If we want the Labour Party to be a credible opposition again, Tony Blair must return to frontline politics

This article was published in The Independent on 2 May 2017.

Tony Blair is back.

It’s been a long time coming for the former Prime Minister’s gradual re-emergence into public life; a PR game played softly, softly – a rehabilitation programme for one of Britain’s most divisive figures, to put it delicately.

First there were the small interventions on the subject of Jeremy Corbyn’s catastrophic leadership. Then came the larger contributions on the EU referendum and the vital importance of staying part of the world’s largest international partnership.

Continue reading


Ding-dong, the (Garden) Bridge is dead

This article was published on Reaction on 28 April 2017.

The death knell has tolled for London’s Garden Bridge.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has revoked the mayoral guarantee, stripping the project of the taxpayer funding it needed to survive. Given that private cash for the flora and fauna addition to London’s bridge collection – from Temple to the South Bank – has dried up, the slide beyond the veil seems all but inevitable.

Endorsed by out-of-touch celebrities more enamoured by the prospect of “niceness” than the utility of function, the Garden Bridge felt like an imposition; a superyacht parked in the people’s republic of Camden Lock, or a boutique French brasserie pillaging the bustle of Brick Lane.

One some ethereal spiritual level, the Garden Bridge was never our London. An unseemly cosmetic beautification of a relentlessly rough-and-tumble city, it didn’t make sense.

Continue reading

Immigration is the obvious answer to Japan’s economic woes

This article was published on CapX on 6 April 2017.

In recent years, Japan has become a world-leading innovator in some unusual fields.

Care homes have partnered with chefs to explore puréed and soft foods for elderly people who can no longer swallow with ease.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has funnelled billions of yen into developing robots that could pick people up and carry them to bed, massage someone’s head and wash their hair, and even administer medication.

For the country that led the way in television design, mobile phones, and music technology, these are perhaps off-the-wall interests. But rather than representing a dynamic shift in Japan’s ultra-modern economy, all this investment and innovation is a sign that the country is on the front line of a battle that many developed economies will soon be drawn into.

Continue reading

Britain’s departure boards should tell us less about train operating companies, and more about service speed

This article was published on CityMetric on 15 March 2017.

From the train station near where I grew up, trains go in one of two directions. In a dichotomy that tells you an awful lot about everything going wrong in the UK, departures from Didcot Parkway, in Oxfordshire, pretty much go towards London or away from London.

On platforms 1 and 3 you can go to thrilling places like Oxford, Bristol, Newport, Cardiff, and (pardon me, I’m getting overexcited) Swansea. On any other platform – but mostly platform 2 – you go to London Paddington. All this is courtesy of Great Western Railway (formerly First Great Western). GWR, as it’s colloquially known, is infamous for its punitive policies that make it harder to take bikes on trains – a policy so egregiously awful it was once debated in Parliament.

Continue reading

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.”

Continue reading

On the Summer Solstice, it’s not just neo-pagans like me who should be reconnecting with the natural world

This article was published in the Independent on 22 June 2016.

It was only when I was stuck in a traffic jam on the A303 in Wiltshire in mid-June that I really started musing on the nature of pre- and post-Christian Britain, and the pagan past that still has a huge bearing on our lives today.

Niche, I know, but bear with me.

Motorists slow down en masse over the Salisbury Plain’s central hump, gawping as they crawl along the single carriageway. Hence, traffic jam. Mercifully, there’s neither an accident nor any emergency services – just the 93 stones that make up Stonehenge, Britain’s finest neolithic structure, and a gathering place for quirky subsection of modern society: the neopagans.

Continue reading

The NUS is made up of careerists playing at being students

This article was first published on The Spectator’s Coffee House blog on 24 May 2016.

Bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, and wary of not lobbing their mortarboards too vigorously, students graduating in the coming weeks are set for a tough time – there’s a housing crisis, a difficult economic climate, and the average starting salary for graduates hovers perilously on the £20,000 mark.

Comforting, then, that the National Union of Students has our back. Fighting valiantly against the so-called ‘marketisation’ of higher education, they offer dogmatic principles we can rely upon: namely, that university education must be free to receive; that all elected governments are secretly conniving against the people; and that all those on large salaries are somehow inherently evil.

All very honourable and right-on, but these are metrics worth measuring the NUS by, too.

Continue reading

10 things I hate about Cambridge – ‘Apathy’ and the opposing hacking classes

This article was published in The Tab on 27 May 2016.

I’ll be honest with you — I like a drink just as much as the next guy.

Perhaps even more so, especially if you put me in a context where your glass fills up when you’re not even looking and before you know it you’re trying very hard not to throw up on the train home.

Like most students, I understand the intense emotional and spiritual value of the pub, and I busy myself with the tough work of keeping such establishments afloat as often as is realistically feasible.

That being said, it’s a dangerous business, and the average student pub-pilgrim is attacked on both sides. If your drink of choice is beer, you get lovingly but unnecessarily patronised by the greying patriarchs of the right-wing press, penning irrelevant and dismissive pieces about the latest ‘hysteria’ of student politics on campus with a blokeish nod and a wink. “Most students are too busy chugging beers to give more than a sideways glance to the authoritarian censorious shriekers who would stop us indulging in a little light (read: misogynistic) banter”, runs this line, with a bit of variation here and there.

Continue reading

10 things I hate about Cambridge: exams – they’re the last great unequaliser

This article was published in The Tab on 19 May 2016.

Readers, h8erz, friends, romans, countrymen, my mother — this is the beginning of the end.

Today I sit the first of my final examinations as a student at Cambridge University.

If everything goes to plan (‘if’ here being one of those big capitalised garishly-flashing neon ‘if’s), I’ll be finishing my time as a Cambridge student in exactly a week’s time. Over the course of twelve hours, split up into four three-hour long stints, my entire worth as a student will be assessed.

Continue reading

10 things I hate about Cambridge: Supervisors – what do you want from me?

This article was published in The Tab on 10 May 2016.

To anyone who knows me, it may come as a surprise that there was once a time when I actually worked hard.

Like, really hard. And by way of further obfuscation, I want to be absolutely clear that I love every single one of my supervisors past and present, and if any of them want to drop me an email with some tips on, you know, not failing my finals, that’s absolutely fine.

In my younger and more vulnerable years I used to toil dedicatedly for each and every supervision, and each and every essay. This was, quite obviously, before I realised how much of a waste of time they are. I used to toil over it all endlessly, poring through every book in the library, only to have a my work thrown back with no meaningful guidance as to how to make it better, just some blithe scribbles that I’d “completely missed the point”, or similar.

Character-building stuff, admittedly, but not a very useful education technique. See, there are two sides to getting better at a thing. First is knowing in what particular ways you are bad at that thing, and second is knowing how to methodically go about getting better at that thing.

Cambridge supervisors have a habit of telling you neither.

Continue reading