Keeping an Atheist Lent

daffWhat started as a plan to take a break from alcohol for Lent has developed into something deeper.  I started to consider the value of religious rhythms to life – not as a believer, but as an atheist.  So, while I am still giving up alcohol for Lent, I am also going to use this self-denial as a tool for contemplation and to consider my relationship with consumption and appetite satisfaction more generally. Continue reading “Keeping an Atheist Lent”


2018 was an intense year for me. The full cycle of life made itself felt with birth, illness and death within my family.  Despite the vicarious brushes with mortality (or maybe also because of them), the birth of my son made last year the best yet.[1] It was also, for good or ill, the year when I really started to feel like a middle-aged adult with a lot of responsibilities and very little time or energy. Continue reading “2019…”

Losing at Chess. (A Lot. And Loving It.)

A couple of months ago I started playing chess on I hadn’t played regularly or at all seriously since school – probably 30 years or so ago. Nonetheless, being an arrogant sort I felt sure I’d pretty quickly become reasonably good.  Instead, I’ve had the far more valuable and humbling experience of consistently losing.  I’m currently on a 12-game losing streak.  Surprisingly, I am really enjoying it. Continue reading “Losing at Chess. (A Lot. And Loving It.)”

July 2018 Reading Review

IMG_9593Three reviews this month; one very brief.  Despite the brief review it is The Rings of Saturn has had the greatest effect as on me as this prolonged heatwave bears down on us in Brighton, and I start to wonder what the English seasons and landscape will look and feel like as our climate changes (the picture is of an arid Preston Park in Brighton, taken mid-July).

  • W.G. Sebald – The Rings of Saturn (1998)
  • Sven Lindqvist – A History of Bombing (2001)
  • Jarod Lanier – You Are Not A Gadget (2011)

Continue reading “July 2018 Reading Review”

January 2018 Reading Review


  • Stoner – John Williams (1965)
  • New Model Army – Adam Roberts (2010)


New Year Thoughts

I had two New Year thoughts around reading (resolutions is too strong a word).  Firstly, I have a lot of books just sort of hanging around, part-read or intended to be read but now passed over.  In keeping with the spirit of the turn of the year decided to try to either read or discard, unfinished or unread, all of these by the end of the year.  I’ve piled the first lot of them up and will endeavour to make my way through them. New Model Army which I read this month was one – we’ll see how I get on with the rest. Continue reading “January 2018 Reading Review”

Continuing in the Shadows: The UK’s Engagement with the Bethlehem Principles

Summary Jeremy Wright
Following the killing of Reyaad Khan in Syria by an RAF drone strike in August 2015, the UK Government has been pressured to develop its policy on states’ right to self-defence against imminent threats from non-state actors. The UK Attorney General’s speech on this issue in January 2017 is the latest public statement of policy on this issue.  In the speech, the Attorney General set out what he called a ‘Modern Law of Self Defence’, built around principles first set out by Sir Daniel Bethlehem in 2012.
However, these Bethlehem principles were never intended to be used as a code in this way, having been formulated deliberately loosely in order to bring discussion on these issues out of ‘the shadows’ of inter-governmental discussions.  So far, the UK has ignored the spirit of the principles, continuing to develop policy outside of the public sphere. This has significance beyond just UK policy as the need for a debate that could lead to the development of a global consensus on the legal regime around one of the most controversial contemporary uses of state force – the use of armed drones in targeted killing – grows ever more urgent as this technology spreads. Continue reading “Continuing in the Shadows: The UK’s Engagement with the Bethlehem Principles”

Book Review: Easternisation by Gideon Rachman

EastSummary: Gideon Rachman has provided a great service in skilfully outlining the contours of the global shift in wealth and power from West to East. The book synthesises the thinking of a wide range of those involved in and analysing this process across a wide range of its political and economic implications. Alongside this overview, the two main sections – covering ‘Easternisation in Asia’, and ‘Easternisation Beyond Asia’ – also offer his own insightful analysis enriched by the conversations the author has had with this global policy network. The overview provided in the book has enriched my own framing of a wide range of contemporary events, so I would recommend this book to anyone looking to understand the current reorientation of global power, and see it as especially useful in succinctly giving the big picture narrative underlying the current disarray in US and European politics. Continue reading “Book Review: Easternisation by Gideon Rachman”

Fabian New Year Conference 2017: The Left in Britain, Britain in the World

fab17Fabian New Year conference brought together the broad church of the Labour party to have many of the discussions the party desperately needs to have.  From the future of progressive politics and the idea of a progressive alliance, through to Brexit and ethical foreign policy, lively and constructive debates took place.  In this the conference answered its opening question: ‘Is progressive politics dead?’- Not as long as people like those at #Fab17 continue to be involved. Continue reading “Fabian New Year Conference 2017: The Left in Britain, Britain in the World”

Transcending the Paranoid Style in Brighton and Hove Labour

Just becaucatch-22se you’re paranoid, doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get you.

Joseph Heller, Catch 22
Recent events in the Brighton and Hove Labour Party have provided plenty of fuel for paranoia.  I’m not suggesting such feelings are baseless: there were machinations aimed at preventing the ‘takeover’ of the local party; there have been calls for councillors and Hove MP Peter Kyle to be deselected.  People are out to get one another. Nonetheless, to escape a Catch 22 we must avoid further descent into the paranoid style of politics.  Continue reading “Transcending the Paranoid Style in Brighton and Hove Labour”

The European Union Global Strategy: Europe Maturing as a Strategic Actor

“… the idea that Europe is an exclusively “civilian power” does not do justice to an evolving reality.”
Federica Mogherini, EUGS Foreword
The European Union Global Strategy adopted in June 2016 leaves behind the preceding herbivorous conceptions of ‘civilian power’ or ‘normative power’ Europe.  In doing so it continues the Union’s development of its vision of European power in a post-Cold War world, begun with the European Security Strategy of 2003. The strategy’s three central themes of strategic autonomy, resilience, and principled pragmatism promise a more serious commitment to the strategic use of European power. Adopted the day after the UK opted to leave the EU, and six months before the inauguration of Donald Trump as US President the strategy forms part of the necessary, and finally credible, debate about the future of European security and defence. Continue reading “The European Union Global Strategy: Europe Maturing as a Strategic Actor”