Monthly Archives: November 2013

Boris Johnson’s speech on Wednesday night to the Centre for Policy Studies is receiving attention for his comments on cornflakes. In a robust defence of free market capitalism, the London mayor argued that it is the only way to ensure cornflakes, a metaphor for humans, can “rustle and hustle their way to the top”. As ever, it is a rollicking read, perhaps the best recent defence of Margaret Thatcher’s legacy. As ever, on display is a rare example of honest vibrancy in a politician’s language. And as ever, Mr Johnson shows a tendency to come empirically adrift on a sea of his own loquacity. 

One of the assumptions politicians seem to make about migration is that promises to be tough and that they Share Your Concern will mollify public opinion. However, if anything, they can provoke public antipathy, according to pollsters. This is surely even more the case when policies are not seen to be working.

I worry about a vicious circle: public say they’re angry at immigration –> politicians say they’re doing something –> public gets worked up –> policy doesn’t or cannot work –> public gets even more angry and thinks it is being lied to. (Or something like that. There is probably a point when policy wonks point out the aggregate gains to migration.) 

One of the many popular myths about immigration is that politicians ignore the issue. On the contrary, they cannot talk enough about how they Share Your Concerns. In this morning’s FT, David Cameron Shares His Concern in a 1000 word op-ed. It has been met with the predictable fiery reactions from all sides of the debate. 

In 1975, the student rector of Edinburgh university wrote:

“Scottish socialists cannot support a strategy for independence which postpones the meeting of urgent social and economic needs until the day after independence. But neither can they give unconditional support to maintaining the integrity of the United Kingdom – and all that that entails – without any guarantee of radical social change”. 

Britons are having less but more varied sex, according to the third installment of a large-scale national survey published today by the Lancet medical journal.

Compared with results from the first and second surveys, which were based on interviews conducted in 1990-91 and 1999-2001 respectively, the likelihood of respondents saying they had sex in the past four weeks (a tried-and-tested research question) decreased significantly. In part, this reflects changes in demographics over the period, for example more single person households. 

The Scottish National party today launched its white paper for an independent Scotland. It takes the form of a 670 page collection of FAQs, which on the face of it is more suggestive of a complicated electrical appliance than a manifesto for a new nation. Nevertheless, this is a historic and important moment in the history of Scotland. 

George Osborne has told the Today programme that he has asked the Financial Conduct Authority to use its powers to cap “the overall cost of credit” for payday loans, once the new regulator takes over responsibility for the industry in April.  

Toronto may have a crack-smoking, citizen-baiting mayor whose chubby recalcitrance has caught the world’s attention but it remains the best city to be young. That at least is the finding of a new report from Youthful Cities, a (cough) Toronto-based organisation which has ranked 25 of the world’s big cities by their supposed youth-friendliness.  

The news of three women held captive in south London for 30 years is a horrific reminder of the existence of modern slavery. That one woman reportedly spent her whole life as a slave suggests a trauma hitherto imaginable only via fiction. And that she was a UK citizen – the other two women were Irish and Malaysian – is a sign that the common perception of human trafficking as only an immigration issue needs updating. Modern slavery is a crime that can take place exclusively in one country. 

Those who say that nothing good happens after 2 a.m. have never been on a London night bus. During the day buses are ploughs, dragging their way through congested fields. But after midnight they can be louche locomotives.

On board there are the familiar smells of take-aways and broken dreams. But at least on the N38, my chosen wagon, there is also evidence of the great bustling mess of this wonderful city. Couples, whether together for hours or years, huddle together. Occasionally, a story can be heard amid a cacophony of foreign languages. Someone will always thinks it is a good idea to start singing. Of course, at times the night bus can resemble a travelling circus of all that the tabloids say is wrong with modern Britain. But more often I find it a chance to see London afresh, as a woozy dreamscape. Unlike many on board the N38, the city looks good at 3 a.m.