Roman decadence – much more interesting than the 21st century variety

At the Catholic Herald I’m writing about Tom Holland’s latest Roman history, Dynasty, which provides a bit of escapism from our depressing world of ISIS and the sidebar of shame: Nero may have murdered Britannicus, Claudius’s 13-year-old son, having first raped him; he certainly killed his mother Agrippina, and kicked to death his wife Poppaea Sabina (by accident). Afterwards he ‘ordered a hunt to be made for a doppelganger’ of his late wife and stumbled on Sporus, perfect in every… Read on

Why don’t we launch a Kindertransport scheme for Syrians?

At the Spectator, an idea for a humanitarian scheme to help the Syrians: Part of the problem is that, after years of record immigration, many British people seem unwilling to accept any more. There is also a feeling that the rich benefit from migration, and that the poor pay the brunt. Refugees tend to be dumped in poorer areas such as east Kent rather than Highgate, while the wealthy and articulate get to display their virtue by condemning their… Read on

Religion: the cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems #Palmyra

The king of Twitter today is commenting on the latest horrors in Palmyra. But it was the power of religion that helped build Palmyra, just as it was religion that destroyed it. From Asabiyyah, my essay on Ibn Khaldun, here is the chapter on why religion is such a powerful force for unity and division.   Asabiyyah – group feeling – is strongest in those sharing a common ancestry, but this is not necessary, nor even… Read on

The short road from anti-Westernism to anti-Semitism.

At the Spectator, on hostility to market-dominant minorities Anti-Semitism differs to most forms of racial prejudice in that it is aimed not at a group deemed to be inferior but one believed to be superior, or at least more financially or politically powerful. This is what makes it so dangerous, since market-dominant minorities have historically faced the worst violence. (We think of eastern European Jews arriving in Britain before the first world war as being impoverished, which they… Read on

Why not a Kindertransport for Syrians?

I’m going to Greece on Sunday, so I hope the holiday is not spoiled by a load of Syrians turning up on the beach demanding water and food. The last thing you need when taking some cool shots for Facebook is some half-starved Arabs getting in the way. I think this picture says it all really. The man, seen clutching his children, had escaped from the Islamic State and arrived to safety in Europe. Even those of us alarmed… Read on

Could a strike by Poles bring down Britain?

No, but read it anyway. 

How open borders killed the Labour party

Via Nick Cohen, former Labour councilor Michael Harris has a fascinating piece on how Labour has effectively allowed itself to be taken over. There is a new left-wing political party in Britain which, for now, is called the Labour party. It may carry the name “Labour”, the blandly fonted red logo and a set of MPs, many of whom were elected while Tony Blair was Prime Minister, but this is not the Labour party you know…. Read on

Could the Tory right do a Corbyn?

At the Spectator: Ironically it may be the very social validation given to left-wing ideas that brings about Labour’s downfall. Since the early 1990s the Conservatives have been made aware that their party is at risk of splits and that most of the public intensely dislike them. This is bound to install some discipline and intellectual rigor; yet the division between the different wings of the Labour Party is vast in contrast. Imagine a scenario where the heir-designate… Read on

Come back Blair, Campbell and Mandelson, all is forgiven!

At the Spectator: In this sense they certainly do mirror the Tory right/Ukip in their hope for authentic conservatism, when the evidence suggests that many people are apathetic about politics and the others are generally pragmatic, and mostly concerned that the government runs the economy properly. Maybe deep down most members of the public think that, however awful the liberal elite are, they probably just understand these issues better than most people; in the same way that people… Read on

The Islamic father of social science

At the Spectator, on Ibn Khaldun:  Born in Tunis on May 27, 1332, Ibn Khaldun pioneered the fields of sociology and history, as well as touching on economics and science, during his long life spent serving as an ambassador and supreme justice across the Islamic Mediterranean. His history book the Muqaddimah puts him up with Herodotus and Thucydides as one of the fathers of that discipline, while the Scottish theologian Robert Flint once said that ‘Plato, Aristotle and Augustine were not his peers, and all others… Read on