Merry Christmas Everybody, Weer All Crazee Now

Last week was bad enough, but this is agonising. Either Theresa May is bluffing and wasting two billion pounds we can ill afford to waste, or she isn’t and we’re utterly screwed. Either MPs cave and accept her deal and we’re screwed, or they don’t and she isn’t bluffing and we’re utterly screwed. Or they don’t and she caves† and revokes Article 50 on 29 March 2019‡ and we’re saved, except not, because so much damage will already have been done and half the population who still believe in unicorns will feel they wuz robbed. For at least the next month we’ll feel the impact of preparations for No Deal, and depending what happens in Parliament in the week of 14 January could see full-blown panic after it.

†Quite likely, given her track record of U-turns.
‡Quite unlikely, given how hard she opposed the legal case about revocation and how doggedly she’s pursuing her anti-immigration/anti-immigrant agenda.

Read More · 19 December 2018

Indirect Undemocracy

If we do get a People’s Vote, surely we need to respect the Will of the People as expressed in the 2011 referendum: the UK doesn’t want preferential voting, because numbers are hard and it’s all too complicated. The True British Way would be for a three-way contest between Remain, Deal and No Deal decided by first-past-the-post.

I’m joking, of course. (I’m not.) That would be clearly be undemocratic, unlike the way we elect our MPs. (I’m joking.) The fact that Remain would easily win over a divided Leave vote is neither here nor there. (It’s very much the bitterly ironic point.)

Britain told itself in 2011 that electoral systems don’t matter and that referendums don’t change anything, and look where that’s got us. If we’d gone into the 2015 elections under AV, Ed Miliband would be three years into his first term as prime minister, and we would never even have heard of Brexit.

13 December 2018

I posted a new Brexit thread to Metafilter on Tuesday, just in time to catch the Tories’ latest meltdown. Here it is, along with a few follow-up comments and links.

Read More · 13 December 2018

A Day is a Long Time in Politics


Leavers are still (still!) banging on about Project Fear, but they’ve had their own Project Fear running ever since May triggered Article 50: that it was irrevocable, it’s too late to back out now, and even if somehow we could persuade the EU27 to let us revoke it that would mean losing the rebate, having to join Schengen, and whatever else.

Today we know that they were wrong, and the highest court in Europe says so.

Read More · 10 December 2018

Glimmer of Nope

Extraordinary events in Parliament last night, captured in Ian Dunt’s Twitter thread, meant that today we were able to see the Attorney General’s legal advice on the Brexit withdrawal agreement, confirming that the UK would likely end up trapped in the backstop indefinitely. No wonder the Brexiters were out in force today saying they want the backstop dropped from the deal (not gonna happen, as far as the EU is concerned; it’s purest cake with a dash of unicorn).

Leave “very likely” won the referendum due to illegal overspending, says Oxford professor’s evidence to High Court:

An exhaustive analysis of the [Vote Leave] campaign’s digital strategy concludes it reached “tens of millions of people” in its last crucial days, after its spending limit had been breached—enough to change the outcome.

50 simple chunks of reality to help MPs in these difficult times.

I allowed myself a moment of optimism last night. The brambles are clearing from the path to stopping Brexit altogether. We’ve already lost so much in the lead-up, but we might not lose everything.

5 December 2018

No Movement

I’m a non-EU migrant to the UK, so know how stressful it is to deal with the Home Office even when your case is uncomplicated, but it staggers me to think how much additional stress has been added for migrants by the fee increases since we arrived.

Read More · 30 November 2018


Theresa May has just appeared before the Liaison Committee in Parliament and talked of preparing for No Deal:

May suggested that, if MPs vote down her Brexit deal, she will activate full planning for a no deal Brexit. This came in response to questions from the Labour MP Rachel Reeves, who repeatedly asked May to rule out a no deal Brexit. May would not give that assurance. Instead she said:

“If the House votes down that deal at that point, then there will be some steps that will be necessary. Obviously we have been doing no deal planning as a government ... the timetable is such that actually some people would need to take some practical steps in relation to no deal if the parliament were to vote down the deal on December 11.”

