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Will there be a queue for Basketcase Britain?








The LBC presenter didn’t know what to say.

The caller from Germany explained, ‘Germany thinks you’re a basket case’.  While not totally convincing about his sources, he then articulated an argument to do with how Britain’s perception of its own brilliance wound people up. Exceptionalism in the wrong place.

The next caller simply started, “I agree with the previous caller”.

The New York Times has written a series of articles about how Britain is in decline. We can of course debate on the details but Britain is experiencing a worse energy crisis than the rest of Europe, a 37 year low of the pound against the dollar, and gross levels of inequality.

The Queen’s death was a hit for those who believe in the Monarchy and those who don’t alike.. Some ardent republicans found themselves soul-searching how they had quite liked the Queen but were ambivalent to the Monarchy as an institution.

Indeed, many thousands of people are queiung on the South Bank in London  to see a box which may or may not contain the late Queen. The coffin is a symbol of a sense of national pride of times gone by. For me when the Queen died it was months after my mother had died. It felt like an end of an era, and the death of somebody whose values and character I found inspiring.

It may be that people waiting to pay their respects, either by legitimately queuing like David Beckham or queue-jumping, are truly emotionally invested whatever their means of showing it. People waiting for twelve hours or more in a queue may simply be there for ‘fear of missing out’, but likewise are there in a once-in-a-lifetime experience of something rather quite extraordinary.

An aside. People like David Beckham make me proud to feel British. An East End boy with extraordinary talent, who didn’t misuse his celebrity to get a VIP pass to see the coffin. Andy Burnham missed a trick here.

England decided in 2016 to propel itself into a period of society uncertainty and self-doubt through the EU referendum. The fact that the pound is tanking and that Sterling has increasingly become an unattractive currency to lend is symptomatic of the ‘shock’ liberal economics of Truss and Kwarteng.

There has been no realistic  hope of reversing a collapse in productivity lasting for several decades through tax cuts for the wealthy. “Trickle down economics” is well and truly a busted flush. There is, however, one possibility based on actual economics. Increasing GDP through decreasing our trade deficit is not a bad plan, and joining the single market could be a practical way of incentivising productivity.

Criticising the New York Times is literally shooting the messenger.

A focus on the Oxford comma looks a bit like outright denial, or at the very least being a tad ‘out of touch’.

The current Conservative Government is trying to justify the removal of the caps in bankers’ bonuses by saying it is restoring the competitiveness of the UK. It is not. It is simply lining the coffers of those who are in a position to donate the Tories.

It is a Brexit benefit only in as much as leaving the European Union has facilitated bankers bonuses and international tax evasion. This particular lurch into England being a ‘Singapore-on-Thames’ is simply going to incentivise riskier banking behaviour, thus precipitating another disastrous global financial crash.

Rather than contribute to a mountain of marmalade sandwiches on the floor, it would be better to donate to food banks. Britain has no reason to be proud that it has more food banks than branches of McDonalds. It is no longer possible to hide or spin these facts. Twelve years of Conservative Government has led to Britain being a divided basket case. Sewage being pumped into the sea, and privatised utilities up the spout. Ambulance waiting times dangerously long, and the police being grossly under-resourced to solve any crime.

And yet the cheerleaders of culture wars and identity wars bugger on regardless. Even criticising a mega racist being invited into a safe place could lead to that person being ‘cancelled’ – and OUTRAGE. The only people who have benefited from this perpetual gaslighting are those with books and TV to sell. They are improving their brand, paying off the mortgage. They are the true anti-patriots, who couldn’t care less if the UK has trouble applying for the G-200 in future.

With there being no functional democracy in the UK, so long as proportional representation is kept off the agenda, Britain looks like lurching from one fiasco to the next. Tory landowners get a boost from selling off Tory land to frackers. Frackers, notorious for inducing tremors and earthquake-prone land and producing an energy supply which is totally non-sustainable in real terms, do not of course care.

Brexit meant we came out of the Treaty of Dublin. You know, the one where we had reciprocal arrangements to deal with those people crossing the English Channel by dinghy from France. One audience member to a Tory leadership hustings suggested “returning these boats back to Kenya” – but in the real world, the Tories are drawing ever closer to full withdrawal from the European Court of Human Rights, so they can dispose of meddlesome red tape on human rights, and get flights done (to Rwanda).

The left wing want this country to succeed. There’s nothing left to sell. There’s nothing left to de-regulate. But they are intensely patriotic too, but not the extent they need to shag flags.

