It’s a curious question. What part does “charm” play in life? Does the charming man or woman get the job and the dull or grumpy but competent person fail? Do charming people get more done, or are they more inclined to laziness?

Like most assertions or questions, it’s as well to start with some definitions. If we put aside nuclear physics and jewellery the definition of “charm” could be said to be the power or value of delighting, attracting, or fascinating other people. It’s an intrinsic human characteristic but I’m sure it can be learned by those who start of with basic abilities.

One of my favour fictional characters, from the 1960s has this in bucket loads. Personified in the TV series The Saint[1], Simon Templar played by Roger Moore exuded charm. In this exhibition of charm, it’s more than an external attractiveness. It’s also a moral and ethical code.

Perhaps it’s not just charm that I’m discussing. When I asked the question of a supporter, what do you see in Boris Johnson? The answer came back – charisma. It’s a power to stand above the crowd and exert influence over people. Here’s another fuzzy characteristic. Everyone recognises charisma exists but may choose to describe it differently in different people.

The reality seems to be that charm and charisma may be combined but they have little to do with moral and ethical behaviour. However, the general perception is that there’s “good” in these characteristics. Is this obvious, and thus not warranting much further thought? Or is it, that because this seems obvious, that in the hands of the “ungodly,” as The Saint would say, these characteristics can feed unfairness, injustice, or corruption?

What I mean is that “bad” charming or charismatic people are allowed to get away with misdemeans and occasionally down right criminality without the accountability that would punish others. We can add to the equation the current social media explosion. Most platforms are a gift to the self-publicist. They can be a shop window and a soap box for the adoration of charming or charismatic people, good or bad.

Maybe instead of Twitter’s blue tick there ought to be an emoji of the devil or an angel. No – that would be worse than nothing at all. In the end we do depend on authors, journalists and investigators looking behind the masks that prominent personalities keep up. What I can say is that, if there are contemporary Robin Hoods that prevents the “ungodly” from succeeding, they may need help. It’s not so easy to stay one step ahead.



So, why might artificial intelligence (AI) be so dangerous in a free society?

Democracy depends upon information being available to voters. Ideally, this would be legal, decent, and honest information. All too often the letter of the law may be followed whilst shaping a message to maximise its appeal to potential supporters. Is it honest to leave out chunks of embarrassing information for the one nugget that makes a politician look good? We make our own judgement on that one. We make a judgement assuming that outright lying is a rare case.

During key elections news can travel fast and seemingly small events can be telescoped into major debacles. I’m reminded of the remark made by Prime Minister Gordon Brown[1] when he thought the media’s microphones were dead. In 2010, when an aide asked: What did she say? Gordon Brown was candid in his reply. It’s an occasion when the honest thoughts of a PM on the campaign trail popped into the public domain and livened up that election coverage considerably.

What’s concerning about AI[2] is that, in the hands of a “bad actor,” such events could be faked[3] extremely convincingly. Since the fast pace of election campaigning leaves never enough time for in-depth technical investigations there’s a chance that fake events can sway people before they are uncovered. The time between occurrence and discovery need only be a few days. Deep fakes are moving from amateur student pranks to the tools of propagandists.

Misinformation happens now, you might say. Well, yes it does, and we do need people to fact-check claims and counter claims on a regular basis. However, we still depend on simple techniques, like a reporter or member of the public asking a question. It’s rather a basic in format.

This leaves the door open for AI to be used to produce compelling fakes. Sometimes, all it needs is to inject or eliminate one word from a recording or live event. The accuracy and speed of complex algorithms to provide seamless continuity is new. It can be said that we are a cynical lot. For all the protest of fakery that a politician may make after an exposure there will be a plenty of people who will not accept any subsequent debunking.

My example is but a simple one. There’s a whole plethora of possibilities when convincing fake pictures, audio and videos are only a couple of keyboard stokes away.

Regulatory intervention by lawmakers may not be easy but it does need some attention. In terms of printed media, that is election leaflets there are strict rules. Same with party political broadcasts.

Being realistic about the risks posed by technology is not to shut it down altogether. No, let’s accept that it will become part of our lives. At the same time, using that technology for corrupt purposes obviously needs to be stamped on. Regulatory intervention is a useful way of addressing heightened risks. Some of our 19th century assumptions about democracy need a shake-up. 





