their predecessors and successors, which they were, and sound as though they mean that as a compliment, and also recognise that their policies, though indeed imperfect, were better suited to a sluggish, rather uncohesive society than the alternatives. They might then be able to argue that the rather rough-hewn social democracy with which the Labour Party is historically associated has worked very much more in the national interest than anything else we are likely to have. And that we are more likely to have a productive capitalism under Labour than under its principal opponent. A Labour Party which restores itself to its own past might, having perceived its strengths, accept its weaknesses: namely, that under our present institutional and constitutional arrangements its spells in office may be fitful and unrewarding."

If you read the rest of the essay or other writings by McKibbin it is quite clear that he isn't a Blairite (or Brownite) by any stretch of the imagination. As such, perhaps someone ought to send every Corbynista a copy of this essay to illustrate their folly in repeating the mistakes of the last generation by denying the many great achievements between 1997 and 2010.
mcgillianaire: (Union Jack)
Here's a scenario: let's assume Britain votes to remain within the EU, but only by the narrowest of margins. Following the lead of their members, several Brexit Tories cross the floor to UKIP, throwing the government into chaos. A group of moderate Labour MPs frustrated at their inability to oust Jeremy Corbyn as leader, form an alliance with David Cameron, George Osborne and their rump Tories to try and prop up a minority administration. The Orange Book Lib Dems (all three of them?), after much soul-searching and fearing their continued irrelevance also decide to reluctantly join the alliance. At the next general election, the alliance merges into The Centrist Party and competes with UKIP, Labour, SNP, Greens and rump Lib Dems. Imagine that.
mcgillianaire: (Changing Guard London)
I voted for Caroline Pidgeon (Lib Dems) and Sadiq Khan (Labour) respectively in the London Mayoral election. In the London Assembly, I voted for Nick da Costa (Lib Dem) in my Enfield and Haringey seat and allocated my List vote to the Greens.

Another year, another #ToryFreeZone at the ballot box. A unique year as we return to the polls next month for the EU referendum. I've yet to make up my mind on that. It all boils down to whether the sovereignty gained is worth the inevitable economic uncertainty in the immediate and medium-term post-plebiscite. As a weak social democrat, one cannot easily dismiss Lord Owen's support for Brexit, nor that of the Green Party's Jenny Jones. They are very reasonable people with whom I don't always agree, but they are of the firm belief that the EU cannot be reformed in its present state and I am inclined to concur.

Unfortunately, the fact Brexit is also supported by the likes of Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson (among other odious creatures) makes it extremely difficult to convince oneself that this is indeed the right choice, made worse by the prospect of accepting a post-Brexit negotiation on their terms rather than the Owens and Joneses of the world, who would have very little say on it.
mcgillianaire: (Scale of Justice)
I've just handed in the following essay as part of my Academic Writing course at Harvard's Extension School. It culminates a six week process of cumulative work, that began with three assigned readings on aspects of education. We had to pick one of the three readings and build our exercises around it. The essay below is my final product. I hope you enjoy it. I think it can form the basis of a longer essay in the future, and there is certainly room for improvement, but I am fairly pleased with the way my writing has developed, particularly in regards to structure and transitions that have been a longstanding weakness of mine. I would love to receive feedback from you guys too! Thanks for taking the time to read it. The essays in the footnotes are worth a read too!



Intelligence does not have to be schooled and education takes multiple forms. What we need as a society is a recalibration of the assumptions we make about knowledge acquisition. In "Blue-Collar Brilliance", Mike Rose, a research professor at the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies at UCLA, challenges the widely-held notion that intelligence can only be measured by the amount of formal education a person has acquired, while offering an alternative viewpoint that emphasizes the extent to which blue and pink-collared workers harness their intellect.1 He is right to challenge the status-quo, but even his well-reasoned argument falls short of extending the thesis to society at large, regardless of whether someone is employed or not. And that is crucial, because for many people intelligence is still a synonym for formal education, and the more letters you have after your name, the more likely you are perceived to be of superior intelligence. By simply extending the cognitive-franchise to blue and pink-collared workers, we ignore and deny the cerebral contributions of millions of stay-at-home parents and other less academically qualified thinkers around the world.

