Imagine there’s no Sgt Pepper. It’s all too easy in the era of Trump and May | John Harris

13 hours ago

This great Beatles album is as thrilling a listen as ever on its 50 th anniversary: but its a melancholy day for the one-world counterculture the record soundtracked

At the time Sgt Pepper was released, the American writer Langdon Winner once recalled, I happened to be driving across the country on Interstate 80. In each city where I stopped for gas or food Laramie, Ogallala, Moline, South Bend the tunes wafted in from some far-off transistor radio or portable hi-fi For a brief while, the irreparably fragmented consciousness of the west was unified, at the least in the minds of the young.

How far away it all seems. On 26 May the 50th anniversary of the Beatles Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band( it actually falls on 1 June) is likely to be marked by the release of remixed and repackaged versions of the original album. With his characteristically jolly meeknes, Paul McCartney insists in the latest issue of Mojo magazine that its only a record but its gained in notoriety over the years. The truth is that Sgt Pepper might be the most confident, boundary-pushing record British rock musicians had already been generated, and it is worth revisiting again.

We might also think about the era the album crystallised, and its long legacy. Sgt Pepper is not quite the quintessentially psychedelic, love-and-peace artefact of historical cliche: streaked through its multicoloured astonish is a very Beatle-ish various kinds of melancholy, partly rooted in the bands decidedly unpsychedelic postwar childhoods. But the wider culture moment, and the Beatles place at its heart, were indeed replete with beads, buzzers and a wide-eyed optimism.

Three weeks after the album came out, the band were the biggest attraction in the worlds first global satellite TV demonstrate, singing All You Need Is Love to an audience of as many as 350 million. Meanwhile, on both the US west coast and in swinging London, young people on the cutting edge genuinely were trying to push into a future very different from the one their parents had envisaged.

The so-called counterculture may not initially have reached much beyond its urban nerve centres and campuses. But the basic ideas Sgt Pepper soundtracked soon acquired enough influence to begin no end of social revolutions. A new emphasis on self-expression was manifested in the decisive arrival of feminism and gay liberation. Countries and borders came a distant second to the idea of one world.

Such shibboleths as matrimony until death and a job for life were quickly weakened. Once the leftist unrest of 1968 was out of the way, the shift continued away from the old-fashioned politics of systems and social structures towards the idea of freeing ones mind everything coloured with an essentially optimistic position of the future.

Two years after Sgt Peppers release, a young alumnu at Wellesley College, a women-only institution in Massachusetts, dedicated a speech. Our persisting acquisitive and competitive corporate life, including tragically the universities, is not the way of life for us, she said. Were searching for more immediate, ecstatic, and penetrating modes of living. And so our topics, our questions about our institutions, about our colleges, about our churches, about our government continue.

Her name was Hillary Rodham, and her journey says a lot about where 1960 s values eventually resulted us. To quote the music novelist Charles Shaar Murray, the line from hippy to yuppie was not nearly as convoluted as some people subsequently liked to believe and once the love decades more ambitious alumni reached positions of power, the origin of many of their notions was as clear as day.

Their professed distaste for corporate values fell away, but the hippy individualism summed up in the future Hillary Clintons insistence on immediate and ecstatic ways of life lived on, as did a questioning attitude to tradition, and to the stifling the limit of the old-fashioned nation state.

After the anti-6 0s backlash symbolised by Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, by the mid-9 0s such notions were shaping a new political establishment, exemplified by Bill Clinton, and Blair and Browns New Labour. I am a modern man, from the rocknroll generation. The Beatles, colour TV, thats my generation, said Blair. Clinton honked away at his saxophone and ended his rallies with a song by Fleetwood Mac.

It is not hard to read across from these legislators ideals to what they soaked up in their formative years. In 2005 Blair, who fronted a long-haired band while at Oxford University, told the Labour party conference that people should be swift to adapt, slow to complain open, willing and able to change. Collectivity was yesterdays thing; against a background of globalisation and all-enveloping liberalism, governments task was to encourage people to be as flexible and self-questioning as possible.

John Lennons response to the rebels of 68: the Beatles build Revolution rock

Go back 50 years, and you perhaps hear early stirrings of those ideas, soaked in patchouli petroleum and put to tape at EMIs Abbey Road studios. Try George Harrisons Indian-flavoured Within You Without You: Try to realise its all within yourself/ No one else can construct you change . Or what about John Lennons response to the rebels of 68 in Revolution( on the so-called White Album )? You tell me its the institution/ Well, you know/ Youd better free your intellect instead . As for a picture of globalised utopia, after the Beatles had broken up, Lennon released that saccharine anthem Imagine, with its key line: Imagine theres no countries .

And now? If youre a citizen of the world, youre a citizen of nowhere, says our new “ministers “. If we do indeed live in the post-liberal times endlessly analysed in academic papers, it is the inheritance of the 60 s that is in question. For sure, many of the changes that originated then have become irreversibly embedded in millions of lives. Positions to marriage, sexuality and matters such as race are seemingly more liberal than ever; wherever you go, youre never very far from the whiff of marijuana smoke.

But the dominance of post-6 0s individualism and globalisation is being weakened by the resurgence of collective identities meant to have withered away: class, nation, region. And if the events of 2016 and 2017 are anything to go by, political success now often goes to people whose values seem the polar opposite of the old counterculture.

Duty, nationhood, and regular trips to church: whatever values Theresa May affects to represent, they are surely redolent of a world that existed long before the 1960 s( consider also her parliamentary record, which includes votes against equalising the age of permission, lesbian adoption and the repeal of section 28 ).

Last year, a New York Post article contrasted Hillary Clintons embodiment of the campus 1960 s with the sense that Donald Trump was an unexpected throwback to the Rat Pack, those macho exemplars of everything the hippies wanted to sweep away. Trump, said the author, represented pre-Feminist Man, the guy who boasts about never having changed a nappy and expects subservience from his wives.

Sgt Pepper arrived two decades after the second world wars objective: approximately the same historical distance that separates the Brexit/ Trump age from the high point of the Clinton/ Blair era. Devote a 21 st-century polish, the albums music voices as thrilling as ever, though with a bittersweet sense of a credo abruptly falling victim to a counter-revolution.

On the last track of the old side two, the bell-like piano chords that begin A Day in the Life are applied to sound like the death knell of all the inward-looking, fusty, moralistic ideas the Beatles came to do away with. How strange to tune in half a century afterwards and find all that stuff back with a vengeance.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

Inner-city living builds for healthier, happier people, study determines

One week ago

Residents of higher-density areas are more active, more socially engaged and less obese than people who live in the sprawl of suburbia

Contrary to popular belief, busy city centres beat suburban living when it is necessary to human wellbeing, as socialising and walking make for happier, healthier people, according to a new report.

Downtown residents- packed together in tight row houses or apartment blocks- become active and socially engaged than people who live in the sprawl of suburbia, according to a report that aims to challenge popular beliefs about city life.

Its authors said their findings should encourage legislators to promote the benefits of built-up city living.

” If we can persuade policy makers that this is a public health possibility, we can construct well-designed communities, and in the long term you have made a big difference in the area of health outcomes ,” its co-author Chinmoy Sarkar told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

” With evidence, we can scheme multi-functional, attractive neighborhoods that promote physical activity, promote social interaction, and shield from negatives such as pollution and impression unsafe .”

The examine- by Oxford University and the University of Hong Kong( UHK)- showed that in 22 British cities people living in built-up residential area had lower levels of obesity and exercised more than residents in scattered, suburban homes.

” As cities get more and more compact, they become more walkable. In denser residential areas they are better designed and most attractive destinations. We are less dependent on our automobiles and use public transport more ,” he said.

Sarkar, assistant prof at UHK, said policies and planning needed to catch up with the data, rather than relying on urban myths about what attains cities work.

The study showed that areas of suburban sprawl with about 18 homes per hectare- such as poorly designed neighborhoods near motorways, where driving is the only option- had the greatest rates of obesity and lowest rates of exercise.

Suburban areas with few homes- often privileged communities with big gardens and open spaces- were healthier than this but lagged behind the most densely populated areas in inner cities.

Walking constructed the biggest change, said Sarkar, and social interaction and physical activity flourished best in compact communities.

The analyse compared more than 400,000 residents of cities- including London, Glasgow, and Cardiff- and procured the best health came in areas with more than 32 homes per hectare, the average density for new building in Britain.

This level, typical of developments of standalone semi-detached suburban homes, is less than a one-quarter of the density of Georgian terraces of London’s desirable Islington and Notting Hill neighbourhoods.

Sarkar called into question British policies- such as statutes to curtail suburban homes from dividing their plots and filling in more homes in gardens- which have sought to preserve suburbia’s open and emptier spaces.

In January the government announced it would construct 17 new towns and villages across the countryside in a bid to ease a chronic housing shortage. But Sarkar said policy makers should think again before building on green fields.

Despite spiralling home costs and government targets to build a million homes by 2020, Britain’s restrictive scheming system has prevented high-density, urban planning due to fears that it would lead to high-rise, low-quality blocks of flats, according to a government paper released in February.

London remains one of Europe’s most sparsely populated major cities, with less than half the density of Madrid, Barcelona and Paris, and below the level of Milan, Berlin and Rome.

The paper recommended local authorities to reverse their long-standing opposition to built-up residential areas by highlighting London’s mansion blocks and terraced streets, all of which promote a strong sense of neighbourhood.

On Wednesday the prime minister, Theresa May, said the government would give PS2bn( US $2.6 bn) to local government authorities to build 25,000 homes for rental in the social housing sector, which urgently requires new properties.

The the administration has invest a further PS10bn in a strategy that aims to boost home ownership by helping people buy a new-build home with only a small deposit.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

Prince George arrives for first day at PS18, 000 -a-year prep school

16 days ago

Choice of Thomass Battersea stimulates four-year-old prince the first direct royal heir to be educated south of the river in London

Prince George has started school; a royal enrolment that has upped the desirability of properties in the well-heeled environs of the south-west London prep school chosen to tutor the four-year-old.

Plans for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to accompany their firstborn on his first day were changed due to her recently announced pregnancy and the severe morning sickness “shes been” experiencing. Instead the duke did the school operate solo.

A crowd of well-wishers had met outside the school gate to watch. The young prince arrived shortly before 8.50 am and was driven through a side entrance and a security gate shut behind them.