Brexit “outrage” as The Express newspaper put it. Headlines like this are signs of shear desperation. It seems every time something goes wrong, which it regularly does, the call comes out from Brexit supporters – it must be Remainers or the House of Commons or Lords or civil servants or large corporations or lefty liberals thwarting the great Brexit plan. Noting, of course, that there never was a plan in the first place.

“Take Back Control” has become the hollowest political slogan in British history. Rather than dimming the light of fervent Brexit advocates these repeated setbacks just pump them up. This kind of thinking is both sad and dangerous. It has a deep flavour of paranoia.

This month, shocks from the Conservative Party’s council election meltdown are another trigger for the political right to agitate. Shouting: bring back Boris Johnson is unsurprising. The dreamy magical thinking is that because he delivered a big parliamentary majority in 2019, somehow, he, and he alone, can do the same in 2024. Other conservatives are positioning themselves for the next run at being Prime Minister.

I’m not one to totally dismiss the Johnson proposition. Naturally, it would be calamitous and beyond reason but that has not been an impenetrable barrier since 2016. Brexit, as a happening, delights in causing chaos. There’re political thinkers who invite chaos and disruption to free potentially creative energies. They’re not a bit concerned about the impact of that approach on the average person.

Brexit continues to hobble aviation in UK. A large percentage of the people who worked in UK aviation, before the COVID pandemic, were EU nationals. A lot have gone. Now, it’s often the case that when EU nationals apply for jobs in the UK, the aviation industry must turn them down[1].

The legislative proposal to remove retained EU laws has created yet more uncertainty for UK’s aviation sector. The threat remains regardless that it may be in the process of being watered down. Debates in the House of Lords focused on democratic scrutiny of the process where significant changes are planned[2]. Ministers continue to wish to use arbitrary powers to make changes. There’s ambition in the policies advanced while, at the same time, there’s a wish to look all ways at once.

For a lot of aviation topics, the UK has stated it will continue to use European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) rules and guidance. Although, this is eminently sensible in an international setting it does suggest that Brexit benefits, if they exist at all, have been greatly overstated.

Given the tabloid media jitters seen in recent headlines, it’s perfectly clear that Brexit is a million miles from being “done”. A bad idea remains a bad idea, however it’s dressed up.

Expect turbulence right up to the next General Election. Change is not assured. People will have to campaign hard to make it happen. In comment on the change of the crown, “The country is in a waiting room” said historian Simon Schama.

[1] One major airline – We have had to turn down a huge number [8,000] of EU nationals because of Brexit. Another has blamed the British government’s post-Brexit immigration constraints on the labour market for fuelling staff shortages.


Winds of Change

At the start of a new Carolean Era. Wow, I’ve been wanting to say that for some time. Yes, it’s a new era in this country. In Britain, we mark the passing of history by reference to the monarch of the time. Georgian, Edwardian, Victorian, Elizabethan and so on, it’s a tag to place a period in history. They are often associated with national accomplishments, culture and styles that were fashionable.

It’s a blustery wet day in London and King Charles III is being crowned sovereign. Apparently, the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II had to contend with wet weather too. At the age of 73, King Charles became the oldest person to accede to the British throne. I’d say in 2023, we can no longer say that 73 is old. There are numerous Heads of State across the globe who can top that easily.

We don’t do this designation act with politicians, but we do use a shorthand for their time in power with a reference to their approach to the job or an iconic slogan or two. Thatcherism, Blairism, the white heat of technology or you have never had it so good, or things can only get better.

What’s great about the beginning of the Carolean Era is the signals of political change. Hopefully we will no longer need to hold our head in our hands in astonishment at the utter folly enacted by our elected representatives. Well, maybe less so as we run up to a General Election.

This week’s local elections in England are an awakening. Voters have decided – enough is enough. There are a more than a thousand less Conservative Party councillors in the country. This is democracy at work. I’ll quote Dick Nolan, who wrote in The San Francisco Examiner in 1966: “Politicians are like diapers. They should both be changed regularly and for the same reason.”

The Conservative Party has performed so badly over the last decade they deserve to be put out of power for the next decade. Now, extrapolating from this week’s political earthquake to the result of the next General Election is a doggy business. That said, the trend seems set and the expectation is that a political change is inevitable.