The assumptions we make about knowledge and intelligence acquisition have a direct impact on the way our entire economy is structured. Just look at the salary and wage differentials between those generally classified as white and blue-collared workers. According to Bureau of Labor Statistics data from May 2014, the mean annual wage for lawyers, airline pilots and financial managers was roughly $130,000. But for electricians and plumbers it was $54,000, and $42,000 for truck drivers. While for other blue and pink-collared workers such as janitors, grounds maintenance workers, auto mechanics and waitresses, they earned median hourly wages ranging from just $9.01 per hour to $17.84 per hour.2 Under the present system, wages do not reflect the amount of a worker’s thought and effort. The perfect example at the other extreme is that of a stay-at-home parent who does not earn any wage at all, but you would be hard-pressed to find one who does not stop thinking about their work (i.e. their children/partner) all day long. And despite the wide gap in mean wages between white and blue-collared workers, both groups of people toil a similar number of hours at their respective workplaces. If anything, blue and pink-collared employees work longer hours than their more formally educated counterparts, sometimes fitting in two or more jobs in order to make ends meet. And no doubt their experiences are as taxing on the mind as it is on the body.

But are the best and the brightest truly more intelligent? And have they acquired more knowledge? I do not believe so. Take for instance my octogenarian paternal grandmother. Denied formal schooling beyond fourth grade, she has remained a stay-at-home mom her entire life. Married before sixteen, five kids by her mid-twenties (including losing two in infancy), forced to accommodate six orphaned children from her in-law’s family soon after, and widowed at fifty, she has been compelled by circumstance to constantly adapt to a changing environment. Without a degree in home economics, she learnt how to ration a fixed supply of meager financial and food resources for the enlarged household. Religion helped provide direction in her life and she imparted the wisdom gained from its parables to her children. Even today when I visit her in my father’s hometown in southern India, it never ceases to amaze me how everybody who knows her, irrespective of age, solicits her advice to deal with life. Indeed she is the epitome of someone schooled in life. Despite lacking a formal education, she has cultivated her intelligence by acquiring knowledge through daily experience and put it to use without ever receiving a penny. And yet the society we live in would dismiss her rich contribution to it.

Our assumptions about intelligence, work and social class affect the way we treat even our fellow workers. Consider the example of a nurse in my father’s hospital who assists with surgeries. Various surgeons, including my father work with him, and through many years of experience and observation, the nurse has gained sufficient knowledge to offer useful suggestions to my father during a surgery, particularly in the middle of a tricky procedure or sticky situation. More often than not, the nurse’s insight has proven significant. But when my father recommended the nurse’s input to a fellow surgeon friend, the latter was not immediately convinced. It took several further surgeries before he acknowledged the nurse’s potential and contribution. Had the nurse completed the academic qualification to perform surgeries himself and offer suggestions, there would not have been any hesitation on the other surgeon’s part to accept my father’s advice. Rose posits that “generalizations about intelligence, work, and social class deeply affect our assumptions about ourselves and each other, guiding the ways we use our minds to learn, build knowledge, solve problems, and make our way through the world” and he is absolutely right.

Rose offers several compelling reasons as to why we need to redress the imbalance in the assumptions we make about intelligence and knowledge acquisition, by outlining how blue-collar workers’ “use of tools requires the studied refinement of stance, grip, balance, and fine-motor skills” while specifying how “carpenters have an eye for length, line, and angle; mechanics troubleshoot by listening, [and] hair stylists are attuned to shape, texture, and motion”. It is high time we added to this list the millions of lifelong homemakers who also tap into their intellect on a daily basis by rearing children and keeping families together.

With all this in mind, you may wonder how we might recalibrate the assumptions we make about intelligence and knowledge acquisition? For that we need to identify why it is calibrated wrong in the first place. Rose argues that “our culture – in Cartesian fashion – separates the body from the mind, so that, for example, we assume that the use of a tool does not involve abstraction. We reinforce this notion by defining intelligence solely on grades in school and numbers on IQ tests”. William Deresiewicz, an award-winning essayist and literary critic, builds on this by describing how “being at an elite college, and going on from an elite college – all involve numerical rankings. You learn to think of yourself in terms of those numbers”, while adding that “one of the great errors of an elite education, then, is that it teaches you to think that measures of intelligence and academic achievement are measures of value in some moral or metaphysical sense. But they’re not”.3 And they are both right.

