Fascists Not Welcome. No Ifs, No Buts, No Fudging, Theresa May Must Cancel Trump’s Visit

To say that he has crossed a line is a truism. He has been criticised by all former First Ladies who are alive. Rosalynn Carter called the policy “disgraceful and a shame to our country”. His 2016 adversary, Hillary Clinton called it “an affront to our values”. In a rare foray in politics and breaking partisan ranks, Laura Bush - citing her border state Texan heritage - has called it immoral and cruel, drawing a comparison with World War II internment camps for U.S. citizens and noncitizens of Japanese descent - which she described as “one of the most shameful episodes in U.S. history”. Michelle Obama retweeted Bush’s message with the line, “Sometimes truth transcends party.”

Legalising Cannabis, A Question of When and How

When do ideas reach the tipping point from which their advance becomes inevitable? One of the criteria must surely be that their cause is taken up by the unexpected. We expect members of the Scottish Nationalists to speak of independence for Scotland; however we might reach a tipping point when it becomes more common in the Labour Party. We expect leftists to cheer on the idea of a republic; however, the Royal Family might think about packing their bags when the abolition of the monarchy becomes a cause beyond the left. Therefore what are we to make of William Hague’s call for the legalisation of marijuana not just for medicinal purposes but for recreational use?

The Week on Planet Trump: Celebrating Singapore Summit with Praise for “Tough Guy” Kim

Voters who supported President Donald Trump in 2016 can be expected to cheer his tough stance on trade policy with Canada. But a closer look at U.S. trade data suggests that Trump supporters in states that sent him to the White House are the last ones who should be rejoicing over the prospect of a trade war with Canada. A CNBC analysis of 2016 voter turnouts and trade flows with Canada shows that states such as Ohio, Texas and Indiana that supported Trump generally enjoy a surplus in goods trade with Canada. By contrast, the biggest goods trade deficits with Canada are in states such as California and Illinois that voted for Clinton. The major exception is Michigan, which runs a large trade deficit in goods with Canada and voted for Trump by a slim margin in 2017.

Tweet Checking: Corbynite Brexit Quislings, and the Role of Our Elected Representatives

You always wonder if things can get any worse, like a perverse bet between your Id and Superego that your Ego has to deal with when they actually do. A Tory MP blocked the anti-upskirting law against the wishes of virtually every other MP, supposedly according to him not because he was a reactionary creep, but some balls about his objection actually regarding “who controls the House of Commons on Fridays”, before he accused the government of acting like Putin. Even if he had a legitimate point about order of business, this is what he chose to make a stand on? I think James Bloodworth put it best: “Imagine choosing this f****** hill to die on”.

The Donald, Kim, and the Art of the Deal

Big on spectacle. Low on substance. That was the broad verdict of all but the most partisan of Trumpists to the Singapore summit between the leaders of North Korea and the United States. Naturally, the president saw things differently. Ever desperate to position himself against his predecessor, he tweeted that Barack Obama had declared North Korea to be the world’s greatest security threat. “There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea. Meeting with Kim Jong Un was an interesting and very positive experience. North Korea has great potential for the future!” he said.

Brexit Britain from Abroad: Weakened May Lives to Fight Another Day

Commentators frequently call political fiascoes “circuses,” but rarely does a political class oblige by providing three rings of entertainment at once. Such is the British government’s attempt to leave the European Union. In the first ring, Prime Minister Theresa May survived a challenge to her government on Tuesday, as the House of Commons batted down amendments to Brexit legislation proposed by Remainers in the House of Lords. But the votes were nail-biters in a way such legislation usually isn’t. This suggests the issues—parliamentary oversight of a final Brexit deal with Brussels, and what trade deal London should work toward—won’t go away.

The many faces of Italy’s M5S: Post-ideology, populism, and the ‘government of change’

Variously described as far-left, left-wing, far-right, fascist, populist, techno-populist, left-populist, anti-establishment, and post-ideological, Movimento Cinque Stelle (M5S, ‘the Five Star Movement’) has been puzzling commentators, and inspiring support from across the political spectrum, for nearly a decade. With a name that refers to five key policies – policies which made the most minimal of appearances in March’s election – the party’s favoured term has always been ‘post-ideological’.

Tweet Checking: Why Is Aaron Bastani Suddenly Not Interested in Opinion Polls?

Yet more leftists this week, but the intro of last week still stands. It really does drain you though. The extreme cliché is that history always repeats itself, and it often does, usually in obscure and uneven ways. Some events exist almost as allegories for others, and vice versa. The songs have been sung somewhere else before, although the lyrics have been altered for the metre, and the melody has been stretched or shrank or somehow twisted for the comfort of the new singer, the key lowered or raised, the tempo shifted. But in the end, the feel remains and the déjà vu again sets in.

Why Are CEOs Getting Paid Over 300 Times What Their Workers Make?

In America it is far from uncommon for a CEO of a corporation to earn hundreds of times more than their median-salaried workers do. It is understandable for the head of a corporation to bring home a good paycheck. After all, the primary goal of private enterprise is to turn a profit. However, at a time when wages have stagnated for workers, and when a large percentage for some of the most profitable corporations such as Amazon and Walmart must depend on public assistance to make ends meet, the failure to rein in CEO salaries amounts to nothing less than modern feudalism.

The Week on Planet Trump: Diplomacy Freezes with the G7, Thaws with Kim and Putin

President Trump began the week, as is his wont, by having a Twitter fit about the continuing Russia investigation. “As has been stated by numerous legal scholars, I have the absolute right to PARDON myself, but why would I do that when I have done nothing wrong?” Mr. Trump groused. “In the meantime, the never ending Witch Hunt, led by 13 very Angry and Conflicted Democrats (& others) continues into the mid-terms!” Arguably more noteworthy, and more troubling, is the president’s emerging effort to pre-emptively place the blame for what promises to be a tough election cycle for congressional Republicans on what he now regularly denounces as the partisan, “rigged,” “unconstitutional” machinations of Mr. Mueller and his investigative team.

Tweet Checking: Corbyn Single-Handedly Defeats UKIP, and Owen Jones on NeoLiberalism (Again)

I’ve talked before about why I hold the Left to a higher standard, but it still hurts to look at the list below and see nothing but leftists. To my mind, the left has traditionally been on the side of reason - whether it is LGBT rights or the environment. It was the left the used empirical evidence - on both on more - to advance progress. The Left is of, course, not one body. Nor is Twitter anything but a microcosm of the wider debate. There have always been cranks (on both sides) but the difference now is that these guys are in charge; they have the loudest voice. Whereas before truth-deniers lurked on the outskirts of the debate. Now, they are centre stage.

The Week on Planet Trump: Dealmaker-in-Chief Starts World Trade War and U-Turns on North Korea Summit

The U.S. will hold off on applying major new sanctions against North Korea while it tries to put back on track a June meeting between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, The Wall Street Journal reported on Monday. A U.S. official told the Journal that the White House had been set to announce the sanctions as soon as Tuesday but will now delay them indefinitely as negotiations with North Korea continue. American officials are currently in North Korea to meet with their counterparts in the village of Panmunjom in the Demilitarized Zone near the South Korean border.

The Week: Theresa May's Abortion Dilemma, JezFest Flops and Dominic Cummings's Brexit Rant

The fall-out from the overwhelming vote to change Ireland’s abortion laws was inevitable. Theresa May now faces a lose-lose situation as campaigners pressure her into decriminalising abortion in Northern Ireland. When David Steel’s legalised abortion in Great Britain, it did not extend to Northern Ireland due to religious sensitivities on both sides of the religious divide. Now the DUP is opposed to abortion and has made threatening noises about blocking May’s Brexit legislation should she act; meanwhile Sinn Fein now supports reform but opposes Westminster intervening. May would be accused of intervening on a devolved matter against both main parties’s wishes should she support legalisation.

