Jonny Nexus

Writing, life, politics

Category: Current Events (page 3 of 4)

What’s This We, Kemosabe?

There’s a lot of talk now about the coalition government move to raise the cap on university tuition fees. For what’s it’s worth, I don’t know what the solution to university funding is, although I do feel that the emphasis on getting 50% of the population to go to a university simply to do a degree, any degree, is seriously missing the point1.

Anyhow, yesterday I read a piece in the London Evening Standard by their City Editor Chris Blackhurst (who’s perhaps a little older than me, but probably a fellow Generation Xer), in which he strongly opposed the raising of the tuition fees cap. It’s a good, fairly written, and passionate piece, but he managed to completely rub me up the wrong way with one particular angle that he was taking. Here’s the relevant bits (emphasis mine):

In our days, as I recall, we never had this double-whammy worry. We got a grant from the local council and we spent it. If we wanted more, we got casual work, we asked the bank manager or our parents, or both.

We weren’t bothered about being saddled with heavy debts when we graduated: what jobs we would end up doing and, more to the point, how much they paid, never dominated our thinking. When we did get jobs, we were able to join the property ladder and to take out mortgages — we did not have a sizeable loan already hanging over us.

How can we do this? We, the people that enjoyed free education, that basked in the lengthy post-war prosperity of our parents’ generation and the expansion of the university system? How dare we turn round now and tell our children to pay so much?

And that dilemma is not one they should face. It’s not one that we had to confront and neither should our successors. Our hypocrisy in this regard is appalling. Shame on us.

Of course, upon reading that, my deep, gut reactions was: what’s with this “we” shit? You might have gone to university Chris, but I didn’t, and neither did hardly anyone I knew2. I just didn’t come from the sort of background3 where people went to university, and as a result I was frankly too scared to go.

People seem to be harking back to a “golden age” where everyone got to go to university for free, but there never was such a golden age. Some people (ten percent maybe, with a disproportionate number of them coming from good middle-class backgrounds) were given free university educations, paid for by the taxes of a whole bunch of people whose own children weren’t going to go to university.

Taxing the poor to educate the rich seems to me neither fair nor progressive, and now that the poor have decided that they’d quite like to go to university too, it’s become horribly apparent that it’s going to need more money.

Like I said, I don’t know the solution. But let’s not kid ourselves about how great it was in the past, because it wasn’t.

1People say this will enable those people getting degrees to earn more money. But how? And why? The way to help everyone in the country earn more money is to train them to provide goods and services the the rest of the world wishes to purchase. But historically, the reason why people with generic liberal-arts degrees earned more money was because in an era when only 10% of people got a degree, possession of a degree would take you straight into the top 10% of management jobs, where you would be a highly paid “chief” bossing around nine lowly paid “indians”. Those liberal-arts degrees made their possessor’s richer, but they didn’t make the country any richer. If we succeeded in getting 50% of people to have some sort of generic degree that won’t mean 50% of all jobs will now be highly-paid managerial positions. It will simply mean that if you want a top 10% highly-paid managerial position, you’ll need at least a masters degree, if not a Phd. So I fear we risk spending huge amounts of money and saddling kids with massive debts, only for them to end up doing the same 20-30k generic white collar jobs that they would have ended up doing thirty years ago, except that then they’d have started them at 16 instead of 21.

2There were 250 people in my year at school. Of those, 16 (6%) stayed on to do A Levels. Most of them failed those A Levels. I know of at least one person who went to a university or polytechnic to do a degree level course (Lawrence, who went to the University of Lancaster to do maths). I think one, perhaps two max, of the girls went to a university as well. And my friend Stuart who left school after O Levels and got a job in a bank later went back to College to get a BTEC National Diploma in computing, and then, on the strength of that, went to Bristol Polytechnic (now the University of the West of England). So that’s somewhere between 0.4% and 1.6% going to university or polytechnic.

