Change UK and the Brexit Party – collective versus authoritarian leadership?

by Colin Talbot

Change UK, the TIGgers, the Indepenent Group, or whatever they are called this week seem to be having problems.

Rachel Johnson, who is top of the new Party’s list for the southwest of England in the EU Elections, in a rather candid moment said “they want to focus group everything and they have a leadership team of about 11 people”. Change UK only have 11 MPs.

To be fair Ms Johnson is not the only one to criticise the apparent indecision and muddle in the way the new Party has launched itself. The general verdict from the political commentariat, even those sympathetic to the new project, is that it has been a bit of a shambles. The question is why? Continue reading

Questions about EU Elections from Spain (El Confidencial)

I did an interview (online) with a journalist for El Confidencial in Spain. The article appears here.

Here’s the exchange in English for those (like me) who don’t read Spanish).

1) What are the chances for a pro UE party in UK at the moment?

With both the main Parties – Labour and Conservative – committed to implementing Brexit, although on slightly different terms, there is a big political space for ‘Remain’. Both the main Parties have also moved away from the centre of politics, which makes the space even bigger.

BUT – there is already a well established ‘centrist’ national Party – the Lib Dems. And well established nationalist Parties in Scotland (SNP) and Wales (PC) who are also pro-Remain. Continue reading

Petition for an Inquiry into the Conduct of the 2016 EU Referendum. The Government’s Response and a Reply

A few weeks ago I set up a Petition to call for an Inquiry into the conduct of the 2016 EU Referendum. At last view it had gathered 37,985 signatures. You can see the Government’s response at the same location.

https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/250178

Subsequently Andrew Kemp has written a great letter to the Chair of the Petitions Committee (and all Committee members) demolishing the Government’s reply. Andrew has allowed me to publish it in full here: Continue reading

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