The third in line to the throne arrived for his first day at PS18, 000 -a-year Thomas’s Battersea, where he will learn to” be kind”, acquire” confidence, leadership and humility” and not have a best friend to prevent other children having hurt feelings.

Holding his dad’s hand and seeming a little apprehensive, George strolled from the car and then had a formal handshake with Helen Haslem, head of lower school. the duke was holding his son’s school bag.

It was a low-level arrival as far as media were concerned. Unlike William’s first day, which was witnessed by a bank of photographers, the ferociously protective Cambridges stipulated only one TV camera and one photographer would be there to capture the moment of George’s first day.

The newest and most famous pupil, who will be known as George Cambridge, was escorted into the reception class.

Kitted out in his John Lewis uniform( also available at Peter Jones in Sloane Square)- winter and summertime uniforms, red art smock, and PE kit including black ballet shoes total more than PS365- the young prince can look forward to a broad education.

Prince
Prince George arrives with the Duke of Cambridge at Thomas’s Battersea in London. Photo: Kensington Palace/ PA

Along with maths, English and science, the curriculum includes class in” understanding the world”,” expressive arts and design” and” communication and speech “. Art, ballet, drama, ICT, French, music, and PE are all taught from day one.

If, like his great-uncle Edward, he inclines towards thespianism, the school performs eight different productions and a nativity play every year, and has its own sound and illuminating crew. Any musical leanings will be encouraged enthusiastically through weekly concerts and summer and wintertime galas.

He may, of course, prefer to simply charge around the rooftop playground, with climbing frames and stunning opinions across the river Thames and Battersea Park.

Ben Thomas, principal of Thomas’s London Day School, who was headteacher at Thomas’s Battersea for 18 years, said he hoped George would learn to be himself.

” The whole aim of these precious early years of education is to give children that confidence in who they are. So we are not going to try and mould him into any kind of particular person and we wouldn’t do that with any of our pupils.

” I hope he will have the confidence to be himself with all his oddities and his idiosyncrasies and characteristics.”

The choice of Thomas’s Battersea constructs him the first direct royal heir to be educated south of the river, but then he is only the third-generation heir to attend public school.

His father, the Duke of Cambridge, attended Wetherby school in Notting Hill, west London, gaily waving to photographers on his first day, and leaving the establishment with the distinction of winning the Grunfield Cup for the child with the best swimming style.

Diana,
Diana, Princess of Wales, following her sons Prince Harry( right ), then five, and Prince William, then seven, on Harry’s first day at the Wetherby school in Notting Hill. Photograph: Ron Bell/ PA

His paternal grandfather, the Prince of Wales, then the Duke of Cornwall, did not start at Hill House school, Knightsbridge, until the age of eight. On his first day, he painted a painting. Breathless newspaper reports, based on the imaginative accounts of witness, describing him variously as a red and blue seascape, a green ship running under Tower Bridge, or the royal yacht Britannia.” One thing is clear, on his first day at school the Duke of Cornwall painted a image ,” the Manchester Guardian reported.

With simply 560 boys and girls between the ages of four and 13, Thomas’s Battersea school, in a Grade II-listed building, parts of which date to 1700, has a ballet room, science labs, a pottery room, two libraries and a one-acre playground with AstroTurf.

Morning snacks include organic milk, freshly cooked ache aux raisins and wholewheat breadsticks. For lunch, pupils are promised freshly cooked meals which, whenever possible, include organic meat, vegetables and dairy, all of which grandpapa Charles will certainly approve.

According to the Good Schools Guide, it has a wide-ranging mixture of international parents, with 19 different foreign languages spoken at home. Competitive and oversubscribed, it is looking for children who” have a measure of confidence, are responsive, sociable, and with a sunlight in their eyes “.

It is “busy” and” slightly chaotic” and for cosmopolitan parents who want” the best English education fund can buy”, the guidebook continues.” That is what they want and, to a large degree, that is what they get .” It adds:” Withdrawn forms might find it all overwhelming .”

Tatler advises to get children’s names down at birth. According to the society magazine, new headmaster Simon O’Malley, who, like George, starts this September, is a” silver fox” whose previously stated mission is for pupils to leave school” confident and comfy, the sort of people others turn to “.

Handout
Duke of Cambridge with his son Prince George on his first day of school. Photograph: Chris Jackson/ Kensington Palace

Known for his attention to detail, O’Malley once told the Daily Telegraph how it was the interesting thing that count: such as emailing the parent of an expat pupil to say they performed a great rugby tackle because the parent is not at the match to see it and say ” well done “.

The school, whose alumni include model and performer Cara Delevingne and singer Florence Welch, is said to discourage pupils from having best friends, instead encouraging lots of friends to stop others having their impressions hurt.

Its website stress along with the” highest academic standards”, the school’s” ethos, aims and values actively support the upholding of republic, the rule of law, individual liberty, mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs.

” These are British values which we cherish and which equip pupils for life in modern Britain .”

Read more: www.theguardian.com

No holds barred and funny as hell: the fierce humor of Margaret Cho

24 days ago

One of Americas most politically outspoken standups is eventually bringing her barbarian brand of comedy to Britain

If you have never heard of Margaret Cho, believe the caustic, crude slapstick of Joan Rivers, the politically-charged gibe of Bill Hicks and the quick-witted improvisation of Robin Williams- all rolled into one but with a feisty Korean spin. Now the US comedian is about to embark on a UK tour, starting in Edinburgh on 25 November and ending at the O2 Shepherd’ s Bush Empire on 10 December.

Cho is a five-time Grammy and Emmy nominee and a household name in America, and earlier this year Rolling Stone magazine named her as one of the 50 best standup comics of all time. She has worked with all the above comics, and others such as Jerry Seinfeld, but says her greatest mentor and influence was Rivers.” I try to carry on her legacy ,” she says.” I feel like I learned everything I know from her .”

For a comedian like the openly bisexual Cho, famous for her brazen take on sex and politics, there has never been a better time to hit the road.

With the daily tweet-fest that is the presidency of Donald Trump and the sexual harassment revelations rocking Hollywood, Cho says the material is flowing like never before.

” There’s a lot about Trump, a lot about race and sexuality, and politics. I get to talk about all that various kinds of stuff, which I think is really important ,” she says.

Cho, 48, is also open about having been sexually assaulted and raped by a family friend as a adolescent. The accusations about movie mogul Harvey Weinstein have inevitably brought that back- but for her, slapstick is healing.

” I never believed I would see anything like this in my lifetime. I’m a survivor of this kind of stuff so it’s really amazing to see it happening ,” she says.

” It’s disgusting, but that’s what’s great about comedy. You can take something really terrible and make it funny. And that’s magical, that’s what we all strive for, to take things so dark and so difficult and construct them very light ,” she says. Dealing with difficult subjects, sometimes in difficult circumstances, is trademark Cho.

At a recent fundraising bash in Washington DC she was waiting in the wings with fellow headliners Jerry Seinfeld and Jay Leno when one of the theatre reps rushed up and whispered in her ear:” Whatever you do, don’t talk about Trump !”

Cho remembers:” Everyone suddenly seemed really scared. It was so weird .” At first she thought it might be the president himself. But as she seemed out into the audience, Cho clocked his daughter, Ivanka, with spouse Jared Kushner, one of Trump’s closest aides.

She thought about it for a split second, but carried on regardless- lambasting, with her signature barbarian humor, Trump, Weinstein and” all the bad in national societies “.” I won’t be asked back ,” she says, giggling.” But that’s OK with me .”

Cho is now looking forward to getting better acquainted with Britain.” Britons know their comedians very well. You watch comedians change their demonstrates and come back with a new demonstrate every year. So there’s a connection that they have with their audience.

” Comedy in saloon is actually there to be the social instigator, and get people talking to each other and get the social feedback running. Comedians have a different role in society there than they do in America. It’s definitely much more involved .”

Cho depicts heavily on her childhood growing up in and around a lesbian bookstore in San Francisco, which her parents bought when she was seven.

” We sold a lot of gay porn, and that’s pretty crazy for a very Conservative Korean household !” she jokes. It was here, though, that she learned the ache of losing friends, most of them to Aids.

” Aids changed my whole world. That’s the thing I haven’t is dealing with as a performer yet. I hadn’t figured out a way to talk about it- up to now .”

Like many comedians, it’s her own troubled past that has perhaps been most influential in Cho’s work- including with regard to her struggle with medication and alcohol abuse.

” Comedy is really about coping. It’s about coping with your own suffering, and your own pain. How do we find a way through that? That’s what slapstick is in general. It’s a way to cope. It’s finding a way to survive with all of this happening ,” she says.

Sometimes that suffering has spilled over on to the stage. At one sell-out gigin New Jersey last year half the crowd strolled out midway through when she appeared to slur and forget her punchlines. Grainy video footage of the event indicates battles breaking out and Cho ranting at” over-privileged white people “. At the time she put the fiasco down to sorrow over the death of fellow comedian Garry Shandling, but not long afterwards she dropped off the circuit altogether.

” I spent about a year and a half in a very closed-off rehab”, she says.” I just didn’t want to go back into the world .”

Now she feels like she’s” come out of the craziness and into the sun”, and is ready to attain her most troubling experiences part of her standup routine.” The worse the subject the funnier it is, that’s what I believe ,” she says.

The title of her new indicate- Fresh Off the Bloat – is itself a reference to being fresh off medications, alcohol and” the verge of suicide “. For the UK demonstrates, Cho has been busy rewriting a big chunk of her act to catch up with the constant flow of sexual harassment accusations dogging the entertainment industry.

She’s no stranger to Hollywood herself. She was in the film Face/ Off with John Travolta and had her own TV sitcom in the 90 s, All-American Girl , where she played the rebellious daughter in a traditional Korean-American household. Former boyfriend Quentin Tarantino famously directed one of the episodes.

The pair, she says, lately “was talkin about a” the Weinstein allegations and their wider impact.” It’s very difficult because it involves all this amazing cinematographic history too. But I think it’s going to be a continual reminder that there’s a lot of bad in our society, and particularly in industries like amusement where there’s so much feeling of absolute power that people have. So I think there’s a lot more to come out. I feel like this is just the beginning, and I’m really grateful for that .”