Does this mean martial law, prime minister? Please let it mean martial law, ooooooo, can’t wait. Tanks rollin’ down the ’igh street, it’ll be lovely. Lovely-jubbly martial law, that’s wot I voted for, that’s wot those Brexit buses promised us. 350 million quid a week to spend on our proper British army, none of yer EU army here, just our fine British lads marchin’ down the ’igh street, touslin’ our British nippers’ ’air, ’anding out tins of beans and iodine tablets to purify our drinkin’ water. Delicious.

Read More · 29 November 2018

Rage Against the Nadines

Depressing Brexit developments over the past fortnight have outpaced my attempts to sit down and construct a post about them. First I was going to write about Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab’s ignorance about the volume of trade passing through Dover. Then a week later he was gone, resigning over the withdrawal agreement. The latest float in the mad parade is his concession that Theresa May’s Brexit deal would be “even worse” than staying in the EU. Well, of course. Now all we need is a concession that no deal at all would be “even worse” than staying in the EU. Don’t hold your breath.

Read More · 23 November 2018 · 1 Comment

No Surprises

I was busy with family and work in October, but there’s still time left for a few more of the month’s links.

Read More · 31 October 2018

I was away for a while in August and September, and have had too much going on to be here much. For a while I considered shuttering the site for a bit, but instead I’ve shut down Twitter. I’d become addicted to it, checking for the latest depressing news about Brexit. (None of it’s news any more, really. It’s going to happen, it’s going to happen without a deal, it’s going to be awful, and the names of those who caused it are going to live in infamy.)

Maybe clearing my head of some of that will make room for happier stuff.

27 September 2018

The Whirlyhole

The lost wonders of medieval Britain.

The unfolding catastrophe of Arctic archaeological sites.

Changes in Atlantic circulation could cause global temperatures to surge. Unsurvivable heatwaves could strike the heart of China by 2100. “More carbon has been released into the atmosphere since [1989] than in the entire history of civilization preceding it.” Back to the future.

Read More · 7 August 2018

I can see why a British populist would name himself after First World War soldiers known for going over the top, but not so much the UK’s biggest-selling brand of squash. He’s less concentrated fruit, more concentrated bull. Tommy Bovril.

6 August 2018

Worst-Case Scenario

As the risk of a no-deal Brexit becomes ever greater, the Joint Emergency Service Interoperability Project has been told to prepare for massive civil unrest.

Hey, Brexiters: Spam and other tinned goods are still widely available. It’s still possible to make homemade wholemeal bread and mock apricot tarts out of carrots. You can even dig a hole in your back yard, put a tin roof over it and go and sleep in it, and pretend the traffic noises are Home Guard armoured cars driving past. You can live out your own personal “Very Well, Alone” fantasy without dragging the rest of us into it.

Read More · 20 July 2018

Two by Four

As feared, Trump is making impossible demands of NATO allies as a pretext for pulling out. They don’t stand up to a moment’s scrutiny.

Half of the US’s 3.5% of GDP defense spending must relate to its other spheres of influence, such as the Pacific and the Middle East, including standing bases that can’t just be moved elsewhere at a moment’s notice. So if other NATO countries started spending 4% of GDP on their armed forces, Europe would quickly exceed the US in military capability in the Atlantic.

To pick up on one of the countries already exceeding the 2% target, UK GDP in 2016 was US$2.619 trillion, so raising its defence spending from 2.1% to 4% of GDP would cost almost an extra US$50 billion, or £37.5 billion at current exchange rates. That’s two Brexit buses’ worth a week. Let’s fund our NHS instead.

12 July 2018

Trial Runs

British democracy “may be under threat”.

How little the UK government understands.

Trump is saving Germany’s liberals.

Bible Stories with Jeff Sessions.

