Tory jenga 2

Some small additions to this drawing seemed called for:


Many ethical systems come down to principles such as ‘do as you would be done by’. It’s a principle that requires a bit of moral imagination, though. If you focus on yourself, and the worst thing you can imagine is having to pay more tax, ‘do as you would be done by’ doesn’t get you very far. If the people deciding what is a reasonable standard for public housing had to contemplate living in it themselves, maybe they would be less likely to prioritise saving money over saving lives.

Election Day 2017

Well, today’s the day. This exhausting election campaign ends when the polls close this evening.

Thank god, you say – I’m fed up with the headlines, the facebook posts, the arguments, the lies. Let’s get back to reality!

But please – vote today, if you haven’t already. Ignore the weather, ignore the naysayers who can’t be bothered because ‘it never makes any difference anyway’.

What have you got to lose by voting? A little time. What do you lose by not voting? The chance to let them know what you think, the chance that this time it might make a difference, the chance to change the way we are going.

And when you vote, please – vote for the NHS, vote for decently funded education, vote for the environment, for investment in renewables and against fracking, vote against more wars, vote to preserve human rights legislation and against the control of the internet in the name of ‘security’ (because apparently that is more important than police officers and fire services to protect us). Vote for an end to the destructive and cruel policies of austerity that are getting us nowhere. Tell the current government they do not have a mandate to destroy and privatise our public services or to hold hands with Trump on our behalf. And, just maybe, if enough of us vote, we will make a real difference.

Vote anything but Tory! Please!


Contre les Brexiteurs – je deviens plus ‘europhile’ chaque jour

(with apologies to any French-speaking readers and thanks to Google translate for assistance)

Quand j’étais jeune, je voudrais apprendre toutes les langues du monde, pour parler avec tout le monde, n’importe qui, n’importe où. Cet espoir a prouvée trop exigeant, et maintenant il me reste seulement un peu de mauvais français et quelques mots allemands, ou espagnoles. Mais je crois encore que la communication, l’association, entre peuples, pays et individus est essentielle pour achever un futur dans lequel on peut habiter en paix, et créer un société juste et sain pour nous et pour les autres habitants du monde. Il faut que nous, les héritiers d’une histoire du vol, coloniale et violente, essayons à comprendre l’origine de nos privilèges, et reconnaissons que des changes arrivent. On peut lutter l’un contre l’autre pour retenir ces privilèges, ou on peut travailler ensemble et peut-être trouver un façon de vivre ensemble, plus généreux, mais moins extravagant, plus créative, moins glouton.


The margins of all my lecture notes used to be full of doodles, usually faces. I wonder whether this is inherited – my mother often used to draw faces on random envelopes and other scraps of paper. You could tell if she had had a long chat on the phone, usually with my uncle, by the number of drawings she made. (Their chats tended to consist of him holding forth at length and her occasional ‘yes’, ‘of course’, ‘aha’, to let him know she was still there, sitting in the chilly hall where the phone lived. This was in the days when you answered the phone by reeling off the number: ‘Pontefract-two-double-five-four’.)

The same habit still resurfaces whenever I find myself at a meeting or something, listening, with a pen and a piece of paper to hand.



Alternative Reality


In a luxurious and secluded venue, a group of rich and powerful people sit, sipping brandy and discussing the great problems of the world, climate change and how to respond to it without losing their position of privilege. One says, ‘Maybe we have to face it – fossil fuels, consumerism and endless growth are failing – the crazy, green socialists are right – we can’t go on using resources and destroying the planet just to keep siphoning wealth from the poor. Things have got to change.’

But another smiles and says, ‘Don’t forget the other solution.’

‘What’s that?’



‘Fewer people means less destruction of ecosystems and fewer poor people means less inequality. Just what those crazy greens want. If we didn’t have to support so many poor people the world would be much better off.’

‘But what about the gruntwork they do? I don’t want to slave in a care home or pick fruit!’

‘Most of that can be automated – and much of it is unnecessary anyway. We’re only farming them for the interest on the loans that keep them locked in to the system.’

‘Ok. How do you propose to downsize?’

‘Simple. Make sure universal healthcare fails and have a few wars … more brandy anyone?’

Save the NHS

Today there is a march happening in London in support of the National Health Service. To my shame, I am not there.

But to express my solidarity with the marchers, here’s a post I put on facebook the other day:

If the NHS is ‘unsustainable’ while a privatised version would be ‘sustainable’, what does that imply? That people are more willing to pay for their own care via private insurance than for everyone’s care via higher national insurance or taxes (and probably to pay more overall, as private systems have to generate profit as well as cover costs)? – or rather that the current privatising government is populated and backed by people who would be reaping those profits?
If we as a country really ‘can’t afford’ the NHS, we wouldn’t be able to afford a private healthcare system either, unless of course the hidden factor is that in the private system some people just get left out altogether. But that ignores the social and human costs of not treating people – costs which the NHS was designed to avoid.

What we make we can break – but why must we?