Read more: www.theguardian.com

‘A tale of decay’: the Houses of Parliament are falling down

1 month, 4 days ago

The long read: As politicians dither over repairs, the risk of fire, inundation or a spate of sewage merely increases. But fixing the Palace of Westminster might change British politics for good which is the last thing many of its residents want

Britain’s Parliament is broken. It is a flame danger. It is insanitary. Asbestos worms its route through the building. Many of the tubes and cables that carry heat, water, energy and gas were installed just after the war and should have been replaced in the 1970 s; some of them date from the 19 th century. The older the steam pipe become, the more likely they are to cracking or leak. When high-temperature, high-pressure steam enters the ambiance, it expands at velocity, generating huge, explosive energy. Such force could be fatal for anyone close; it could also disturb asbestos and send it flying through the ventilation system, to be inhaled by palace employees. The house caught fire 40 times between 2008 and 2012. Last year, a malfunctioning light on an obscure part of the roof caused an electrical fire that could have spread rapidly, had it not been detected at once. Whatever else happens in the Palace of Westminster, that great neo-Gothic pile on the Thames, one thing is constant. Every hour of every day, four or five members of the fire-safety squad are patrolling the palace, hunting for flames.

Away from the grand chambers of the House of Commons and House of Lords, away from the lofty passageways, away from the imposing committee rooms with their carved doorways, the palace is tatty, dirty and infested with vermin. Its lavatories stink, its drains leak. Some of the external stonework has not been cleaned since it was built in the 1840 s, and is encrusted with a thick coat of tarry black that is eating away at the masonry. Inside the building, intricate fan vaulting is flaking off, was affected by oozing rainwater and leaking pipes. Its Gothic-revival artworks are decaying: in the Lords chamber, the once-golden statues of the barons who signed the Magna Carta are now dull gray, pitted and corroded.

Beyond its country of disrepair, the building is all too obviously a remnant of a predemocratic age. It was constructed not to welcome its populace in, but to impress them with its fortress-like grandeur. It was designed when women were, at best, crinoline-wearing spectators of parliamentary life, consigned to the public gallery. With its chilly colonnades of sculptures of male politicians, its heavy, ecclesiastical furnishings and gentlemen’s-club atmosphere, it provides the perfect stage-set for Britain’s” very aggressive, very masculine, very power-hoarding republic”, as political scientist Matthew Flinders put it.

The
The Lords Chamber in the Palace of Westminster. Photo: David Levene for the Guardian

Nevertheless, the Palace of Westminster is seductive. It wants to beguile those who encounter it with its fiction of Britishness. The national mythology that the palace promotes from every frescoed wall is of a country where Good Queen Bess eternally reigns, where the knights of the round table still quest for the Grail. Conservative backbencher Sir Edward Leigh told me that in his intellect the building is inextricably linked with British freedom.” We are the only important country in Europe that has never been a police state, never had a police state imposed on us. We are the oldest functioning democracy of any major country- to me this should be valued. This is not just an office block. It’s the symbolic centre of the nation .”

Leigh is right that the palace is more than a only a build. It is the place- grand and tawdry, magnificent and squalid- that symbolises everything, both good and bad, about Britain and its democracy. Now it is dilapidated, ramshackle and dangerous. And no one seems willing, or able, to fix it.

” If you look back over day, there has been no famine of people saying that something should be done ,” said crossbench peer Lord Lisvane who, in his previous guise as Sir Robert Rogers, clerk of the Commons , commissioned a report into the state of the palace in 2012.” And then you look at the excuses for not doing anything: too expensive, too embarrassing, too soon after the war- which gives you a very vivid impression of how long this has been going on .”( The administration of the parliamentary estate, which includes a number of satellite buildings, is overseen by commissions of the Lords and Commons, akin to boards of directors, although the ruler still officially retains control over portions of the palace. There is no single chief executive figure, and a complex tangle of departments are dealing here with the buildings’ upkeep .)

Screeds of farther analyzes, papers and parliamentary inquiries have warned, bleakly, of a” loom crisis”, of a” narrative of disintegration, disrepair and dilapidation “. The Cassandras who have authored these reports( most recently a joint committee of both Houses of Parliament) warn of constant danger of flood, of the” ever-present threat” presented by asbestos, and, most urgently,” a risk of a major conflagration “. With a hint of desperation, the committee, in its findings of 2016, compared the difficulty of trying to keep the palace safe, despite continual” aggressive maintenance” to” trying to fill a bathtub with a thimble while the water is draining out of the plughole at the other aim “.

What is needed, the report argues, is a thoroughgoing renovation programme, preferably undertaken over about six years in an empty palace. The body that actually gets to decide on how to proceed is parliament itself, and in January, MPs will debate whether to set up a delivery authority- an arm’s-length body akin to the organisation that ran the London Olympics– to oversee the works. It will be the first time the question of the palace renovations has come before parliament.

Visible
Visible damage on the roof. Last year, a malfunctioning roof light caused an electrical flame. Photo: David Levene for the Guardian

The problem is that MPs are caught in a trap. The renovations, it was estimated in June 2015, will cost a minimum of PS3. 5bn.( If parliamentarians choose to stay in the building, the work could take 40 years and cost PS5. 7bn .) Spending vast amounts of fund on their own workplace feelings, to many, politically impossible. Some of them fear that moving out of the Palace of Westminster could indelibly alter parliament’s culture. Flinders said:” There are those who realise that if they permit new intakes of MPs to go into a new chamber, with new ambiances, further ways of doing things, places for everyone to sit, new procedures, new ways of talking, they may refuse to go back into what may to them feel like an antique store .”

The temptation for parliamentarians is to stall. But doing nothing is also a choice. Every year of delay increases the cost of the works by an estimated PS100m. Every day that passes makes a catastrophe more likely. Tom Healey, head of restoration and renewal at the palace, told him that the palace’s mechanical and engineering services- all those tubes and ducts and cables- are classified according to likelihood of failure.” By 2020, 40% of them will be at critical or high risk. By 2025, the above figures will be 52%. By 2025, most of the building services in the palace will be at a very high risk of failing. It’s a bit like driving a automobile with 40 -year-old brakes: you can’t say when they’ll fail. But health risks is pretty high .” As hour grinds on- the projected date of the start of works has already slipped from 2020 to the mid-2 020 s- so grows the risk of” either a single, catastrophic event, or a succession of incremental failings in essential systems, which would lead to Parliament no longer being able to sit in the palace”, as the 2016 report set it. And if that happens, said Healey,” we have a very big problem “.


So many people are in denial about the state of the Houses of Parliament because the peril is largely invisible- both to the public and to most of its 8,000 or so workers. Most guests watch merely its grandeur- enchanting still, despite the scaffolding that encompasses so much of the building while mends are made to the roof and to the Elizabeth Tower, home of the great buzzer, Big Ben. The first thing most visitors encounter is the vast, echoing space of the medieval Westminster Hall, whose great timber ceiling is carven with 26 rising angels. Then, passing beneath a new stained-glass window commemorating women’s suffrage, one of the few markers of a female presence in the palace, you enter St Stephen’s Hall. You are now in the 19 th-century portion of the building: Charles Barry’s masterpiece of planning, each space flowing gracefully to the next, hectically embellished with Augustus Pugin’s neo-gothic detailing, from the gilded wallpaper to the ornate floor tiles. From here you reach the vaulted Central Lobby, from which radiate passageways leading to all the palace’s 1,100 rooms, seven floors, 100 staircases, and 31 lifts- merely one of which is fully wheelchair-compliant.( When I visited, it was out of use .)

It is two floors down, however, in the out-of-bounds expanses of the cellar- the principal home of the palace’s outmoded cables and ducts- that lurks the most likely source of disaster. Depending on the tides, you might now be beneath the level of the Thames. It is crepuscular; it is stultifyingly hot. The smell of fat is intense as kitchen waste works its style towards the drainages. A layer of dust and grime coats the floor.

A labyrinth of passages runs the 300 m length of the building, each so thickly lined with ducts and wires that they have become narrow and low. When I visited a few weeks ago, Andrew Piper, the head of design for restoration and renewal, operated his hands across a jumble of cables and tubes, naming each in turn:” That’s data, that’s the fire alarm, that’s security systems, that’s optics for broadcasting, that’s heating, that’s cooling, that’s steam, that’s water. We are particularly keen to get rid of the old steam pipe ,” he said.” If you have a steam leak, there can be real damage caused to people. High-pressure steam can cut through bone .”

Something sticky dripped on to my hand.” This is grease and fat from the kitchens. It seems to be leaking on to electrical pipework ,” Piper said. The Victorian palace was not designed, he added, to accommodate the sheer amount of water, kitchen waste and sewage that now flows through its drains. Down a gloomy corridor and a further series of damp steps, announced by a different kind of odour, are two vast, cast-iron vessels- the palace sewage ejectors, in which the effluent being developed by parliamentarians and staff gathers before it is pushed into the city drainages. They were installed in 1888.” One of them could easily crack ,” said Piper.” We get sewage leaks throughout the palace .” Lord Lisvane told me that one of the palace’s disaster-planning exercisings, undertaken when he was clerk of the Commons, had imagined a failure of the sewage system.” In that scenario, we had 36 hours before we had to evacuate the building. Aside from all the rather unpleasant stuff about the rising high levels of sewage, the fact is that when it hits the high-tension electricity cables, the electricity is out, you don’t have any fresh water, and you are done for .”

All big builds have their grubby, behind-the-scenes engine rooms. What builds this one exceptional, said Piper, is the sheer, bewildering intricacy of it all. There is, he said, never enough time to remove defunct systems, since parliamentary recesses are too short for major works, and the chambers have to be ready for occupation at 48 hours’ notification, in case parliament is suddenly recollected( as it has been 29 hours since 1948 ). That means the ducts and cables simply pile up, one on top of the other.” The number-one fire danger is all these ageing electrical services, issues with leaks, wet pipework running over old electrical systems ,” he said. The virtually inaccessible labyrinth of Victorian shafts, through which these services pass, could, he said, offer routes for a conflagration to move quickly and unpredictably; “were not receiving” proper system of flame compartmentalisation.” That is my biggest fear ,” he said.” That’s how you could lose a big proportion of the building .”


