The Conservative Party must learn from the General Election or accept defeat in 2022…
A week after the disastrous result of the election, Theresa May seems to have found some breathing space.
The 15th of June marks eight hundred and two years since the Magna Carta was written into English history. This ‘Great Charter’ was a sign of changing attitudes in England at the time and laid the foundations for our modern democracy. Continue reading
Britain has always been a country that has relied heavily upon her navy; years of total dominance at sea had taught her that it would be safe from the possible threat of invasion no matter who the opponent was and how carefully crafted their plan. It was therefore unknown territory that Britain had now found itself in after the fall of France on the 25th
of June 1940. The invasion of her own shores that must now follow may still have to come by sea; but Britain had no means of repelling it if it did not have total superiority in the air. The Royal Air Force had been formed at the end of the First World War by the amalgamation of the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service. Though at the time of the end of World War One it was the largest independent air force in the world, the inter-war years were relatively quiet for the RAF. It was only in the summer of 1940 that it would fight its most important and famous campaign – to defend Britain in the skies… or Britain would face defeat on the ground.
Parliamentary supremacy is the idea that parliament is the supreme law making body in the UK. The authority for this power stems from Article IX of the 1689 Bill of Rights which states that the freedom of speech, debates and proceedings in parliament are not to be impeached or questioned in any court or outside of parliament. The principle of parliamentary sovereignty was further defined by Dicey in 1885 who explained that the law making powers of parliament are unlimited, the validity of parliament and its laws cannot be questioned and that it is impossible to entrench an Act of Parliament limiting the law making power of future parliaments.
In late 2007 the US housing bubble burst, reducing confidence in the financial system, and then in the real economy. Four key stages are identifiable; an asset price bubble, a shock strong enough to burst the bubble, pessimism among investors, and then a recession. Escaping one of these stages, requires brave and active policy making – or extraordinary circumstances.
We find ourselves in similar times to those in which the Cambridge economist, John Maynard Keynes, (1883-1946) wrote his essay ‘Economic Possibilities for Our Grandchildren’ 1
(1930). It is an essay of predictions, unusually for ‘the master’, some of which are wrong. But it is only the inaccuracies that make the essay worth revisiting. Continue reading
This account of the history of art, specifically visual art, will be patchy and Eurocentric, rather than comprehensive, and vague rather than precise. But I do hope for it to be somewhat insightful.
On the 12th
November 2015 the UK was hit by the first of a series of storms. Storm Abigail hit with maximum wind gusts of 84mph and brought with it heavy rain. The immediate result was power cuts to nearly 20,000 homes in Scotland. In the following three months the UK was hit with a further eight storms. The costs of these consecutive storm events project an uncertain future for the UK.
Recently released data from the Met Office makes December 2015 the wettest calendar month on record (in a series from 1910). In December the storms that hit were Desmond, Eva and Frank. Record breaking rainfall of 341.4mm of rain in 24 hours (Honister Pass, Cumbria) was brought by Storm Desmond. The resulting floods flooded 5200 homes across Lancashire and Cumbria. 43,000 homes across north-east England were without power and on 5th December 61,000 homes in Lancaster lost power when an electrical substation was flooded. Since then there has been more homes flooded, with estimates reaching 16,000. The flooding of farmland and homes has cost the government, and thus the taxpayer, massive amounts of money.