3At the time I got to 18, I knew of only one person in my family, ever, who’d gone to university, and that was a great-grandfather (my mother’s, father’s father, who was quite well off, but then did for his family by dying young of TB). Other than that, of my mother, my father, my brother, my two older cousins, my two uncles and my three aunts, my three great-aunts, and my four grand-parents, not one had been to university. That’s not to say that they were stupid, or even ill-educated. Both my mother and my uncle Alan were teachers (two-year and three-year teaching certificates respectively), my father was a surveyor (part-time Higher National Certificate in Mining Surveying), my uncle Gerry was a policeman, my auntie Ruth was a nurse, and my auntie Jean got very high up in the civil service. Since then, my two younger cousins have both got degrees and my uncle Alan got an Open University degree. But at the time, university seemed a scary place full of better educated kids from posh schools – so I went to a local college and got a BTEC (in cartography and surveying).

Should Lib Dem Supporters Be Ashamed?

It’s quite common now to read tweets, posts and status updates that are highly critical of the Liberal Democrats’ role in the UK’s coalition government, often stating that those who voted Lib Dem should now be regretting their choice and sometimes even suggesting that they should feel shame. But do such statements betray a misunderstanding of the realities of co-operative politics, coalition government, and the situation that the Lib Dems were put in by the UK’s electorate?

Let’s follow some links:

We start with an election that delivered an inconclusive result from which was created an unlikely and awkward coalition between a conservative and perhaps even regressive larger party, and a smaller, supposedly progressive party. Presumably necessary compromises were made, leading to harsh criticism from voices on the left you might have presumed sympathetic.

Economic circumstances and a spiralling deficit forced the coalition government into a programme of huge, harsh, deep cuts, resulting in huge protests, and the government becoming one of the most unpopular ever. Banks were controversally bailed out of huge losses, creating a widespread and angry perception that the poor were suffering to rescue the rich.

Many members of the smaller party were deeply unhappy about the polices their party was following, with several in elected positions resigning in protest. Knowing that were the government to fall they would face electoral oblivion, the smaller party was forced into defending the unforgivable. But the smaller party persists in remaining in coalition, ignoring calls to let the people have the new election they want, knowing that their only hope of survival is to ignore damning criticism and instead prop-up the government through a full parliamentary term in the hope that by then, the savage cuts will have started to bear fruit.

Should I, as a member of the UK’s Liberal Democrats, feel ashamed of the story told by the above links?

No, because while I have huge sympathy for those experiencing the problems inherent in being the junior member of a ruling coalition, every single one of those links refers to Ireland, and its ruling Fianna Fáil – Green Party coalition.

Ashamed? You’d have to ask a member of the Irish Green Party.

Retarded? Mentally Disturbed? Evil?

These were the three thoughts that went through my mind when I read the following in a news report about Raoul Moat’s funeral in today’s Metro newspaper:

One stranger was Theresa Bystram, 45, who travelled 480km (300 miles) from Weybridge, Surrey, on an overnight coach with three of her teenage sons to be at the crematorium.

She said: ‘I absolutely loved him. I just think he is a hero and I wanted to pay my respects.

‘He kept them coppers on the run all that time. Fair enough people died but they must have deserved it.’

One of the people Moat shot was Policeman David Rathband. He was sitting in his car when Moat shot him in the face at point blank range. This wasn’t self-defence. This wasn’t even a fight. There wasn’t any dispute. This was a just a totally random, cowardly, vicious attack.

Rathband survived, but is now blinded for life.

And what about the man who was killed, Chris Brown, who Moat first shot in the legs and then executed with shots to the back and the head? His only crime appears to have been that he got into a relationship with a woman who’d previously dated a psycho. (I once did that. Don’t figure it would have justified him killing me.)

I have no problem with people expressing some degree of sympathy for Moat. He was clearly in need of psychiatric treatment, and in a more just society he might now be alive, and his victims unhurt.

But to go beyond sympathy into suggesting that his victims deserved their fate? Now that’s just sick.

