Skip to main content


Showing posts from December, 2010

Higher Education is not a right it's a privilege

Brendan O'Neill hitting the nail on the head, as usual.
One idea that exploded on to the UK political scene towards the end of 2010 is that ‘Education is a right not a privilege’. Policemen were literally beaten around the head with those words, by students protesting against the Lib-Cons’ hike in tuition fees, while at the same time similar phrases were being spouted by the Lib-Con metrosexuals and white-haired old duffers in the Commons and the Lords. The only disagreement between the rowdy students and their supposed betters was over the question of whether tuition fees will improve or hamper young people’s ability to exercise their right to education.

This meant that the whole debate was pretty much a non-starter. Because when you mash together the language of rights with the pursuit of higher education, you end up sullying both. There is no ‘right to be a scholar’. There is no ‘right to be a pursuer of excellence’. By t…

When the state and anarchists fought gun battles in London

The centenary of the Siege of Sidney Street is a reminder of a rather different age of radicalism.
By Mick Hume
This week marks the centenary of the bloody events that led to a blazing political gun battle in London’s East End, known as the Siege of Sidney Street. The coincidence puts the current hysteria about protests in the capital in some historical context.

It is a reminder of a time when ‘anarchy in London’ meant much more than some ‘A’ for anarchist symbols painted on walls with broken windows; when the London authorities sought to crush their opponents with guns and real artillery rather than kettles and water-cannons; and when the Liberal government’s home secretary – Winston Churchill – appeared at the barricades to supervise the siege rather than at press conferences to fire soundbites at the media.
One hundred years ago, on 16 December 1910, a group of Latvian anarchists and radicals were disturbed during an attempted …

Is economic growth feasible or desirable?

Next Birmingham Salon meeting on Tuesday 11 January 2011 
Daniel Ben Ami, author of 'Ferrari's for All', will outline his arguments for unfettered economic growth. Somnath Sen, University of Birmingham Dept of economics, will defend 'growth scepticism' as a way of defending the welfare of the poorest in society. Since the start of the first Industrial Revolution, economic growth has generally been seen as good and desirable. However, over the last forty years, the growth of the economy and the spread of prosperity have increasingly been seen as problematic rather than positive. While some are still willing to defend economic growth, highlighting the gains to humanity it has brought in terms of material wealth, technological progress, increased life expectancy and personal consumption, others accuse prosperity of encouraging greed, damaging the environment, causing unhappiness and widening social inequalities. So, does economic growth offer solutions to the problems of …

Are humans unique or are we 'just another ape'? podcasts

Recordings from the Birmingham Salon meeting on Wednesday 8 December 2010

Helene Guldberg's introduction to Birmingham Salon

Jeremy Taylor's introduction to Birmingham Salon

Comment on modern childhood.


I've just found


Brendan O'Neill latest piece on the problems with the student protests.

Brendan is editor of

Britain’s lively student protests against the government’s plans to raise university tuition fees show us one thing for sure: you can’t take young people, or institutions for that matter, for granted. Ours may be a politically anaemic era, in which daring, future-oriented movements are notable by their absence, but that doesn’t mean the Lib-Cons should automatically expect compliance with their cuts agenda. The demos, which culminate in a mass action in London today, confirm that both young people and higher education staff will not meekly play the political roles fashioned for them by Cameron and Clegg.
One of the most striking things about the demonstrations is their leaderlessness. At the protest in Trafalgar Square last week, I was amazed by the utter confusion that prevailed, the gathering in the square of various, seemingly unrelated pockets of protesters, some of whom were chanting about education cuts, others of w…

I have a chapter in this book which I'm told is now available to buy.

"Big Brother Watch: The state of civil liberties in Britain"Author(s): Alex Deane (Ed)Format: paperbackISBN: 978-1-84954-044-5Publication date: 29/11/2010Price: £9.99 We now live in a state that takes a disturbingly close interest in our everyday lives. The government enjoys an array of powers over individual freedoms unprecedented in a democratic nation and inconceivable to our forebears.
Britain has the largest DNA database per capita in the world, more CCTV cameras than any other country, an Intercept Modernisation Programme to record details of everyone’s phone calls and emails, Stop-and-Search powers under the Terrorism Act and even data chips in bins to monitor our rubbish.
Big Brother Watchcharts the encroachment of a surveillance culture and the erosion of civil liberties in the UK. The aim of its expert contributors is to highlight the increasingly illiberal nature of life in modern Britain, and the terrible consequences this could have for us all.

Contributors includ…