Brexit Britain from Abroad: Struggling UK Exasperates EU

With the political crisis that is shaking Italy or the threat of trade war between the EU and the United States, we almost forget the Brexit negotiations. Yet she is not going very well either. And less than ten months from the day of divorce, the Europeans are alarmed, as the discussion with London has shifted these last weeks to the dialogue of the deaf. British plans for the future relationship with the Union or to avoid the return of a border with the Republic of Ireland, a condition sine qua non of the divorce agreement? "They are fanciful," sent out, with patience, a European official late last week, after three days of discussions with the British, obviously useless.

No, Brexiters, Ireland’s Referendum Was Nothing Like Ours

There were cries of victory on Twitter and beyond as it became clear that Ireland’s referendum on repealing its constitution's 8th amendment on abortion would be won by the Yes side. And by a large margin. Obviously, this riled some. Toby Young tweeted: “Wonder if any Remainers disputing result of #EURef on grounds that referenda aren’t sensible way to settle important, complicated questions because ordinary people lack the education or intelligence to fully grasp them will dispute result of the Irish Referendum on same grounds?” Well, he’s got us banged to right there. Let’s quit our remoaning and join the national mission to throw the country off a cliff face. Sorted.

From a government that ‘didn’t want to govern’ to one that no-one wants to govern: Italy’s crisis and Mattarella’s error

No one can agree on what happened in Italy on Sunday night. To some, a brave President of the Republic faced down the incoherent demands of a shambolic populist government-in-waiting, a government fiscally illiterate and outspokenly xenophobic. To others, an authoritarian head of state blocked a democratically elected coalition; a fascist – backed by international finance and shady foreigners – killed a ‘government of change’ that dared to speak ill of the euro. In our English-speaking context, the frame couldn’t be clearer: Brexiters and Remainers do battle by proxy. But, as one commentator noted, Europe’s attention has moved beyond Brexit.

Joining EFTA, The Least Worst Brexit, is Also About Being a Rule-Maker

The Conservative Party is, as ever, irreparably divided over Europe. As Theresa May struggles through European Union negotiations, her attempts at compromise frustrate backbench Brexiters who demand a “clean” Brexit, even if that risks a hard border in Ireland which the EU will not countenance. This leaves May in an impossible bind with her premiership on a knife-edge. But even if the Tory hardliners manage to replace May, they will keep her lost Commons majority. Labour and pro-Europe Tory MPs, the hated “mutineers”, can stand in their way. On the pivotal issue of Brexit, the Labour Party needs to distinguish itself from a governing party in disarray.

No Justice For Women in India: The Toughest Battle is Changing Old Attitudes

Rape, like all sex crimes, is ultimately a tool of terrorism and power. While rape occurs all over the world, few places suffers from a greater rape crisis than India. In 2016 alone, there was a 12 percent increase in the incidents of rape. It is one of the most pressing women’s rights issues today. Why has rape become so prevalent in India, and what can be done to address this crisis before more innocent women and children lose their lives? Rape is always horrifying, but what makes these acts of violence even more heinous is that they are often perpetrated against children.

The Week on Planet Trump: Standoff with Kim Puts Summit in Limbo

The special counsel hopes to finish by Sept. 1 the investigation into whether President Trump obstructed the Russia inquiry, according to the president’s lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani, who said on Sunday that waiting any longer would risk improperly influencing voters in November’s midterm elections. Mr. Giuliani said that the office of the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, shared its timeline about two weeks ago amid negotiations over whether Mr. Trump will be questioned by investigators, adding that Mr. Mueller’s office said that the date was contingent on Mr. Trump’s sitting for an interview.

Tweet Checking: Be A Good Immigrant, Nadine Dorries MP Tells Yasmin Alibhai-Brown

The top tweet this week was almost the absence of a tweet from any of those on what I like to call the “Luxury Left” (it’s not just the “luxury communism”, it’s the jackets too) commenting on the fraudulent election in Venezuela—once the darling of the hard Left, now the creepy geopolitical uncle they ignore even as hundreds of its people flee every day from a government that these foreigners (pretending to be “monitors”) worked to keep in power and propagandise for them. But instead I found a piece of vicious racism straight from the black heart of the back benches. Enjoy!

The Week: Labour Needs a New Attack Line to Defeat the Tories on the NHS

At PMQs, Jeremy Corbyn devoted his six questions to the NHS in a tribal ding-dong about what he called “privateering”. He was at his strongest when he attacked on solid ground, with figures for waiting lists, the declining number of GPs and so on - and he got in a catchy fact about Virgin Healthcare being paid £1.5m for a rejected bid. He was weak when trying to defend Labour figures who’d advocated private sector outsourcing. Worst was when he cried out, “From the party that opposed the NHS in the first place, that is a bit rich!” It is the kind of line that appeals to tribalists who like to trot out historical grievances. It means nothing to most voters.

Brexit Britain from Abroad: EU’s Scorn is a Blow for May - and Fantasy Brexiters

The British government’s agreement last December to the Irish backstop and the prospect of some form of special status for the North has prompted a change of tune from the DUP with the party now focused on ensuring that the North should end up having whatever arrangements apply to the UK as a whole. If prime minister Theresa May manages to deliver a soft Brexit it seems the DUP will stay on board as long as the deal involves the entire UK and does not imply any special status for the North.

The Madness of A Snap Election and Why the Tories Would Lose

Probably a week has not gone by without some kind of speculation about a snap general election. If Arlene Foster sneezes, front pages lead with stories of an imminent collapse of the government. The real story is that Theresa May’s absence of leadership has made her minority administration remarkably stable. Every time a political observer predicts an early poll, the one thing they do not do is tell us how. It is not just May’s vacuum that is propping up this government but the Fixed-Term Parliament Act. Designed to prevent the Conservatives playing dirty of their then coalition partners, the act means that weak governments can stay in office: MPs can only dissolve Parliament with a two-thirds majority, or bring down a government with a specific vote of no-confidence (ie a vote not linked to any bill or issue).

The Week on Planet Trump: Chaos Reigns Abroad, At Home Yet Another School Shooting

President Donald Trump called for peace in the Middle East on Monday as the U.S. opened its embassy in Jerusalem while Israeli soldiers battled protesting Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, killing more than 50 and wounding more than a thousand others. The images made for jarring split screens beamed worldwide, with U.S. officials, including Trump’s daughter and adviser Ivanka, cheering during the grand, historic ceremony held as smoke filled the air in nearby Gaza. The scenes offered a glimpse of how divisive Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital has been, and they bode poorly for his plans to offer a peace proposal to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Best of times and worst of times: SATS and a tale of two Kittys

As every parent of a state-educated Year 6 child know, last week saw their son or daughter go through the Standard Assessment Tests, or SATs, in English and maths. Their very existence has caused controversy and there is a very vocal group of parents who appear in the press claiming that they cause unnecessary stress and anxiety. In this article, I use the examples of two children to show why I think SATS are flawed but that pulling your children out of them is plain daft. Kitty#1 is from a middle class family, is bright and sociable and enjoys school. She attends a community primary school with a broad curriculum in a high achieving borough.

The Week: The Politics of Having Your Cake and Eating it

Twenty-three months after the Brexit vote and the government does not have a clear position on its customs options. Ten months until Brexit Day. The clock is ticking. Labour’s problem is that it is still fudging its position on the ESM. In Starmer's words, Labour wants a “strong Single Market relationship with the EU that hardwires the benefits into the future agreement.” This essentially meaningless. Retaining the benefits can only be done by staying in the Single Market - which Jeremy Corbyn has rejected, and many Labour MPs who have fears over freedom of movement.