I don’t know who Theresa Bystram is, but having presumably been born with at least some sort of brain she ought to perhaps start using it. And yes, I probably am being very unsympathetic to a woman who’s most likely not all there, but I think I’m still giving her more sympathy than she’s showed to Moat’s victims.

There’s Probably An App For That

Okay, I do at this point need to declare an interest. I’m an Apple fanboy. Not only have I got an iPad, an iPhone, a MacBook, and a MacBook Air, I have also in the past owned an iBook, a first-generation iMac, and even [drumroll please] a Newton.

(Buying a Mustang or a Mondeo, say, doesn’t make you a Ford fan. Having bought an Edsel – that makes you a Ford fan. And having been one of the “handful” of people who bought a Newton is a bit like that.)

But this article is not about the iPad, at least not directly. I love my iPad, but this article is not about the ways in which people will use iPads, but the ways in which they will use tablet computers in general.

The iPad has been a huge success; and that success will create an entire new market, which appears likely to be filled by similar generic tablet/pad/slate devices powered by Google’s Android OS. Several are either here or on the way.

Now there are many reasons why for most people and most tasks, a simple tablet is better than a more complex computer. But this morning I read something that made me think of a particular area of improvement. (This is probably obvious, because it’s something I myself already knew, but have only just perhaps joined the dots together; so apologies in advance for writing a post in which I’ll now proceed to state the obvious).

The article revealed that the proportion of iPad users who are female is starting to rise as it moves beyond the initial “early adoption” phase, and that it’s starting to become a strong platform for online shopping. But that wasn’t what caught my eye. It was this:

Usage of Yahoo Groups, Yahoo Shopping and Yahoo Travel rose by 28%, 25% and 22%, respectively, compared with Yahoo’s first batch of numbers. This could be related to the gender shift, as well, but it’s a good sign for commerce on the iPad — a key application that many big retailers are embracing with a giant bear hug. Banana Republic (GPS), for example, went whole-hog with an intricate and richly designed iPad application that takes users into a seemingly 3-D virtual store.

Full article…

It’s all about the apps.

In the eighties and into the nineties, our computing was all about applications. You bought applications for your PC (or Mac), installed them, and used them. Buying them was a slow offline process; installing them frequently a nightmare.

Then came the web revolution. For several years we really just used our browsers as, well browsers, to surf the web. But as the technology matured (Java/Javascript/Flash/Ajax etc), companies started to distribute what were essentially “applications”, but implemented as rich and dynamic websites. I’m not just talking about the obvious apps here, like Google docs. If you think about it, Hotmail (perhaps the first of these types of “application” sites), Facebook and Twitter aren’t websites as we would have understood the term in the mid-nineteen nineties; they’re “applications” offering a rich set of functionality, but implemented via the medium of a website.


Well not because the application is simply better that way. It isn’t. These “application” type websites weren’t quite as good as an actual executable website would have been – a proper email program like Thunderbird or Outlook is almost always a bit nicer to use than a webmail site like Hotmail or GMail, for example. But that wasn’t the point.

The key thing is that distributing your application as a website gets rid of both of the preliminary steps I described above; you don’t have to go out and buy the app, and you don’t then have to install it. And when Facebook et al want to change or improve their “application” they just roll it out by redoing the website.

(I should point out that there’s also an additional advantage: that you can use the “application” of many different computers).

Where am I going with this? Well one of the things that people say about the iPad is that it’s a wonderful device for surfing the web. And it is. But I think this is in some ways an example of transitional technology; where new technology is initially used as a better way of doing things the old way.

Because I think as times goes on, and we all get tablet computers, we’ll end up using the web a lot less. When we want to get the latest news from our favourite news site, or go shopping at our favourite store, it won’t be the web we turn to. It will be the custom app for our favourite news site, and the custom app for our favourite store, with those apps offering a far richer, more responsive experience than a mere website ever could.

Apps can be purchased, downloaded, and installed easily and quickly with just a few clicks. At a stroke, many (not all) of the reasons that caused the turn of the century shift away from applications to “website applications” are gone. (Although the web will still be there as a handy backup for when you’re somewhere else, much as many of us access our email via dedicated email programs like Outlook when at home, and via web when away).