Even so, Deresiewicz concedes that “the advantages of an elite education are indeed undeniable”. Yet, however incredible these elite institutions are, and however substantial the contribution they make to society, they also own a share of the responsibility for reinforcing divisions of people by class, occupation and intelligence. Deresiewicz hits the nail on the head when he says that “the problem begins when students are encouraged to forget this truth, when academic excellence becomes excellence in some absolute sense, when ‘better at X’ becomes simply ‘better’”. And that is the entrenched reality we need to overcome in order to redress the imbalance perpetuated by the prevailing system. One possible solution is to acknowledge, honor or even compensate those forms of intelligence that are not directly linked to formal education.

Yet attempting to change the way most people think is potentially a fool’s errand. But if we do not make any effort at all to change even slightly the way people make assumptions about intelligence, class and occupation, then life will carry on as it is and we will continue devaluing and degrading the contributions of millions – perhaps even billions – around the world. The onus is on us to make a difference, however small it may be. After all, as the sixth century B.C. Chinese philosopher Laozi pointed out, even “a journey of a thousand [miles] begins with a single step”.4 We already know that there are different ways to acquire knowledge and intelligence. So the journey we need to embark on does not involve uncharted territory. It simply requires a reorientation and retracing of steps to a fairer and more balanced society. Is that too much to ask?

1. https://theamericanscholar.org/blue-collar-brilliance/
2. http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_nat.htm
3. https://theamericanscholar.org/the-disadvantages-of-an-elite-education/
4. https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Laozi#Tao_Te_Ching
  • You should also read this thought-provoking essay on education by Louis Menand - another of the three assigned to us.
  • mcgillianaire: (Union Jack)
    This is what I wrote on Facebook yesterday afternoon:

    "Gutted about the result but congratulations to the Tories for an extraordinary victory. Did not see that coming at all. An absolute bloodbath in political terms for the opposition. A country divided unlike ever before. A broken electoral system. And an impending escalation to the austerity programme. I do hope the vanquished dust themselves off quickly and work together in every way possible to fight for the cause of social democracy. Unfortunately, the voices of liberalism are all but dead in this Parliament and worse still, perhaps for another generation."

    Douglas Alexander, Danny Alexander, Jim Murphy, Charles Kennedy, Vince Cable, Simon Hughes, David Laws, Ed Balls, Nigel Farage, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband. It felt like the political equivalent of that climactic scene in The Godfather when Michael Corleone ordered all those assassinations while attending his nephew's christening. Lynton Crosby, like Clemenza before him, had carried out all the dirty work, leaving Don David Cameron to take all the credit and assume absolute control.

    Five years ago I voted for the Lib Dems and I did the same again on Thursday night. We've gone from our first stint in government since the War to the edge of obscurity. There will be a lot of soul-searching in the years ahead. The legacy of Jo Grimond, Jeremy Thorpe, David Steel, Paddy Ashdown and Charles Kennedy lies in tatters. The rise and fall of Nick Clegg feels like a modern adaptation of an ancient Greek tragic hero. Yet, the optimist in me believes our day will come again. I sincerely hope so, particularly for the cause of British liberalism.
    mcgillianaire: (India Flag)

    An article from The Times on 25 January 1967. Maxwell famously declared: "Such are the alternatives that democracy has produced for the Indian voters in the fourth--and surely last--general election..."

    For three years, the people of Delhi have gone to the polls and on each occasion they have delivered a contrasting verdict. Despite the one-sidedness of today's result, serious doubts remain as to whether the fledgling Aam Aadmi Party (Common Man) can deliver on its populist agenda in the national capital, while building on its comprehensive rout of the centre-ruling Hindu-nationalist BJP, by replacing the eviscerated Congress Party as an effective opposition elsewhere. But there will be time for post-election reality-checks later. For now, let us rejoice in the latest illustration of the Indian electorates' emphatic confidence motion in the wonder that is democracy. Three elections in as many years, yet the latest produced the highest percentage turnout (67%) in the National Capital Territory's legislative history. 67, a fitting number indeed. It all seems a far cry from the doom-and-gloom pronounced by Mr. Maxwell on the eve of the 1967 Indian general election. Jai Hind!
    mcgillianaire: (Union Jack)
    You may remember this entry from about a year ago. I've updated it with today's news of Jeremy Thorpe's passing and added a couple other names that were missing from the original list: Peter Lilley, the Tory MP, and Winnie Ewing, the SNP MP who shot to prominence in the 1967 Hamilton by-election. I've also bumped it to the top of my journal by post-dating it. Hopefully that should make it easier to find and edit.
    mcgillianaire: (Union Jack)
    Why UKIP is a party of extremists