Brexit Britain from Abroad: Brussels Waits as Britain Negotiates With Itself

Such is the government’s shaky hold on the Commons that almost any outcome is possible in Brexit votes there. Having lost her majority in last June’s election, Prime Minister Theresa May depends on the support of the small Democratic Unionist Party from Northern Ireland, whose views she must take into account. In the Commons, her Conservative Party’s 316 members include a minority of about 60 hard-line pro-Brexit lawmakers who want to sever most ties to the EU and who regularly suggest they will vote down the government over any proposal that hugs the bloc too close. The party also includes a smaller knot of strongly pro-EU members who could vote with the opposition to deliver a less abrupt break

Brexit Has Exposed Britain’s ‘Rotten State’. Let’s Fix It

Utopianism should be of no interest to anyone who is serious about politics. The secret lies in the pun. The Tudor neologism - from the ancient Greek - means both “good world” (eu) and “not world” (ou). Thomas More was speaking as much about the impossibilities of invented worlds as their possibilities. There is no such thing as perfection in democratic politics. However, as we look at British politics today, even Brexiters’ must agree that we can do better. A large proportion see the referendum as one called on the basis of Conservative Party divisions, and the result as illegitimate.

The Week on Planet Trump: Conflict in Middle East and Despair in Europe at Iran Deal Withdrawal

President Donald Trump suggested Monday that "angry Democrats" on special counsel Robert Mueller's team could face legal action over alleged "conflicts of interest." "The 13 Angry Democrats in charge of the Russian Witch Hunt are starting to find out that there is a Court System in place that actually protects people from injustice...and just wait 'till the Courts get to see your unrevealed Conflicts of Interest!" Trump said. Trump did not provide proof of the alleged conflicts. Although CNN has reported that several members of Mueller's team have donated to Democrats, Russia's meddling in the 2016 election also has been the subject of several Republican-led congressional inquiries.

I’m Still Confused About Trump’s Tax Returns

2016 was a year of political firsts in the US. We had the first woman securing the primary nomination of a major party. We had the first true anti-candidate in then-Republican nominee Donald Trump. And for the first time in our modern era, we had a president who refused to submit his tax returns to public scrutiny. While this has become a rallying cry for those of us on the left, and remains widely dismissed by the right, it should be a matter of speculation on both sides of the aisle. Where are the president's taxes, and will we ever see them? With tax season just wrapping up, it's an important time to reflect on one of the biggest loose ends that have dogged the Trump administration, and that is continually shrouded in mystery: What is behind the president's tax returns?

Defeated and Besieged, Theresa May Faces a Customs Union Nightmare

Tony Blair and Theresa May have little in common. Where their fortunes converge in their similarity to the rat in Whack-a-Rat of village fete mythology. Both have opponents who like to ‘have a go’. Yet whereas Blair’s nimbly avoids his opponents’ blows, May’s rat just sits and takes the blows. Fourteen defeats in the House of Lords, a Foreign Secretary who calls her policies “crazy”, and a PMQs thrashing from Jeremy Corbyn. It looks bad for the Prime Minister. There is a looming European summit in June before which May needs to impose order so that she can go into talks with an agreed position. The issue that is haunting the Prime Minister is the Customs Union.

Labour Needs a Big Idea To End Britain’s Political ‘Stalemate’

The summer of 2017 is now but a distant memory. With the turn of 2018, Jeremy Corbyn and Labour’s post-election honeymoon came to a halt. The local elections were a test of Corbyn’s leadership. They were not a disaster for Labour, but they were lacklustre. An opposition should perform strongly in midterm elections, especially against such a weakened government. Though Labour enjoyed its best result in London since the 1970s, wild hopes of scalping Conservative strongholds like Wandsworth, Westminster, and Kensington and Chelsea were shot down. With Labour blighted by antisemitism the Tories increased their seats in Barnet, a borough with a prominent Jewish community.

Britain Needs MPs like David Lammy More Than Ever

At a time when democracy is undermined by subversive technology companies, Parliament is engulfed in a bullying scandal and camps of MPs obsessively plot and conspire to realise Britain’s exit from the EU, it has fallen to one MP, more than most to direct media narratives more in favour of those in society who are heard least. This MP is David Lammy, Member for Tottenham since 2000. Tottenham is no ordinary constituency. It is the site of the Broadwater Farm estate which witnessed the riots of 1985, it was the area where 2011’s London riots originated, and a constituency that Lammy says has the highest levels of unemployment in London.

As Westminster’s Ugly Side Reappears, Voters Need Proper Power Between Elections

I may be elliding memories but there seemed a time when politics was dominated by Damian Green and Henry Bolton - now probably both forgotten. One was accused of groping a young Tory activist, and then of viewing pornogrphy on his work computer; the other had ditched his fiance who had been sending racist text messages to a friend. As I listened to the Jeremy Vine Show in this not-so-distant past, I heard callers simultaneously demanding that we hold politicians to a higher standard but also that politicians be treated the same as we are in our workplaces. Thus is the mystery of voters.

The Week on Planet Trump: POTUS Confronts China on Trade and Iran on Nuclear Deal

Congratulated for an apparent breakthrough in relations between South Korea and North Korea, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said, "It's President Trump who should receive the Nobel Prize." The remark follows Friday's historic summit between Moon and North Korea's Kim Jong Un, in which the two leaders agreed to work toward eliminating nuclear weapons and reaching a permanent peace deal on the Korean Peninsula — aspirations that the pair embraced without going into detail about how to achieve them. Moon and Trump spoke by phone Saturday to discuss the recent summit and Kim's pledge of unity and peace.

Tweet Checking: Who thinks that Theresa May is a Marxist?

I made two mistakes in relation to Twitter this last week, and it is well worth talking about both. The first was that I accidentally retweeted an Alt-Rightist who describes himself as “too nationalist for Putin”. It was a graph on traditionalist attitudes to marriage in Europe, and I shared it as what I thought was the tweeter’s interest in a sociological issue—not, as he intended it, as a call to arms for the suppression of women. I could argue that given I was trying to distract myself from having a haircut at the time, it was a simple momentary error—but no. I screwed up, and I’m admitting it now because nobody seemed to notice.

Rudd Out. Javid In. Where Does This Leave Theresa May?

Be careful what you wish for, said John Woodcock about a prospective Rudd resignation. Now she’s gone, and her replacement has been appointed, many can see the consequences of their wishes. The cries of ‘resign’ in the middle of a scandal are both understandable and odd. The Windrush scandal was a great wrong. Someone ought to resign just to acknowledge that a wrong has been perpetrated and to attone. It was clear that Amber Rudd was knocked sideways when it hit the political mainstream. As the news rumbled on - and got worse - she seemed to be slowly getting to grips with it. Now, a new boy will take over. He is learning on the job.

Can We Get Rid of the Sex Stereotyping Behind Gender Reveal Parties?

First, comes love. Then comes marriage. Here come the heterosexual binary parents pushing the baby carriage! That’s not all — don’t forget the gender reveal party! It’s the cherry on top of a traditional family dynamic that fails to represent the myriad of diverse families that exist and deserve representation, especially in a society that claims to be moving closer toward progressivism. A gender reveal can be a simple release of blue balloons for a boy, or maybe a pink heart made of carnation petals for a girl. Some parental protesters traverse the middle route and use a rainbow filling or purple filling in a cake to say “we’re going to see what happens” or “the baby will tell us someday.”

The Week on Planet Trump: Diplomacy Thaws with North Korea but Hardens against Iran

President Trump has not been tweeting like a man with nothing to fear. Over the weekend, he tried to project confidence that his longtime personal lawyer, Michael Cohen — under federal investigation for possible bank fraud, wire fraud and campaign finance violations — will not flip to avoid legal trouble. But in doing so, and skipping a denial of wrongdoing, the president implied two things. One is that Cohen would need to strike a deal with prosecutors to avoid charges or prison time. Trump's tweet did not even entertain the idea that the investigation will turn up nothing because Cohen committed no crimes.

