Land of the free? I’ll take my chances

Sunday National, 21st November 2021. “Two nations separated by a common language” was how George Bernard Shaw described our relationship with the United States. In some ways, America can seem beguilingly accessible for English speakers. Through TV and film, we’re saturated in American culture. Other political systems are sealed away behind a wall of words. … Continue reading Land of the free? I’ll take my chances

Jean Valjean, lobbyist

Sunday National, 14th November 2021. It was the late Christopher Hitchens who first introduced me to the concept of a “trumbrel remark.” Writing in Slate magazine in 2008, Hitchens defined it as “an unguarded comment by an uncontrollably rich person, of such crass insensitivity that it makes the workers and peasants think of lampposts and … Continue reading Jean Valjean, lobbyist

Diplomacy with a Scottish face

Sunday National, 7th November 2021. “Show, don’t tell” storytellers say. The maxim applies in politics too. That’s why photos of the First Minister meeting various international dignitaries at the COP26 summit caused the staunchest of the staunch to experience a collective aneurism this week. You can imagine the chat in Tory central office: “devolution created … Continue reading Diplomacy with a Scottish face

On boosterism

Sunday National, 31st October 2021. “Boosterism” is the concept the media have settled on to describe Boris Johnson’s governing philosophy. “Projecting mindless optimism” would be another way of describing it. Biffing the gloomsters and naysayers, the Prime Minister’s vision for Making Britain Great Again mainly consists of agitated rhetoric, colourful word choices and promises to … Continue reading On boosterism

Saying the quiet part out loud

Sunday National, 17th October 2021. All Dominic Cummings did was say the quiet part out loud. Reflecting on the UK government’s ongoing efforts to rat on the international obligations it voluntarily entered into in the EU withdrawal agreement, the Prime Minister’s former chief of staff suggested that “cheating foreigners is a core part of the … Continue reading Saying the quiet part out loud

An aftermath of children’s rights

Sunday National, 10th October 2021. People don’t always appreciate that most of the Scottish statute book was passed by Westminster between 1707 and 1998. Holyrood is slowly catching up – changing and consolidating Scots law, amending and repealing old Westminster Acts – but in many cases, London legislation still underpins vital public services. Many of … Continue reading An aftermath of children’s rights

A school for scoundrels

Sunday National, 26th September 2021. Who’s in and who’s out. Who’s up, who’s down – who’s down and out. Political journalists love cabinet reshuffles. I’ve always thought the palpable excitement – the obvious eagerness to be the first with the news, the first with the tweet, the ten-second scoop – communicates something important about how … Continue reading A school for scoundrels

The uruk hai in crimplene

Sunday National, 19th September 2021. From Kelvingrove Park to Cathedral Square, it tallied 53 separate marches, closed some 32 streets, and called for 800 police officers drafted in to keep public order. Yesterday in Glasgow, the Orange Order and sundry other fraternal protestant brotherhoods took over much of the town, snaking from their districts across … Continue reading The uruk hai in crimplene