People now joke that “there’s probably an app for that”.

But whatever it is you want to do, there probably is. The web’s never going to go away. But I can see it being used a lot less. If I had an online shop, I think I’d want to start getting an app developed, pronto.

You [censored] Hypocritical [censored]!!!

Labour party supporters (not necessarily the Labour party itself) are currently slamming away at the Lib Dems for talking to the Tories about some sort of coalition, totally ignoring the fact that it wasn’t the Lib Dems who took this decision, but the British people themselves when a hell of a lot more of them voted for the Tories than voted for Labour, creating a situation where a Tory-LD coalition would have a healthy majority but a Labour-LD one would fall short.

But what’s really pissing me off is the hypocrisy they’re displaying. Here’s a look at the front page of the apparently unofficial @UKLabourParty twitter feed (the official one is @UKLabour – I’d be very interested to know who’s behind the supposedly unofficial one):

I’m currently seeing a lot of retweets of their various “We need another x people to retweet if you want Proportional Representation” going around.

So exactly how long has the Labour Party believed in proportional representation? Well their 1997 manifesto did say the following:

We are committed to a referendum on the voting system for the House of Commons. An independent commission on voting systems will be appointed early to recommend a proportional alternative to the first-past-the-post system.

Full Manifesto

And they did do the first part of that. They created an independent commission under Roy Jenkins that produced a report. You can read the full report here. The crucial bit is contained in the first two recommendations:

1. The Commission’s central recommendation is that the best alternative for Britain to the existing First Past The Post system is a two-vote mixed system which can be described as either limited AMS or AV Top-up. The majority of MPs (80 to 85%) would continue to be elected on an individual constituency basis, with the remainder elected on a corrective Top-up basis which would significantly reduce the disproportionality and the geographical divisiveness which are inherent in FPTP.

2. Within this mixed system the constituency members should be elected by the Alternative Vote. On its own AV would be unacceptable because of the danger that in anything like present circumstances it might increase rather than reduce disproportionality and might do so in a way which is unfair to the Conservative party. With the corrective mechanism in operation, however, its advantages of increasing voter choice and of ensuring that in practice all constituency members (as opposed to little more that half in recent elections) have majority support in their own constituencies become persuasive. Lord Alexander would, however, prefer to retain FPTP for constituency elections for the reasons outlined in the attached note.

Of course, having spent a load of tax payers money finding out what they should do, they then binned it. Hey, FPTP was winning them obscene majorities on a minority of the vote! Excluding factors such as fairness, decency, democracy, keeping their word, and the long-term good of the country, what possible reasons would they have for moving to a proportional system?

Then we arrive in 2010. Labour are now making a big fuss about the fact that their 2010 manifesto contained a commitment to electoral reform. It did, saying the following:

At the heart of our agenda for a new politics are commitments to a referendum early in the next parliament on whether to move to the Alternative Vote system for elections to the House of Commons;

Full Manifesto Section

It should be noted that Alternative Vote is not a proportional system. You might have noticed a line in the section I quoted from the Jenkins report:

On its own AV would be unacceptable because of the danger that in anything like present circumstances it might increase rather than reduce disproportionality and might do so in a way which is unfair to the Conservative party.

Basically, it’s not PR. It can actually make it more likely that a party could achieve a majority with only a third of the first-choice votes; its only, minor, saving grace is that at least it would mean people no longer had to vote tactically. There’s a very good article on the BBC News website that allows you to see the effects of various types of voting system. From that, you can see:

In the 2005 election, FPTP gave the Labour Party 355 seats (54.6%) on  35.3% of the vote.

If those elections had been held under AV, they’d have got 366 seats (56.3%).

You can read a bit more about Labour’s retreat away from PR, here, but it’s clear that they have not been in favour of it in any meaningful way.

So when did the Labour Party and Gordon Brown become converted to the cause of proportional representation? Sometime last Friday morning, far as I can tell.