Tweet Checking: Jacob Rees-Mogg Scrooges Himself and the Ghost of Brexit Future

Last week we took on Peter Hitchens over his inability to cite a report accurately. It ended with his flying monkeys on Twitter attacking us, This is exactly why this column exists. Disclaimer’s response took on Hitchens’s disingenuous blog by pointing out where the overwhelming evidence was. However, in the end, my central point was not that Hitchens is—whether he admits it or not—doing the work of an Assad apologist (he is), but that, even if the report in question was completely and utterly erroneous (which it was not), he still wilfully misrepresented it as “inconclusive and puzzling” when it was clearly neither.

An Open Letter to Peter Hitchens

Dear Mr Hitchens, Thank you for reading Disclaimer. We do, however, think you are not as much a fan as most of our readers. Having read your blog, it is quite clear that you have taken our scrutiny to heart. Indeed you tweeted, “This article is a dishonest smear, which tells lies about me and what I have said”. Again and again, we asked you to point out “lies”. You failed to do this on Twitter and you did not do it on your blog. At the heart of your criticism is our headline “Shilling for Assad, Russian Embassy trolls and the Strange World of Peter Hitchens”. Tricolons are a common naming practise. Harris’ article contained five examples where people have played ‘fast and loose’ with the truth on Twitter, not just yours. As editor I chose three of those to form a headline. As I have done before.

Truth and the Tribe in The Age of Entitlement

This is where we are at. In debate after debate, our discourse is no longer debating particular courses of action based on similar facts, we are disputing the facts themselves. It is getting worse. We have to admit we have a problem. On Brexit, ministers and supporters have challenged the basis of government - and independent - predictions. Institutions from the Financial Times to the CBI have been targeted as ‘Remoaners’ for questioning government policy. Former ministers and senior figures within both parties - but mainly the Conservative party - have abandoned reason for policy by gut instinct.

Guernica: A Warning from History for the ‘Fake News’ Era

The radical Basque separatist organisation, ETA (Euskadi Ta Askatasuna, meaning Basque Homeland and Freedom), is planning to disband soon. As a precursor to this momentous step, ETA has issued an apology to the over 800 people it killed, their families and the many others it wounded during its violent campaign for independence from Spain between 1968 and 2010. ETA’s statement cites the 26th April 1937 bombing of the Basque town of Guernica (Gernika, in the Basque language) during the Spanish Civil War as a source of its conflict with the Spanish state. ETA says it was part of “the generations that came up after the bombing of Guernica, (who) were the inheritors of that violence and that lament”.

The Week on Planet Trump: Donald Battles the Big C's - Cohen, Cuts and Conspiracy

President Trump on Monday put the brakes on a preliminary plan to impose additional economic sanctions on Russia, walking back a Sunday announcement by U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley that the Kremlin had swiftly denounced as “international economic raiding.” Preparations to punish Russia anew for its support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government over an alleged chemical weapons attack in Syria caused consternation at the White House. Haley had said on CBS News’s “Face the Nation” that sanctions on Russian companies behind the equipment related to Assad’s alleged chemical weapons attack would be announced Monday by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

Tweet Checking: Shilling for Assad, Russian Embassy Trolls and the Strange World of Peter Hitchens

Last week, I described the Left as aiming to be “on the right side of history”, and although I still broadly hold to that, in reflection, it may in fact be more trouble than it’s worth as a maxim. Just think about all the people below that probably think they can get away with what they’re saying because they believe they’re on the “right side of history”; even if they’re wrong on the facts, historical forces will conspire to deliver them to glory because that’s the way it’s supposed to be. Ends justify the means, free will be damned, and history shorn of praxis is reduced to teleology.

Forget May and Corbyn, the Hope for Politics Lies on the Backbenches

“'If there is hope,' wrote Winston, 'it lies in the proles.'” It is rare to read in George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four hope. Indeed, some have found parallels with his Ministry of Truth and our era of fake news and disinformation. In reality, we are a world away from Orwell’s dystopia. Ok. Half a world. Our politics is not functioning though. Theresa May’s government is weak and rudderless. Jeremy Corbyn’s opposition is divided and incompetent. The Tories are living in Brexit La-La Land; Corbyn’s crew expects that nationalising Southeastern rail services will bring Utopia a few steps closer. In many US States, death row criminals face a choice of execution from lethal injection to hanging. In Britain, we have two: Labour or Conservative. The journey is different, the result the same.

How to Make the Most Important Innovation of the 20th Century Fit For the 21st Century

United Nations does not currently enjoy the best reputation. In fact, it has become an object of dislike across the political spectrum. Only recently Melanie Phillips has called it ‘morally bankrupt’ in her belief that it kowtows to dictators and despots. Founded in 1945 as a way of both preserving and enforcing peace, the United Nations was designed by the future permanent Security Council members – the five policemen of the UK, USA, Russia, France and China - to fix problems where its predecessor the League of Nations failed. It was the league’s inability to check the ambitions of Italy, Germany and Japan that led it to be seen as a byword for impotence in terms of international peacekeeping. The UN is now being characterised in much the same way, seen as toothless, impotent and even irrelevant. However, like the league before it, the UN record is not one of unmitigated failure.

Empire, the Windrush Generation and the Failure of Liberalism

Plenty has changed since the Empire Windrush landed at Tilbury in 1948. The Windrush Generation have transformed Britain: they've lived, worked, and married here; they've paid their taxes; they've woven their rich threads into our shared cultural tapestry. The Windrush Generation didn't just transform the fields of music, gastronomy and culture; some of them had already bled for Britain on the fields of Europe, Africa, and Asia during the World Wars. David Lammy's powerful speech in the Commons stated that 'despite slavery, despite colonisation, 25,000 Caribbeans served in the First World War and Second World War alongside British troops. When my parents and their generation arrived in this country under the Nationality Act of 1948, they arrived here as British citizens.’

Tweet Checking: Left-Wing "Fake News", Conspiracies Only End Up Helping the Right

Anyone who follows me on Twitter knows that I’m sick to death of concentrating on tweets by left-wingers—and yet here I am again, mostly leftists. Why? Maybe it’s because I dohold the Left to a higher standard than the Right, not in spite of being a socialist, but because I am a socialist. We’re the Left! We’re supposed to be on the right side of history, be the forces of progress, the movers of justice, the users of reason and the empirical. We should always hold ourselves to a higher standard—or else history will not. It also goes without saying, that when we have shut down our facilities of self-criticism in the past, very bad stuff has tended to happen.

IIn America - and the UK - Homelessness Is Becoming a Humanitarian Crisis

The homelessness epidemic faced in developed countries has been described as a humanitarian crisis unfolding in our streets. There’s a direct correlation between the rising cost of living in cities and the severity of homelessness. This crisis has reached a point where it’s drawn comparisons to poverty in developing nations, as homelessness jumps to record-breaking levels in the U.S. and further afield. If we look at Los Angeles alone, municipal leaders have revealed that their surveys counted over 55,000 homeless people in the area — a 25 percent increase from last year. California and Washington state homelessness numbers have also been rising, and Hawaii is up by over 30 percent since 2007. Alameda County’s figures increased by 40 percent over 2015, and Seattle and San Diego’s numbers are also much higher.

The Week on Planet Trump: Strikes against Assad in Syria and against DoJ at Home

President Trump echoed his plan Monday to meet with North Korea leader Kim Jong Un in two months or so. “We’ve been in touch with North Korea; we’ll be meeting with them sometime in May or early June," Trump told reporters before a Cabinet meeting Monday. As Trump pressures other countries to cut off economic aid to North Korea until it gives up nuclear weapons, Trump said that "I think there'll be great respect paid by both parties" at the prospective meeting. "Hopefully, we'll be able to make a deal on the de-nuking of North Korea," Trump said. Trump spoke after weekend reports that Kim had pledged to discuss denuclearization, though analysts said it was unclear whether he was referring to just his country or to both North and South Korea.

