What with the Tom Bower bio of Johnson & O'Brien's latest self-help book, it looks like the damaged public schoolboy is back in fashion as an explanatory trope for the sociopathic behaviour of our leading figures.
This will be a disappointment to Matthew Goodwin in his crusade to rescue white working class boys from liberal condescension through scholarships at character-building public schools. I guess he'll just have to stick to patronising Stormzy & misrepresenting white privilege.
I'm not expecting O'Brien to join the dots and wonder whether the real problem of bullying in British society might not be jeering on social media but something to do with the performative contempt of those who were quick to sneer at "a kinder, gentler politics".
What I am expecting is someone to write a novel or play about how Brexit was really the result of an ancient dorm fight rather than a shift of sentiment in Mansfield, which will probably irk Goodwin even more.

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More from @fromarsetoelbow

11 Oct
Johnson's skills, or lack of them, are irrelevant. We've had inept PMs before (Churchill was practically gaga in his later years). The failures over Covid & Brexit are a) deliberate (the cronyism, the brinkmanship) & b) the result of a state capacity attenuated by neoliberalism.
It's unlikely any other mainstream politician would have done better. They would either be equally committed to 'a' or would believe that 'b' limited their options. What we needed was not a different skillset but a different mindset: an aversion to *both* crony capitalism & TINA.
The only politician who fitted that bill, whatever his other limitations, was Corbyn, but the establishment spent 4 years doing it's level best to cast him as illegitimate. The idea that our saviour now might be a non-crony neoliberal (Starmer or the other Milliband) is naive.
Read 4 tweets
7 Oct
Paul advocates a NATO socialism that no longer has a base in Labour, even if it appeals to the red wall. His bet is that Starmer will push the socialism once he's got the patriotism nailed, but that would require support not just by the left but by a pro-socialist right & centre.
Starmer has provided plenty of evidence that he is sincere about the patriotism & social conservativism, but the left are right to be sceptical that the socialism train is about to come round the corner, given the largely anti-socialist PLP & new party apparat.
The spycops legislation is an attack on the labour movement & civil campaigns (i.e. the traditional targets), not just on a human rights principle. Abstention is not a tactical misjudgement by Starmer but a red line that shouldn't have been crossed (like benefit cuts in 2015).
Read 4 tweets
6 Oct
So it appears the problem lay with a consolidation process, whereby CSV data was auto-manipulated by Excel templates to create rolled up stats. The architectural flaw in this is that the raw data wasn't condolidated first in an RDBMS.
If it had been, Excel (even an antique version) would have been perfectly fine for producing the aggregate analysis & dashboard presentation. Hancock's comments about a "legacy system" are partly blame-shifting, but they also suggest PHE hadn't envisaged a pandemic of this scale.
That will be held up as yet more evidence why PHE needed replacing, & the non-involvement of Serco & other 3rd parties will probably now increase the demand for reporting to be outsourced (my assumption yesterday was that it already had been).
Read 4 tweets
5 Oct
Lawks a mercy. Actually, there's no reason why they shouldn't use Excel for T&T given that: a) it is meant to be localised (so multiple instances, rather than a central DB, may be fine); b) Excel has built-in DB tools & can operate as a DB front-end (common in ERP & fin-tech);
& c) this may simply be a prototype prior to a port to a back-end RDBMS. What the use of Excel suggests is that Serco had no prior capability, so the real issue is why they were awarded the contract rather than why they're using a particular technology.
The suspicion is that the tender simply didn't bother setting out IT criteria. That may not necessarily be wrong in the circumstances, but it does highlight how outsourcing is sold on tech capabilities that are often fictitious & turn out to depend on low-tech manual data entry.
Read 4 tweets
30 Sep
We've had 40 years (50 if you start the clock running in South America) in which democracy has been undermined by managerialism & technocracy. The justification was variously order (anti-communism), efficiency (the freedom to manage) & choice (the demotion of public goods).
This marked a notable turn against the historic arguments against democracy, which dated from Plato, that the mob were unskilled, biddable & lacking in virtue. Trump & Brexit have have allowed this older tradition to be revived in the liberal critique of "populism".
But what is offered as an alternative is simply the post-democracy of recent decades: the extension of the market, soft authoritarianism branded as progressivism, & the refusal to consider systemic change while virtue-signalling about the system's many contradictions.
Read 4 tweets
29 Sep
The BBC has a global role, but it's over-inflated in the domestic imagination by WW2 films. The Nazi hegemony in Europe meant that local radio was collaborationist, so the BBC secured a continental near-monopoly on "truth" in 1940. After 1945, that largely evaporated.
The Cold War allowed the BBC to maintain its role in Eastern Europe, but it increasingly played 2nd fiddle to the US (VoA & RFE/RL). Most of the BBC World Service in the postwar era was directed to the Empire & was intended to facilitate anti-communist decolonisation.
Though the BBC World Service remains the largest national-to-international broadcaster by audience, this reflects its history. It was directly funded by the FCO till 2014, since when it has been largely a cost to the BBC. It is likely to shrink, even if the BBC is protected.
Read 5 tweets

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