Last year I spent a month in Argentina. As a Briton, I was a bit anxious about going into a country where tensions over The Falkland Islands are running high, particularly after seeing warnings about protests on the Foreign Office website. read more »
“One shouldn’t be happy about the death of anyone, but this woman [Margaret Thatcher] did a lot of harm to us… Therefore I imagine she should be burning in the greatest hell”
These weren’t the words of an ex-miner or Irish republican, but of Carlos Alberto López, an Argentine army corporal seriously injured during the Falklands war. Since 1979 when she came into office, few leaders have had as much of a global impact as Margaret Thatcher. She is remembered in America for her relationship with Reagan; in ex-Soviet countries for her help in the fall of communism; in Western European countries for her rocky relationship with the European Community; in South Africa for opposing sanctions on the apartheid regime; and in Chile for supporting Pinochet. The reason your average Argentinean will know about the greengrocerer’s daughter from Grantham is the Falklands conflict. It is safe to say la Dama de Hierro is not remembered too fondly: as columnist Federico Pinedo in La Nación put it “No-one can love her less than us.” read more »
Venezuelan presidential elections will take place on April 14, the first in almost 20 years not to feature Hugo Chávez. Such is what the Economist calls Latin Americans’ “necrophiliac streak”, the next leader will be seen in the context of Chávez, just as Chávez can usefully be seen in the context of those before him. Venezuela’s political past is one of recurrent themes, and there is little to suggest these themes will disappear.
Hugo Chávez was one of the most polarising leaders of modern times, both nationally and internationally. He was a man of apparent contradictions: a democratically elected caudillo and a militaristic, patriotic socialist. The truth about who Chávez was and what he did lies in the grey area.
Nick Cohen wrote an astute piece in the Observer on the weekend about the vacuousness of Boris Johnson’s politics. He points out Boris’ lack of ideological coherence and tendency to say different things to different people. He gave two specific examples from before he became Mayor of London. read more »
In the world of music, it is not just at the beginning of the year that we are given predictions about who is the Next Best Thing or One to Watch. However, the intensity of this forecasting increases around this time. One such predication that has been done by the BBC since 2003 is Sound Of 20__. Each year, a group of pundits release a list of who they think are the best and most exciting acts that are new to the public. The hottest prospect is made the winner. Given that 50 Cent, Adele, Ellie Goulding and Jessie J have all been winners, it is a fairly reliable indicator of success. read more »
The UKIP annual conference is today and tomorrow, and what a time to be a UKIP supporter. Their support has more than doubled since the General Election, and euroscepticism has gone mainstream, even in parliament, with 81 Tory MPs (and a sizeable number from Labour) rebelling to support a referendum last year. Next year in the European elections UKIP look likely to vie with Labour to finish first: in 2009, they finished in second behind the Tories. However, after that, it will almost certainly get tougher for UKIP. read more »
So Nick Clegg has said sorry for raising tuition fees, or, more accurately, said sorry for promising not to raise tuition fees. And presumably for promising before the general election not to break promises as well. This time, Clegg promises not to make stupid promises. Just last year, Clegg said he had nothing to apologise for. You wonder why politicians can confuse people. read more »
The third biggest party in the latest YouGov poll is not the Lib Dems, or UKIP. It is a party which capitalises on voter anger and disinterest, attracting the portion of the electorate who know nothing about politics and do not want to know. It is, of course, the Don’t Know/Would Not Vote Party. We can expect their share of the vote to be bigger at the ballot box come 7 May 2015 – voter turnout at general elections has not got close to 70% since 1997.
We are in an age of unconscious apathy. George Orwell said “All issues are political issues” but contemporary society didn’t hear him. The first question to do with politics asked today is not “what do you think?” but “are you actually interested in that stuff?”. Politics is not part of someone’s identity, but a quaint and slightly bizarre hobby for nerds and intellectuals (and if you’re reading this then yes, dear reader, you’re probably one of them); something similar to chess or bird-watching. read more »
As I got up this morning, it was like a summer-long dream had ended. The Olympics and Paralympic Games are over, and Britain has been changed, I hope permanently. I was one of the thousands of Games Makers, and I have been used to hearing the ‘once in a lifetime’ clichés over the last few weeks. It is a redundant phrase: no two experiences are exactly the same. Nevertheless, this summer has been special and instructive for me, for London, and for Great Britain.
The theory behind Nudge, like the best theories, is based on simple truths and common sense. The decisions people make are not always based on logic, but on bias, temptation, inertia and social influence. Essentially, human frailties mean we don’t always make the best decisions for ourselves, especially when the decisions are tough and complex, when some of the implications are far in the future, when we don’t make them often or when we don’t get clear feedback. Unfortunately these particular circumstances often arise when we have to make big decisions: how (and whether) to save for a pension, for example. In such cases, Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein argue, we should be given a ‘nudge’: something which gently guides us towards the recommended course of action without forcing. read more »