Common sense on the housing market

More people than ever are devaluing Britain’s most popular, hallmark product — an overpriced home — by accepting discounted offers for their flats and houses. Brits should hold the line. Many will, thank goodness, but the ones who don’t undermine the country and London most of all. We must do our best to prevent market democracy discovering the proper value of our homes. There are already big problems at the top end of the London housing market. Hundreds of luxury homes, often complete with swimming pool, gym, and cinema, are lying empty. Hikes in Stamp Duty, uncertainty over Brexit, and the recent spotlight shone on tax havens and money laundering may be putting off buyers. Oh well. The property slowdown is not a national rout — yet — but prices are “moving South” which means “bad” in the lingo of the City of London and, to be fair, many parts of Northern England.

Syria, Jeremy Corbyn and ‘the Right Side of History’

It is probably one of the silliest phrases used in politics. Whether it be votes at 16, trans rights, foreign policy, it replaces an argument. Usually, it is Corbyn supporters proclaiming their man their man to be on it throughout his career. It is ‘the right side of history’. The righteousness presupposes its victory. If only history worked that way. Unfortunately, there is only what happened and what didn’t happen. Following events in Syria, it will be phrase that is used much in the next few weeks and months. The chemical weapons attack on the Syrian town in Douma was horrific. Some 500 were sent to medical facilities. We have no idea as yet the wider loss of life and injuries. The pictures of those suffering or dead leave a scar on our our consciousness. If they don’t, they should.

Is it too late for Britain to help Hong Kong?

No-one seems able to agree when the British Empire began. It could have been when the Normans invaded Ireland in the 12th Century. Or, perhaps, when Humphrey Gilbert claimed Newfoundland in 1583. Or maybe when Jamestown, the first permanent British settlement outside of the British Isles since Calais, was founded in 1607. However, there is no doubt over when it ended: 30 June 1997, when Britain handed Hong Kong over to Chinese rule. Yet, this was not the end of Britain’s connection to her former colonies, particularly Hong Kong. Since the handover of Hong Kong, there have been consistent concerns about China flouting the rules set by the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration. Lord Patten, the last British governor of the province, warned last year that Britain was selling her honour for Chinese trade deals by ignoring its treatment of Hong Kong

This Week on Planet Trump: Syrian Chemical Attack Causes a Rift with Putin and Warning for ‘Animal Assad’

President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed the possibility of meeting at the White House during a phone call last month, the White House confirmed on Monday. "As the President himself confirmed on March 20, hours after his last call with President Putin, the two had discussed a bilateral meeting in the 'not-too-distant future' at a number of potential venues, including the White House," White House deputy press secretary Raj Shah said in a statement. Shah's comment came after Yuri Ushakov, an aide to Putin, said Trump "offered to hold the first meeting in Washington, in the White House."

The US Department of Health is Making LGBT People Invisible

The website for the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is supposed to be a resource for people from all walks of life, regardless of their gender, race or sexual orientation. Until recently this was the case, but it appears that the current administration is trying it’s very best to make anyone who identifies as anything other than heterosexual invisible. The most recent attack comes in the form of removing a page from the women’s HHS website — specifically, the lesbian and bisexual resources page. The lesbian and bisexual resources page vanished from the women’s HHS website sometime between September and October of 2017, though the disappearance has just gone public. The page, when live, had information that specifically related to female LGBT individuals, offering answers about the kinds of health risks that lesbian and bisexual individuals face.

This Week on Planet Trump: President Acts Tough on Russia and Guns, but Plays to his Base on Immigration

President Donald Trump on Monday ordered the expulsion of 60 Russian diplomats the US identified as intelligence agents and the closure of the Russian consulate in Seattle, the most forceful action Trump has taken against Russia to date. Of those being expelled, 48 of the alleged intelligence agents work at the Russian embassy in Washington and 12 are posted at the United Nations in New York, senior administration officials said. Trump took the action after the US joined the United Kingdom in accusing Russia of attempting earlier this month to murder a former Russian double agent and his daughter using a nerve agent in the town of Salisbury, England. The action comes just 11 days after the Trump administration leveled the first sanctions against Russia for its interference in the 2016 US presidential election.

Tweet Checking: Cracking Down on (More) Antisemitism Denial and Brexiter Myths

Yep people, yet more Judenhass. It just keeps coming and coming. If it’s not Corbyn attempting to deflect from “accidentally” endorsing a blatantly mural depicting Jewish caricatures (even though he knew exactly which mural it was), it’s Louis Farrakhan quoting Billy Graham to support his conspiracy of Jewish power, barely a couple of weeks after Women’s March coordinators attempted to defend him. Antisemitism fuelled the pan-Germanist ideology that led to both World Wars, fed into Cold War hysteria on both sides of the Iron Curtain, has ended up defining the vengeful politics of the Arab world (which in turn buttresses the worst of Israeli politics), and infests the critique of modern capitalism.

Contrite and Apologetic, Corbyn Must Lead the Charge Against Antisemitism. Or Quit

With the rise of Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour Party has become - in numbers terms - the largest political party in Western Europe, with over 600,000 people signed up as Labour members. It is commendable that thousands of people - outraged by the injustices of Conservative government - have been motivated to engage in Labour politics. But the party’s expansion has proven to be a double-edged sword. It inevitably includes individuals who harbour ugly viewpoints, the most visible being the dark scourge of antisemitism. The Labour Campaign against Antisemitism has described a party in chaos, overrun by complaints of antisemitism by its members. This has unsurprisingly left Labour as the least trusted party amongst Britain’s Jewish community.

The Week on Planet Trump: White House Shakeup Sets President on Hawkish Foreign Policy Path

President Donald Trump’s White House lawyer, Ty Cobb, said the president isn’t planning to quash special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian election interference, even after another lawyer for the president said the probe should end. Cobb’s comments contradicted the position of Trump’s personal attorney, John Dowd, who said Saturday that Mueller’s investigation should be stopped. Dowd is defending Trump against the probe examining whether the president has obstructed justice and his campaign aided the Kremlin’s interference. Trump has questioned the appointment of Mueller since last May, after the special counsel was established by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein following the president’s firing of former FBI Director James Comey.

Tweet Checking: A Celebration of Hatgate - the Stupidest “Gate” Ever

Having avoided a “Scary Skripal Special” last week, at the suggestion of Justin Greves on Twitter, I’ve ended up doing a “Hatgate special” for this week. Mass social media hysteria has not played out over such a lengthy period of days since… well, the previous week. But there seems to be something about this particular scandalous non-scandal that highlights a deep divide, firstly on the Left, and then across British politics as a whole, between those who are desperate to deal with the substance of issues, and those obsessed with the “imagery” of political discourse to a paranoid level.

Common Sense about Brexit

The UK economy is the world’s sixth largest...at least for now until it’s the size of Wales like so much else I can’t think of. It dangles by a thread. Because of Brexit, we’re sleepwalking towards the grandmother of all crises. Aren’t we? Most of the population looks likely to leave the country on Brexit day when it comes around next year. There will be no one to look after us. The average age of the residual population will shoot up to 87 creating a statistical singularity which will overwhelm the ONS. The emotionally 87 years old who voted for Brexit should be pleased with this. Although they don’t know how to look after themselves after 40 years of EU rule, now is the time all of us learnt how to do without adult social care imported from overseas. Independent living.

Local Elections: Both Main Parties Deserve a Damn Good Thrashing

The long campaign for 3rd May’s local elections has begun. Taking a cue from the exchange at PMQs between Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn, it will be a dull one: the detail of local government is Byzantine, and both parties deal in partial statistics. Do not expect enlightenment in the campaign. Were we honest, we would admit most of this will fly over the heads not only of voters but political observers. While voters see bin collections reduced, or care bills for elderly relatives increased way beyond inflation due to council shortages, they will also have national matters in their heads. The tradition is that the governing party gets a damn good thrashing.

