Has British democracy let its people down?

  • 12 June 2017
  • From the section UK
Union flags and England flags flutter in foreground, with Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament in the background Image copyright Getty Images

Parliamentary democracy is one of the British values that English schools are now required, by statute, to promote during lessons - not debate, not discuss, promote.

If some teachers interpret their new role as propagandists for this kingdom's existing system of governance, that would be a shame, because right now our democracy is not serving this country particularly well.

Far from providing the stability and legitimacy it promises, our peculiar democratic system has served to expose and deepen social divides.

It has contrived to leave our country perilously vulnerable at a critical moment in its history.

Rather than seeking to close down critical challenge of our form of democracy, we need a serious and urgent conversation about how we can improve matters.

Read full article Has British democracy let its people down?

Manchester bombing: An attack on innocence

  • 23 May 2017
  • From the section UK
Ariana Grande fans after the show Image copyright Getty Images

It was a deliberate attack on innocence and joy. Children buzzing with energy at the end of an exciting show by their favourite pop star, with music in their ears and smiles on their young faces.

That was the moment someone chose to indulge their own bitterness, their spite and their hate. With explosives and nails and unfathomable cruelty.

Read full article Manchester bombing: An attack on innocence

How should politicians reconnect with voters?

A bus travels along Westminster Bridge past the Houses of Parliament Image copyright Getty Images

Excited about the election? Travelling around Britain and talking to people about politics, the sentiment which emerges as strongly as any is that they feel disconnected from power. Their voice isn't heard. Elections don't change much. Democracy doesn't work for them.

More than anything else, I think it was that which drove the Brexit vote, a feeling among millions that decisions that changed their lives and their communities were being made in a faceless office in Whitehall or, worse, a mirrored-glass building in Brussels.

Read full article How should politicians reconnect with voters?

Ian Brady: How the Moors Murderer came to symbolise pure evil

  • 20 May 2017
  • From the section UK
Ian Brady Image copyright PA
Image caption Ian Brady's notoriety and significance goes beyond the criminal to the political and the cultural

Ian Brady's mug shot has become visual shorthand for psychopathic evil. With his accomplice Myra Hindley, he occupies an especially ignominious place in our national folklore.

Margaret Thatcher described their crimes as "the most hideous and evil in modern times". A BBC News article in 2002 suggested the so-called "Moors Murderers" had set "the benchmark by which other acts of evil are measured".

Read full article Ian Brady: How the Moors Murderer came to symbolise pure evil

Why some fear a shortage of immigrants

  • 23 February 2017
  • From the section UK
Flower pickers Image copyright Getty Images

Britain's anxiety about immigration has long been that there is far too much of it. Concerns about the record number of foreign arrivals were a key factor in the vote for Brexit, and the national debate in Parliament and the press has tended to focus on who has got the best policies to reduce it as quickly as possible.

So one would think statistics suggesting a fall in net migration and a big drop on EU workers coming from the eight so-called accession countries (A8) like Poland would be a cause for rejoicing. Well, not entirely.

Read full article Why some fear a shortage of immigrants

Housing White Paper: Radical or feeble?

  • 7 February 2017
  • From the section UK
New housing Image copyright PA

Over the last three decades, governments of various stripes have promised radical change to solve England's housing crisis and today's White Paper is no exception.

The problem is that so many of the initiatives and ideas sold to the country as ground-breaking prove to be business as usual.

Read full article Housing White Paper: Radical or feeble?

James Ibori: Nigerian ex-governor challenges UK conviction

  • 1 February 2017
  • From the section UK
James Ibori Image copyright Reuters
Image caption James Ibori was released from a UK prison in December after serving four years of a 13-year sentence

A Nigerian politician is appealing against his British conviction for corruption, claiming the Metropolitan Police investigation was itself mired in corruption.

James Ibori was released in December after four years in a British prison, but prosecutors have since admitted they have documents suggesting police officers involved in the case took bribes.

Read full article James Ibori: Nigerian ex-governor challenges UK conviction

Drenched Thailand still waiting for its green revolution

  • 10 January 2017
  • From the section Asia
Tourists use rubber rings to cross a flooded road on Koh Samui, Thailand, 5 January 2017 Image copyright AP
Image caption Tourists use inflatable rings to cross a road on the Thai island of Koh Samui

Mr Supit bows low, palms together, fingers pointing to the wrathful heavens above.

The north-east monsoon should have left the Thai island of Koh Samui more than a month ago, but the start of 2017 there has been greeted by a week of unremitting tropical storms.

Read full article Drenched Thailand still waiting for its green revolution

Boxing Day Family Puzzler 2016

  • 26 December 2016
  • From the section Magazine
Mark Easton game image

It is time once again for that most traditional of festive distractions, my Boxing Day Family Puzzler. Now in its ninth glorious year, this is the quiz where no-one is expected to know any of the answers.

The questions relate to events in the past 12 months and all the solutions are numbers. Contestants must simply use wisdom and judgement to get as close to the right figure as they can.

Read full article Boxing Day Family Puzzler 2016

What did the Brexit vote reveal about the UK?

A union flag flies in front of the Palace of Westminster Image copyright Getty Images

The vote for Brexit was a thunderous rumble of national indignation, an outpouring of frustrated fury that shook the foundations of the British state. We misinterpret its meaning at our peril.

"Brexit means Brexit" does not cut it.

Read full article What did the Brexit vote reveal about the UK?