And if they think they can get voting reform past a sceptical British public in a referendum while displaying such a huge degree of opportunism and hypocrisy, I suspect they might find themselves mistaken. And remember this: if we lost such a referendum we’d have lost all chance of PR for a generation.

The Tragic Story of Oxfordia

Let’s talk about a small, remote, poor, and undeveloped country called Oxfordia that recently held an election. Oxfordia has a simple “first-past-the-post” election system; the country is divided into two halves, each of which returns a member of parliament. The results of the election were as follows:

East Oxfordia

Labourious Party: 21,938 votes (42.5%)

The Liberally Democrats: 17,357 (33.6%)

Conversative Party: 9,727 (18.8%)

West Oxfordia

Conversative Party: 23,906 (42.3%)

The Liberally Democrats: 23,730 (42.0%)

Labourious Party: 5,999 (10.6%)

So following the election, Oxfordia has two members in its parliament, one from the Conversative Party and one from the Labourious Party. Now of course, this is pretty unfair, given the numbers of votes cast:

The Liberally Democrats: 41,087 (40.0%)

Conversative Party: 33,633 (32.7%)

Labourious Party: 27,937 (27.2%)

Still, at the end of the day, that’s just a small, far away country with a corrupt electoral system. At least we don’t have to worry about anything like that happening here.

For more information, click to read about East Oxfordia and West Oxfordia.

On Why The Lib Dems Just Might Be Different

It’s no secret that the Lib Dems are doing better right now than they have since the early 80s heyday of the SDP, nor that the Tories and their friends in the press have gone into serious and sustained brick production as a result – something neatly demonstrated by the picture to the right of this paragraph.

I’ve grabbed the picture from @JonathanHaynes which I hope is okay with him (I’ve dropped him a line). I wouldn’t normally do it, but I figure this is the sort of picture that we want spread far and wide. You can see the full size original here.)

Now when it comes to reasons not to vote Lib Dem, people tend to come up with two broad objections:

1) It’s a wasted vote because the Lib Dems can’t win.

2) There’s no point because all politicians and all political parties are the same. They’re all just corrupt and after power.

Point 1 is easily proved with basic maths and logic. The Lib Dems will win the same way as everyone else – by getting lots of votes. If the Lib Dem share of the vote pushes into the high thirties then Nick Clegg will be our next Prime Minister; if it pushes into the forties, he’ll most likely end up sitting on a huge majority.

Point 2 is perhaps harder, because it’s based on opinions, and prejudicial ones at that, rather than facts. But it too can be strongly argued against.

I should declare a bias here. I’m a Lib Dem supporter, though rather lapsed, and I come from a strongly Lib Dem, and Liberal before that, family. My grandfather was a Liberal all his life. My mother has a been a Lib Dem activist since 1974. So what? Well let’s think about what that means…

Take John O’Farrell’s admittedly entertaining book about his time as a Labour activist in the electoral wilderness: “Things Can Only Get Better: Eighteen Miserable Years in the Life of a Labour Supporter, 1979-1997”. Eighteen miserable years? Eighteen? Try ninety-four fucking years in the wilderness, and then maybe you can whine about how crap it was. My grandfather was born in 1908, lived until the age of 82, was a Liberal all his life, and yet he died not ever knowing, not even once, what it was like to wake up the morning after a general election knowing that his party had won.

And yet, he stuck at it.

Like I said, my mother because a Liberal activist in 1974. A good chunk of my childhood memories involve being dragged around delivering leaflets or helping out at jumble sales. (Yeah, it wasn’t glamorous – it was pretty much all delivering thousands of leaflets and doing lots of jumble sales to pay for them).

When she joined the Liberals, her local constituency party – which covered ten council wards returning thirty councillors – had a grand total of no MP and no councillors. In 1985, eleven years later, they got a councillor elected in a bye-election. And that win wasn’t just the first time she’d been involved in a winning election – they’d never previously achieved better than a poor third.