With the Election Charade Over, What Next for Vladimir Putin?

The opposition was eliminated in advance, ballots were stuffed and Vladimir Putin duly “won” the farcical Russian “election”, with a share of the vote slightly above the 70% percent he had modestly decreed for himself beforehand. Now that charade is over, attention turns to what next for Putin. He may have less choice in the matter than he would like. Not for the first time, informed rumours persist that Putin would like to make this his last term in office. Such stories circulated previously in 2007 before Putin handed over the Presidency to his mini-me, Dmitry Medvedev. At that time in Moscow, Putin’s motorcade was seen less often speeding from his suburban mansion to the Kremlin. When he did appear, he seemed disengaged with the wearying day-to-day business of despotism.

The Age of Authoritarianism in America: Are We Losing Our Rights Without Noticing?

As news publications go, The Economist is not exactly what you'd call a supermarket tabloid. The London-based news magazine dates back to 1843. It's up there with the New Yorkers and Mother Joneses of the world as a credible journalistic operation. So when The Economist downgrades the U.S. government from “full democracy” to “flawed democracy,” as they did in January 2018, it is reason to stand up and take notice. It’s an indicator authoritarianism is gaining a foothold. Two recent U.S. court decisions precisely underline that trend. Imagine you’re stationed at a U.S. government facility in third-world territory far from the protection of American authorities, and conditions are reprehensible.

The Week on Planet Trump: White House Chaos as Tillerson Goes, Dems Win and Potus Targets Mueller

Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee have concluded their year-long investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Their key finding: Neither President Donald Trump nor anyone involved in his campaign colluded with Russia. That directly contradicts the US intelligence community’s assessment from January 2017, which clearly states that Russia wanted Trump to win. It also contradicts special counsel Robert Mueller’s indictment of 13 Russians for working to help Trump win by sowing divisions via the internet.

Tweet Checking: Why has the Russian Embassy Become an Expert Troll?

People you have no idea how close this column came to being a “Scary Skripal Special” given the amount of low-grade conspiratorial crap on Twitter over the past week, but even then some other stupidities couldn’t help but break through. We often deal with “fake news” here, but really, the big issue this time is not false information but the callous attitude that many have towards information that is in some way ‘inconvenient’ for them. The people demanding “evidence” are demanding it not because they genuinely need more but because they are, it seems, being awkward on purpose—they seem to not be able to accept that there has been a Russian attack on British soil, or give a modest baseline of support to the position of a government they otherwise despise.

Immoral and Reckless Russia Deserves A Swift and Severe Response

To paraphrase the great football manager Brian Clough; we are not yet sure where the Putin regime sits on the list of suspects for the nerve agent attack on Russian defector Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia – but it is probably in the top one. It is hard to imagine who else might have carried out this sickening crime. Ordinary gangsters cannot realistically acquire or handle nerve agents. Few states have them either. Of those that do, only Russia appears to have a motive for attempting to murder Mr Skripal. It also has a record of being immoral and reckless enough to risk harming British police officers, medical personnel and other innocent bystanders.

This Week on Planet Trump: President Goes High Risk With Trade Aggression and Olive Branch to Kim Jong-un

President Donald Trump on Monday dangled the possibility of lifting the new steel and aluminum tariffs he's imposed if NAFTA is renegotiated to terms more favorable to the US. "We have large trade deficits with Mexico and Canada. NAFTA, which is under renegotiation right now, has been a bad deal for U.S.A. Massive relocation of companies & jobs. Tariffs on Steel and Aluminum will only come off if new & fair NAFTA agreement is signed," Trump tweeted Monday morning. Trump has said he is imposing a 25% tariff on steel imports and a 10% tariff on aluminum imports. White House trade adviser Peter Navarro told CNN Sunday that no country will be excluded from the tariffs.

Tweet Checking: Nigel Farage, Russophobia and Schooling Katie Hopkins on Assad

I apologise for my absence, but when you can no longer breathe properly either lying down or sitting up straight, nor walk down the street without having an overwhelming urge to faint, a little medical respite becomes paramount. Being laid up with your second pneumothorax (a collapsed lung in lay terms) in four months, along with a case of pneumonia in the same lung, that infernal draining tube threaded through your torso like a rogue stitch in a cheap face cloth, you end up lying there in the hospital bed (re-)considering the most important things in life, which a lot of the people below simply don’t seem to have done at any point, ever. Imagine wasting your life acting and thinking like this all the time

A Tory Leader Under Fire But Labour Still Has a Brexit Problem

Supporters and opponents alike may not like to admit it but Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn are politicians with a lot in common. Both were teenage enthusiasts of politics. Both came to leadership late and unexpectedly. Neither can think on their feet terribly well in debate, nor are natural public speakers - in the manner of Blair or Obama - who appeal much beyond their core supporters. Both have paradoxical characteristics of indecision, stubbornness and resilience. Now, both have given speeches laying out their positions as Britain enters the crucial next stage of Brexit. Their speeches were mirror images of one another. Both were pretty poor, but their analyses were strong. Corbyn made the case for European cooperation: it was a speech that would have gone down well before the referendum.

Climate Change Affects Us All, so Why Don’t We Treat It That Way

Between the continual trumpet of “America First,” Britain leaving the EU and the rampant nationalism we see from places all over the world, it’s easy to assume that every man is an island. In reality, that’s far from the case. 2017 was marked with distressing news. The United States — currently led, much to our dismay, by climate-change denying President Trump— left the Paris Agreement. The Larsen C ice shelf also broke off of Antarctica, creating the largest iceberg known to exist. Hurricanes like America had never seen before drenched swaths of the South and the Caribbean islands, while many countries in Africa dealt with severe water shortages. The coral reefs continued to bleach, Australia continued to lose its Great Barrier Reef and arctic animals continued to be forced further south and out of their native ranges.

The Week on PLanet Trump: Enraging Allies, Chaotic White House Starts Global Trade War

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto was preparing to visit the U.S. and meet with President Donald Trump until a phone call last week devolved into a testy exchange over Trump's proposed border wall, two senior administration officials confirmed to ABC News. The plans for Peña Nieto to visit were in an early planning phase, according to both officials, with one saying the call was supposed to lay the groundwork for a formal invitation for a visit during which the two leaders would sign a series of agreements on "broad-based" issues like security and energy. But according to one official, Trump went off script and brought up the wall. Peña Nieto said Mexico would not support the wall, while Trump reiterated his campaign position that it would. Both sides then concluded together that now was not the right time to move forward with a visit, according to the other official.

Brexit Britain from Abroad: Amid Acrimony, May Faces Decision Time

The British prime minister Theresa May did what she had to do in the House of Commons on Wednesday at her weekly questions. “No UK prime minster could ever agree to it,” she told the braying Brexiteers of the green benches. Thankfully nobody was impolite enough to point out that she had already agreed to most of it two months ago. In December, a breakdown in the negotiations between the UK and the EU was avoided when the two sides made a political agreement which EU leaders judged to mark “sufficient progress” in the first phase of the talks. As ever in this process, it was the UK that conceded. That enabled the talks to move to the second or “future relationship” phase, which crucially includes the trade relationship between the UK and the EU, as the UK had been impatiently seeking.

To be Truly Radical, Labour Must Forget About Nationalisation

If nationalisation were a singer, it would be Frank Sinatra. If it were a band, it would be Status Quo. If it were a movie franchise, it would be Jaws. Every time you think it has disappeared, some new revival, comeback or sequel is announced. Each new reincarnation is inferior to the one before. And, if we’re truthful about it, the original was pretty shit in the first place. (Frank Sinatra was a far better actor than singer. Discuss.) Political tribes have a problem. They hark back to their “Greatest Hits” rather than forwards to new solutions. Privatisation is to the Tories what nationalisation is to Labour. The Coalition Government privatised the Royal Mail despite Labour’s modernisation allowing greater commercial freedom being relatively successful.

