Get real, tomorrow is not going to happen. By Dan Hodges – “Because this is the Real World. Where Real Things Happen. In barely formulated tabloid-ish sentences that have somehow made their way into a broadsheet where they masquerade as incisive realism. With their no-nonsense tone. And their full-stops.”
The Okinawa missiles of October – Did the US nearly launch nuclear cruise missiles at the Soviet Union and other countries during the Cuban Missile Crisis?
An interactive guide to ambiguous grammar – Make sure you read it right to the end.
After the Paris Attacks: Live News Should Challenge Narratives, Not Desperately Try to Create Them – Too much media coverage is desperate speculation to fill air time, rather than reporting what’s happened.
The Rennard debacle: better to rock the boat than have the tail wag the dog – James Graham saves me from having to write another post on the conclusion of this.

And as a fictional bonus, try Andrew Hickey’s Ten Things You’ll Only Get If You Were A 50s Kid.

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'Having beaten Mr Heseltine, I intend to go on and on and on...'

‘Having beaten Mr Heseltine, I intend to go on and on and on…’

The Twitter account Majorsrise is currently marking the upcoming 25th anniversary of Margaret Thatcher’s resignation as Prime Minister by tweeting in real-time the various bits of news and political intrigue that led up to it. It’s a fascinating look back at a period that still seems recent to me, but is now very much a different time. It’s interesting to watch the events play out as what now seems inevitable to us clearly wasn’t at the time, and at this point – just a couple of weeks before her resignation – speculation was about when the next election would be, not who might be the Prime Minister at the end of the month.

Let’s assume for the purposes of discussion that she manages to survive the challenge of Michael Heseltine in the leadership election. There are a number of ways this could happen such as her appointing a better campaign manager than Peter Morrison, or Heseltine saying something ill-advised in the run-up to the vote that could leave her secure as party leader and Prime Minister, at least for the short term. (It’s worth remembering that she beat Heseltine in the vote, but fell short of the majority she needed to avoid a second ballot)

The Tories were already recovering from their polling lows under her leadership (see Anthony Wells’ graphs from the period) and there’s no reason to think that she wouldn’t have received a similar popularity boost to John Major’s after the First Gulf War was completed. Would she have had the courage to do what Major didn’t do and try to ride that wave of popularity into an election in April or May of 1991? We know now that the polling from that period was inaccurately overstating Labour support and underestimating Conservative support, so the potential would be there for her to win an unprecedented fourth successive election. However, whatever the result, what follows is interesting to consider:

A fourth Thatcher victory – military victory making voters ignore their problems with her – opens up a couple of possible outcomes, probably dependent on the size of the majority. Something like Major’s 1992 majority would probably force her to be more magnanimous in victory and bring Heseltine back into the Cabinet, possibly with a plan for her to step down in 1993 or 1994. A victory closer to the existing majority, however, could be seen as vindication heralding a swing to the right.

An election defeat – military victory not enough to overcome voters’ doubts about her and the Tories – not only brings Neil Kinnock to Downing Street, but makes things very different for the Tories in the future. Losing an election allows Heseltine to say ‘I told you so’ and take the leadership when she inevitably steps down but also neutralises the Thatcherite brand for a while as it’s proven to be fallible at the ballot box.

Finally, a hung Parliament likely gives Paddy Ashdown an ‘instrument of excruciating torture’ from the electorate nineteen years before Nick Clegg. Twenty or so Liberal Democrats are just as likely to be victims of electoral circumstance and find that they can only give stability to one party in Parliament, but could he lead his party into coalition with either Thatcher or Kinnock, and would gaining twenty MPs be enough of a boon to either to make them want to try?

What do you think would have happened if Thatcher had survived Heseltine’s challenge?