It probably wouldn’t be a good idea for the Tories to hold another referendum on the Monarchy in 2025, despite this being a known issue. But then again the Tory Party are as united on the Monarchy as they are on capital punishment.

There is, however, a lot to do. Things really can’t get much worse.


The broad church of legal #tweeps in the UK

In many ways, #Twitter is a joy, because it is potentially very democratising, allowing anyone to have a dominant presence on it, whether he or she be a GDL student, a member of the House of Lords, or a University Professor. However, it can be so easy to equate the number of followers on Twitter with quality. Legal tweeps in the UK don’t approach the heights of this notorious international tweep

Or maybe

Or maybe

Or maybe

It would in fact be dead easy to give the appearance of a large number of followers by a lack of blocking of spambots.

The starting point must be that the community of #legaltweeps in the UK constitutes a broach church. There are reliable #legaltweeps who are often ‘first’ with the breaking legal news, and who can offer a quick informed, detailed, well-evidenced commentary.

Unfortunately, some #legaltweeps, perhaps through having a high follower number, demonstrate personality traits akin to ‘narcissistic leaders’. The anthropologist Michael Maccoby in the Harvard Business Review offered this observation:

“Such love of the limelight often stems from what Freud called a narcissistic personality. Narcissists are good for companies in extraordinary times, those that need people with the passion and daring to take them in new directions. But narcissists can also lead companies into disaster by refusing to listen to the advice and warnings of their managers. It’s not always true, as Andy Grove famously put it, that only the paranoid survive. Most business advice is focused on the more analytic personality that Freud labeled obsessive. But recommendations about creating teamwork and being more receptive to subordinates will not resonate with narcissists. They didn’t get where they are by listening to others, so why should they listen to anyone when they’re at the top of their game?”

Interestingly Maccoby offers advice for such individuals, which presumably include narcissistic #legaltweeps:

“Narcissists who want to overcome the limits of their personalities must work as hard at that as they do at business success. One solution is to find a trusted sidekick, who can point out the operational requirements of the narcissistic leader’s often overly grandiose vision and keep him rooted in reality. Another is to take a leap of faith and go into psychoanalysis, which can give these leaders the tools to overcome their sometimes fatal character flaws.” 

So, there you have it, it would be sensible for such tweeps to have a reliable ‘sidekick’. How might you spot such behaviour in the first place? Here’s part of the timeline of @iamsuperbreally:

Keeping such tweets in view of the public in timeline is a trick well known to marketers. Retweeting praise for you is a phenomenon known as ‘shilling‘ in marketing, for example:

Celebrity endorsements‘ are one way of promoting your product, and if you can display a demand for what you’re writing about, in the form of a complimentary tweet, that’s all well-and-good.  It is clear to me and some of my friends I’ve spoken to at #tweetups that some #legaltweeps fancy themselves as a ‘gatekeeper’ for budding other tweeps, in a sort of ‘I can make or break their career’ way.

For encouraging ‘leadership following’, the ‘cultural web‘ has long provided that the judicious use of prizes can be used to harness a semblance of peer respect and recognition, and popularity, for example:

In this example, @iamsuperbreally apparently has made it onto an exclusive list of well-recognised #legaltweeps, and it appears that @iamsuperbreally doesn’t mind showing off in public that he or she even knows the judge (@creep4) socially!

Some #legaltweeps are genuinely expert, however, so here is @iamsuperbreally offering a comment on a study published by the Bar Standards Board. Twitter can cater for such a heterogeneity of tweets.

However, such a timeline can easily degenerate into a splurge of self-glorification, akin to this shown by @iamsuperbreally earlier today:

A full analysis of how legal #tweeps interact involves ‘social network’ theory, described briefly in Wikipedia as follows:

social network is a social structure made up of a set of actors (such as individuals or organizations) and the dyadic ties between these actors (such as relationships, connections, or interactions). A social network perspective is employed to model the structure of a social group, how this structure influences other variables, or how structures change over time.[1] 

Particularly interesting is here how certain #tweeps act as ‘lead users’ in the community, and how tweets may ‘diffuse’ across the whole network depending on, for example, popularity of certain individuals within the network and the rate of re-tweeting. Within that network, some tweeps can not only serve to promote the tweets of others (‘promoters’), but can try to dampen as best they can the tweeting activities of others (‘inhibitors’). This may be to protect ‘vested interests’, or to protect a microcosm of tweeting activity, or just purely accidental.

