Jeremy Corbyn’s problem is that he’s more Blairite than Blair

This article was published in The Independent on 29 July 2016.

In Corbyn-land, Blair is a byword for Satan. “Blairite vermin” is the term of choice for all dissenters, and the aim at all time is to be everything Blair’s Labour was not. Politically, of course, the Corbyn Project and Blair’s New Labour are at almost polar opposites. In their style and approach, though, Corbyn and Blair have more in common than either might like to admit.

Blair’s “den” has become a part of the furniture in British political history. The “call me Tony” attitude with which he supposedly opened his first cabinet meeting is undoubtedly part of what won him three consecutive general elections, but was also a huge failing. Cabinet meetings were treated almost as afterthought consultations, the twice-weekly tradition of PMQs was honed down to a less rigorous once-weekly stint, and gatherings of a very few key figures on the sofas in Number 10 – Blair, Brown, Mandelson, and Campbell, say – were the cornerstones of day-to-day governmental practice.

Corbyn has followed much the same exclusionary template. As Richard Murphy, a former Corbyn advisor and keystone of the Corbyn project said, “Shadow ministers appeared to have been left with no direction as to what to do. It was shambolic.”

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Rio vs London: Olympic transport legacies compared

This article was published on CityMetric on 29 July 2016.

The run-up to this year’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro has hardly been without controversy. From the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff to the rapid spread of the fearful Zika virus, events in Brazil have provided a worrying backdrop to the games, which start next week.

It’s tempting for Londoners to look back at the games four years ago as a golden age, when we got to show off our modern metropolis, not to mention our cultural superiority, in that stunning open ceremony.

But we should try looking at the games in a different light. By looking at the benefits they bring to host cities, in terms of long-term investment in infrastructure and public transport, we can ask ourselves a trickier question. How good were London’s games, really? Might Rio outperform us?

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Housing costs are strangling the economy – but not in the places you think

This article was published on CityMetric on 27 July 2016

Living in a city can be an expensive business. In London, the average rent is now over half the average income; in Hong Kong, it’s almost two-thirds. Even cities in more developing countries like Brazil, or, say, France, incur huge costs, with average rents swallowing around a third of average incomes.

Basic economics suggests this will inevitably have an impact on the broader economy. The more money you spend on rent, after all, the less you have available to spend on new clothes, going on holiday, buying birthday presents, or, you know, eating.

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Why is Southern Rail cancelling so many trains?

This article was published on CityMetric on 20 July 2016

Readers, don’t say we don’t toil for you. To even vaguely investigate the mess at Southern Rail is to willingly jump down an Alice-in-Wonderland rabbit hole of claim, counter-claim, and enough smears to alarm Zac Goldsmith.

Commuters in south London, Sussex and other points broadly south of London have been suffering from unexplained cancellations and timetable changes for months now. The reasons why are complicated, anger-making and – just occasionally – dull.

But, we are nothing if not dedicated to the cause of transport nerdery. So, here we go:

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Six reasons a heatwave can screw up your evening commute

This article was published on CityMetric on 19 July 2016

Did you already have sweat patches 15cm in diameter by 9 this morning? Have you pledged allegiance to Satan, if only he’ll let you enter hell after your death, rather than introducing it to the Northern line as an art installation? Does the thought of getting on the bus home this afternoon leave you screaming like the goat in Taylor Swift’s “I Knew You Were Trouble”?

If so, you may be a long-suffering commuter currently enduring what we in the UK call “a heatwave”, or what our friends in Australia call “Tuesday”.

Sure, it’s hot. But why should a little bit of heat so often lead to transport chaos? Why do trains get cancelled because of the heat, when they have air conditioning installed on them?

Here are just a few reasons why everything goes up in a puff of smoke at the first hint of sun.

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Londoner’s Diary: Stories

Since March 2016, I have done shift work as a freelancer for the London Evening Standard‘s Londoner’s Diary. Below is a selection of my work for the diary.

Friday 22 July 2016

The Londoner is cooing over the new pictures of Prince George released today for his third birthday. One caught our eye, of His Royal Highness in a blue-and-white striped jumper adorned with a small blue whale. An apt choice, considering the boy Prince will inherit all the sturgeons and whales within a three-mile radius of the shores of the British Isles. Did Will and Kate do it on porpoise?

Now for the greatest love-in of all | Friday 22 July 2016

To the Dominion Theatre last night for a performance of The Bodyguard — in the stage adaptation of the 1992 film, singer Beverley Knight takes up Whitney Houston’s baton as diva Rachel Marron. Actress Naomie Harris was in the audience. The soundtrack to the film is the biggest selling of all time, so it’s no wonder that co-star Kevin Costner, the bodyguard in question, recently said a sequel would be “really good.” Could Harris deliver in the Houston role? A few singing lessons can go a long way…

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To make water transport work, London should look to Hong Kong

This article was published on CityMetric on 13 July 2016

If you’re a Londoner, you could be forgiven for dismissing ferries as the stuff of rip-off tourist trips and one-time novelty outfits.

Despite various attempts by TfL and the Mayor’s office to make them seem like a credible option for commuters, London’s ferries are, at best, a bit embarrassing. They run vaguely and half-heartedly between Putney, Westminster, the City, and Docklands. A journey can set you back £7.20 if you’re in possession of an Oyster card, and £8.20 if you’re not.

They’re not exactly practical, either. A journey from, say, Embankment Pier to Canary Wharf for a morning commute – ignoring for a moment the fact that nobody actually lives at, on, or near Embankment Pier – takes 29 minutes via the RB1 route (River Bus 1, for those lacking in Holmesian deductive abilities). It’s a 21-minute ride via the slightly speedier RB6. The journey by tube takes 15 minutes.

It’s a pretty bleak picture: expensive, sluggish, and generically corporate without the blissful accompaniment of smooth efficiency. The last time a real-life human was heard uttering the words “My morning commute is so quick and easy I just hop on the RB3 and I’m at the office in a jiffy” was approximately never.

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