The Palace of Westminster is not just a citadel (” the citadel of British autonomy”, said Churchill ), it is a country unto itself. It operates by its own decide of recondite laws, rituals and conventions. Once you are inside, beyond the security cordon, nearly all human needs are met. There is a post office. There is a hairdresser( a Newsnight-ready blow-dry costs PS30 ). There is a nursery, which opened in 2010. There is a gym( with sunbed ). At the foot of the stairs to the Strangers’ Gallery( or public gallery) in the House of Lords hangs a written notice- now encompassed, though you can find it if you know how- pointing the way to the old rifle range, where special branch officers offered shooting lessons to parliamentarians as recently as 2015.

Travelling around this strange land is a fraught business. One is constantly committing mysterious, minor infractions. It is like is available on a country where the language is comprehensible, but the codes of behaviour are opaque. From the Central Lobby, for example, four corridors radiate. There is no sign to tell you that you cannot take the one that leads to the House of Commons: but if you accidentally stray there, you are able to get an imperious ticking-off from one of the Palace doorkeepers( 59 are employed by the Commons, and 23 by the Lords ). There have been doorkeepers here since the 14 th century: garmented in white tie, they control the movements of others with punctilious energy. I was reprimanded for loitering” on the blue carpet” in the Prince’s Chamber, and for spoke of the Royal Robing Room, which is sometimes let and sometimes not. Doorkeepers are also sources of gossip, humor and speculative histories of the palace. One I fulfilled indicated disapprovingly that “Comrade Corbyn” would soon be selling off Pugin’s wildly over-the-top royal throne in the House of Lords” if he has his style “. Another told him that lions illustrated on the floor of a certain passageway” have their eyes shut so they can’t look up the ladies’ skirts “. Floors, as it happens, are important: green carpets mean you are in the part of the building owned by the Commons; red carpets entail the Lords.

Directions
Directions to the now-defunct rifle range, where special branch officers used to offer shooting lessons to MPs. Photo: David Levene for the Guardian

Notices pinned everywhere contribute extra layers of admonition and exhortation. There’s a staircase that may be used only by MPs; a lift that cannot be used if the Lords are in division – that is, voting by strolling into separate foyers. The yeoman usher, described on parliament’s website as” the deputy to the gentleman usher of the black rod “, has a parking space reserved exclusively for his bicycle; a sign told you so. In one courtyard there is even a sign advising parliamentarians what to do if they come across a grounded adolescent peregrine, which is try to hurl a cardboard box over it.( A pair of the falcons nests on the roof .) The Lords, naturally, specialises in arcane forms of movement control.” Spouses of peers’ eldest sons ,” reads one notification,” and marriage daughters of peers and peeresses in their own right, before taking a place in the peers’ married daughters’ box, are requested to leave their names with the doorkeeper at the brass gates .” A different decide of rules, needless to say, governs the movement of peers’ unmarried daughters.

The place is full of mysterious, concealed spaces. Recently, when historian Lord Hennessy, a crossbench peer, was indicating me around what he inevitably called ” Hogwarts”, he abruptly darted out of sight- up a narrow, red-carpeted staircase that led to his tiny, turreted office. On the upper floors, linenfold panelling turns out to hide secret doorways leading to the roof. In Central Lobby, behind a statue of the 19 th-century Liberal prime minister Lord John Russell, is an inconspicuous doorway. From here, 82 steps spiral up to the cavernous, dark space that houses the winding gear for the mighty chandelier hanging below. Being here is like standing in the dome of a cathedral. High above you a great spire rises, with apertures open to the sky, once intended as part of the ventilation system. These days, rainfall falls softly in here-” very romantic as it comes down “, according to parliamentary archivist and historian Mark Collins.( Less romantic is the damage the water causes to Central Lobby’s gilded ceiling .) Someone had been here before us: wire from a champagne bottle lay discarded on the ground. When I asked Julian Flannery, the lead designer on the restoration program, how well he knew the building, he said:” No one knows their style around the whole place- except for the locksmiths .” Two such tradesmen are employed in the palace, he told me.

Hennessy is, he said, unashamedly romantic about the palace and its past:” When I pad the corridors if I am here late and everybody else has run, I sometimes have a sense of the ancestral voices ,” he said.( As he told me this, “were in” sipping stewed tea in the peers’ dining room; a waiter had brought eclairs on a silver tray .) Others are less enthusiastic. The Labour MP Chris Bryant, himself a historian of the members of parliament, and a member of the joint committee, snorted at the idea that the place was romantic. The loos stink, he said. Still, he loves the place: he and his partner were the first couple to have a civil partnership rite here. One parliamentary clerk told me of the dampness from the Thames in winter and the overwhelming heat in the summer, of the mice that infest the place, of the difficulty of finding a wifi signal, of the general feeling of grubbiness she feels at the end of each day. But, she said,” the place get under your scalp. It’s like having two homes .”

In
In the Norman Porch, intricate fan vaulting is flaking away, damaged by oozing rainwater and leaking pipes. Photo: David Levene for the Guardian

Some argue that the restoration and renewal programme could be a chance not only to build the building safe, but to induce radical changes that could improve Britain’s political culture. Among them is Sarah Childs, who, as a visiting academic to parliament, published The Good Parliament report last year. It is not just that the building is deeply gendered, she argues- heavy, unwieldy doorways; an overwhelming number of artworks depicting humen; darknes, intimidating bars; seats from which shorter, female legs dangle without reaching the ground. It is, she says, that” the building facilitates, valorises, and rewards certain specific types of behaviours and performances that are disproportionately practised by some humen- and omit others .” One might glance, for example, towards the unlovely weekly sight of prime minister’s topics, with its hollering, barracking and bullying, particularly of women. When the House of Commons was bombed in the second world war, Winston Churchill insisted it was rebuilt exactly as it was before.” We shape our buildings, and afterwards our builds shape us ,” he said. Some might ask: is the palace shaping the the kind of politics Britain actually requires?


The House of Commons chamber, where politicians glare at each other across an aisle like hostile choristers, looks the way it does through historical collision. In the 16 th century, Edward VI offered the deconsecrated St Stephen’s chapel, with its facing ranks of seat, to parliament as its permanent home; it has hitherto sat in the chapter house of Westminster Abbey. The basic layout of the chamber has followed exactly the same design since. Today it is in a terrible nation. Leaving aside the problem that it has too few seats( 427 for 650 MPs) and space for only one wheelchair, there is the fact that the concrete substructure on which it sits has asbestos-lined air ducts operating through it. The only way to remove it safely, said head of restoration and renewal Tom Healey, is to break it out of the cement in which it is embedded.” We’d have to dismantle the chamber panel by panel ,” he said. He is also worried about the electrical cables, installed after the blitz.” A lot of them here still have vulcanised india rubber insulation. That eventually turns to dust inside the wall- then you have dust around your cables, and that is obviously a fire hazard .”

It is in this chamber that MPs will argue about how to renovate the palace. The debate is much delayed: it was supposed to happen in late 2016, then December 2017, and now it has slipped again to January 2018. In fact , no opportunity for procrastination has been expended during the course of its entire process. The publication of the 2016 report was itself delayed, at the request of the government: first because of the EU referendum, then because of the UK’s abrupt change of “ministers “. Yet more delay will be built in by the government’s motion. MPs will not be asked simply to endorse a” full decant” of the palace, as the report recommended.( Such a move would involve constructing temporary chambers nearby: Richmond House, the present Department of Health building, was proposed by the joint committee for the Commons; the QE2 conference centre for the Lords .) Instead, the motion will empower a delivery committee to mull over the options once again- whether to choose the” full decant”, whether the Lords and Commons should depart in turn, or whether parliament should retain a “foothold” in Westminster Hall for ceremonial occasions. According to Bryant, this latest explosion of stalling is” risky, and it’s adding millions to the final bill “.

In
‘ The No 1 flame hazard is all the ageing electrical services, issues with leaks, wet pipework running over old electrical systems ,’ said one of the restoration squad. Photo: David Levene for the Guardian

The ordinary citizen may be left wondering: if the most important point decision-making body in the country cannot make a decision, then what? If parliament cannot run its own build, then what hope the country?

Logically speaking, the doubt about what to do seems incomprehensible. It is arguably the most complex building in the country: it is parliament’s workplace, a royal palace, a Unesco World Heritage site, has myriad security needs, contains chambers and committee rooms that double up as television studios, and performs a role as a tourist attraction and as the symbolic centre of British democracy. Its precious artworks and building fabric all need conservation. It needs to be made a better workplace. It is, above all, dangerous. The symbolism would be terrible if there were a disaster: imagine news footage of smoke curling out of a hastily evacuated palace at a moment when Britain is struggling to establish a semblance of post-Brexit stability. Of course you tackle it. And of course you move out, because that way the work will happen faster, and more safely, which will be cheaper.

But this is Westminster. This is the world not of reason, but of politics, with all the hedging, compromises, self-interest, short-termism and sheer pig-headedness that that implies. According to Lady Stowell, the former leader of the House of Lords who co-chaired the joint committee, and prefers getting on with the works with a full decant, there is a nervousness among some of her colleagues” that, as legislators, “weve already” detested, and so what sensible legislator would agree to expend millions of pounds on our building ?”

Because of the postpones, and because “ministers ” Theresa May’s minority government is so weak, opposition to leaving the building has gained momentum. A group of Conservative backbenchers, including Sir Edward Leigh and Shailesh Vara, are contemplating an amendment to the government motion. They object to the building of a “folly” of a replica chamber at great expense; they deprecate the views of the “experts” and “officials” who have recommended moving out. They argue that, with what Vara calls a” can-do stance”, the run could be done with parliament in situ, largely through triple-shift working during parliamentary recess.

The language they use is precisely that of the committed Brexiteer: if only their scheme is gone at with sufficient verve then everything will be fine; the problem is nothing like as complex as it seems; the experts are pulling the woolen over everyone’s eyes. In short, they are in refusal.” If parliament really really wants to stay ,” said Tom Healey,” we will devise a route of doing it, but it’s important for parliament to understand what that entails: several decades of really serious interruption, lifts being to turn, catering facilities closing, the chambers closed for two to four years .”

Stowell and Bryant guess the project could be turned to the good: as a major infrastructural project, it will create jobs, and could be used as a boost for apprenticeships in the many trades and crafts that will be needed to nurse this Victorian masterpiece back to health. It could even, said Stowell, become a positive statement of intent in a post-Brexit Britain, when what some regard as a newly sovereign British parliament establishes itself.” We parliamentarians could use it as a route of reevaluating our relationship with the people ,” she said.

