What will Labour’s free broadband service look like? My take for The Sun on Sunday: dial-up modems instead of wifi routers, it only works four days a week and if you Google “capitalism” you get the spinning wheel of death. Click here to read more.
Only 39 per cent of British university students who support Brexit say they would be comfortable expressing their views in class compared to 89 per cent of Remain-supporting students. That is one of many depressing findings made by two academics who’ve just published a report for Policy Exchange on the state of academic freedom in the UK. They carried out a poll of 505 students to find out how much enthusiasm there is for free speech at Britain’s universities and the results make for grim reading. For instance, 26 per cent of students think Jacob Rees-Mogg should be prevented from setting foot on campus on account of his views on Brexit, compared to 52 per cent who oppose such a ban.
Some people will regard this as unimportant. So what if a minority of activists object to Jacob Rees-Mogg speaking at the students’ union and stage violent protests when he does, as they did last year at the University of the West of England? Does it really matter if three-fifths of Brexit-supporting students feel inhibited about expressing their views? According to the authors of the Policy Exchange report – Eric Kaufmann and Thomas Simpson – the reason we should care about this is partly because universities cannot thrive in the absence of free speech. “Universities in which academic freedom is robust produce, in the long run, powerful research,” they write. “Those in which it is fragile or compromised, in the long run, stagnate.”
But there’s another, equally important reason, which is that our democracy cannot flourish if there’s a clear bias towards one particular political point of view in our schools and universities. The 1996 Education Act requires state schools to present opposing political views in a ‘balanced’ way – a law more honoured in the breach than the observance, I’m afraid – but universities are under no such statutory duty. Which might explain why 83 per cent of lecturers vote for either the Labour Party, the Lib Dems, the SNP or the Greens, and only 11 per cent for the Conservatives, according to the latest data. (To read more, click here.)
When a new vacuum cleaner was delivered to my house last week I assumed it was a belated birthday present from my mother-in-law. A veiled reference to the fact that I’m a surrendered husband, perhaps? Not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, I removed the packaging, stuck it in the cupboard under the stairs and didn’t think any more about it.
Then, a couple of days later, another ‘gift’ arrived: an industrial-strength mattress protector. Surely, that couldn’t be from my mother-in-law, too? I looked at the label and it was addressed to ‘Tobias Young’, rather than ‘Toby Young’, which was odd. It had been bought from a large furniture retailer called Wayfair.
My first thought was that I must be the victim of some sort of scam, but I couldn’t work out what. If someone was using my Visa Debit card to buy furniture, why were they sending it to me rather than themselves? I checked my bank account anyway, but no payments had gone out to Wayfair. Clearly, the company’s fulfilment ‘team’ — a 22-year-old computer science grad in Bangalore — had mixed me up with another customer called ‘Tobias Young’ and I was getting the stuff he’d paid for. When he didn’t receive his vacuum cleaner and his mattress protector he’d call the customer service department, figure out the mistake, and in due course a white Transit van would pull up outside my house and collect the items. So I put them back in their packaging, got busy with the Sellotape, and propped them up against the wall in my hallway. (To read more, click here.)
In the latest London Calling podcast, James Delingpole and I discuss Hillary Clinton’s book tour, the Greta Thunberg mural in San Francisco and how the British Police became captured by the woke cult. Click here to listen. Not for the faint-hearted.
Nigel Farage did a noble thing yesterday in agreeing to stand down Brexit Party candidates in the 317 seats the Tories won in 2017. Unfortunately, it isn’t sufficient to safeguard Brexit. If he fields candidates in Labour seats, which is his current plan, he could still do enough damage to deprive Boris Johnson of a majority and put Jeremy Corbyn in Number 10.
How so? Take the 317 seats the Conservatives won in 2017. Don’t forget, the Tories are now down to 298 MPs, so they’ll need to win 25 more to secure a working majority of 323. But in reality the party will have to make more gains than that because it won’t hold all of those 298.
How many seats is it likely to lose? I think it’s a safe bet it won’t lose any where the Labour Party were in second place in 2017. But the same cannot be said of those seats where the Lib Dems and the SNP came second. According to my calculations, if there’s a 7.5 per cent swing away from the Tory incumbent in seats where the Lib Dems came second last time, and a 7.5 per cent swing to the SNP in those seats where the SNP came second, the Conservatives will lose 20 seats – ten to the Lib Dems and ten to the SNP.
Factoring in those losses, the Conservatives will therefore have to win 45 seats to gain a working majority. Let’s assume the party wins back all 19 of the seats it has lost since 2017, including Brecon and Radnorshire which is currently held by the Lib Dems. That leaves the party still needing to win 26 seats.
Where are those gains going to come from? (To read more, click here.)
t will come as a surprise to few that 54 per cent of 18-24 year-olds plan to vote Labour in this election, compared to just 13 per cent for the Conservatives, according to YouGov. More intriguing is the striking parallel with data for university lecturers; 56 per cent of the latter support Labour and 11 per cent the Tories. This chilling synergy may have something to do with the fact that over half of young people now go to university.
That our higher education institutions are churning out record numbers of ill-educated, Left-leaning graduates is no secret. But a poll which a few years ago found that 70 per cent of young people have no idea who Mao Tse Tung was spells out how appalling the situation has become.