Has Corbyn Just Made a Second Referendum More Likely?

It is a vignette beloved of political observers. Upon hearing news of the death of the celebrated French statesman, Charles Talleyrand, the Austrian diplomat Klemens von Metternich asked, “What did he mean by that?” Following a rare foray into Brexit politics, one might ask the same of Jeremy Corbyn. The Labour Leader’s Coventry speech was well trailed. Few were surprised by the words he spoke - though some were that he made the case for Remain far more forcefully than he did at any time in 2016. At its heart was a call for a new Customs Union with the EU that would give Britain a voice in future trade deals. What kind of voice he was slightly more hazy about though.

Rebels, Gunslingers, and Italy's Farage: Euroscepticism, and Italian Fascisms Reframed

It is telling that, in the same week, The Daily Express can publish both a gushy review proclaiming Churchill the ‘saviour of the Western world’ and an article lauding the Italian politician, Matteo Salvini, as a ‘FIREBRAND’ and ‘rebel’. This celebration of both the symptom of contemporary fascism’s entry into the Italian mainstream and the supposed vanquisher of this political movement’s ancestor is hardly surprising. One suspects that The Express would express its sympathy for anything right-wing and vaguely Eurosceptic. The paper’s obsession with Europe has led to its hero-worship of this man it calls ‘Italy’s Farage’, Salvini, whose Euroscepticism is largely auxiliary to his cultivation of a rampant racist nationalism.

Corbyn’s Shift is Pure Politics. Brexit Could Be About Two Stark Choices

There is a cliche of fiction and film where the hero intervenes at the last minute to turn events dramatically and decisively in a positive direction. So, as Labour once again considers its position on Brexit, it has been tempting for supporters to see this as a seminal moment in the Brexit debate. This narrative goes that Jeremy Corbyn has been waiting for the right moment to plunge the Remain dagger into the government’s Brexit policy. This may be the case. Or not. The omens do not look good. In the week leading up Jeremy Corbyn's big speech, spokespeople have given off different signals as to policy. More often than not they have hinted that Labour is prepared to negotiate towards remaining in “a customs union”.

The Week on Planet Trump: Pathetic on Guns and Pursued by Mueller, No Wonder He’s Rated Worst President Ever

Donald Trump is America's worst president, says a New York Times opinion piece that's based on a survey of 170 members of the American Political Science Association’s Presidents and Executive Politics section. The survey was conducted by Brandon Rottinghaus, a professor of political science at the University of Houston, and Justin S. Vaughn, an associate professor of political science and director of the Center for Idaho History and Politics at Boise State University. Their op-ed, was posted Monday in the Times, showed Barack Obama faring much better than Trump. Obama shot into the top 10, up from 18th when a previous survey was conducted in 2014.

Brexit Britain from Abroad: Cabinet Agrees on Hard Brexit but Is It Worth It

A bus emblazoned with the alleged economic cost of quitting the bloc began a tour of the country on Wednesday. The crowd-funded bus cites a leaked government estimate of a 5 percent hit to GDP over 15 years to arrive at a figure of 2,000 million pounds ($2.8 billion) a week. “There is so much new information that has come out about the costs of Brexit,” said Virginia Beardshaw, an organizer of the “Is it Worth It?” bus campaign. “We need to present people with the facts and let them make up their own minds.” Buses have a surprisingly central place in the Brexit story. During the 2016 EU membership referendum, “leave” campaigners emblazoned a red bus with the claim that the U.K. pays the bloc 350 million pounds a week, money that could instead be spent on the National Health Service.

On Tuition Fees, Theresa May is Charging into a Doomed Battle

Jeremy Corbyn to the left of her, John McDonnell to the far left of her, boldly rode into the Valley of Death Theresa May. Perhaps not since the famously immortalised Charge of the Light Brigade has a leader gone so willingly into a fight in which the option lose is the most optimistic of scenarios. If we constructed an elaborate analogy where tuition policy was a paper bag and the prime minister were inside that bag fighting to get out, the money would be on the bag to win. So, is the Maybot once again malfunctioning? Yes and no. Observers are still working out what happened at the last general election but everyone agrees that something happened. Whether it was a case that Labour’s pledge led to a full-throttled charge to the polling booths by young voters or was just enough to entice them to listen to the party, something happened.

America, Guns and Living in Fear of Machines We Could Control

Few challenges we face as a society are more confusing than the threat of public shootings. Crime rates in America have been declining for years. We recognize that as a win. We understand causality — for example, we have chosen to recycle and drive greener cars so that we can enjoy a clean living environment. But we still haven't seen enough gun violence to take a stand against this problem. In the aftermath of the horrific recent shooting at Florida school Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, citizens are once again asking — how far does this have to go? How many must die before we actually do something?

The Week on Planet Trump: Trapped by Mueller, POTUS Rants at FBI as Florida Survivors Demand Gun Control

During his presidential campaign, Donald Trump told the “forgotten men and women of our country” that he would champion them. As evidence that he was a different kind of Republican, he promised not to cut Medicare, Medicaid and other programs that benefit poor and middle-class families. On Monday, President Trump proposed a budget that would slash spending on Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, transportation and other essential government services, all while increasing the federal deficit.

Votes at 16: A Bold and Democratic Move or an Irresponsible Idea Without an Argument?

One measure to improve democratic participation is compulsory voting, as in Australia and Belgium, but this is objected to on civil liberties grounds. Lowering the voting age to 16 would not only expand suffrage, but it would be a bold move to encourage the long-term political engagement of new generations. It would require a more rigorous teaching of politics in schools and colleges. This would be academically influential, ingrain a sense of responsibility and might inspire young people - from all backgrounds - to become representatives themselves.

Tweet Checking: Was Jeremy Corbyn a Czech Spy, or Just Incompetent and Naive?

Not writing leaves a writer listless. Supressing the need to write leaves a writer unfulfilled. That does not mean that writing comes easily. Great writing - and I make no claims here - is often achieved by complete accident, but basic competence is always a hard acquired skill. Self-editing can take up to four or five times as long as the writing itself, and even then is no guarantee of avoiding textual errors. Every writer knows it’s going to take time to get better, and even then there’s no further guarantee of any tangible success. My point in talking about the writing process is that a lot of these people simply don’t seem to take the time to think about what they’re tweeting.

Brexit Britain from Abroad: Boris Johnson Challenges Theresa May on Hard Brexit

How far can the United Kingdom deviate from the rules of the European Union (EU) without losing its free access to this market of 500 million inhabitants? While Theresa May fails to answer this crucial question, her foreign minister , Boris Johnson, has added a layer of fog and challenged the prime minister again by delivering a long speech on Tuesday, February 14 in London. Certainly, the former leader of the pro-Brexit campaign considers the divorce with the Twenty-Seven as "a considerable opportunity" and "a manifestation of the national genius" British. But he also admitted that "in terms of European standards for washing machines or hairdryers (...), it might be wise for us to stay aligned".

Reform or Die: Charities Must Embrace Transparency and Democracy to Survive

The Times report that Oxfam aid workers in Haiti had used their positions to pay for sex from locals has stunned and appalled in equal measures. What has been more distressing has been the allegation of a cover up. There will always be rotten apples in any organisation. That is, sadly, not surprising. Is it surprising that senior executives of a major international charity saw fit to pretend, effectively, that none of this happened? Some would say yes. I am not so sure. The latest revelations follow the collapse of Kids Company a few years back after years of mismanagement that trustees did not spot. It also follows recurring stories of impropriety in the charity fundraising world where outsourcing to private companies put charities beyond the Charities Commission.