And she’s still at, with my dad, aged 76 and 71, in a Labour-Conservative marginal in which the Lib Dems are a distant third place, in a local party that after up and downs is now back down to just a couple of councillors, and perhaps none come 6th May. In just this one election these two pensioners will deliver literally several thousand leaflets themselves, because there’s no one else in their ward to do it.

My parents are not corrupt, but they’re not stupid either. They both passed the 11+ and got A Levels in an age when only the top 12% did so. Trust me, if power was what they were interested in, they’d have picked a better way of achieving it.

And that’s the root of my argument. People can’t have it both ways. They can’t dismiss the Lib Dems for having picked what is clearly a very long, hard route to power, but then accuse those who’ve taken that long, hard route as being interested only in the greedy pursuit of personal glory and self-aggrandisement.

What has kept Lib Dem activists and Liberal party activists before them going for ninety-four fucking years since the last time there was a Liberal Party in government?

Whatever it is, I find it hard to believe it’s the naked pursuit of power.

First Past The Post: A Good Idea?

The BBC have put up an election calculator, where you can plug in various hypothetical national votes shares for the parties and then see what the election result would be, assuming consistent swings. You can find it here:

I had a play around, and managed to come up with an interesting scenario. Imagine you had the following result:

Lib Dem: 37.0%

Conservative: 28.9%

Labour: 24.1%

Other: 10%

Who would be the winner of that election? Why Labour of course! (Largest party, though not with a majority).

Labour: 215 seats

Lib Dem: 211 seats

Conservative: 195 seats

Other: 29 seats

Of course, you can also dream…

Lib Dem: 42.6.0%

Conservative: 26.3%

Labour: 21.1%

Other: 10%

Which gives:

Lib Dem: 415 seats

Labour: 106 seats

Conservative: 103 seats

Other: 26 seats

Amazing the difference 5.6% can make. And then there’s the result that might really set the cat among the pigeons of the FPTP supporting Tories:

Conservative: 35.6%

Labour: 35.3%

Lib Dem: 19.1%

Other: 10%

Which gives:

Labour: 331 seats (5 seat majority)

Conservative: 240 seats

Lib Dem: 50 seats

Other: 29 seats

So it would be possible for the Tories to get more votes than Labour, but for Labour to then not only get more seats, but actually achieve a majority. (i.e. An absolute victory).

I think if they lose they’ll cry, sack Cameron, and then tear themselves apart. But if they lose in a way where they could reasonably claim “we woz robbed”… How funny would that be? (And if you think I’m being mean, I’d ask how sympathetic they were when the Liberal Party got 19.7% of the votes in the February 1974 election, and received 14 seats in return).

Why I Think “Free” News Could Be A Dangerous Thing

It’s just been announced that the London Evening Standard is to become a free paper (at present it’s 50p) and will most likely merge with it’s already free London Lite sibling. Now I have a number of issues about this, not least of which is that I like the Evening Standard and generally buy it in preference to the free London Lite because it’s thicker, and seems to cover the news in greater depth. (Certainly, there’s more stuff in it).

Are they really making the Evening Standard free? Or are they just renaming London Lite to “the London Evening Standard”, and then abolishing the Standard?

But aside from that, it’s clear that we’re moving to a world where we’ll get most of our written news for free, either from free advert-supported websites or from free advert-supported newspapers. And I think that could be a very dangerous thing.

Put simply, when you pay someone, they work for you. They have to provide you with the service you want, or you’ll take your money elsewhere. So we’re moving from:

The Past

Newspapers got at least a significant chunk of their income directly from the readers via the purchase cost of the papers. Those readers loved nothing more than stories which exposed the rich and the powerful, be they corporate or political. So that was what the editors and the journalists gave them.


The Future

Newspapers (and web news sites) will get their income entirely from advertising or from some rich benefactor content to run an outlet at a loss as their personal propaganda arm. While they will try to entertain readers, their ultimate mission will be to run the stories their advertisers or benefactors want them to run.

