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Whitehall,_London

In Praise of Civil Service

A secret: politicians don’t know what they’re talking about. I don’t mean that we are all stupid, or lazy (I can sense my father’s arched eye-brows, as I make that claim). But I mean that it is impossible for politicians to know enough. The most successful ones, of course, are brilliant at concealing this: they […]

On the road

On Restoring National Confidence

The Financial Times yesterday suggested that the recent success of Asian economies could be the result of a young population, and as average age rose, growth would fall. Behind this, and a hundred similar theories, is the belief that a nation’s future is determined by statistics. We peer at the world through a cage of bar-charts – on productivity, literacy, […]

rory_broadbandchampions2

Marie Colvin, 1956-2012

Last Summer, the Corinthia hotel in Tripoli was filled with reporters and photographers. They had propped their laptops on tiny marble tables in the lobby. Waiters brought Turkish coffees but the reporters’ eyes flicked only from their screens to their phones, checking for messages about Gaddafi’s whereabouts, a recently discovered palace, prison, or press conference. […]

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on constitutional reform

Britain has faced over the last twenty years a blizzard of constitutional change.  In most countries it would count as a revolution. It is driven by a theory called ‘the separation of powers’. This is an old obsession of political theorists, derived from a French philosopher’s misunderstanding of the British system in 1748. It has […]

22-10-2013 10-47-53

on judicial sentencing

What is the point of a parliamentary debate? It isn’t about changing MPs’ minds or their votes. It wasn’t, even in the mid-nineteenth century. In the 1860s Trollope describes how MPs almost always voted on party lines. But they and he still felt that parliamentary debate mattered, because it set the terms of the public […]

home rule for cumberland

It is easy to see Cumbria as the North-West frontier. Our land seems marked by frontiers. Even Rome, which merged and melted what is now most of the European Union, and the Arab League, had its border here. You could ride from modern Iraq, through Romania and Belgium, on fine roads, using a single language, […]

eu

eurozone crisis

This morning, I saw David Cameron on his way to negotiate the treaty on the bail-out of the Eurozone. He looked surprisingly calm, given the worries of the last fortnight:  Britain has announced its worst economic figures since the Second World War; Egypt’s economy is collapsing; Syria is approaching civil war; Iran has taken another step […]

rory_youngcumbria

the first world war

When I came back to London this week I found, in my cupboard, four jackets, each with a poppy in their lapel. On the day of the Penrith Remembrance service, the international football association banned the English football team from wearing poppies, on the grounds that they were ‘a nationalist symbol’. They are not. They […]

eu

referendum on the eu

Last Monday was the first revolt I have seen in Parliament. It broke almost without warning. Things had seemed calm until then: three and a half years to the election, the conference tranquil, the Prime Minister popular, Gaddafi dead, the Foreign Secretary on his way to the  Commonwealth meeting in Australia. Then the back-bench business […]