Online petitions: vital organ of democratic activism, or the lazy twitch of a population that thinks clicking a link amounts to political engagement? Radio Wales invited me and Harry Phibbs of Conservative Home to thrash it all out on Thursday morning.
Do you remember when it wasn’t going to be like this? Technology was the left’s great hope. It was going to enable rapid, low-cost organising and people power. There would be revolutions because of it. Through it, huge volumes of information could finally be gathered into analysable silos for better decision-making. Governments could no longer rely on secrecy to maintain their power: a new era of transparency was upon us, and Wikileaks would lead us there. News would be open. Paywalls were the enemy. Everything was going to get better.
Clay Shirky’s Here Comes Everybody in 2008 was a cheery welcome for the wisdom of crowds. Yes, expertise was going to suffer – now anyone could be a journalist, journalists could no longer claim any special status or privileges – but this was just something to be accepted. And in any case, the same year saw Flat Earth News by Nick Davies, which suggested that journalists hadn’t been doing so much to deserve their esteemed social position anyway.
On Monday morning, I was on BBC Radio Wales to talk about the Labour Party leadership contest and the travails of the party in general. In brief: Corbyn will win, the party is sexist, and can we all stop pretending that being “opposed to austerity” is a meaningful thing please.
You know this story because you’ve seen it on Facebook. Maybe you’re one of the 20,000-some people to have shared it. Or if it missed your wall, you saw it today in the Metro or the Times or the Welsh local press. It’s an irresistible one, seen through the eyes of a man on the replacement rail service between Newport and Cwmbran, though he doesn’t participate – he’s not the hero here, just the storyteller.
There’s a woman in a niqab, talking to her son in a non-English language. On the seat in front of them: a white man, who turns around and tells the woman that she’s in the UK and should be speaking English. On the seat in front of the white man, an elderly white woman who now says to him: “She’s in Wales. And she’s speaking Welsh.” How delicious. And how unlikely, if you care about things like that.
I could understand why my bank manager was looking at me like that. It did sound a bit stupid. “You’re about to start a job, and that means you need to extend your overdraft?” he said, dubiously. After years of scratching around as a student, I was finally about to draw a wage – but first, I needed to get myself just a bit deeper in debt. Continue reading
Can we say that Louise Mensch has had a facelift? It’s pretty heavily implied in this Guardian interview, but as Mensch doesn’t directly admit to it – and interviewer Decca Aitkenhead doesn’t phrase the suspicions as a statement – I suppose there’s just enough uncertainty between the lack-of-lines to stop us from saying, definitively, that Louise Mensch has had a facelift.
We live in glorious times for democracy, my sisters: after many years of struggle and toil, finally we have the vote. At long, long last, our politicians are forced to listen to female voices – and act in female interests, if they wish to maintain power. Well, the Equal Franchise Act is actually 83 years old, so it’s not exactly new news, but it looks like someone only just got around to telling our coalition government, given the internal document that has been leaked, detailing how the Conservative Party (incorporating the Liberal Democrats, like a failing magazine swallowed up by a rival) plans to appeal to that psephologically baffling novelty, the Woman. Continue reading