Read on the street 26 October 2019
You're somebody's world
This is our fourth weekly digest of the most interesting, important and different reads, views and listens of the last seven days in our opinion. We focus on the storms that straddle the pinnacle of our public life and focus, in particular, on a growing criticism of the Westminster Lobby system. But as with all current themes they echo and rhyme across countries, issues and institutions. And meanwhile at the base of the crucible, where society's story is boiled down to its essence, who is really paying the price for the collective failure of leadership and policy? The BBC’s Disclosure went to Motherwell and found out. But no matter how dark life seems, one grieving mother’s message to all was “You’re Somebody’s World”. Perspective, right there!
“There is definite hanky-panky going on”: The fantastically profitable mystery of the Trump chaos trades | Vanity Fair
In my short time in active political service, I tried very hard to remember that all those I disagreed with were opponents rather than enemies. It is important not to doubt the motivation or intent of one another. When we do so, we stake a claim to the moral high ground that is rarely justified. But in more modern times I struggle to do anything other than doubt the intent of the current strongmen populist incumbents of too many countries’ highest offices. This analysis from William Cohen in Vanity Fair from earlier in the month looks at the market gains from the decisions of the Trump White House and raises serious questions:
British journalists have become part of Johnson’s fake news machine | openDemocracy
Meanwhile, the UK is not immune. Not one bit. While many have despaired at the conduct of those involved in the Vote Leave campaign for years, and now in a Johnson Downing Street, only recently have serious questions been raised by the media about the media, in this case the whole lobby system. This week Peter Oborne opened up in the openDemocracy website and was joined by Nick Cohen in The Spectator. More is expected from Oborne and we think this is an emergent theme that will come to the fore. As further evidenced by the analysis from the UCL’s Constitution Unit, Professor Meg Russell and Lisa James highlight the absence of fact checking in much lobby reporting. If there is no fire then these three reports provide an awful lot of smoke!
Federal election 2019: Trudeau must be a different kind of PM in order to navigate a tougher political map
Meanwhile to Canada, where the erstwhile darling of the global liberal classes, Justin Trudeau, has fought to remain prime minister. The Globe and Mailanalyses his prospects now and the need for him to change. In contrast to his first campaign, when he was the fresh face referring to the opposing Conservative party as our “neighbours”, he is said to have fought a defensive campaign against the dangers of the opposition. The minority government the election produced will also see his political power limited and create even greater difficulties on balancing issues like the demands of Western oil-rich provinces to continue to exploit resources with implementing a sweeping climate change agenda. There has also been a series of scandals which are said to have damaged his brand as an authentic and “sunny” politician. Instead, it is now felt he will need to be a “hard-nosed” leader in order to navigate the constraints of minority government. The collective jury remains out on Trudeau after a series of scandals highlighting the privilege from which he came and the danger on staking out the moral high ground. I, for one, always had my doubts, but then I am tired, old and cynical.
If Prince Harry and Meghan don’t like the limelight, they should stay out of it
After a singularly bizarre engagement with ITV’s Tom Bradby, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex have drawn fire from across the board. Their target was the media and there can be no doubt that would have seemed safe ground to the son of the wronged Princess Diana. But those who live by the media sword… Here Phil Collins in The Times articulates a widely held view that if it is the quiet life they seek then they better had seek it more actively. After a very long run of uninterrupted affection for the Queen, this ended a summer of absolutely the wrong sort of attention for her family and the institution itself. At a time when every windmill is being tilted at it looked like the House of Windsor was a textbook case in how to navigate the minefield. Hmm. Their most Box Office members may just have invited all the wrong people to this party:
R&A finally gets round to installing a women’s changing room
This from Ewan Murray in The Guardian is instructive. There is a chasm between moving with the times and being dragged kicking and screaming with the times and not really meaning it. This story should embarrass all who want to see the wondrous game of golf exist and flourish in the 21st century. It really should. And if you are in a sports club or, indeed any institution, with echoes of this stuff? Do something.
Does Hollywood still have a Princess problem?
Continuing the theme of gender stupidity: the latest instalment of the long-running, award-winning Freakonomics podcast takes a fascinating look at the “Disney Princess complex”, which is the traditional kids’ entertainment model of not featuring too many female characters unless they happen to be, well, princesses. The show goes on to examine the long-term effect/impact the complex has been proven to have on young girls, and whether or not we really have addressed the problem yet. We particularly enjoyed Geena Davis (who, by 1991, was an Oscar-winning actress) recounting how she was blown away by Susan Sarandon’s assertive approach to Hollywood producers during pre-production of the classic Thelma and Louise, and how this opened her eyes to the way she had been conditioned to behave until then.
Listen to the Freakonomics podcast.
New Bank of England governor may be named just before snap election
One of the most important decisions pending from the UK Government is the selection of the independent (we hope) governor of the independent (still we hope) Bank of England. Mark Carney’s term is coming to its end and a decision on who replaces him could come before a snap general election. This would be a deeply cynical move from a deeply cynical government and could cause fundamental and long-term harm to one of the foundation stones of the UK’s governing system. But in an era of scorched earth statecraft what would another bonfire of the competencies be?
Astrology in the age of uncertainty
In next week’s New Yorker magazine, Christine Smallwood examined the growing use of astrology: “Millennials who see no contradiction between using astrology and believing in science are fuelling a resurgence of the practice”. Well, in a chaotic world, where else to look but to the heavens for an explanation of the madness and what might become of us all?
The Lost Boys: How two towns cope with the impact of suicide | BBC News
Suicide in Scotland is at a five-year high with three times more men than women taking their lives last year. Families from two former industrial towns, Motherwell and Wishaw, speak about losing brothers, sons and partners. NHS research suggests suicide is three times more likely among those living in the most economically deprived areas than in the least deprived, and more likely to occur in areas which have experienced deindustrialisation. Away from the privileged jamborees of Downing Street, Washington and Ottawa, this story is a wake-up call to the living and not just in the place I grew up in.
The last word from Catherine, the deeply articulate mother of a son who killed himself a year ago:
"Step back, take five minutes, think about what you're doing to the people who love you. "Think about what you're doing to your mum. Do you want your mum to be like me? Even if you don't feel as if you love yourself, somebody does. You're somebody's world."
Written by Harriet Moll, Creative Diretctor