“At least during the Internment...”

Trial runs for fascism.

Ferdinand Marcos’s greatest trick.

Lessons from the Norwegian Resistance.

2 July 2018

Marching Against Brexit

A gallery of photos from the People’s Vote March last weekend.

30 June 2018

Some more thoughts from the Mefi thread I started this week.

Read More · 27 June 2018

My post to Metafilter about the People’s Vote March and the latest Brexit developments has spawned a vibrant thread (and was even featured in the Best Of sidebar, quite an honour). Here it is, with some of my subsequent comments in edited form.

Read More · 27 June 2018

The March

I made it down to London in time for the People’s Vote March on Saturday, and was proud to have been there. It may be ignored by the government and mocked by Leavers on social media, but when we’re all scrabbling around for our last tin of beans next year, those of us who were there can at least take some solace from having tried.

I took a ton of photos, and will put up a gallery of them here in the next few days. But first up, here’s a compilation of the short videos I took, as posted to YouTube.

27 June 2018

Au Revoir, Airbus

Look, up in the sky: it’s another home-made #StopBrexit graphic (to go with this one and this one), prompted by this all-too-predictable news.

Read More · 22 June 2018


A breathtaking opinion piece at ConservativeHome advocates “preparing for what’s best called a No Deal deal now—to kick in from next March, rather than the spring of 2020”. They’re getting themselves psychologically prepared (if not actually, y’know, prepared) for something that was supposedly unthinkable a year ago. The comments thread shows the Brexiter strategy of Remainer-blaming in full flight. It’s an intriguing thread, because you can also see in it plenty of Conservative panic.

Some commenters there still cling to the idea that this is all a masterly game of double-bluff: “Those of us who ‘bang on’ about no deal do not necessarily want no deal; we just want a good deal, which can only be obtained if we threaten no deal.”

We’ll end up with no deal because they’re speeding down the motorway playing chicken with an oncoming brick wall labelled 29 March 2019. The EU doesn’t have to cower before such “threats”: it’s resigning itself to our departure and preparing for the worst, which will hurt our neighbours (except, unfortunately, our closest neighbour) far less than it hurts us.

Read More · 21 June 2018

The Camps

Last February I wrote some limericks inspired by my fears for America’s future. I left another in draft at the time, as it seemed premature, and I wasn’t entirely happy with how it scanned. This month’s events have—terribly, infuriatingly—given me the B-rhyme to nail it.

Read More · 20 June 2018 · 2 Comments

Hit the Road

I’m getting up early next Saturday to catch the train down to London for the March for a People’s Vote, with my UK/EU-born son. We need to shout louder than Johnson, Davis, Rees-Mogg, Farage and all the prominent Brexiters. Time is running out.

Read More · 18 June 2018

It Could Be You

This is only one of a decade’s worth of reports about the impact of austerity on disabled people in Britain. Disabled people were an early target of welfare cuts, and have suffered increasing social prejudice as voters have rationalised their support for them.

Read More · 18 June 2018

Use It or Lose It

Prompted by weeks (months, really) of reading about it, and specifically by a tweet by journalist Glyn Moody, I just sent this email to all six of my MEPs using the handy forms at WriteToThem.

Read More · 14 June 2018 · 4 Comments

“It’s Still Normal to Want Controls”

I wish we had politicians to honestly say we need to encourage a hell of a lot more working age immigrants to come to the UK, but it’s still normal to want border controls. It’s the scapegoating of immigrants which is shit.

We aren’t in Schengen; we have and always have had border controls. We need to stop calling immigration restrictions “border controls”. And if we need “a hell of a lot more working age immigrants” then why do we need immigration restrictions?

Read More · 12 June 2018 · 1 Comment

“You Lost, Get Over It”

A Letter to a Leaver

If democracy is about anything, it’s about ensuring that political outcomes are a fair reflection of people’s views. Many elements of the British system of government stray from that ideal: first-past-the-post voting distorts the representativeness of parliament, for example. But if anything ought to reflect the people’s views in a fair and undistorted way, it’s a national referendum about the constitutional future of the country.

