NAUGHTY NUMBERS – How Politicians Spin Public Finance Stats

Another Budget – another torrent of numbers twisted to suit the arguments of all varieties of politicians. So here’s a simple ‘bluffers guide’ to how to understand some of the figures, and how they can be “massaged”.

Let’s start with a few definitions. Continue reading

The Invisible Hand of Government?

Don’t worry, this isn’t some paranoid fantasy about the ‘Deep State’ so beloved of conspiracy theorists of the far right and far left. It’s about me and you and our everyday lives and the part Government plays in them.

I can’t recall who it was, but it was an American academic colleague who gave me this idea from something he used to do with his students.

At the start of courses that had anything to do with Government I’d ask my students to put their hand up if they’d had an encounter with Government so far today?

Generally, they’d look a bit blank – especially if it was an early morning course. A few brave souls would put a hand up and I’d ask what it was. Usually it was something obvious like a student loan letter.

Then I would say simply: every single one of you is wrong because you have all had multiple encounters with Government. You just don’t recognise them. Continue reading

Christopher Pollitt RIP

ChristopherMy friend, mentor, critic and collaborator and great scholar Christopher Pollitt has died after a long illness. You will be hugely missed Christopher.

My thoughts go out to Hilkka and the extended family.

Christopher had a wonderfully dry sense of humour. When my wife Carole became pregnant with our son Alex (my first biological offspring), I emailed Christopher with the news. His response was typical: “don’t worry, the first 30 years is the worst”. Continue reading

Putin, Trump and Cyber Warfare – Sir David Omand’s dramatic warning

Prof. Colin Talbot, Research Associate, University of Cambridge

Sir David Omand, former Director of GCHQ and former Security and Intelligence Co-ordinator for the Government, is to issue a strongly worded warning about threats of external subversion and internal sedition being enhanced by cyber-warfare techniques.

untitledIn a lengthy article published in the Journal of Cyber Policy,* Omand warns that the Russian government is continuing in the tradition of the Soviet Union in engaging in ‘hybrid warfare’ and ‘active measures’ (aktivinyye meropriatia) to subvert European and American governments.

(*Which I was given pre-publication access to by Sir David, for which thanks).

These can include highly targeted propaganda and misinformation; attacks on ‘critical national infrastructure’ and increasingly extending into the ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT) – all assisted or enabled by cyber-space. Continue reading

REVIEW: Post Truth – the new war on truth and how to fight back. Matthew D’Ancona

41Kdn5n-8GL._AC_US436_QL65_The idea we are now living a “post truth” era has become something of an accepted truism itself, and D’Ancona’s book is one of several to explore this phenomenon.

Let’s start by saying this is a very good book and well worth a read. I haven’t read all of the other ‘post-truth’ books (yet) but this is certainly one I’d recommend.

As you may have guessed, there is a “but” coming, or to be more precise several “buts” which I hope will be seen as constructive criticisms. Continue reading