Forms of Existential Angst (November 2018 Reading Review)

These are belated reviews of books I read across last year.  The delay is due to having read them to answer a feeling in myself.  I no longer feel the way I did last autumn, and as the feeling has passed the coherence of reviewing them together has loosened also.  I have given up trying to tie them together in any meaningful way, but perhaps putting them together here does make some sense.

  • Desert, Anonymous (2011)
  • The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories, H.P. Lovecraft (1999 [1917 – 1935])
  • Out of Time, Miranda Sawyer (2016)

Continue reading “Forms of Existential Angst (November 2018 Reading Review)”

Overall Prediction for Brighton and Hove City Council elections in May 2019

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I promised a local election prediction in my 2019 post, and I have been meaning to write one.  I’m writing it now as it’s already become reality thanks to Cllr Anne Meadows defection today.
Here’s the top line – a minority Conservative council following the Brighton and Hove City Council elections in May.
I’m not going to go ward by ward here now, but I predict both Tories and Greens will take a couple of seats from Labour.  This would be true based solely on the national politics of Brexit. Assuming an extension, Labour’s dishonest sophistry and fudge satisfies no-one outside of the hard core. The Greens have a clear remain line that will take seats from Labour in Preston Park and Hanover at least, and the Tories are likely to gain from a clearer leave position in some of the less central areas.  If we crash out or leave with a Conservative brokered deal then the position remains largely the same – Labour will be punished for not taking a clear remain line or supporting a second referendum, but won’t see any gain from Brexit supporters.  Add in the unpopularity of Corbyn amongst large groups of traditional voters and you don’t even need the malign incompetence of the local Momentum group to see Labour as likely to lose ground here in May.
As Niels Bohr supposedly said ‘Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future’, and these are febrile times with the parties suddenly becoming fissile.  So I don’t stake too much on this. However there is now no way I can see for Labour to gain a majority, or even retake control in the city.

Brexit, the Moral Identity of the EU, and the Return of the International

Late last year, Tony Abbott, the former Australian Prime Minister, was ridiculed for his contribution to the Brexit debate.   Abbott’s article for The Spectator in October, ‘How to save Brexit’ set out the basic point that not being prepared to walk away with no deal weakens the UK’s negotiating position, but then pushed a simplistic vision of the glories of a Britain trading under WTO rules.  So far, so usual edge of plausibility forgettable Brexit dream.

However, it was something he said in a later interview with Brendan O’Neill that caught my attention (the Brexit discussion starts from 47 mins in). In setting out why the EU would never give the UK a good deal he went beyond the usual strategic reasons of discouraging others from leaving, to move on to ‘theological’ territory; because the EU sees itself as a ’morally superior alternative to nation states” leaving is ultimately immoral, a going backwards, an atavistic return to the anarchic world of a warring states system.

This is an astute point I have not seen made that often.  The usual moral framing of the Brexit debate is to do with either sovereignty, or trade and economic impacts.  Yet it is precisely from this belief in the EU’s transcendence of the nation state that the EU derives its moral identity and self-image as a uniquely legitimate international actor. And, it is this self-image that in turn builds leaving into more than a damaging political and economic blow, to become an immoral act. Continue reading “Brexit, the Moral Identity of the EU, and the Return of the International”

Review: Foundation Trilogy, Isaac Asimov (1951, 1952, 1953)

img_0712I liked the first book of the Foundation trilogy enough to push on through the remaining two, and I’m glad I did (Foundation review).  Although they retain some of the faults of the initial novel both Foundation and Empire (1952) and Second Foundation (1953) retain the intellectually stimulating plot, broad scope, and good pace of the first, with the bonus of directly addressing, and developing the plot around one of my main complaints about the first book – the predictive sociology of the Seldon Plan. Continue reading “Review: Foundation Trilogy, Isaac Asimov (1951, 1952, 1953)”