Walking up the down escalator

A far more insightful columnist than me once observed how politics is like walking up the down escalator. As soon as you stop to admire your progress, so you head back down again. Now that we’ve been presented with an EU deal, a referendum date and all the attendant pandemonium, I suspect David Cameron is experiencing a backwards sensation as he grapples with the law of unintended consequences. There may only a handful of dissidents in his cabinet, but the Brexit tendency can hardly be described as a splinter group among the wider Conservative membership. The party is hugely divided and likely to stay that way whatever the outcome. Usual suspects in the right-wing press feel that the prime m

Europe: How do we make our minds up?

It’s a couple of years since I moaned in this column how debates over the European Union are like arguing about the possibility of life on Mars. By that I meant we’ve plenty of opinions between us but not much in the way of reliable background knowledge. Little has changed since then; expect that we’re to have a referendum on EU membership, which makes it likely to be one of the most ill-informed constitutional decisions in living memory. People throw facts and figures at me from both sides yet I’m not sure if I believe half of it. It’s not as though we’re really up to speed on the basic stuff. For example, can you name the number of EU member states or say how many MEPs we send to Strasbour

Welsh politics on the edge?

Welsh politics can be a strangely obstacle-ridden game. As a former Assembly minister once confided in me, the only thing you can rely on is that most of what you think you know is unreliable. Thirteen Welsh Assembly members are standing down at the next election and a few more are predicted to lose their seats. It will be a very different looking Senedd come May but the actual composition – and who ends up running things in Cardiff Bay – is presently anyone’s guess. Unlike the Westminster system, Wales has a hybrid approach involving a first-past-the-post method to directly elect 40 AMs topped up with 20 regional members selected via proportional representation. I won’t attempt to go into t

Doing it by the numbers

If you’d been around in 1752 it’s likely you would have come across the phrase “Give us our eleven days”. This was shouted during the so-called Calendar Riots when Britain changed over from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar, bringing us into line with most of Europe. You can read up on the whole thing yourself if you’re minded, but suffice to say the changes simply standardised matters by keeping certain dates in place. The eleven days were only lost on paper and life otherwise went on, regardless of a different way of measuring things. As much as we 21st century sophisticates may chuckle over the irrational behaviour of our forebears, it’s fair to say we’re just as capable of doing a Chi

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