Shibley Rahman Survey results 2010 : the BBC dominate

Thanks to all those who took part in the survey.

The survey is now closed, so don’t vote any more.

Here are the results:


1. One Nation Tory

The fact that this blog came top of out of all the blogs is possibly even a surprise to its editor, @LiamRhodes.

2. Mark Pack

3. Think Politics

4. Shibley Rahman

Obviously, this is a  good showing for the person who ran this competition. Clearly, there was a conflict of interest which Shibley is happy to declare.

5. Tom Harris

6. Claire French

7. Alastair Campbell

8. Kerry McCarthy

9. Sunny Hundal

10. Will Straw

Best commentators

1. Johann Hari, Independent/Huffington Post

2. Polly Toynbee, The Guardian

3. Steve Richards, Independent

4. Nick Cohen, The Guardian/Observer

5. Mehdi Hasan, The New Statesman

6. Jackie Ashley, The Guardian

7. Michael White, The Guardian

8. Daniel Finklestein, The Times

9. Jonathan Freedland, The Guardian

10. Kevin Maguire, The Mirror

Best sketch writers

1. Simon Hoggart, The Guardian

2. Ann Treneman, The Times

3. Simon Carr, The Independent

4. Andrew Gimson, The Telegraph

5. Quentin Letts, Daily Mail

TV columnists and reporters

1. Jon Snow, C4

Jon is held in very high esteem by readers of this blog. This is no way surprising to me.

2. Jeremy Paxman, BBC

3. David Dimbleby, BBC

4. Andrew Marr, BBC

5. Michael Crick. BBC

6. Kirsty Wark, BBC

7. Cathy Newman, C4

8. Michael Portillo, BBC

9. Reeta Cbakrabarti, BBC

10. Krishnan Guru-Murthy, C4

Radio journalists

The dominance of the BBC Radio 4 programme, which is held in extremely high esteem by people of all political ‘faiths’, is clearly obvious in this poll.

1. James Naughtie, BBC Radio 4

2. John Humphrys, BBC Radio 4

3. Edward Stourton, BBC Radio 4

4. Martha Kearney, BBC Radio 4

5. Jonathan Dimbleby, BBC Radio 4

6. Evan Davies, BBC Radio 4

7. John Pienaar, BBC Radio 5 Live

8. Elinor Goodman, BBC Radio 4

9. Mark D’Arcy, BBC Radio 4

10. Nicky Campbell, BBC Radio 5 Live

Have the Chinese lost face over the Morrissey “subspecies” comment?

A guest article by Sonny Leong, Publisher and Chair, Chinese for Labour

In an interview in the Guardian Weekend magazine recently, Morrissey, gormer singer of The Smiths, describes Chinese people as a “subspecies” because of their treatment of animals. The response of the British Chinese community was deafening silence.

Morrissey reignites racism row by calling Chinese a ‘subspecies’. Remark came in context of an attack on China’s animal welfare record, with singer having been criticised on a number of previous occasions for negative race comments The link is here.

Can you imagine the fuss if Morrissey had made such comments about Indians, Africans, or Jews? There would be uproar, marches down Parliament and demonstrations across the land. So where are the Chinese protests or demonstrations? Nowhere. Absolutely zilch! Have we lost our face over this comment?

Why do the Chinese complain so little? Where are the Chinese business and community leaders defending their values and pride? Why is no one from the community standing up to the authorities to insist that this
sort of behaviour is totally unacceptable?

Anna Chen, performer, writer, and broadcaster who blogs as “Madam Miaow” (, and is often the sole British Chinese commentator to protest against not only Morrissey’s
statement, but also the intensifying prejudice emerging in the liberal media, says:

“There’s been a wave of anti-Chinese Yellow Peril fever whipped up coinciding with the rise of China as a superpower, surfacing in sensationalist scapegoating every time there’s a disaster. They’ve attempted to stick us with the Foot and Mouth Disease outbreak in rural England, the Gulf Of Mexico BP oil leak, even climate change when the West has been belching out carbon emissions for 160 years since the industrial
revolution and look set to continue doing so at four times per capita that of the Chinese. She has been criticised by the mainstream media in her fight against racism in the media.