    It's not often one agrees with a Tory, or worse still, freely and publicly admit to it. But on this occasion I've made an exception because Matthew Parris has largely articulated what I think of the Great British public's latest political squeeze:

    "The spirit of Ukippery is paranoid. It distorts and simplifies the world, perceiving a range of different ills and difficulties as all proceeding from two sources: foreigners abroad, and in Britain a ‘metropolitan liberal elite’ (typically thought to be in league with foreigners). None of the problems it identifies (with immigration, with EU bureaucracy, with the cost of the EU, with the ambitions of some Europeanists, with political correctness, with health-and-safety, with human rights legislation etc) are anything less than real; but to the un-extremist mind they need to be tackled ad hoc, one by one, rather than seen as the hydra-headed expression of a single monster.

    Very well, you ask, if immigration/foreigners/Brussels are not the overwhelming cause of the problems of modern Britain, what is? I would reply that there is no overwhelming cause, but many: some insoluble. I’d number among these a general decadence arising from nearly 70 years of peace, security and rising incomes. The uncompetitiveness that renders us easy prey for the manufactories of, not Europe, but China and the developing world; the levels of welfare provision that rob indigenous Britons of hunger to work (not the poor immigrants who then take the work)… but this analysis lays many of our problems at the door of many of the voters attracted to Ukip, and is of less interest to the party.

    It is the single-cause, single-prism, single-root-explanation way of interpreting the world and its sorrows (a way of thinking and seeing that has its attraction to all human beings) that leads to (or is the fount of) extremism: it is one of the reasons religion, with its forces-of-evil focus, has so often led people that way."

    You can read the rest of the article here. To me, UKIP is the acceptable face of xenophobia. And because it's the first such party to shake up mainstream politics, in a way that the far-right could only dream of, it's attracted many of their supporters. Those of us who do not identify with such politics should be worried, because UKIP is led by an ambitious, able and articulate leader, Nigel Farage. To outward appearances, he seems a perfectly reasonable English gentleman. Only some of that is true. He's certainly English and he's probably a gentleman, but he's definitely not reasonable. He may not be preaching to the lowest common denominator, but it's awfully close to it. It's still demagoguery and it appeals to our worst instincts.
    mcgillianaire: (BBC Logo)


    I watched this video for the first time a few days ago and it inspired me to make an entry about the interviewee, Enoch Powell. Little did I know that I'd be posting it here tonight because of the interviewer, Sir David Frost. At the moment I read the news on Sunday morning via a tweet, I felt numb and disoriented. Only a few hours earlier I had watched the latest episode of Al Jazeera's The Frost Interview, with Marc Andreessen, Silicon Valley software pioneer and co-founder of Netscape browser. I hadn't watched the Qatari-based news channel in many weeks, and I wasn't really paying attention to the telly when I switched over to it. Until I thought I heard a familiar voice. As I turned around I realised it was only a voice-over, which made me a tad hesitant that it was really him, but within a few seconds he appeared on screen and removed all doubt. It felt like a reminder to finalise that entry on Enoch Powell. Turns out dad watched the same programme last night as well.

    Sir David was my favourite political interviewer, but unlike most Brits, Americans and Australians, who may have had the pleasure of growing up with him in one form or another, I didn't really get to know him until I moved to Montreal for university in 2002. Until then, I had been fed scraps from his Breakfast with Frost programme that was broadcast on the BBC World channel that we received in Oman. However once I had access to high speed internet and the freedom to do as I please, I was able to watch every episode of Breakfast with Frost, in full, via the BBC website. In those days, a number of Auntie's political TV programmes were available internationally. However, by the summer of 2004, several were made unavailable. But not Breakfast with Frost. Those were the heady days of the Iraq War and Frost's interviews with Bush, Blair and other prominent politicians, made for gripping as well as entertaining viewing from across the pond. I was struck by his warm and charming interviewing manner, in which his guests were lulled into a false sense of security, before he delivered a knock-out punch. He was the smiling assassin. He always seemed so interested in what the interviewee had to say. Whether he meant it or not was irrelevant, because he seemed to be at pains to make the participant feel at ease. And he was obviously so knowledgeable. He struck me as a conversationalist with the gift of listening. He could be cocky and witty too.