Read More · 12 June 2018

Far Above the Clouds

I’ve done pretty well this year with my new year’s resolution of not listening to the Today programme on Radio 4, to avoid raising my blood pressure by hearing John Humphrys and Nick Robinson pander to Brexiters, but made the mistake this morning of switching it on. Sure enough, Iain Duncan Smith was talking about how terrible it is that the EU forced the UK to negotiate in this linear fashion, rather than being able to discuss trade in parallel with everything else, and all I could think about was David Davis’s “row of the summer” over the negotiating timetable which lasted all of a day. At every point, Brexiters want some magical negotiation process where everything goes perfectly for them and their irreconcilable aims are all met, rather than accepting that the reality of the situation is nothing like that.

Read More · 6 June 2018 · 1 Comment

Go Home

The Home Office ruined this woman’s life because her accountant messed up her tax return. The Home Office failed to return this woman’s passport, then detained her for failing to leave the UK. The Home Office destroyed this man’s life for thirteen years for no good reason at all. The Home Office isn’t fit for purpose. “My job is to piss you off.”

In praise of Diane Abbott. A whole new generation of Windrushers. Theresa May alone is responsible for the hostile environment.

1 June 2018

Pie in the Eye in the Sky

One small (not so small) detail of the Brexitshambles is its impact on UK involvement in the €10bn Galileo project, from which the UK is set to be excluded by virtue of becoming a third country. The UK government has said that if the EU doesn’t let us use their satellites then we want our money back—12% of the cost—and will develop a satellite system of our own, so there. (For 12% of the cost of Galileo? They could call it Poundlandsat.)

But this Twitter thread from someone with inside knowledge points out that the UK can’t launch its own sat nav system even if it builds one because it doesn’t have its own spectrum filing. Apart from the implications for UK drivers who have come to rely on sat nav, this means that all the unicorn-flavoured technological “solutions” for the Irish border will come to nought—even more abruptly than they already would have for being ruinously expensive pie in the sky.

28 May 2018

Brexit Bites

Mate, I really don’t care. The issue of Brexit was settled almost two years ago. We have ten years from the point at which we leave the European Union to negotiate a free trade agreement. Your next ten years are irrelevant. I was not prepared to end up with absolutely the most harmful outcome imaginable. If they don’t support and help Theresa May to get a deal, there is the risk of having somebody much, much more aggressive. You’re deluded if you think you’ll be able to blame the debacle just on them. I’m beginning to think I may have voted the wrong way.

Read More · 25 May 2018 · 1 Comment

Hostile Requirement

The departure of Amber Rudd as home secretary has increased the pressure on the government to wind back the hostile environment, although without much hope of success, given that its architect remains prime minister. Less debated is that the hostile environment is essential to the success of Brexit on the government’s current terms, so is unlikely to be touched unless Brexit is abandoned.

Read More · 3 May 2018

Still Happening, Still Rubbish

Brexit will devastate U.K. manufacturers, who plan to offset it through job cuts.

Don’t expect much Leave regret.

What we’re fighting against.

Motivational posters using tweets about Brexit.

Fifty-two new facts about Brexit.

Eleven Brexit promises the government quietly dropped.

The complete failure of the Brexit project.

The BBC and Brexit bias.

Britain suddenly remembers the Commonwealth.

26 April 2018

Push the Button

The Cambridge Analytica whistleblower wanted to create “the NSA’s wet dream”.

Cambridge Analytica is what happens when you privatise military propaganda.

The obscure Canadian tech firm and the Brexit data riddle.

What do we really know about Facebook’s voter button?

How Trump conquered Facebook without Russian ads.

We are missing the point about Facebook.

We already know how to protect ourselves from Facebook.