Here is what she says of the BBC’s celebration of Fu Manchu:

““Fu Manchu in Edinburgh” gleefully revived racist stereotypes of the Chinese I’d hoped were long-buried, and could have been subtitled, Racism for Fun. Why present a Yellow Peril figure as if he was a real person complete with lurid wallowing in the very worst racism, dehumanising the Chinese as a race, linking us with filth, and presenting us as Bin Laden-like Western-civilisation-hating subhumans? There was no irony. No attempt to subject these prejudices and stereotypes of a bygone era to any kind of modern interrogation. Instead, they were re-imported, intact, into the present day. I can’t imagine the BBC vilifying any other minority
group like this.”

The author Sax Rohmer had never met a Chinese person and was writing from malice and ignorance — the “experts” on this programme only have one of those excuses.

There’s a woeful absence of Chinese voices in the media, so when the BBC fills the vacuum with degrading Sinophobic depictions such as this one, they do a grave disservice to a significant licence-paying section of the population.

Professor Greg Benton of Cardiff University also commented: Chinese are quite numerous in British society today, but ethnic Chinese are very underrepresented in the BBC and its programmes, which is a disgrace. This was not a very funny programme, and if it was meant to be ironic, the irony didn’t work. If you’re a young Chinese isolated in an overwhelmingly white school and community, as many if not most young Chinese are, you get a lot of mockery along these lines. Why not commission more work on that? First deal with the racist stereotyping – then we can perhaps afford to be ironic about it.

The British Chinese number more than 450,000, the largest such community in Europe, and the third largest ethnic community in the UK. Yet no senior community leader has stood up to condemn such vile vitriol from a has-been musician in search of a headline.

What would it take for the Chinese community to rise up and challenge such racist statements? What would it take to make the Chinese angry enough to take to the streets to protest? Or are we, such a passive community that we will take whatever is thrown at us so that we can live ‘peacefully’ in our host country?

I say to my community and my fellow community leaders – enough is enough – if we do not stand up for ourselves no one will. We have let down our previous generations who had survived in racist environments and we will let down our younger generation and children for not having the principles and courage to stand up to such cowards.

We portray ourselves as hardworking, law-abiding and successful. We hide behind these norms for fear of misunderstanding. Peel the layers and selfishness, cynicism, exploitation oozes from the community pores.
When criticisms are made, accusations of betrayal and disloyalty are thrown at the maker. No wonder, nobody speaks up. If the community does not feel that it has a rightful place in society then that right will be taken away from them by people like Morrissey. It has been suggested that all the Chinese care about is making money. Yes, make your money but remember there are higher values, too. You have your self esteem, principles, culture and, most importantly, pride. No amount of money is worth it if we let our pride and values slip – we will a forgotten community.

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Exciting times for the Alzheimer's Society

Prof Alistair Burns, Professor of Medicine at Manchester University and the UK’s first ‘dementia Tsar’, gave a very inspiring speech to the UK’s Alzheimer Society.

Prof. Burns made it clear that dementia was a top priority for the Coalition govenment. This is confirmed by the fact hat Ruth Sutherland, acting CEO of the Alzheimer’s Society, was rung up on day 1 of the Coalition government for the views of the Alzheimer’s Society regarding dementia care.

Indeed, dementia care has been identified as a clear target for NHS quality initiatives. This marks a sea change in health policy priorities from only a few years ago, and perhaps can be taken to be an indication of a wish to see the merging of clinical and social care financial issues under the term of the Coalition government, and beyond.

Prof Burns made specific reference to the ‘Acute awareness’ document of the NHS Confederation.

In this, the NHS Confederation provide for the following:

Dementia currently affects over a half a million people in England alone; this number is set to rise considerably as more people live longer. Sixty thousand deaths a year are directly attributable to dementia, and the current cost to the NHS is estimated at £1.3 billion a year. This report looks at the key issues for NHS trusts in improving care for patients with dementia, the majority of whom will have been admitted for another condition. It showcases the innovative work that NHS trusts and cross-agency partnerships are undertaking in this area to enhance patient care and describes how significant improvements can be achieved in terms of both the quality and efficiency of patient care.

The UK Alzheimer’s Society is indeed looking forward to keeping dementia as a top clinical priority for the NHS. Jeremy Hughes, from Breakthrough Breast Cancer, has fully embraced the critical importance of giving full support to researchers to improving clinical practice and outcomes, and has indeed been a big success there. He will be becoming the new CEO of the Alzheimer’s Society from November 2010, heralding a very exciting time for the Alzheimer’s Society.

(c) Dr Shibley Rahman 2010

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