Terrific long article about policy-making on Afghanistan in next month’s Prospect, by Matt Cavanagh, who was special adviser to Des Browne, Defence Secretary, 2006-7, and to Gordon Brown 2007-10. It is subscription only, so pay up. It takes the form of a book review of Obama’s Wars, by Bob Woodward, but offers a comparative analysis of policy-making in the US and the UK.
Ask most adults if they think that being able to speak another language is a good thing and they will invariably answer ‘Yes’ and then add, ‘ but I was useless at it at school’. Ask them why it’s a good thing, and they start to flounder. Vague answers about how the economy needs people who speak other languages is the most common response, followed by how useful it is to be able to “get by” on holiday abroad.
It hardly counts, because it is Alex Singleton, but he asks number 436 in my series of Questions to Which the Answer is No.
It is striking how late in the day the right have started to wake up to Ireland’s structural economic problems. Until very recently Ireland was the neoliberal right’s poster child.
Today human beings are constantly denigrated. Prominent philosophers, scientists, social scientists, novelists and aristocrats have gone so far as to call for the mass culling – or even elimination – of humans. Orange-prize winning author Lionel Shriver recently wrote ‘if we [were to] disappear, another form of life will take our place – creatures beautiful, not so self-destructive, or simply weird. That’s cheerful news, really’. Sadly, this notion of the human race as a problem is increasingly mainstream.
James Forsyth has a good article in the forthcoming Spectator on Labour’s low profile. Of course, some of it is to do with the accident of timing of Ed Miliband’s paternity leave, and witticisms such as Daniel Finkelstein’s “When does he start in the new job?” on Newsnight the other night are to be deplored.
Prime Minister’s Questions was an unexciting encounter, which David Cameron won easily over paternity leave cover Harriet Harman. Except for one casual piece of ritual abuse.
Cameron’s recent trip to China, using diplomacy to promote business is hardly new. British Embassies and High Commissions throughout the world have always promoted trade and her diplomats speak with abundant pride in assisting British companies do business in new markets. Their market intelligence, local knowledge of customs and culture is far superior to any private organisations.
What the bonus defenders always fail to mention is what would happen to these revenues if they were not paid out in staff remuneration. The answer is that that they would (or, at least, should) be used to increase a bank’s capital reserves.
There has been much talk of “youth power” in India over recent years. In a country where nearly two-thirds of the population are under 35, many have spoken of the need to revitalise politics with the talents of the young. Certainly the life and loves of young politician Rahul Gandhi – great-grandson of Independent India’s first leader Jawaharlal Nehru and son of Sonia and Rajiv – and other rising stars of the Lok Sabha, the lower house of India’s parliament, have been praised for introducing a new age in Indian politics. This has captivated India’s media class and many of its youth.
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