Archive for ‘Observer’

April 14, 2014

Poverty amid plenty; food banks in property bubbles

What image will social historians use to capture our times? Last week, after frenzied bidding, a drab garage next to a Camberwell industrial estate in what was once a cheap part of south London, sold for £550,000. That might do. No one who sniffs the air can fail to notice that London in the Osborne bubble has a whiff of Weimar Germany – but without the art or indeed the sex.

Yet alongside oligarchs buying the capital’s streets, and the Bank of England and Treasury pumping asset prices, we also have poverty that those of us who remember the recessions of the 1970s and 80s have not seen before.

Carry on reading

March 24, 2014

The climate change deniers have won

The Amazon rainforest is burnt to clear land for agriculture near Novo Progresso

All of which is a long way of saying that the global warming deniers have won. And please, can I have no emails from bed-wetting kidults blubbing that you can’t call us “global warming deniers ” because “denier” makes us sound like “Holocaust deniers”, and that means you are comparing us to Nazis? The evidence for man-made global warming is as final as the evidence of Auschwitz. No other word will do.

Read the whole thing

March 8, 2014

‘Homely’ Boots treats its staff like red revolutionaries

No child dreams of growing up to become a pharmacist. They are never romantic leads or action heroes in films. As far as a search of my bookshelves and the web can tell, they are not the heroes and heroines of novels either. Doctors, detectives and spies are everywhere, while the ignored pharmacist is nowhere to be seen.

To become a chemist is to choose a comfortable existence. At Boots they make around £38,000 on average. This money buys the kind of life the rich and the bohemian have always derided: the semi in suburbia with the spare room for the children; the annual holiday and the car on HP. It can sound dull until hard times fall on you or your society and you learn that ordinary achievements are not to be derided.

Carry on reading

March 7, 2014

No room to breathe

all that is solid dorlingReview of All that is solid
By Danny Dorling

Shelter, like food, is essential for life. Without a home you have no place to lay your head and no place in the world to call your own. Even in rich countries, where they were once secure, homes have become precarious, as if sinkholes were opening under them.

A few figures from Danny Dorling’s brilliantly original study of our national obsession and national malaise explain why. No one can pretend now that we are moving towards a property-owning democracy. For the first time in a century, the share of homes rented privately has risen – up 6% between 2001 and 2011. In London and the south-east – and many cities outside – rents are extortionate.

Carry on reading

February 27, 2014

TV in the Web age: Don’t stop to think for a second

sherlock

The most popular and critically acclaimed drama British television produces lacks drama’s basic component: a coherent plot. Few care. Commissioning editors and the viewing public acclaim Sherlock’s creators Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss. The press loves them so much it covered their last series as if it were breaking news.

To give you an idea of how slapdash and infantile their writing is, consider one episode of the BBC programme, The Empty Hearse.

Carry on reading

February 25, 2014

How to stop the oligarchy’s terrorists: seize their assets

The guards who tortured Sergei Magnitsky at Moscow’s Matrosskaya Tishina prison, and refused to allow doctors to treat the pancreatitis that eventually killed him did not understand that they had fashioned a weapon for democracies to wield against dictatorships.

Carry on reading

February 18, 2014

If you treat homosexuality as a genetic phenomenon, don’t be surprise if your enemies try to “cure it”

Gay-rights Russian embassy

After Sochi, we can dispense with the notion that sportsmen and women are “role models” we should encourage our children to emulate. All the young would receive would-be masterclasses in cowardice and selfishness if they were foolish enough to take lessons from athletes.

At the time of going to press, not one competitor had raised a rainbow flag on the slopes of Sochi or a clenched fist on the medal podium.

Carry on reading

February 14, 2014

A political conspiracy by the coercive arm of the state

MP Andrew Mitchell speaks to the media outside the Town Hall in Sutton Coldfield

The best way to imagine the British establishment is to picture a committee that never meets. There is no chain of command, which might leave incriminating paper trails; no controlling intelligence. Its members do not need to wait for instructions from on high. They know what to do without needing to be told.

Carry on reading

February 3, 2014

Ukip exploits every prejudice known to man – and invents a few new ones besides

Ukip leader Nigel Farage with Eastleigh Ukip candidate Diane JamesThe British centre-left has been tempted to ignore Ukip – the most powerful movement of organised stupidity in recent British history – even to welcome it in a quiet way. Conventional wisdom holds that Labour’s hopes of winning the next election depend on the rightwing vote splitting. Ukip are the splitters, who will let the left come through the middle in marginal seats.

Beyond electoral tactics lies a regard for populists who are anti-establishment. George Galloway may have crawled up the posteriors of half the dictators on the planet, while Alex Salmond may want to place barriers between the English and the Scots where none has existed for 300 years, but at least they are sticking it to the “system”. Likewise, Farage is a card, who hounds the professional politicians – and all those other pampered elitists who rip us off and ruin our lives.

A look at January 2014 shows that you have to forgive and forget a great deal before you can treat Ukip with anything other than hostility.

Carry on reading

January 28, 2014

Tweet a cartoon of Muhammad asking ‘How ya doin’? – And death threats follow.

The real scandal in the Liberal Democrats is not leading the news. Extremists are menacing the career and life of a Liberal Democrat politician and respectable society hardly considers these authentically scandalous threats to be a scandal at all. The scandal, in short, is that there is no scandal.

The reasons for the attacks on Maajid Nawaz are so bland, it makes me yearn to live in a grown-up country where I could shrug them off. But we don’t live in a grown-up country and I had better explain. The BBC asked the executive director of the Quilliam Foundation, an anti-extremist thinktank, on to a discussion show. Two atheist members of the audience wore T-shirts showing Jesus saying: “Hey” and Muhammad saying: “How ya doing?” I beg you to keep the innocuous nature of the cartoon at the front of your mind as we descend into a modern Bedlam.

Carry on reading

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 27,228 other followers