Joe Biden’s Civil War re-enactment

We can’t blame American progressives for yearning to relive the civil rights movement. Those were heady days. Opposition to segregation — real ‘structural racism’ — placed you conspicuously on the proverbial right side of history. Joining the cause was like shooting up moral heroin. So maybe it’s predictable that when talking up his two voting rights bills in Atlanta last week, Joe Biden evoked the 1963 bombing of a black church in Alabama and MLK’s storied march in Selma two years later. Yet it’s one thing to wax nostalgic, quite another to insist that it’s still 1965 — much less 1865. Biden’s speech recalled a Civil War re-enactment, with polyester

Champagne, sex or the Tories: what could you live without?

In idle chatter the other evening, somebody pooh-poohed champagne. He was a brave soul because in certain circles — and this was among them — one is presumed to think the presence of champagne a mark of opulence, extravagance, a special occasion, a treat. In even more exalted circles, of course, a display is made of not thinking it a treat but a staple, and babbling in a familiar manner about ‘Bolly’ as though one had proceeded straight from the breast to the bubbly without passing through lemonade on the way. ‘To be honest,’ said my friend, ‘if Fate were to touch my shoulder and whisper that I would never

It’s no surprise younger voters are losing faith in democracy

There is an idea of the state that argues that the role of government is to act as a benevolent social planner, redistributing resources for the benefit of the population as a whole. British governance has more in common with Mancur Olson’s concept of the stationary bandit, a tyrant with a captive population and a desire to maximise the wealth he can extract. The only twist is that rather than a group of warriors seizing wealth by force, Britain works to the benefit of a large number of elderly pensioners thanks to their tendency to reliably turn out at the polls. To very briefly recap, years of austerity cuts combined

Why voters should have to show photo ID

This week’s publication of the Elections Bill has given pressure groups and others a fresh opportunity to complain about what they see as the latest manifestation of this government’s illiberalism: a requirement for people to produce photo ID when they go to vote. Forgive me, but I fail to see what is so terrible, so undemocratic, about that. The arguments go like this. First of all, opponents say, any change is unnecessary, as the UK simply doesn’t have a problem with voter fraud – with impersonation, say, or multiple voting. Trust in the UK electoral process is high and the instances of fraud are infinitesimal compared with the numbers of

Our confusing voting system has cost me £25

Some 114,201 ballots were rejected in the first round of the London mayoral election, approximately 5 per cent of the total votes cast. This wasn’t because people were deliberately spoiling their ballots to protest about the fact that no one standing represented their views. After all, there were 20 candidates in the election encompassing a broad spectrum of opinion. No, it was because they didn’t understand the supplementary vote system, whereby you’re supposed to put a cross next to the candidate of your first choice and a cross next to your second. According to official figures, 87,214 of the spoilt ballots were discounted because people had voted for more than

Scottish Tories are wrong to oppose voting for prisoners

The Scottish Tories don’t mean to be the way they are. Sometimes they just can’t help it. They are being that way again over plans to let some prisoners vote in the forthcoming Scottish parliament elections. I am not convinced those elections should be going ahead at all in the middle of a pandemic but, if they are to, there are good reasons for prisoners to be enfranchised. The Tories intend to force a vote at Holyrood on Wednesday against allowing those serving custodial sentences of less than 12 months to participate in the May 6 election. MSPs voted last February to extend the franchise in order to comply with