Putting any theological or heterodox philosophical opposition aside, I am confident in saying; the only process that ‘designed’ the most fundamental biology and physiology of humans, was evolution. That is, all of our hardwired features exist–as if they had been designed by a god–to ensure survival in the environment in which our species developed. However, excluding some run-down areas in the north of England, the environment we inhabit today hardly resembles the prehistoric one our species developed in. We are hardwired to enjoy sugar because our ancestors would have needed its energy, we enjoy sex (even with contraceptives!) because our ancestors needed several kids in the hope that any would survive, and males find large breasts attractive because they are a reliable indicator of fertility–not because they are shallow. Continue reading
J. Samuel Walker wrote, on the atomic bombing of Hiroshima on August 6th
, 1945, that ‘The fundamental issue that has divided scholars . . . is whether the use of the bomb was necessary to achieve victory in the war in the Pacific on terms satisfactory to the United States.’1
This piece tries to solve the ‘fundamental issue’—was the bomb necessary from Washington’s perspective? Continue reading
Of the physical sciences, most people see physics as having the least potential. Physics has had many advancements in the past which has changed the world. Mechanical laws and formulas enable us to make better products and understand have to move objects and vehicles more effectively. Energy and transfers of energy make efficiency understandable and make sure we provide only enough power to products that need. Electricity has allowed for more environmentally friendly, more flexible and widespread industrial and consumer products that require energy, either for short amounts of time and extended periods. Great scientific discoveries do not seem to be coming from physicists in the quantities of other sciences, nor previous periods of physics.
When thinking about the future of physics (or conversing with other would-be scientists looking to go into chemical or biological fields) it is often hard to think of where the world/life changing discoveries, inventions and associated funding will come from. Upon pondering this topic for a while (and wishing to talk about both the two fields) I came to conclusion that physics has a lot of room to move, but quantum physics and astrophysics are areas with the greatest potential.
Conference of Parties (COP) was held at Le Bourget, Paris between the 30th
November and 12th
December 2015. It was convened with the aim of producing a new, legally-binding agreement that commits every country, from all stages of development, to reducing emissions in order to mitigate against the impending climatic catastrophe. At the 2009 COP 15 in Copenhagen, generally regarded as a failure, governments also convened with the aim to create a similarly legally-binding deal. However, it culminated with the USA and BASIC countries drafting a non-legally binding agreement, the Copenhagen Accord. This agreement incorporated countries responsible for 80% of the world’s pollution  and its failure to be legally-binding and applicable to all countries greatly increased the importance of the climate talks in Paris (COP 21). The four previous COPs and in particular the ‘Lima Call for climate action”, devised at COP 20 (Lima 2014) , laid the foundations for the Paris talks. There was a renewed sense of optimism that the talks would prove successful. At 18:26 on 12th
December 2015 (the day after the Conference’s original finish date) this optimism was rewarded when Laurent Fabius, the French Foreign Minister brought his gavel down on COP 21, announcing that the Paris Agreement, a new climate deal, had been adopted.
“The majesty of inculcated virtue whenceforth,
shall never be sullied by the proud men of action!”
expound our forebears with liveliness and intent,
“For the dark crevice whence the evil propensities of volition arose,
has been everlastingly vanquished, never to regain tenacity!”
Such are the vicissitudes in the pursuit of wisdom.
Between 1799 and 1804 Napoleon as First Consul instigated a series of sweeping reforms, fundamentally changing the institutions of France. He had a shrewd idea of what was necessary after a decade of Revolution: ‘My policy is to govern men as most of them wish to be governed. It is in this way, I believe, that popular sovereignty is acknowledged.’ Opposition notwithstanding, he was able to convert the majority of Frenchmen from being citizens to being subjects, and to impose on them a political, administrative and judicial system which reflected his own tastes for efficiency and uniformity. So, to what extent did Napoleon’s government during the consulate bring benefits to France? The answer must be that it did so only so far as to secure a regime at bottom authoritarian; that some benefited more than others as a result. However, for many if not all contemporaries the Consulate was ‘rational’, ‘modern’ and ultimately ‘beneficial’ notwithstanding.
‘Happiness’ is challenging to define. The United Nations, in its ‘World Happiness Report’
, distinguishes between happiness and satisfaction in that happiness is based on the short-term, ‘did you smile or laugh a lot yesterday?’, and satisfaction the long-term ‘how do you feel about your life as a whole?’. Responses to these surveys are then combined to give each country a score. Two other measures of happiness are suicide rates and the incidence of mental illness. The first, while influenced by factors external to life satisfaction such as the role of religion and average hours of sunlight, certainly correlates with the level of severe unhappiness. The second is perhaps even more linked, the UN found the incidence of mental health problems to have the strongest correlation with unhappiness of all the factors they measured.