September 16, 2020

Rishi Sunak’s summer statement was found to be underwhelming by many professional economists, with many of the macroeconomic decisions left for the Autumn budget. Rather, Sunak focussed on sector-specific interventions to ensure the economy survived through the summer. One of these sector-specific interventions was a glamorous sounding but relatively cheap scheme: Eat Out to Help Out. Customers throughout August received 50% off up to £10 every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday The scheme came in relatively cheaply for the government, making up around 2% of the total spending announcements, however the societal impact is large. August has become a mini food festival with foodies and restaurants benefitting, however the scheme has been criticised for threatening a second wave.

The primary logic behin...

August 28, 2020

How can it be true that the post-Cold War settlement has left an almost universal feeling of aggrievement? That is the question Ivan Krastev and Stephen Holmes set out to answer in The Light That Failed by examining three case studies: Orban’s Hungary, Putin’s Russia and Trump’s America and applying a theoretical framework of ‘imitation’.

Hungary and other Central European nations quickly imitated the West by creating young liberal democracies expecting to integrate into the international community equal to the incumbents. However, they have felt patronised by the older European nations who seem to undermine their sovereignty and national dignity. These issues are particularly pertinent to newly liberated nations who have a declining birth rate - the subsequent anxiety around national identity c...

August 28, 2020

The last few decades have overseen the evolution of the US party conventions from the large-scale partisan gatherings that they once embodied into a largely “made-for-television” event in which an excessive amount of red, white and blue floods the screens of millions of television sets across the country. This year's Democratic National Convention was certainly no exception with a painstakingly long roll call, scripted anticipation, and a flurry of polished speeches ensuring the core components of a successful convention were all present and correct. Hosted virtually from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the 2020 Democratic Convention officially adopted former Vice President Joe Biden as the Democrat’s Presidential nominee in a four-night event which oversaw the historic nomination of Kamala Harris as the...

August 16, 2020

In the new normal we find ourselves in, it's natural to procrastinate. Which usually leads to binging Netflix. In an effort to correct this, I stumbled upon a book I had been meaning to read since Christmas- North Korea Journal by Michael Palin- and ended up finishing it that very afternoon. Palin wrote the journal whilst filming a documentary and visits a surprising array of places in this notoriously guarded country.

In the uniformly Stalinist capital of Pyongyang, he visits the ‘typical’ tourist haunts (by North Korean standards) such as the Juche Tower and the monument to the former and current leaders of the country, Kim-Il-Sung and Kim-Jong-Un. He then moves to the infamous DMZ, the border with South Korea; and the nearby city of Kaesong- surprisingly one of the few places in all of Korea...

August 13, 2020

The current outlook for the GOP is nothing if not grim. At the turn of the year, many on the right were bullish about the impending election. While the current president remained a divisive figure, unpopular with large swathes of the American public, he was nevertheless a first term incumbent presiding over an outwardly robust economy – a position which seldom proves to be electorally disadvantageous.  

Then came the coronavirus pandemic, almost custom built to highlight Trump’s shortcomings as an administrator, a fact borne out by the US having both the highest number of cases and deaths in the world. Unsurprisingly, this has turned a not insignificant proportion of the electorate away from the incumbent, and as such what had hitherto been shaping up to be a genuinely unpredictable and com...

July 31, 2020

Why can’t we all just get along? It sounds a reasonable and legitimate question, but it is one too many of us have failed to take heed of in recent years. To suggest that our politics has become increasingly polarised within the last decade is perhaps one of the few questions that would garner consensus across the political spectrum. Exogenous shocks from the Financial Crisis of 2008 to referendums on Scottish Independence and our membership of the European Union, coupled with the election of populist Donald Trump in 2016, have divided us at home and abroad. Despite this, they should never have acted as catalysts for us to begin treating one another with contempt. Whilst the rise of social media has given millions of people a platform they previously didn’t have, what wasn’t foreseen was the wa...

July 27, 2020

Who would’ve guessed? Mere months ago, there was a near consensus among pundits that the COVID-19 outbreak had single-handedly brought the career of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu back from the brink. Amidst widespread hysteria regarding the country’s preparedness to combat the pandemic, the embattled premier saw an opportunity to present himself as the elder statesman whose experience was required to lead Israel out of the crisis. It was only because of these dire circumstances – and Netanyahu’s deft opportunism – that Benny Gantz, the leader of opposition grouping Kahol Lavan, opted to join the former’s government at the expense of his own party’s unity. Nevertheless, the new coalition that was initially considered an unambiguous triumph by many on the centre-right has since presid...

July 27, 2020

During lockdown, a maelstrom of Twitter accounts have emerged that meticulously judge the décor, artwork and bookshelves of television pundits, providing a rare glimpse into the lives of the commentariat. One of the lesser known of these accounts, @CaroOnRoomRater, is a personal favourite. Robert Caro’s biographies are long and thorough, but said to be essential reading. They vividly explore the psyches of 20th century political figures, and show the guile required to be an effective political operator. Master of the Senate, the third volume on Lyndon Johnson, is an epic of Johnson years in the Senate (1949 – 1961),  chronicling  his rapid rise from election, to becoming the youngest Senate Majority Leader in history and his role in passing momentous legislation. 

Caro’s portrayal of J...

July 20, 2020

What does it mean to have privilege? The definition takes many forms. I believe privilege is having an advantage within society, not always because of merit or hard work. That privilege could be economical, based on where someone is born. Financially, the Royal Family are luckier than those on council estates. Culturally, some individuals have more access to highbrow mediums like opera and theatre, giving them a greater awareness of history. Privilege is obvious in employment terms: who earns more? The privilege of a higher pay does bring higher taxation however. 

To be privileged - to have a, perhaps unfair, step-up compared to most citizens must be examined educationally. I imagine most individuals would like to believe educational privilege comes from human characteristics - hard work, persev...

July 13, 2020

On both sides of the Atlantic, last week marked a step backwards in trans rights. The Trump administration has moved to allow healthcare providers the choice to deny certain medical procedures to transgender people. Meanwhile, in the UK, a series of provisions allowing transgender people to more easily legally change their gender have been dropped in favour of additional rhetoric defending ‘safe spaces’ for ciswomen. 

In the US, this represents a continuing attempt by the administration to use trans rights as the latest battlefield in a culture war. From healthcare to the military, Trump is intervening against trans people in industries and institutions that conservatives are already likely to have strong feelings about. It represents, in my view, an attempt to help bring supporters of the milit...

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