I’ve spent the last few years of my life immersed in stories of various kinds, stories about British democracy. So metaphor and simile have been my meat and drink, as it were.
Perhaps I’ve done a bit too much of all that, as I was watching Deal or No Deal recently and had something close to an epiphany. As I was in the gym when it happened, doing my nut on a cross-trainer while watching the show thanks to subtitles, perhaps too much oxygen had also got into my brain.
Because, to my addled mind, it struck me that the Channel 4 quiz show Deal or No Deal is a metaphor for Britain.
On Twitter recently, Ben Page of Ipsos MORI compared levels of public trust in judges, civil servants and politicians in 1983 and 2013, findings that form part of his organisation's ongoing survey of popular trust in various professions' ability to tell the truth.
As you can see below, he points out that judges are slightly more trusted today while politicians still lurk at a very low level indeed.
But something remarkable has happened to trust in civil servants: it has more than doubled.
During an email exchange with Richard Kelly, Head of Politics at Manchester Grammar School and author of a highly regarded study of how Conservative Party conferences actually work, recalled:
Back in 1979, when I was campaigning for the Tories, I remember talking to some party officials about their attempt to sell Margaret Thatcher to a society still unaccustomed to women at the top. They told me that, though Gordon Reece et al had helped, the biggest helping hand had come from the popular TV series The Good Life, and one of its central characters, Margo Leadbeater.
Penelope Keith's portrayal of this quintessential suburban Conservative, who managed to be
I recently spotted this wine bar in what is now called the 'Northern Quarter' in Manchester city centre. A hundred years ago - in fact ten years ago - the area would have been known as Ancoats, one of the poorest parts of the city and bordering on Angel Meadow - whose name at the time was ironic given the terrible conditions found there - but whose name has been retained by developers presumably because they associate it with that Robbie Williams song.
I didn't go in the bar as I had something else to do but apparently it's not bad. If do patronise the place
If anybody still thought British history wasn’t a heavily politicised subject then the current skirmishing between some of our leading political figures over the meaning of World War One should have disabused them of that.
Admittedly no expert in the 1914-18 conflict, I have however written about Britain during the Second World War and have been fascinated by how members of our political class are trying to gain advantage as the country prepares to commemorate the centenary of what used to be called the Great War.
These political manoeuvres began during Radio 4’s Start the Week on 30th December. On the programme Michael Gove, the Conservative Education Secretary, discussed the teaching of British history in schools with a variety of historians. The discussion was fairly anodyne: nobody appeared
Guardian columnist Simon Jenkins has turned his gracious attentions to the state of higher education in an opinion piece. His views on the balance between teaching and research have been greeted frostily at campuses across the country.
Jenkins' article is significant inasmuch as he often reflects what might be called the “establishment consensus”. He is often known as the man who took a leading role in promoting the famously successful Millenium Dome, for example. Although, to be fair, he did also argue that the London Olympics would be a disaster.
His views on how universities should respond to the government’s hiking of tuition fees to up to
As my book on British political fiction comes closer to completion, I am now catching up on reading things I really should have looked at some time ago. As I prepare to finish the final chapter, on the New Labour years, ones defined by an increasing populist rejection of representative politics, I read Richard Littlejohn's one novel ...
Littlejohn was named in 2005 as one of the most influential journalists of the previous four decades, having written columns for the Sun and Daily Mail, two of Britain’s most popular daily newspapers since 1989. Both papers favoured a right-wing populist approach to politics, and Littlejohn’s columns invariably expressed, often in vituperative terms, a deep-set hostility to the Westminster elite. In 2001 he published his first novel, To Hell in a Handcart, loosely based on the real case of Tony Martin, a Norfolk farmer who shot and killed a burglar and a year earlier had been found guilty of murder.
Serialised in the Sun, Littlejohn’s novel was described by David Aaronovitch as a recruiting pamphlet
The second season of BBC2's The Hour has ended. Set around a late 1950s current affairs television programme based in Lime Grove, the series evokes the glamour of Mad Men more than the reality of working for the BBC at this time: none of the protagonists looks anything like portly Panorama presenter Richard Dimbleby.
What the series inevitably does not give its c. 1.5 million viewers is, then, an authentic insight into the period: instead it presents a picture of the 1950s observed through a bottle-thick twenty-first century