Or to put it more succinctly, we’re going from a world where if your newspaper failed to cover an important corruption story you could say, “Oy! I’m not paying you 50p a day to not tell me what’s going on!” to, “Oy! I’m not paying you- Bugger…”

I’m not sure this is terribly good for democracy. And before anyone says that we don’t need paid media because they get all their news from amateur blogs, ask yourself this: How much of that is original news based on primary reporting? And how much is them just linking to, or even just copy-and-pasting, a story that ultimately came from a professional news source?

(And yes, that is exactly what I’m doing right here).

The Old New Labour Playbook

I’m not a fan of Margaret Thatcher by any means. Hell, while back in the 1980s my teen-aged self might not have considered her to be the Antichrist, I probably would have figured her as the Antichrist’s John the Baptist. Now, whilst still disagreeing (sometimes quite violently) with the probably the majority of what she did, I think I can perhaps see her in more measured terms. And in particular, I think I can now appreciate a fact now that escaped me then.

For a woman to get to be Prime Minister is one hell of an achievement; it would be so now, it was doubly so thirty years ago.

The barriers facing her, not only of sexism but perhaps also – being a grocer’s daughter – of class, were huge, and she smashed them all down one after another in a way that I can’t help but admire. She wasn’t the first prime-minister in the world, but she was the first to lead a major world power, and her election was undoubtedly a milestone in the drive to gender equality.

Of course, I wouldn’t expect New Labour to see it that way. You see, whatever I might think about Margaret Thatcher, she always struck me as – in the political sense – being honest and in possession of integrity, which is often more than can be said of New Labour; too eager to spin and manipulate the truth; too willing to politicise people, practices and organisations that should have stayed politically neutral.

Which brings me to the point of this post. As revealed by the BBC, the Equality’s Office (a branch of the government led by Harriet Harman) published on their website a document entitled “Women in Power: Milestones” which listed those people who had advanced the cause of women in politics, both in the UK, and elsewhere in the world. Fifteen women were mentioned by name. Margaret Thatcher was not one of them.

Yes. The government did a list of all the woman who’ve achieved milestones in the political arena, with a particular focus on Britain, and somehow managed to avoid mentioning Margaret bloody Thatcher! That’s like leaving writing a list of great physicists of the twentieth century and leaving out Albert Einstein.

Here’s the list (as originally published) of all the women mentioned, with the one, glaring omission.

1907 First woman councillor elected in Britain – Reina Emily Lawrence

1919 First woman to take a seat in Parliament – Nancy Astor

1958 Life Peerages Act entitles women to sit in House of Lords Lady Reading and Baroness Barbara Wooton first to take seats

1960 First female Head of Government – Sirimavo Bandaranaike, Prime Minister of Sri Lanka

1976 Shreela Flather elected first Asian woman councillor in Britain

1979 UK’s first woman Prime Minister

1981 Baroness Young becomes first woman Leader of the House of Lords

1984 Britain’s first black female mayor – Lydia Simmons, Slough

1987 Diane Abbott elected first black woman MP

1990 Baroness Flather is the first female Asian peer

1997 First BME female government Minister – Patricia Scotland

1998 Baroness Uddin is the first Muslim woman in the House of Lords

1999 UK’s first Asian female MEP – Neena Gill

2003 Baroness Amos is the first black woman appointed to Cabinet

2003 Baroness Amos is first black woman Leader of the House of Lords

2007 Baroness Scotland is first black woman Attorney General

It’s not like they’d have had to look her name up.

It’s petty. It’s childish. It’s rude. And this wasn’t an internal prank. They published this. What moron could possibly think this was acceptable?

I remember something my brother once said about the architects of New Labour. In the 80s, a lot of them had been hard-left Trotskyists; in the 90s they abandoned those beliefs but retained the ideological certainty that they were right and that anyone who disagreed was a progress-obstructing dinosaur who deserved to be bulldozed by the juggernaut of history.

These people have been in charge of a once-neutral civil service for twelve years now. Stunts like this make me wonder how much of it is left intact.

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