The Week on Planet Trump: White House Fights Democrats on DACA and DOJ Memo

Vice President Mike Pence heads to Japan and South Korea this week, stepping into what has become an increasingly comfortable role for him, that of President Donald Trump's interpreter in chief. With all eyes on South Korea ahead of the opening of the Winter Olympics on Friday in PyeongChang, Pence will carry an uncompromising message towards Kim Jong Un and will deride any notion of normalizing North Korea's relationships with the outside world when he leads the US delegation at the Olympics. North and South Korea agreed to send a North Korean delegation to the Olympics. Both countries' athletes will march under a unified flag during the opening ceremony on Friday, athletes from the two countries will train together before the Olympics begin, and a joint North and South Korean women's ice hockey team will compete during the games.

I Agree with Vince: On Brexit Will Cable Be Jeremy Corbyn's Sage or Kingmaker?

The Conservative government has left the National Health Service in a humanitarian crisis. Their flagship welfare reforms - Universal Credit and Personal Independence Payments - are in disarray and being reversed in the courts. Homelessness is on the increase, partially due to the lack of a serious housing policy. Theresa May is being held hostage by her party’s hard-right. Boris Johnson openly challenges the prime minister’s authority. To appease the hardliners May has backtracked on forming a post-Brexit customs union with the EU. This threatens damaging trade barriers and puts Northern Ireland’s Good Friday Agreement in jeopardy. Cabinet ministers rebuffed May’s compromise to remain halfway in the European single market. A wide majority of voters disapprove of May’s handling of the EU negotiations.

Tweet Checking: Unearthing the Cheddar Man Conspiracy Theory (and other idiocies)

Well, we’re now on the tenth column in the “Tweet Checking” series, and let me tell you people, it doesn’t get any easier. As Poe wrote: “Misery is manifold. The wretchedness of earth is multiform.” I’ve found that I’ve concentrated on anti-Semitism much more than I intended to, not because I necessarily find it to be the worst problem affecting society, but perhaps because it is so often assumed not to be problem at all in contemporary society, making it actually very easy to get away with and slip under the radar. People are so imbued with the idea that anti-Semitism is only delivered by swastika-engraved jackboots but anti-Semitism, like any form of bigotry, can come in multiple forms, from across the political spectrum.

US Citizens Can Either Be Loyal to Trump or to Democracy and Freedom, Not Both

Every day of Donald Trump’s reign as US President seems to bring a new drama, with the details of his misdeeds being poured over. Public scrutiny and the rule of law are, of course, crucial aspects of a healthy democracy. In this case, though, there is a grave danger of missing the wood for the trees. Clearly, Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s collusion with Russia must continue unhindered to its conclusion. But the legal process is also inadvertently diverting political attention from what is already known about Trump’s actions. The US law enforcement agencies established beyond doubt a year ago that Russia interfered massively in the 2016 Presidential election.

Brexit Britain fromn Abroad: Antisemitism Allegations Stain Brexiters

George Soros is being talked about again. This time not in Hungary, where the Hungarian-American investor has long been made by the ruling Fidesz party to a dominant campaign theme - but in the UK. The conservative British daily The Telegraph on Thursday reported that the billionaire is supporting an anti-Brexit campaign. The initiative "Best for Britain", which is calling for an exit from the Brexit and a new referendum, have therefore received in recent months, a sum of 400,000 pounds (about 450,000 euros) on Soros' foundation "Open Society Foundation". With funding from Soros and many other donors, "Best for Britain" plans to launch a publicity campaign in the coming weeks to mobilise the public against Brexit and convince British parliamentarians against the finalized Brexit treaty to vote. According to Telegraph, Soros recently met the spokesmen for the campaign at his home in London's Chelsea district

Ignoring Syrian Refugees in Lebanon May One Day Come to Haunt Us

Lebanon is now close to breaking point. If people in the UK complain about the supposed impact of just a few incomers on housing, employment and public services such as health and education, imagine the strain created by a sudden influx equating to one-fifth of the total population. In the case of Lebanon, this pressure is being placed on a small country with far weaker and less well-established public institutions than Britain.

I'm Disgusted With the USA Gymnastics Board

For years, the USA Gymnastics Board was aware of allegations of sexual misconduct against Dr. Larry Nassar, a former doctor for USA Gymnastics and professor of sports medicine at Michigan State University. They knew that the mental and emotional lives of young women were at stake. The allegations were so sweeping in scale they had every reason to launch a full investigation on their own.

The Week on Planet Trump: Open War with Justice Department Overshadows State of the Union Address

The day after he fired James Comey as director of the FBI, a furious President Donald Trump called the bureau's acting director, Andrew McCabe, demanding to know why Comey had been allowed to fly on an FBI plane from Los Angeles back to Washington after he was dismissed, according to multiple people familiar with the phone call.

Tweet Checking: Why is the Truth About Antisemitism and Iran So Hard, Mr Corbyn?

Continuing to read Umberto Eco’s Travels in Hyperreality (hey, I’m a slow reader, sue me), I reached the essay “Falsification and Consensus”, which is perhaps the most prescient piece in the book. As a semiotician, Eco is fundamentally interested in what signifies the difference between the “real” and the “fake”, but this has become an increasingly harder task because people have ceased to either care about the difference, or may in fact prefer the fake to the real; falsifications become the only means of discourse, and the only way to react to falsifications becomes “other falsifications, spreading false news about everything, even about the falsifications”, vengeance against the original lies.

Brexit Britain from Abroad: May Besieged at Home and Abroad by Brexit Wars

Bulgaria, which holds the rotating presidency of the EU, warned British Prime Minister Theresa May on Wednesday about any plans to offer different residency schemes to EU nationals after Brexit. Lilyana Pavlova, Bulgarian Minister for the EU Presidency, said she was "worried" about May's statements in an interview with AFP. Mrs. Pavlova, a close friend of Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, hopes that "in the end, support for citizens will be considered more important than popularity". "The European acquis (laws, ed) should be applied during the transition period, it should be followed completely," insisted the minister.

The NHS Needs More Money, but it Also Needs a Community Revolution

In 2017, Britain’s National Health Service was beset by a “humanitarian crisis” that saw Red Cross volunteers stepping in at overcrowded accident and emergency units. At the beginning of 2018, we have witnessed a system not just at breaking point but practically snapping at the seams. Scheduled surgeries have been cancelled en masse due to bed shortages. Hospital corridors have become makeshift wards lined with untreated patients abandoned on trollies and sleeping on floors. Ambulance staff, forced to monitor patients, are unable to attend other emergencies - contributing to numerous preventable deaths. Even cancer treatment is now subject to rationing.

Throw Off the Cowardly Sackcloths! The BBC Must Be Biased Towards Democracy

The creation of the BBC is one of the greatest political achievements of the 20th Century. It ranks up there with the formation in the NHS. BBC Radio 4 is Britain’s great cultural contribution to the world. The esteem in which it is held is seen by the trust of voters. It is not perfect. It can be infuriating. The BBC does get things wrong - just not in the sense that people usually think. On Tuesday, Iain Duncan Smith appeared on BBC Radio 2’s Jeremy Vine Show to discuss the leak of the government’s Brexit impact reports that showed every form of Brexit left the country worse off. Duncan Smith’s whole purpose was to poo poo experts. “What did economists know about economics?” was his thesis. They were wrong before, they will be wrong again, said the sage of Chingford.

When Casting Around for Blame, Theresa May Should Look to Herself

I like to think that should anyone declare that Theresa May were her own worst enemy, Boris Johnson, a handful of Tory backwoodsmen, and 90% of Twitter - echoing Ernest Bevin - would declare: “Not while I’m alive she ain’t.” Maybe even Jeremy Corbyn would join in. Yet there is a good case to be made that the prime minister more sins than is sinned against. After all, this crisis in her leadership began when she called an unnecessary election for which she was woefully unprepared. It is less than two months since she negotiated Britain into Phase Two of Brexit talks, aided by a nervously sympathetic European Union. Despite losing her deputy to a sex scandal, she went into the Christmas period with her authority ebbing back. So what changed?