26 April 2018

When the Windrush Blows

I was busy over the weekend, so didn’t get the chance to repost this here until today: a post I made to Metafilter on Friday on the news story of the week, which for too many people is the story of the last five years.

Read More · 24 April 2018 · 1 Comment

The Only Thing on the Menu

A few links to finish the month on, political and otherwise.

Read More · 31 March 2018


Chris Wylie’s appearance before the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee on Tuesday was explosive; I happened to catch a tweet about it as it was about to start, and ended up sitting through all 2–3 hours of it. The Cambridge Analytica story is way bigger than Brexit alone, but nobody who values UK democracy can trust the EU Referendum result now.

Read More · 31 March 2018 · 1 Comment

The Won't of the People

26 March 2018

At last, a Trump tweet that we can all agree with:

Remember when they were saying, during the campaign, that Donald Trump is giving great speeches and drawing big crowds, but he is spending much less money and not using social media as well as Crooked Hillary’s large and highly sophisticated staff. Well, not saying that anymore!

True. Now that they know better, they’re saying that Donald Trump was giving terrible speeches, drawing crowds smaller than he claimed, spending more money than declared in dubious ways, and covertly using social media to skew the election. You tell ’em, realDonaldTrump.

26 March 2018

How to Break Democracy

Carole Cadwalladr’s latest exposés of Cambridge Analytica and Vote Leave campaign funding have finally propelled the data hacking that compromised the EU referendum and US presidential election into global headlines. The timing could hardly have been better for my course on Digital Education in Global Context, which had been looking at social networks the week before the Wylie story broke, and at ethics and surveillance the week it happened.

Read More · 26 March 2018

Getting Rid of Red Tape

It’s been another extraordinary few weeks for Britain and Brexit, with a chemical attack on British soil, revelations about data breaches, and a transition agreement that does nothing except hide inherent contraditions and postpone difficult decisions until after we’ve left the EU and lost all bargaining power or any way back from this mess.

Read More · 26 March 2018

The Point of Percentages

The Commons Brexit committee has just published the official internal Brexit Impact study leaked to BuzzFeed last month, and it clears up a question I’d been debating with someone on Twitter the previous day. It started when MEP Seb Dance tweeted the list of Brexit impacts on regional growth of -2% to -11% and compared them with “Worst UK fall in 2008 crash: -2%”.

One commenter said, “You’ve confused a % reduction in growth with a fall in gdp. These are not the same.”

Read More · 9 March 2018

Let’s Swallow Our Pride

What #StopBrexit needs is more home-made campaign graphics. Here’s my attempt to get to the heart of the matter. (Why should Leavers monopolise the red, white and blue, and lions, or any other symbol of Britain for that matter?)

Read More · 25 February 2018

Mad Brexit

Mad Brexit 2: The Trade Worries

“I remember a time of chaos... ruined dreams... this wasted land. But most of all, I remember the mania called Brexit.”

Read More · 20 February 2018 · 1 Comment

Hardly a Question

It’s already almost a week since Boris Johnson’s supposed valentine to Remainers, and the debate has moved on (most recently, to David Davis’s invocation of post-apocalyptic Australia), but one part of Johnson’s speech hasn’t attracted as much critical attention as it might have. Perhaps it was such a high-pitched dog-whistle that it escaped most British commentators’ hearing. But to Australian-British ears, it was a clanging bell:

But we also need to ask ourselves some hard questions about the impact of 20 years of uncontrolled immigration by low-skilled, low-wage workers—and what many see as the consequent suppression of wages and failure to invest properly in the skills of indigenous young people.

Read More · 20 February 2018

Brexit Logic

“Look, the jury found you guilty and your execution is set for March 2019. You need to stop complaining that it was a mistrial, stop pointing out new evidence that has emerged since, stop lobbying the governor for a pardon, and get behind the original decision. Otherwise I question your commitment to justice.”

Read More · 13 February 2018

Brexit Is

Google reads the room...

Brexit is...

Read More · 21 January 2018

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