The
The Commons Chamber, which has 427 seats for 650 MPs. Photograph: David Levene for the Guardian

Others take a darker view. Leigh predicts that the costs are bound to escalate. It will, he says, be” a feeding feast for architects and consultants and builders that has never been imagined before “. He may fear other kinds of feast, too. Westminster, these days, is a byword for many things, nearly all of them awful. The MPs’ expenses scandal still looms big in the public imagination. Trust in politicians is low. Westminster is considered out of touch, a bubble. The Grenfell Tower disaster has drawn attention to the human costs of austerity, and some politicians fear the consequences of appearing to put their own safety above that of constituents.( Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is alert to this: a recent letter to supporters contrasted the sprinkler system currently being fitted in the palace basement with the inadequate fire-safety arrangements in much of Britain’s council housing .) Recent revelations about the sleaze and harassment have not helped. Private Eye summed it up on a recent encompas.” House of Commons to Relocate During Building Works”, it said. Below, was a picture of a sex shop.


Underlying the postpones and the stalling and the being-in-denial, it is possible to see a more fundamental nervousnes among parliamentarians than the fear of frittering away taxpayers’ money. It is the fear of an old order passing away. It is the the dreaded of a separation from a bizarre, rationally indefensible, yet alluring theater of politics that seems so inextricably linked to British identity and history. It is a anxiety of bringing in new structures and spaces and behaviours- ones less likely to prop up the white male upper-clas who predominate parliament.” I think there is an agenda with restoration and renewal ,” said Leigh.” In kicking us out, the whole thing will change. Inevitably it will change. If you are out for years, institutional memory will die very quickly .”

Some would welcome that. There are parliamentary rituals that would look distinctly odd in a new or temporary building. For example, the speaker’s daily procession through the palace before opening parliamentary proceedings, accompanied by the chaplain, the trainbearer, the secretary, the serjeant-at-arms and shouts of” Hats off, strangers !” Or the tradition of MPs physically dragging a newly appointed speaker to the speaker’s chair. Or the doorkeepers’ sob of” Who goes home ?” as the house rises. Or the boxes of snuff placed outside the chambers. Or the placing of a prayer card on a Commons’ seat to reserve a place, like a towel on a sunlounger. Or the pink ribbons hanging from coat hangers in the peers’ cloakroom, from which to suspend one’s imaginary sword.

As for the Lords,” If we do decant, we will lose some of the elders of the tribe ,” predicted historian Lord Hennessy. In a gerontocratic house that the late Lord Peston once said ran on” rumor and the exchange of medical symptoms”, some will resign from the Lord before suffering the upheaval of a move; nor will they wish to swap their panelled rooms and deep leather armchairs for a conference centre.” The peculiar combination of people in here will be remixed. The average age will drop ,” said Hennessy.( It is currently 69.) Flinders said:” Some in the Lords are worried that they are going to come back and find the locks have been changed “.

Trump row could kill off swift post-Brexit trade bargain, says former UK envoy

1 month, 9 days ago

Quick transatlantic trade bargain should be put out of our intellects says former ambassador, as poll depicts 72% of British public suppose chairwoman is a risk to international stability

Donald Trump’s degenerating relationship with Britain is likely to kill off any lingering cabinet hopes of a swift post-Brexit trade deal with the United States, a former British diplomat to Washington has warned.

Sir Nigel Sheinwald said that a series of controversial interventions by the US president in British issues meant that the remote prospect of a quick transatlantic bargain, heralded by pro-Brexit cabinet members, should now be” put out of our minds” for good.

His intervention comes as a new poll highlights the British public’s opposition to Trump in the wake of his decision to cancel a trip to the UK, with fewer than a fifth of voters( 18%) believing he is a friend of Britain.

Almost three-quarters of voters( 72%) also believe that the US president is a risk to international stability, according to a new Opinium poll for the Observer . A similar proportion( 71%) believe he is untrustworthy. Two in five voters believe that Trump should not be visiting Britain at all.

Sir
Sir Nigel Sheinwald, the former British diplomat to the US. Photograph: Paul Morigi/ Getty Images

The dim view taken by the British public over the outspoken chairwoman comes after Whitehall insiders suggested that the clashes he has had with Britain over the last year contributed to his decision to cancel a visit to open the new US embassy in London. A mass protest had also been expected during Trump’s visit, which would have marked a further shame for the president.

The special relationship between the UK and US has taken a series of reaches since Theresa May became the first foreign leader to visit President Trump in the early stages of last year. Trump has attacked the London mayor, Sadiq Khan, re-tweeted posts by a British far-right group, and publicly turned on May for criticising his comments.

Trump confirmed on Twitter last week that he had cancelled a trip-up to open the new US embassy in Vauxhall because he disagreed with the process of moving it from Mayfair to an” off place” south of the Thames. While he blamed the Obama administration, the deal was signed under George W Bush’s presidency. In an extraordinary intervention, the US embassy itself took the step of releasing a detailed statement correcting the president. The very unusual move is a sign of the tensions between Trump and his international diplomats.

Sheinwald, the British diplomat to the US from 2007 to 2012, said he had always believed that a swift trade deal with the US was unlikely, but that the most recent episode should end hopes by some Brexiters that it could be done by Brexit day in March 2019.

” Given that Trump’s attitude to the UK seems to have changed for the worst over the last year, at the least in a superficial and tonal style, I think that takes out another of the arguments put forward by thinking that this would be a great positive for the UK in the post-Brexit world ,” he said.” It will be important for us to get a deal with the Americans, but it will take a long time.

” If you’re a Liam Fox[ the international trade secretary ], who has staked so much on the American bargain being easy and within our reach around the same day as Brexit, then the style in which the bilateral ties has atrophied and the tone has changed in the past year since May’s first visit is quite a big blow.

” It means we should put out of our intellects the idea that just around the corner when we leave the EU there is a magical enter into negotiations with the US that is going to solve all our trade and industrial problems. Absolutely not .”

Sir Christopher Meyer, another former British diplomat to the US, said that he believed the present cooling of relations made little difference, as the the opportunities of a swift bargain had always been far-fetched.

Sadiq Khan, who welcomed Trump’s decision to shelve his trip to the UK, was targeted by pro-Trump protesters yesterday as he gave a speech in central London. His address was delayed by a few minutes after a demo by a group “ve called the” White Pendragons. They were escorted out of the venue by police.

After Trump’s recent declaration that he believed he was a” stable genius”, many British voters compare themselves favourably against the president’s intellect. Nearly half( 47%) believe they are more intelligent than Trump, according to the Opinium poll. More than two-fifths( 44%) believe Trump is less intelligent than the average person. A fifth( 18%) believe he is more intelligent than average.

In words of overall party support, the poll showed that Labour and the Tories are now neck-and-neck on 40% subsistence. It means Labour has relinquished a two-point leading from a month ago. The Liberal Democrat continue to struggle on only 6% support. Vince Cable, the Lib Dem leader, has a lower net approving rating( -1 9 %) than either Jeremy Corbyn( -1 0) or Theresa May( -1 7 %).

May’s lead over Corbyn on who would build the best prime minister has fallen very slightly, from six points to five points.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

Which countries have the worst drinking cultures?

1 month, 16 days ago

From savouring flavors in France to binge drinking in Australia readers talk about the alcohol culture where they live

How much alcohol is safe to drink? It is a question scientists have been trying to get to the bottom of for centuries, and now a survey exploring drinking advice around the world has found that the answer varies significantly depending on where you live.

In the US, for example, three or four drinkings a day( 42 g for women and 56 g for men) is thought to be safe, but in Sweden that is well over the amount health authorities recommend: 10 g for women and 20 g for men. Whats more, a standard drink in Iceland and the UK is 8g of alcohol, compared to 20 g in Austria.

Government standard drink definition in grams with readers quotes about the countrys drinking culture
Government standard drink definition in grams

Can these fluctuations be attributed to the fact that each place has its unique drinking culture? We asked readers to summarise their countrys stance towards alcohol and the unscientific, we should stress outcomes seem to suggest we might all be tip-off the scale when it is necessary to consuming a safe amount.

South Africa

It is differed, but most people drink socially , not generally to excess, but responsible drinking( not drinking and driving for example) is rare. We should have tighter drinking and driving statutes. Dickon, 40

Spain

In the Spanish equivalent of a greasy spoon, workers stop for brunch with a beer followed by a big brandy then get into their autoes and go back to work. Its the drink-driving that I dont like. Anonymous, 45

Australia

Binge drinking is glorified in Australia, and the focus is not on drinking in moderation or for enjoyment. We should be encouraging alcohol-free days. I am likely not a true representative of the Australian drinking population as I am a very light drinker I drink maybe once a month. Anonymous, 44

New Zealand

There is a big binge-drinking culture among the youth in the country and a huge part of the health budget and policing budget is spent on dealing with drink-driving, collision and emergency services, and other long-term harmful effects of alcohol. We have a robust liquor industry that lobbies the government ferociously to prevent regulation of alcohol marketings. Advertising here has been grudgingly curtailed. Anonymous, 50

Japan

People often go to Izakayas[ Japanese-style pub] after work on Fridays or special occasions with their colleagues. However, alcohol is nearly always drunk here alongside snacks or food, entailing very few people get incredibly drunk. There are some cases of people with alcohol-related problems in this country, but people dont drink alcohol in order to get drunk, but rather to relax.

A
A bar in Tokyo. Photo: Graeme Robertson for the Guardian

Japans alcohol safety guidelines seem approximately around the same as my home country[ the UK ]. However, you need to be 20 years old to buy alcohol in Japan, although unless you seem underage they wont ask you for ID, especially if you seem non-Japanese. Anonymous, 23

Belgium

Beer sold in every frituur[ chip store ], open bottles of wine to help yourself to in supermarkets but drunkenness is socially unacceptable. The guidelines seem fair enough, especially having at least two non-drinking days a week. Elspeth Morlin, 46

France

In France people drink extensively and steadily, but in small divisions. Even though I have find a couple of people drunk, I have never seen any aggressivenes. At a dinner party you are able to ordinarily have an apritif, three glasses of various types of wines and a digestif but all in small quantities. There will also be water on the table. The guidelines in France are sensible, although here there is a tradition of ignoring regulations and laws anyway. The French drink to savour the flavors and to enhance their food. Peter, 62

Italy

In Italy, consuming alcohol revolves around food. So you are either drinking to accompany your snack( wine will always be on the table at an Italian meal ), or you are please give free snacks to soak up your drink when at a bar. So the idea is that you order a drinking at a standardised cost and you are given crisp or other bite-sized food. Or you can help yourself from a generous buffet.