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Worth Reading 175: The end of Abraham

The medieval ‘New England’: a forgotten Anglo-Saxon colony on the north-eastern Black Sea coast – A fascinating piece of history: did post-Norman Conquest exiles from England end up establishing a Nova Anglia in the Crimea that lasted for at least two centuries?
Lib Dem runners up: Just how bad things are – In case you’d forgotten just how deep the hole is.
The case against Directly-Elected Executive Mayors – How the Government’s plans for devolution are undermining local democracy.
Clapping, as a cure for impotence – Philip Cowley on the SNP’s new role in Westminster.
Politicians, markets and the Which? magazine strata – Alex Marsh on politicians misunderstanding markets: “To fail to recognise that markets are social structures, and that the state has a fundamental role in shaping a successful market economy, is an analytical disaster.”

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Worth Reading 171: Titanium dioxide

Hopefully coming out before the election, otherwise some of these may look quite dated…

There’s nothing new about nationalism – Naomi Lloyd-Jones in History Today on the parallels between this election and the political fighting over Irish nationalism in the 1880s.
A Very British Coup – Dan Rebellato’s take on the Tory narrative and its efforts to keep David Cameron in Downing Street.
The Disappointing Election: Britain Votes – An interesting overview of party campaigning styles and practices from Seth Thevoz.
Ciaran Toland on Naomi Long – A spirited defence and call to action for the Alliance Party’s only MP, facing a massive fight to hold East Belfast against the DUP. “The people of East Belfast are being offered a clear choice about the future of Northern Ireland. Their choice will send a message to the province, and to the world, about how Northern Ireland sees itself in 2015.”
Why I’m resisting the Conservatives’ war on foreign intellectuals in Britain – A reminder of just what ‘controls on immigration’ mean for people who want to live and work in the UK.

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Worth Reading 122: Let’s build a wall

How did the First World War actually end? – Paul Mason explains some of the causes of history, and how our accounts of the war are often missing out the social and labour movements that were very important in it.
The Fake Sheikh and me: Tulisa talks – I wouldn’t normally link to a showbiz story, even in the Guardian, but the fascinating details in this are the lengths Mazher Mahmood and the Sun were willing to go to for an entirely manufactured story.
“Open Door Policy” – Andrew Hickey on the realities, rather than the tabloid headlines, of living with Britain’s immigration policy.
Work less, live more, do better – Is working too many hours actually meaning we’re doing less? Written from the perspective of working as an academic, but much of the information is relevant to many fields.
Two politics – Chris Dillow on the difference between politics-as-policy and politics-as-celebrity.

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Worth Reading 114: Hasta and Vopiscus

Oh look it’s a new year, so I must be trying to blog more and not leave this site fallow. Here’s some interesting things I’ve read recently:

Where will we live? – A long but fascinating and informative article on Britain’s housing issues from James Meek in the London Review of Books.
Seeming Female: Gender In Digital Spaces – Some interesting data on how men react to female characters in online gaming, regardless of whether or not their players are women.
Reds Under The Archive Table – “Charitably, the article can be put down to youthful hubris. But it is also complete bollocks.” Academic history is not a conspiracy of leftists, despite what certain Tory activists think.
Dear James Delingpole: You Are The Problem – I’m pretty sure we all knew that already, but this Foz Meadows piece shows why.
Sorry, I actually don’t want a “digital firepower onslaught”. I’d prefer better politics. – A short, but accurate, piece from Jon Worth on how doing more online isn’t changing politics.

And only taken me a month to gather these…

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Worth Reading 98: Trajan writes his first column

Gove’s proposed history curriculum forgets that we live in 2013, not the 1950s – Anna Claeys explains how the proposed new history syllabus is missing a huge amount of context in the rush to celebrate ‘Britishness’.
The Man Behind The Brilliant Media Hoax Of “I, Libertine” – How a night-time DJ created a non-existent literary sensation.
February 19, 1942 – The day Nazi Germany invaded Winnipeg, Canada. It happened, though maybe not in the way you’d expect.
Five Days In North Korea – A report from a trip inside the DPRK.
Run For Your Wife review – Possibly the greatest ever review of a Danny Dyer film as a fully immersive theatre performance.
Letter from the prostitute that didn’t want saving, 1858 – A fascinating slice of social history from Victorian London.

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