    By the time I moved here in the summer of 2007, I had become aware of the Frost/Nixon play, and thanks to YouTube, I was able to play catchup with what I'd missed. Then came the Frost/Nixon film in the autumn of 2008, and a programme in 2010 on BBC Four, presented by him on the history of satire on TV. As a massive fan of political satire and history, it was more than I could've asked for. But it was not until the satire documentary that I realised his original connection with America, nor how big he became there over the years. In more recent months I came across a YouTube account of TV-am clips from the moment of its inception in the 1980s. Until then I had never realised Sir David's role in it, nor how he was almost solely responsible for introducing breakfast television, which we all take for granted today, into these Isles. I also never realised his connection with Australia as a result of that venture. The more I watched of him, the more I grew to like him. In particular I loved his style in front of the camera from programmes such as That Was the Week That Was. I think it's fair to say he was a lot more cocky and direct in those days, and although he may have mellowed in later years, he never lost that knock-out punch technique which floored many an interviewee. His was a stellar career spanning over fifty years, spread over four continents. He was perhaps the best known British journalist outside these Isles until BBC World arrived in the 1990s.

    And then there's the hour-long interview with Enoch Powell from 1969, a year after Powell's explosive speech about immigration. As I watched the interview I was impressed with how well Powell kept his cool, despite Sir David's provocations. I doubt any modern politician or their media minder would allow someone to get away with such style of questioning today, but there was still something charming and witty about it. None of his modern successors are a patch on him. Not Paxo, not Andrew Neil, nor Jon Snow. The nearest equivalent is perhaps Eddie Mair. Frost was certainly one of a kind. A man of many talents, who paved the way and brought new ideas. In his tribute on the radio a couple hours ago, Barry Cryer described him as a practicing catalyst. He was certainly that. And although oft overused, he was certainly a legend too. We may never see the likes of him again and for that, he will be sorely missed. Farewell, good night, and thank you for the memories.
    mcgillianaire: (Union Jack)


    I consider this speech one of the greatest ever and I remember the goosebumps I felt when I heard it for the first time ten-and-a-half years ago. Even after several dozen viewings a decade later, it doesn't fail to induce the same feelings. As the West prepares to attack Syria in the coming days, it's worth reminding ourselves of the arguments against military intervention without international agreement or domestic support. Robin Cook's passing was a great loss to British politics.

    EDIT @ 16.30, AUG 28:
    Does anybody recognise the other politicians, besides Cook and Corbyn, in that still-image of the video? I feel like I should know the names of the chap sitting immediately to Cook's right, and the chap sitting immediately behind him to his left (with hands crossed), but I haven't been able to figure it out in ten years, leaving me with little chance to figure out the others either. The chap on the top left of the screen reminds me of Richard Griffiths.

    Syria

    Aug. 28th, 2013 09:35 pm
    mcgillianaire: (Bedouin in Desert)
    Well done Labour, if indeed they were instrumental in securing two votes in the Commons. The second is the crucial one on military action, but it won't take place until the on-site UN weapons inspectors have reported back their findings. My views on Syria are still fairly fluid given the complex nature of the conflict, however if chemical weapons have been used (regardless of whether it was the government or the rebels), then I think I would support a limited air strike, merely to dissuade either party from engaging in that type of attack again. But only on one mandatory condition, that we had UN (and possibly even Arab League) support, just as we did with Libya. Surely that's the most important lesson to draw from the Iraq War fiasco. I don't think we should (ever) engage ground troops or take sides in this conflict because I think they're as bad as each other. If the rebels were to come to power, I'm fairly confident they would wipe out the Alawite community, to which Bashar Assad belongs. Sad as it is to digest, pre-Arab Spring, Assad, like Saddam Hussein before him, had largely maintained the peace (albeit fragile) between the various communities. Both belong to minorities, just as the Sunni rulers do in Shiite majority Bahrain. I suspect the best solution for Syria, would be to broker a deal between the warring factions, with the support of Russia. The last thing we need is to meddle in another regional conflict that is essentially a Greater Game being contested between Shiite Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia. Yet I suspect between Iran's sabre-rattling over Israel, the Anglo-American Jewish lobbies, Iran's nuclear enrichment, and rising oil prices, my advice will eventually be ignored.
    mcgillianaire: (BBC Logo)
    Here's an excerpt from the speech of a most fascinating politician, that eventually paved the way for the formation of the Social Democratic Party in 1981, and eventually, New Labour in the 1990s. At the time, Jenkins had been out of Parliament for three years and was working in Brussels as Britain's first and only (to date) President of the European Commission. Charles Kennedy later said of the lecture: "Every so often in life, you hear someone articulate your own thoughts - and they do so with an elegance and eloquence which make you wish you had been able to say it yourself. Roy Jenkins's Dimbleby Lecture of 1979 had that effect on me." Even today, this particular passage rings true as much as it did back then:

