Understanding Paranoid Populism: how to misuse a theory and misunderstand history

At the weekend a very strange article appeared in The Mail on Sunday from one of the UK’s rising stars of political science, Professor Matthew Goodwin of the University of Kent.

One of his central claims – that 57% now backed Brexit – was shot down in flames and removed. Prof. Goodwin, somewhat unconvincingly, claimed it had been inserted by a sub-editor at the Mail. But by then leading Brexiteers like Steven Baker MP were already citing it as a “fact”.

But I want to focus on the opening of his article because it exposes a deeply worrying tendency to distort facts to suit an argument.

Continue reading

The Tyranny of Innovation?

‘Innovation’ is cool. In the airport bookshop business section it’s probably about equal with ‘leadership’ as the hot topic (with AI coming up fast on the outside).

I mean, who can be against innovation, right? It’s brought us smart phones, Twitter, Instagram, Google, Netflix and take-away meals in the supermarket. What’s not to like?COBB

In my own main field of expertise – Government institutions and public policy, or what used to be called ‘public administration’ – innovation is now also ‘king’.

You can’t move for tripping over learned academic articles or gushing Government papers about the wonders of innovation in public administration and how it is going to solve the problem of ‘doing more with less’ (again).

At the risk of being accused of conservatism, let’s stop and think about this “innovation = good” fashion? Continue reading

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