This particular example chimes troublingly with our metropolitan elite’s disgraceful ignorance of Communism’s worst horrors. Last year, Corbyn praised China’s Great Leap Forward in an interview with Andrew Marr – Mao’s policy of forced collectivisation of agriculture caused the deaths of 45 million people.
That the majority of young people would vote for a party led by someone who arguably endorses the policies of the greatest mass murderer in history isn’t the only reason why the massive expansion of the higher education sector was a mistake. According to the Office for National Statistics, 31 per cent of graduates are over-qualified for the jobs they do, which amounts to about a sixth of the entire workforce. The number of vacancies in skilled occupations such as advanced manufacturing is projected to rise to 3.6 million by 2022. (To read more, click here.)
I interviewed Steve Richards at the Battle of Ideas for the Quillette podcast. We talked about the General Election, his newfound passion for performing on stage and his recent book on British Prime Ministers. Click here to listen.
On the face of it, today’s announcement by the Remain Alliance that the Lib Dems, Greens and Plaid Cymru won’t be standing against each other in 60 seats looks like great news for all three parties. But take a closer look and it’s clear that the only winners from this arrangement are the Lib Dems.
Under the arrangement – dubbed “Unite to Remain” – the Lib Dems will be given a clear run in 42 seats, the Greens in nine seats and Plaid in seven. In addition, none of the parties will oppose Dominic Greive, who’s running as an independent in Beaconsfield, or Anna Soubry in Boxtowe and Gavin Shuker in Luton South, both running as Independent Group for Change candidates. Yes, I know that adds up to 61, not 60, but that may be because not all the participants in this scheme can count.
Take the Greens. They’ve agreed to stand down in 52 seats in return for being unopposed in nine: Brighton Pavilion, Isle of Wight, Bristol West, Bury St Edmunds, Stroud, Dulwich West Norwood, Forest of Dean, Cannock Chase, Exeter and Vale of Glammorgan.
But the Green Party’s chances of winning in any of those constituencies – apart from Brighton Pavilion, Caroline Lucas’s seat – are vanishing-to-zero. In Bristol West, for instance, one of the Greens’ “target” seats, the party is currently on 17%, while the Labour incumbent (Thangam Debbonaire) is on 38%. And Bristol West is one of only two seats in which the Greens are on double figures. In the remaining seven they are down to single digits – such as Dulwich and West Norwood, where they’re on 6% (compared to Labour on 42%). The reason that has been included, presumably, is because the Greens’ co-leader, Jonathan Bartley, is running in that constituency. (To read more, click here.)
On this week’s episode of London Calling, James Delingpole and I lament the rocky start to the Tory General Election campaign and worry that Greta may be stranded in America. Also, why is season two of Jack Ryan so woke? To listen, click here.
I went to the Battle of Ideas at the Barbican last weekend, a free speech festival organised by the Brexit Party MEP Claire Fox, and listened to an interesting discussion about The Life of Brian. I hadn’t realised this, but the Monty Python film is exactly 40 years old, having been released in the UK on 8th November 1979. The opinion of the panel, which was comprised of comedians and intellectuals, was that its lampooning of rigid, orthodox thinking is more relevant today than ever since we’re in the midst of a new wave of puritanism, albeit one inspired by left-wing identity politics rather than Christianity. After all, what is ‘hate speech’ if not a type of blasphemy?
When I got home I watched the famous debate between John Cleese, Michael Palin, Malcolm Muggeridge and Mervyn Stockwood, then the Bishop of Southwark, which is on YouTube. It’s worth viewing for the old-fashioned put-downs alone. ‘Now I wasn’t in the least bit horrified,’ says Stockwood, who’d been to a BBC screening just beforehand. ‘People said, “Oh now, Bishop, when you go there you’ll be absolutely horrified,” but I wasn’t at all. After all, I wasn’t vicar of the University Church for nothing. I’m familiar with undergraduate humour. And I’m also the governor of a mentally deficient school and once I was a prep school master so I felt frightfully at home.’
The consensus is that the young Turks got the better of the two elderly Christians – and that was certainly my view when I watched the debate in 1979 aged 16. But seeing it again, I was struck by how callow the liberal pieties of Cleese and Palin sounded. They maintained that the satirical target of The Life of Brian wasn’t just Christianity, but all forms of received wisdom. What they objected to was the idea that we should take anything on faith, particularly a belief system with a strong moral component – and Cleese cited Marxism as another example. Rather, we should resist the gravitational pull of all these doctrines – whether embodied in the Church of England or the Judean People’s Front – and work things out for ourselves.
I believed that 40 years ago, but it’s hard to get around the fact that the rapid decline of Christianity in Britain and America in the intervening period has not led to a new age of enlightenment. On the contrary, we appear to be in the grip of various secular belief systems that are far more dogmatic than modern Christianity. Turns out, the Pythons were naïve in thinking that mankind’s yearning for religious faith was an aspect of our nature we could grow out of. The ebbing away of the Christian tide has left a God-shaped hole in the Anglosphere and it has been filled with something more sinister – a constantly mutating moral absolutism. Its latest manifestation is Extinction Rebellion, but no doubt it will be something even more fanatical and Millenarian in a few years’ time. These quasi-religious movements resemble Christianity in its fundamentalist, pre-Reformation period when it was less willing to forgive heretics and sinners. (To read more, click here.)