In this edition we have a birthday chimp, a couple of Russells, and a lot of Boyle.
Another unscheduled gap in blogging and a fair bit to catch up on. Although we are (to my surprise) well in to July, here is a catch for June. This is the latest in my series of Random Thoughts posts with links, things found on the web and other stuff that has occurred to me between 19 June and the end of the month.
Simon Titley was on fine form in this post about Clegg’s leadership on the Liberator blog. I agree with more of this than makes me comfortable.
More great stuff from Russell Brand on the artificiality of the media. Some weird striking images in here. Brand, Ed Davey, and Melanie Phillips in a lift together. Davey, again, and Tessa Jowell as labradors. But I bring it to your attention mainly because Brand is right on Boris Johnson:
“Boris Johnson is the most dangerous politician in Britain, precisely because of his charm. The members of the Conservative party that are rallying to install him as leader are those to the right of David Cameron. If you thought the fringe on his head was lunatic, you should see the lunatic fringe that want him as leader.”
Just because the government’s plans for House of Lords reform have collapsed doesn’t mean that this is going to go away as an issue. Particularly as the House of Lords is ballooning in size. Plans are afoot to allow for resignations and retirement – but here Meg Russell from UCL’s Constitution Unit says that this needs to go further and argues for a policy of “one in, one out” (making me think of the Lords as a rather odd nightclub):
“Most agree that the House of Lords is too big, so some mechanism to reduce its size is needed. But this will be ultimately pointless unless something is done to reduce the inward flow as well. There is no point creating vacancies just in order that the Prime Minister can fill them up again. Hence there is also need for agreement on a size cap, and a sustainable formula for future appointments.”
David Boyle has become my must read blogger over the last few months. Always interesting, often challenging, and sometimes inspiring. Here he is arguing for an “asset-based approach to local economics”. Again, I agree with this. Also agreed with his advice on dealing with unfriendly economists;
“Hit them with a logical fork. Where this asset based approach is tried, it works. Economists will then either have to pretend it doesn’t work – and make themselves irrelevant – or incorporate it into their world view. Either way, we win.”
Another post from David Boyle that I largely agree with. I don’t quite know how we seemed to have got stuck with that horrible word “austerity”. I am not in favour of austerity. I am, like David, in favour of “thrift”. I’ve often argued that thrift is an essential component of any liberal approach to government – and one from Gladstone onwards with a noble tradition in liberal history.
And here he is on how the internet could help to create and revitalise local institutions and how the rhetoric of virtualisation is getting in the way.
It was my birthday last month. I discovered that I roughly share it with Koko – a chimpanzee at Whipsnade Zoo – who is only a couple of years younger than me. I’ll leave you to make your own comparisons.
If Scotland did vote for independence it will raise lots of “existential questions” for a range of institutions and organisations. So the implications for an organisation as symbolic as the British Museum acts as a kind of “canary down the mineshaft”. As its director Neil MacGregor says here:
“”The British Museum is the first cultural evidence of the union. It was part of the response to the events of 1745 – the first British thing created after that threat to the union – and it sent out a big statement. It was marrying Scottish Enlightenment ideas to the London’s global contact, and it was a real expression of what that new country [Britain] was.”
However, if there are any particularly rabid Scots Nats with dreams of taking barrowfulls of loot northwards as the institution breaks up, I reflect that given that the Museum refuses to return the Greeks their Marbles they are likely to be disappointed.
The Open Culture blog pointed me to this excellent BBC radio documentary looking at the media appearances of the philosopher Bertrand Russell.
Some wonderful archive footage of the great man and some good interviews. Including the always good value Marcus du Sautoy. Although I am not sure that Prof. Brian Cox argument that Russell was great because he understood physics added all that much. Was a little moved hearing Russell’s son Conrad, who will be familiar to many Liberal Democrats, describe growing up with his father in his distinctive voice.
I’m afraid this is a bad review. I was rather irritated by this post from Andrew Toye on the SLF blog. If you are going to attack neo-liberal dogma, it is helpful to understand that dogma in the first place. This post is full of misunderstandings. The premise of the article – that it is wrong for neo-liberals to put such faith in an institution, the market, because it is not actually an institution – is fundamentally flawed.
It reminds me that my real problem with extreme free market ideology is that it believes the opposite – that the market is some kind of inevitable law of nature – and not that it does have institutional elements being a product of human society. As to the conclusion of the article – which seems to be that our economic problems can be solved if we all just develop some moral backbone – is, well, not very practical.
I agree with the author that liberals should not be afraid to intervene in the market when necessary – but we need better justifications than this.
Rawnsley is definitive on that Tory right “alternative Queen’s Speech” and the unresolved strategic dilemma facing Cameron and his leadership of the Conservative party.
How do you achieve political change in an era where political parties no longer seem relevant or capable and grassroots campaign groups are limited by their single issue nature? Neal Lawson argues the answer lies in the catchy sounding concept of “open tribalism”;
“So the challenge to the parties is to democratise internally and practise pluralism externally. The challenge to the movements is to shift beyond single issues and join forces…”
Lastly, Mark Pack has updated his infographic giving details of key achievements that the Liberal Democrats have made as part of the coalition government.
This content was originally posted on my old Strange Thoughts blog.