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[/audioplayer]In the digital era, those looking for soulmates can be brutally clear about who need not apply. There are websites like Blues Match, for alumni of Oxbridge and Ivy League universities only. Then come the smartphone apps: Tinder, for straightforward dating, and ‘BeautifulPeople’, where members are kicked out if deemed too ugly.
Labour voters feel hope and despair; hope, because the Tories are doing no better than we, and despair, for that same reason. Left-wing politics are resurgent where it matters least — outside the Labour party. A body without a head is just a corpse, and frightening; no one wants to vote for Russell Brand, who thinks the concept of voting is idiotic, as he is. Left-wing politics wears fancy dress (the Million Mask March), occupies the biscuit aisle at Fortnum & Mason (UK Uncut) or is ‘preaching from a mansion’ to a cardboard box (Johnny Rotten on Russell Brand, again).
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[/audioplayer]Ed Miliband is the least of Labour’s problems. Its troubles go far deeper than any individual. They are structural and, potentially, fatal. It is certainly easier for Labour MPs, and ultimately more comforting, to concentrate on Miliband’s deficiencies as a leader than the existential crisis facing the left.
The Ku Klux Klan is rebranding. It’s less lynchings and cross burning these days, more novelty kitchenware (fancy an ‘Original Boyz N the Hood’ mug?), family barbecues and children’s TV shows. The traditional dress code — white robes, hoods, cone hats — still applies, by and large, but the rest of the Klan is having a makeover. ‘White supremacy is the old Klan, this is the new Klan,’ says John Abarr, a KKK chapter head from Great Falls, Montana.
Broadhaven Beach in Pembrokeshire was once a sublime combination of the works of nature and man. The broad, deep, sandy bay is flanked by towering limestone cliffs. Two hundred years ago, a stream leading to the sea was dammed by Lord Cawdor, the then owner, to form the Bosherston Lily Ponds.
Enter the National Trust, owners of the estate since 1976. Now the spot where the lakes meet the sea is marked with a bright purple National Trust sign, saying,
Return to the start,
a new path you’ll take
Its rocky in places,
don’t fall in the lake.
It was Abouday’s heavy metal T-shirt that started the trouble. Two jihadis at a checkpoint said the fire-breathing dragon showed he was a devil worshipper. In fact, he worshipped only Metallica, but he did not realise the danger he was in. People had scarcely heard of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria back then.
His mother, Faten, sat weeping at her kitchen table as she told me how she had begged him not to travel at night.
‘What is a Minsky moment, anyway?’ asks Gerry Stembridge, an Irish satirist. ‘I’ve been reading about them in the papers and have often wondered’. Stembridge is putting the question to Paul McCulley, chief economist at Pimco, the world’s largest bond fund with over $200 billion under management, one of the ten most influential economists on earth. McCulley is sporting a T-shirt and jeans. The two men, Celtic comic and American financial whiz, are on stage in a theatre in Kilkenny, a bijou provincial city in south-east Ireland.
Fate occasionally leads travellers to places they had never planned to visit. Into this category, for me, fell Malta. I went to Valletta to see my sister, who was at a nursing conference. I wasn’t expecting a wild party; the island has a reputation for being fairly dry compared with its Mediterranean sisters. Yet for a certain type of traveller, with sturdy shoes and an interest in military history, Malta is a matchless trove.