The whole point of aperitivo is that you have it before dinner and drinking on an empty belly generally leads to unpleasant situations( especially as typical aperitivo beverages are of the likes of the murderer negroni ). Hence the free food. This has led to the creation of a sub-culture: the one of apericena[ a hybrid of aperitivo and cena: dinner ]. So people, instead of going for a drinking and then on to dinner, go to the bar with the best buffet, order a drink( commonly 8-10) and then simply reached the buffet and stuff their faces, scoring a very cheap dinner. Benedetta, 31

Philippines

Once a bottle is opened it must be finished; its never shut while still full. I guess 14 g a day for women seems reasonable, but 28 g a day for a human seems a little high. However, I have never seen these guidelines published or “was talkin about a” anywhere in this country. Richard Hartland, 39

UK

In the UK the notion of enjoying yourself in the evening without alcohol is so unusual it can lead to you being called a freak( or at least miserable and antisocial) whereas drinking yourself insensible is not just acceptable, it is admired. Unfortunately( and I am a drinker) all advice dedicated seems to be decided upon somewhat arbitrarily and although most doctors agree alcohol is bad for you, restriction seem to be plucked out of the air with no real evidential statistics.

While most would agree that binge drinking in the UK is deplorable and turns our towns and cities into ugly and threatening places at night, I find the nanny country reaction of teaches us that any amount of drinking can give us cancer or liver failure somewhat unhelpful. In Europe people seem to drink as part of a food experience and it is an accompaniment , not an end in itself. We have much to learn but our history suggests an entrenched route of relating to alcohol. Fergus, 68

US

We would have a lot less underage drinking problems if we lowered the drinking age to 18. Young adults are getting targeted at parties and social events at universities where police know there will be alcohol and the people who are there and under 21 get underage drinking charges( and people over 21 get charged with the supply of alcohol to minor ). I am not even a huge drinker, just seems absurd that freshman and sophomores have to be sneaky about it, which leads to more issues. There is also a binge-drinking culture generally in the US Karina, 23

Read more: www.theguardian.com

Scottish food standards agency criticised over E coli poisoning suit

2 months, 22 days ago

FSS told newspaper it had no direct proof connecting outbreak that killed three-year-old girl with artisan cheese-maker

Scotlands food criteria bureau has come under attack after it confirmed it had no samples or test evidence connecting a cheese-maker with a food poisoning outbreak that killed a three-year-old girl.

Prof Sir Hugh Pennington, a world authority on the glitch blamed for the outbreak, E coli O157, said the information issued by Food Standards Scotland( FSS) on its investigation had been a mess, and had failed to answer basis the issue of the case.

The whole thing is a mess in terms of the public datum coming out said Pennington, emeritus prof for bacteriology at the University of Aberdeen and a former adviser to the UK Food Standards Agency. From my point of view, I just dont understand whats going on.

He said he was puzzled by the agencys delay in releasing its report in the outbreak, which objective several weeks ago. The sooner we find all the data which has been collated which allows the FSS to point the finger, the better it will be for everybody, he added.

The agency issued an alert in July after it connected an E coli outbreak that had affected 20 people with two batches of Dunsyre Blue, one of the best known brands from South Lanarkshire-based Errington Cheese, which has pioneered the use of unpasteurised milk.

The firm receded the cheeses from sale in July, but the frighten intensified last week after the FSS revealed that a three-year-old girl in Dunbartonshire had died and 11 people were hospitalised after contracting the E coli O157 bug. Prosecutors at the Crown Office are analyzing a file on the case.

Errington Cheese insisted its repeated testing had seen no traces of E coli in any of the cheeses involved, but the FSS said last week that two batches of Dunsyre cheese were implicated based on epidemiological evidence.

Two days later, the company said that withdrawing the cheeses from sale was in the best interests of consumers to protect them from potential risks to public health.

However, the agency told the Sunday Herald at the weekend it had no direct proof the cheeses it had named and had banned from sale were to blame. Tests carried out to date from samples taken by South Lanarkshire council as part of this investigation have not seen the same stres connected with the outbreak, it said.

It is understood the FSS did not test any samples of the cheese eaten, had no swabs from any restaurant or home or supplier, and was relying instead on a questionnaire of those affected by the outbreak. The FSS would not comment on those elements of its investigation.

The agency said on Saturday its testing of Erringtons cheese led to a positive finding of E coli O157 on a different product, the firms Lanark White brand; although it had not yet is proved that that cheese had the shiga toxin that stimulates the bug so dangerous.

The company withdrew its Lanark White from marketing, too, on the agencys instructions but again tried to defend its food hygiene and production standards. In a statement on its website, Errington Cheese said its advisers were unhappy about the testing used by the FSS: those batches of Lanark White had been on sale for three weeks with no reports of ill-health.

The company said in August there had been no E coli detected at all at its mill or in its cheeses since 21 March, either by its own laboratory, the local council or by its clients.

Its six samples of the Dunsyre Blue that was targeted by the FSS had all been clear. From the limited information given to it by the FSS, all the cases occurred in the first two weeks of July, even though the cheese had been on sale for up to nine weeks.

The FSS said on Monday: Public health is and is still being FSSs priority and specific actions will continue to be determined by what is necessary to protect public health and the interests of consumers. As there is an ongoing food safety investigation, we will publish more information when this is necessary to protect public health and provide information to consumers.

Pennington said it was often difficult to immediately connects a suspect batch of cheese to a poisoning outbreak because an E coli bug may merely affect part of each block, and consumers may have eaten the only evidence available.

In some instances, people could pick up the bug from an infected knife without feeing the cheese involved. However, without very detailed analysis, such as DNA testing, of each bug identified in every patient to prove a direct connection, there could more than one source of the outbreak.

Pennington has not been contacted by the Errington family in this case but gave expert evidence in the companys defence in 1994 when it was unsuccessfully prosecuted after traces of listeria were found it its Lanark Blue cheese. He said in this case the Erringtons had a right to see the FSSs report as soon as is practicable, so it could understand why its brands had been identified as the source of this outbreak.

But he said the FSS attitude in this case underlined long-standing hostility in Scotlands public health and food safety sectors towards cheese make use of unpasteurised milk, including the Errington brands. English regulators were more relaxed about unpasteurised milk; Scottish agencies became far more hardline after two major salmonella outbreaks in the 1970 s caused a number of fatalities.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

How the education gap is tearing politics apart | David Runciman

2 months, 25 days ago

The Long Read: In the year of Trump and Brexit, education has become the greatest divide of all splitting voters into two increasingly hostile camps. But this is not a clash between the ignorant and the enlightened

On 23 February, Donald Trump stood before a rally of cheering supporters to celebrate a thumping victory in the Nevada Republican caucus his third consecutive win, in defiance of the naysayers who had predicted that his bubble was about to explode. If you listen to the pundits, we werent expected to win too much and now were win, winning, winning the country, he bragged. We won with young. We won with old. We won with highly educated. We won with poorly trained. I love the poorly educated.

That last line provoked immediate waves of mockery. It sounded at the time like another one of Trumps many gaffes he loves that people do not get a decent education? Yet behind the mockery was a real sense of disquiet, which has not gone away: Trump loves the less educated because they appear to love him back. As the Atlantic reported in March: The best single predictor of Trump support in the Republican primary is the absence of a college degree. Education or the lack of it seemed to be propelling the Trump bandwagon.

The possibility that education has become a fundamental divide in democracy with the educated on one side and the less educated on another is an alarming prospect. It points to a deep alienation that cuts both routes. The less educated dread they are being governed by intellectual snobs who know nothing of their lives and experiences. The trained fear their fate may be decided by know-nothings who are ignorant of how the world actually runs. Bringing both sides together is going to be very hard. The current election season appears to be doing the opposite.

Trump continues to poll far ahead of Clinton among voters who did not go to college, while Clinton still results by a significant margin among college alumnus. This is a significant change from 2012, when the picture was far more mixed. Four years ago, the college-educated vote was almost evenly divided, with graduates favouring Obama over Romney by a narrow margin, 50 to 48. Recent polling sets Trumps lead over Clinton among white humen without a college degree at a sobering 76 to 19.

Of course, there are other factors at play here. Race is one; gender is the other. The overwhelming majority of Trumps advocates are white, irrespective of their education levels. However, white men with a college degree divide much more evenly between the candidates, whereas white women without a college degree still strongly favour Trump. Less educated voters who support Trump are not inevitably poor: many earn more than $50,000( 39,000) a year. Trump scores particularly well among small business owners who did not going to see college. These polling numbers which are only indicative, since no one has actually voted yet can be unpicked a hundred different ways. But it is hard to avoid the conclusion that how people referendum is increasingly being shaped by how long they expended at school.

What is happening in the United States has also been happening in the UK. The Brexit campaign had its own Trumpian moment, politenes of Michael Gove, who told Faisal Islam in an interview on Sky News on 3 June that the British people have had enough of experts. Gove was also widely mocked if not experts, who was he proposing to get to repair his vehicle, fix his teeth, teach his children?

But what he said struck a deep chord, because it contained a large component of truth. The experts Gove was mocking had been telling the British public that the risks of Brexit far outweighed any potential benefits. Gove insisted that the voters should choose this for themselves, on the basis of these experiences, rather than listening to elite voices that had a vested interest in the outcome. Those voices came trailing educational qualifications, which had set them in their positions of authority at the IMF, the Bank of England, the Treasury. Gove was asking voters absence anything like the same educational qualifications to feel empowered to repudiate what they were being told. And in the referendum on 23 June, that is what they did.

Voters with postgraduate qualifications split 75 to 25 in favour of remain. Meanwhile, among those who left school without any qualifications, the vote was almost exactly reversed: 73 to 27 for leave. A report from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation last month confirmed that educational possibility was the strongest driver of the Brexit vote. Again, there were plenty of other factors at work including a significant generational divide. Older voters were far more likely to vote leave, which partly helps to explain the education gap, since the rapid expansion of higher education in recent decades entails older voters are also much less likely to have attended university. But the Rowntree report concludes that educational experience was the biggest single determinant of how people voted. Class still matters. Age still matters. But education appears to matter more.