    "The paradox is that we need more change accompanied by more stability of direction. It is a paradox but not a contradiction. Too often we have superficial and quickly reversed political change without much purpose or underlying effect. This is not the only paradox. We need the innovating stimulus of the free market economy without either the unacceptable brutality of its untrammelled distribution of rewards or its indifference to unemployment. This is by no means an impossible combination. It works well in a number of countries. It means that you accept the broad line of division between the public and the private sectors and don't constantly threaten those in the private sector with nationalisation or expropriation.

    You also make sure that the state knows its place, not only in relation to the economy, but in relation to the citizen. You are in favour of the right of dissent and the liberty of private conduct. You are against unnecessary centralisation and bureaucracy. You want to devolve decision-making wherever you sensibly can. You want parents in the school system, patients in the health service, residents in the neighbourhood, customers in both nationalised and private industry, to have as much say as possible. You want the nation to be self-confident and outward-looking, rather than insular, xenophobic and suspicious. You want the class system to fade without being replaced either by an aggressive and intolerant proletarianism or by the dominance of the brash and selfish values of a "get rich quick" society. You want the nation, without eschewing necessary controversy, to achieve a renewed sense of cohesion and common purpose."

    You can read other extracts of the speech here and here, but I'm not sure if the latter link is a copy of the whole lecture. If anyone knows of a better link or has access to the full speech, I would much appreciate it.
    mcgillianaire: (BBC Logo)
    Every Sunday at 10pm, Carolyn Quinn presents Westminster Hour on BBC Radio 4. For the past five weeks, she has filled a fifteen minute segment before What the Papers Say, with a fascinating profile into the careers of five 20th-century British politicians who "made the weather". The phrase was invented by Winston Churchill in reference to Joseph Chamberlain, the former Colonial Secretary, of whom he wrote, that although he never became Prime Minister, he still managed to play a crucial role in shaping the political agenda of his day. The profiles have been chosen by Vernon Bogdanor*, one of Britain's foremost constitutional experts, as part of a lecture series under this entry's subject title, at London's Gresham College.

    Founded in 1597 under the will of Sir Thomas Gresham, an English merchant and financier who founded the Royal Exchange in 1568, the College plays host to over 140 free public lectures each year. In this six-part series, Bogdanor has profiled the political careers of Aneurin Bevan, Iain Macleod, Roy Jenkins, Enoch Powell, Tony Benn and Sir Keith Joseph. All the lectures at the College have already been delivered, while the last segment on Joseph will air this Sunday on Radio 4.

    Depending on your interest and/or time, you can listen to the condensed segments from Radio 4 here, if not you can watch, listen, download and even read the full-length lectures at Gresham College here. As a keen student of British politics, these lectures have been thoroughly informative and enjoyable. Bogdanor is undoubtedly an engaging and fluent speaker. He has also clearly researched his material thoroughly. Without giving too much away, one of the most fascinating things I learnt was how Tony Benn had started off as a Labour-centrist or even Labour right-winger, actively supporting and voting for Hugh Gaitskell to become leader in the 1950s, before gradually shifting (permanently) to the hard-left only in the 1970s.

    On a more general note, it is indeed incredible the amount of free and easily accessible online multimedia content that we have at our disposal on our politicians. Whether it be a peek into their personal lives on Desert Island Discs, a meeting with their younger self through Archive on 4, their biography by an admirer on Great Lives, a secret memo released via UK Confidential, or a BBC Archive recording, there is an incredible body of material to choose from. And that's just radio content. Add to it these lectures, other Gresham College lectures, other freely available public lectures, BBC documentaries, Channel 4 documentaries and the BBC Parliament channel, and you've got a lifetime's worth of political programming.

    (* Bogdanor's most famous former student at Oxford University is the current PM David Cameron, whom he has described as "one of the ablest" students he has taught, whose political views were "moderate and sensible Conservative".)

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