British society

After Aberfan, clairvoyants had a field day

In the wake of catastrophe, however random or unpredictable, one of the first things people can be relied upon to do is look around for somebody to blame. There isn’t always an obvious candidate, of course, but disaster makes us resourceful, and often the casting process is simply a matter of laying hands on someone who happens to be fairly near by and looks like a good enough fit for the role. Assigning responsibility is an extremely effective therapy, after all, restoring a feeling of control over the capricious environment. Someone should have known, we insist. Someone ought to have seen this coming. John Barker, the central figure of The

It’s time the British faced some uncomfortable truths, says Matthew d’Ancona

As Britain starts its long Covid recovery, are deeper problems lurking beneath the surface? Matthew d’Ancona certainly thinks so, and in this brief, rather shrill polemic, he urges us to face some uncomfortable truths. Uppermost in his mind is the threat posed by the populist right, which he worries will try to blame Britain’s post-Covid economic hardship on immigrants. D’Ancona suggests that a message of intolerance would fall on fertile ground. Britain, he says, is already in a state of disarray: Public confidence in our institutions has plummeted, as has the belief in a widely honoured social contract; the notion of shared universal rights and responsibilities is mortally threatened in