A post-Brexit electoral map of Britain starkly exemplifies this new divide. Scotland voted remain for its own particular reasons. But in England and Wales, many university towns emerged from the referendum as isolated outposts of pro-EU sentiment in a sea of Brexit. Newcastle, York, Nottingham, Norwich, Cambridge, Brighton, Warwick, Exeter, Bristol, Reading, Oxford and Cardiff all voted remain. I live in Cambridge, which voted remain by a margin of 74 to 26. There was consternation here following the result. It was accompanied by a barely squelched help feeling that ignorance had won the day. I lost count of the number of times I was told that one of the top trending searches on Google in the immediate aftermath of the vote was: What is the EU? The implication was that we had been taken out of Europe by people who did not even know what it was they were being asked to decide about.

Few felt comfortable, at the least in public, following this thought through to its logical conclusion. Yet it was hard to escape the sense that a long interred distrust of democracy was opposing its style back to the surface. If politics has turned into a tournament between ignorance and knowledge, then places like Cambridge is a possibility starting to feel dismayed by the realisation they are now on the losing side. But that would be to fall into an old trap.


Elite anxiety about the consequences of political ignorance is nothing new. In the long history of intellectuals worrying about democracy and its fails, two basic dreads maintain nagging away. The first is that republic will entail regulation by the poor, who will use their power to steal from the rich. The second is that republic will entail regulation by the ignorant, who will use their power to do the dumbest things. Both these worries go back at the least as far as Plato. The ancient Greeks understood full well that democracy meant letting the have-nots get their claws into the haves. For Aristotle, thats what the word meant: it was regulation by the poor( the demos ) over the wealthy. But if class conflict came with the territory, the deeper anxiety was what the masses might do out of sheer foolishness.

For Plato, democracy suffered from the basic flaw of putting decision-making in the hands of people who were not competent to choose. Politics was a ability and most people were simply clueless. Worse, that built them prey for hucksters and demagogues who would promise the earth and get away with it. Republic was fertile ground for fantasists with a taste for power. If you tell the people that up is down, and the person or persons believe you, then who is going to let them know that they are wrong?

These anxieties have never really gone away, and they reassert themselves at times of political crisis. In the 1920 s, the American political commentator Walter Lippmann updated Plato for the 20 th century by arguing that modern citizens simply lacked the mental capacity to process the information needed for intelligent decision-making. Lippmann had worked in American propaganda during the first world war and had considered at first hand just how easy it was to manipulate public opinion.

It is no longer possible, he wrote, to believe in the original creed of democracy: that the knowledge needed for the management of human affairs comes up spontaneously from the human heart. People will vote on the basis of anything that grabs their attention in a passing moment, filtered by whatever deep racisms they harbour beneath the surface. Evidence entails little to the average voter; reasoned argument means even less. Lippmann concluded that republic could only be rescued by establishing a cadre of specially trained experts, whose job was to steer politicians away from the dubious instincts of the people and back towards what the evidence required. Otherwise, the manipulation of public opinion would become the be all and end all of democracy, which is all the encouragement demagogues ever need.

Lippmanns fears chimed with the growing fret of some prominent mid-2 0th century economists that too much democratic decision-making would lead to fiscal ruining. A series of future Nobel prize wins, from Friedrich Hayek to Milton Friedman, channelled the ancient critics of democracy by arguing that putting the voters in charge meant short-term impulses would prevail over long-term prudence. Ultimately, they believed, republic produced inflation, which was just another way of the poor getting their own back on the rich. Hayek and Friedman both set their ultimate religion in the power of marketplaces. But first, they felt experts had to be empowered to rein in the self-destructive impulses of the voters. Hayek at one point advocated restricting the franchise to those aged 45, in order to cut out the young, who dont know whats good for them, and the old, who have a vested interest in the past. Hayek did not believe that anyone, however expert, could know the future. But he wanted to put self-knowledge back at the core of republic: the worldly wisdom of understanding what is possible, and what is just wishful thinking.

Lippmann, Hayek and Friedman insisted they were trying to save republic , not destroy it. But what they believed democracy required saving from was itself. The voters had to be rescued from their preference for fairytales and the person or persons peddling them. In the late 20 th century, partly under the influence of such thinkers, democratic politics did carve out spaces where experts could be better insulated from the impulsive decision-making of the masses, as independent central bank and other unelected bodies were entrusted with more and more decision-making capacity, away from the glare of public opinion. Now, in the 21 st century, these are the experts who find that the voters no longer want to heed their advice.

In the year of Trump and Brexit, it is tempting to think that republic is reverting to type and that popular ignorance is once again being targeted against expert knowledge. Trump is what you get when demagoguery is allowed to run unchecked, egged on by a craven media that simply enjoys the depict. Brexit is what you get if you ask people a question that they lack the basic information to answer. This is the view that has been doing the rounds in the circles in which the highly educated move. But to think this is a big mistake.The educational divide that is opening up in our politics is not really between knowledge and ignorance. It is a clash between one worldview and another.


What is the EU? Hearing trained remainers taunt those who would like to request that question the day after the vote was an uncomfortable experience and not only because the story about Google searches was largely apocryphal. After all, the question is not as straightforward as it seems: it is simple enough to say what the letters refer to, but far more difficult to know what they really means for our politics and our future. Education is not the same as knowledge. Nor is knowledge the same as knowing which way to election. The split between the university towns and other parts of the country did not arise because one set of people understood what was truly at stake and the others were just taking a wild guess. Both sides were guessing.

Even now , no one truly knows what is going to happen. The better-educated cleaved to one set of predictions because these chimed with what they already believed in. Polling carried out before the referendum, which asked people what they thought was likely to happen in the aftermath of a Brexit vote, found that university graduates thought that it would create an immediate fiscal accident, whereas those with fewer qualifications thought it much more likely that things would carry on as before. Prior political preferences shape what we guess the evidence proves , not the other way round.

None of this would have been able to surprised Lippmann. When he argued that ordinary voters were incapable of judging complex policy questions on their merits, he did not exclude the trained from that judgment. He entailed everybody. As he wrote: I have not happened to meet anybody, from a president of the United States to a prof of political science, who came anywhere near to embodying the ideal of the monarch and omnicompetent citizen. He thought that we needed experts who were trained in eliminating their own biases and whatever a regular university education does, it does not do that.

The historical record leaves little doubt that the educated, including the highly educated, have gone astray in their moral and political reasoning as often as anyone else, write the political scientists Christopher Achen and Larry Bartels in their new book Democracy for Realists, echoing Lippmann. What the educated are better at is voicing like they know what they are talking about, because they have been trained in how to make an debate. Well-informed people are likely to have more elaborate and internally consistent worldviews than inattentive people, but that just reflects the fact that their rationalisations are better rehearsed. Education gives you the ability to tailor your debates to suit your personal predilections, which is why it is a big asset on the job market. But it does little to help tailor your personal preferences to suit the best arguments.

Guardian
Guardian Design Composite: Guardian Design

In the current political climate, a lack of education is sometimes blamed for the spread of conspiracy hypothesis, which operate like wildfire through many populist movements. Trumps campaign, with its nods and winkings to whats really going on, and its pre-emptive warnings about the vote being stolen, has been feeding and feeding off the appetite for conspiratorial thinking. Yet to blamed this on the is a lack of education is just another version of the old anxiety of the credulity of the untutored masses: they will believe anything.

The real narrative is more complicated. Polling conducted earlier this year by a research project in Cambridge shows that education does sometimes make a difference when it is necessary to conspiracy theories: the likelihood of someone believing the moon landing was a hoax, or that the government is hiding the existence of foreigners, does decline as you go higher up the education ladder. But when the theories concern politically divisive issues, then education has far less effect.

Possessing a university degree does not alter the probability of someone expressed his belief that global warming is a hoax that tracks prior political commitments , not superior knowledge. Nor are conspiracy hypothesis confined to the right. Jeremy Corbyns support among Labour party members contains a high proportion of university alumnus. Yet in a YouGov poll, 55% of Corbyn supporters agreed with the statement that intelligence services such as MI5 have been working to undermine Corbyn since he became leader. That figure compares with merely 19% of the wider populace who give credence to the same claim. People will believe what their political allegiances incline them to believe, regardless of how much education they have received.

This doesnt mean that our political faith are simply a reflection of our narrow self-interest. It is true that we all have a tendency to prefer the worldview that enhances our future prospects. The preference of university graduates for remaining in the EU echoes the benefits that EU membership dedicates them: the free movement of labor and easy access to European networks is better for those with the qualifications to take advantage of a knowledge economy. But it is not the case that the education divide is just another version of the class divide, with the wins from globalisation lined up against the losers.

As with Trump supporters in the US, Brexit was not simply the cause of the disadvantaged and left behind. Many Brexiteers come from the affluent middle classes, particularly in the south of England, outside of the university townships. Meanwhile, universities are creating their fair share of losers these days, as students leave burdened with indebtednes and confronted by a bleak job market. Yet these students rich or poor, in run or out, elite or not overwhelmingly favoured EU membership. Education does not simply divide us on the grounds of what is in our interests. It sorts us according to which is something we feel we belong.


Why does education do this? Political scientists have been aware of the growing education divide for decades. A report on the 1983 general election whose authors included a young John Curtice, the current eminence grise of the UK polling business noted that education levels were emerging as a significant indicator of voting patterns. The report put this down to the distinctive social attitudes that were picked up at university. Educational experience, it noted, is an important source of values distinct from class experience. These values often related to issues that were not straightforwardly economic.

Graduates, even in the 1980 s, tended to be much more concerned about the environment than other sectors of the population. They were also strikingly more internationalist in outlook. In 1983, 58% of alumnus conveyed a positive stance to what was then known as the European Economic Community, whereas merely 35% of the individuals who left school at 16 felt the same. Not much has changed since. But at that time, the Labour party was still overtly hostile to the European project, and withdrawal from the EEC was part of its famously radical 1983 election manifesto. Many graduates reported having leftish positions on a whole host of other questions from defence spending to womens rights. But on this issue their cosmopolitanism took precedence over their party allegiances. The outcome was that in the 1983 election more than twice as many university graduates voted for the centrist pro-European SDP-Liberal Alliance as voted for Labour.

One reason this was not a bigger issue back then and the Alliance did not manage to supplant Labour as the main party of opponent was that there were not that many university alumnus. Although participate had been steadily rising, in the mid-1 980 s fewer than one in five people had benefited from higher education. That was enough to make a difference, but not enough to tip the balance. By 2012, university participation among 18 -3 0 year olds was close to 50%, and it has only dipped recently because of rising tuition fees. That is enough to start splitting the population into two camps.

But it is not simply a question of demographics. The gap has been amplified by certain forms of social mobility, which have reinforced the education divide by enabling the better-educated to start congregating together: socially, geographically, romantically. In a previous generation, graduates often married non-graduates, because their choices tended to be driven by where they happened to live or work. As the clich has it: boss used to marry their secretaries. Not any more, and not just because there are fewer secretaries. If you went to university, ask yourself: how many of your friends didnt going to see university? And among your friends, how many of those who did are married to people who didnt? Greater freedom of motion creates greater freedom of selection. But that does not render more social diversity, it creates more social stratification.

Social media now improves these patterns. Friendship groups of like-minded people reinforce each others worldviews. Facebooks news feed is designed to deliver information that users are more inclined to like. Much of the shock that followed the Brexit result in trained circles came from the fact that few people had been exposed to debates that did not match their predilections. Education does not offer any protection against these social media consequences. It strengthens them.

The growing political divide between the trained and the least educated can be seen across Europe. It is most pronounced in Scandinavian countries, where university attendance is high and levels of education are an increasing driver of voting habits. It is less visible in southern and eastern Europe in places such as Portugal and Poland where participation in higher education is lower, and other social factors, including family and religion, still exert a strong grip.

But Britain and the US are different again, because of their political systems. In European countries with proportional representation, smaller parties can offer a home to particular segments of the population, including those at both ends of the education scale. The is supportive of many European parties of the populist right is heavily drawn from less educated voters. Meanwhile, green and liberal parties, especially those that favour immigration, rely strongly on university graduates for their support. That group includes the Liberal Democrats, which is still the UK-based party that attracts the highest proportion of alumnus among its voters. But as the Lib Dems have discovered to their cost, with first-past-the-post that is not enough. Under a PR system, targeting the alumnu election can produce significant representation in parliament. Here, it can get you wiped out especially if you make a promise to students not to create their tuition fees and then fail to keep it.

The education divide is never going to supplant traditional left-right politics. There is not going to be a Graduate party taking on a party of School Leavers. Instead the divide cuts across left and right, which is why it is proving so disruptive to our politics right now. Big-tent political parties are struggling to hold their fractured coalitions of voters together. Polling still uncovers some shared postures between university graduates and those without educational qualifications on economic issues, such as is supportive of trade unions and mistrust of the free market. But the education divide derives from alternative solutions define of values, which is often characterised as the opposition between libertarians and authoritarians.

Authoritarians are looking for order and control, libertarians want greater freedom and tolerance. Along with education levels, the strongest indicator of likely is supportive of Brexit was shown by stances to capital punishment: the more you were in favour, the more you wanted to leave the EU. These postures tend to track educational experience. Labours support is now divided between left-leaning libertarians( broadly pro-union and anti-banks, but also pro-immigration, and often highly educated) and left-leaning authoritarians( also pro-union and anti-banks, but far tougher on immigration and very concerned about crime and community ). Each grouping might gather upwards of 20% of the electorate under its wing. Together that would be enough for a parliamentary majority. But they do not fit together any more, and increasingly they neither like nor trust each other.

The same forces-out are threatening to play havoc with electoral politics in the US. Trumps army of the least educated is on the marching inside the Republican party, but that leaves plenty of traditional Republicans including many college-educated ones know where to go. Some Republican will be voting for Clinton. Some traditional Democratswill be sorely tempted by Trumps deep authoritarian message. It is true that American democracy has proved highly resilient in the past and the party system has adapted to many demographic and cultural changes. However, it is also possible that the gap between the educated and the less educated is going to become more entrenched over time, because it is not just a question of economic interests. It represents a gulf in mutual understanding.


The conflict between rich and poorstill matters a great deal in our politics. But the age-old fear that democracy would end up letting the poor steal from the rich has always appeared overblown. Constitutions including the one carefully crafted by the American founders to guard against only that outcome have done their bit to safeguard the interests of the propertied classes. So, too, have the increasingly complex institutional arrangements that give power to experts in areas defence, finance, surrounding, health where technical knowledge is assumed to be required. Representative republic has proved effective at staving off class war. It has done it by detecting electoral outlets for popular dissatisfaction as with the election of Franklin D Roosevelt in 1932, of Attlee in 1945, or of Obama in 2008 that never quite let the people take charge. When inequality gets out of hand, the system does what it can to correct for it. But it is designed to avoid extreme solutions driven by popular anger. That still holds. The haves do not look in danger of being expropriated by the have-nots any time soon.

The contest between the trained and the least educated is different. Many of the safeguards that have been put in place to bypass popular politics above all, the authorities concerned that now resides in central banks have had the effect of empowering a new class of experts, for whom education is a prerequisite of entry into the elite. These are not just the bankers, but the lawyers, the doctors, the civil servants, the technicians, the pundits, the academics. Not all of the educated are winners in this world, but almost all of the wins are trained. It gives the impression that knowledge has become a proxy for influence.

When Gove suggested that the experts should not be trusted because they have a vested interest in what they are saying, that was his point: once knowledge becomes a prerequisite of power, then it no longer speaks for itself. It appears to speak for the worldview of the ones who possess it. At that point it ceases to be knowledge and simply becomes another mark of privilege.

The education divide has the potential to break apart the careful ties that hold representative republic together. Regardless of our different interests, we elect representatives to take decisions on our behalf on the understanding that we share certain basic values, including a respect for knowledge, wherever it comes from. Once knowledge is assumed to be only another one of the perks of power, then the basis to trust others to take decisions for us becomes eroded. Asserting the facts and asserting your privilege grow increasingly difficult to distinguish.

Educated v less educated may be even more toxic than rich v poor, because it comes laden with presumptions of moral superiority. These days the rich find it quite hard to get away with the presumption that their wealth is proof of their virtue. When they seek protection from the system, it is pretty clear what they are up to: they are looking after their interests. But when the educated look out for themselves they can dress it up as something ostensibly better than that: expertise.

To those on the receiving aim, that stinks. It stinks of hypocrisy, and the committee is also stinks of self-interest. The fact that the educated are not always the beneficiaries of the social positions that they hold Corbyns advocates, like Bernie Sanderss, would rightly insist that many of the positions they adopt are designed for the benefit the socially omitted does not help. It merely makes them sound even more self-righteous.

In the run-up to the EU referendum Jeremy Cliffe of the Economist the house publication of the trained expert suggested that although Brexit might win this time, it was possible the UK would vote to rejoin the EU in a second referendum 20 years from now, by which point current high levels of university education would have spread to afterwards age groups. Twenty years is a very long time in politics. Before then, the gap between the educated and the less educated has the potential to widen, as each side excavates in. The viciousness of public debate, as bad as it is now, could still get worse. Because two-party politics does not map on to this division, mainstream politicians will have to find creative ways to try to harness it. These carry health risks of attaining it worse.

The EU referendum was assured by educated optimists including some of the person or persons around David Cameron as simply another way for republic to let off steam: a the ways and means of dedicating vent to rage without letting it run out of control. That is what the optimists have been saying about Trump too. But the steam is still rising.

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Read more: www.theguardian.com

Twitter suspends American far-right activists’ accounts

3 months, 11 days ago

The move comes as the social network cracks down on hate speech on the site with new tools and features

Twitter has suspended the accounts of a number of American alt-right activists hours after announcing a renewed pushing to crack down on loathe speech.

Among the accounts removed were those of the self-described white-nationalist National Policy Institute, its publication, Radix, and its head Richard Spencer, as well as other prominent alt-right figures including Pax Dickinson and Paul Town.

Spencer, who according to anti-hate group SPLC calls for peaceful ethnic cleansing to halt the deconstruction of European culture, decried the bans as corporate Stalinism to right-wing news outlet Daily Caller.

Twitter is trying to airbrush the alt right out of existence, Spencer said. Theyre clearly afraid. They will fail! Members of the Reddit forum r/ altright “ve called the” move a purge.

Spencers ban is particularly notable, since he previously had a verified account on Twitter – the badge the company gives to noteworthy accounts to prove they are who they say they are. In the past, Twitter has stripped accounts of their verified status in the wake of abuse, as the company did with an editor at far-right news outlet Breitbartthis year, but the company does not appear to have previously acted so conclusively against an account it had once devoted what could be interpreted as a badge of approval.

A Twitter spokesman said the Twitter Rules prohibit violent threats, harassment, hateful conduct, and multiple account abuse, and we will take action on accounts infringing those policies.

The move came the same day that Twitter announced a new move against loathe speech and harassment on the site. The company announced new features intended to allow users to control what content appears in their notifications, but it also confirmed a change to its develop process for moderators on the site, and a new set of tools for reporting loathe speech.

Those changes were welcomed by users, but also seen as too little, too late. As with Facebooks clampdown on fake news on its social network, users construed the social network as ultimately realising that its platform was facilitating and emboldening the far right, but merely during the course of its week after the far-rights candidate of choice had won the US presidential election.

For former Twitter users, both those cast off the site due to their extreme positions, or those discontinuing Twitter in protest, a new social network is hoping to hoover them up instead. Gab advertises itself with the slogan Free speech for everyone, and features a green frog as its logo. Webcomic character Pepe the Frog was added to an online abhor symbol database in September owing to the figures co-option as an alt-right icon.

In a statement, Gab said: We are a free-speech website and nothing more. Gab is open to all users, regardless of their political beliefs, ideology and moral positions. Our mission is to set people first and to foster discourse without hindrance and proscription, as is occurring throughout the online community.

We use a frog, because it has long been a symbol of fertility, creation, going back to the ancients. Its seen as a emblem of prosperity.

So far, though, the service has just 12,000 users, stimulating it small in comparison to other far-right meeting place such as Stormfront.

Read more: www.theguardian.com