Although, I feel secure in saying this there’s always at least one catalyst that can upset this prediction dramatically. For this I’ll go back to Mrs Thatcher. What would the politics of Britain look like if the Falklands War of 1982 had not occurred? This short international conflict transformed the climate of the day and, no doubt the Prime Minister. However, people might think of the successes and failures of that time the result was the strengthening of her premiership.

Local elections recent held the Conservative Party to account in one way. The bigger story will be written over the next 18 months or so. Mayism was chaotic. Borisism was a total disaster. Trussism was insane. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s time in office maybe as that of John Major. The boy with his finger in the dam awaiting a flood of change. Let’s see what the country looks like after a weekend of pomp but also of reflection.


It’s a difficult time to be a British republican. A couple of reactions to mention of an alternative to having a monarchy is – don’t be a spoil sport or the alternative would be worse.

The national celebrations coming up are not the problem in my mind. Nothing at all wrong with having a big nationwide event in May. Especially given the grim time the hospitality industry has just been through and the natural inclination to celebrate springtime.

Sadly, I have to say that the British republican movement, such as it is, is throwing away the opportunity to pose the questions on the good and bad of having a prominent monarchy in a modern country. “Not My King” is a ridiculous campaign slogan[1]. I believe we’d be better off as a republic but that belief lives with the pragmatic acceptance that there will be a King and he will be the Head of State. Pretending that is not so doesn’t help win the case for change.

Generally, I think there’s an ambivalence[2] about the whole subject amongst the British public. That is however much the BBC talks-up the whole coronation. Nobody much is complaining about having an extra Bank Holiday. Nevertheless, a widely held view is that Charles III will be on probation as a King. If the British monarchy continues to be embroiled in controversy and exist primarily as source of a tabloid headlines, then it will continue to decline as a symbol of the national and last no longer than a decade. The feeling that a monarchy interested in survival should have skipped a generation is a strong one. Their past survival has been mostly because of relative modernisation and not wallowing in ancient rituals.

According to polls, public support for the monarchy is age dependent. This maybe because of the claimed propensity for people to become more conservative, with a small “c”, with age. On the other hand, this is a new age. We have never had the global information revolution that is shaking the foundations of society in the way it is now.

I’m a supporter of British republicanism because we are citizens and not subjects. Although, I do recognise that the different status of people can be of dreadful intricacy given our history.

In Britain, some aspects of our unwritten constitution are “too easy” to change because of a passive Head of State. Conversely, some aspects of our unwritten constitution are “too hard” to change because of being constrained by custom, tradition, and the power of veto by those with inherited influence.

Ironically, post-Brexit, British republicanism is more allied to maintaining sovereignty than our crumbling[3] existing system of governance. That is as much about the sovereignty of the individual citizen as it is of our society or the State. Republicanism has always been about liberty. A few passages from Tom Paine (1737–1809) are enough evidence in that respect.

Good luck to His Majesty King Charles III. He’ll need it.

POST: Not me or, no relation in so far as I know: John Vincent (historian) is a British historian and professor emeritus of modern history at the University of Bristol. He is known for his works on political history, especially the 19th and 20th centuries, and for his controversial views on democracy and monarchy.



[3] The last six years have illustrated the weakness of the current settlement.  

Head in Sand

Well, it’s happened. A debate. Are we any wiser? Well, not much. So many good points are raised but so many good points are dismissed by current Government Ministers. So deep are they in a mess of their own making.

On Monday, 24 April at 16:30, a UK Parliamentary debate[1] took place on the impact of the UK’s exit from the European Union (EU). This was consideration of e-petition[2] 628-226 relating to the impact of the UK’s exit from the EU. On the day of this debate this petition had attracted over 178 000 signatures. Petition debates are “general” debates which allow UK Members of Parliament (MPs) from all political parties to discuss important issues raised by the public.

The petition reasons that the benefits that were promised, if the UK exited the EU have not been delivered. Not at all. Although this fact might be self-evident it never-the-less warranted a timely debate. Public support for Brexit is falling as every day that goes by.

The petitioners called upon the UK Government to hold a public inquiry to assess the impact that Brexit has had on this country and its people. Given that other less impactful events have been subject to a public inquiry it seems only right that Brexit be investigated.

The call for an independent public inquiry, free from ideology and the opinions of vested interests is only fair, right, and proper in an accountable democratic 21st Century country. Transparency is a mark of good governance.

Today’s, Brexit is damaging the UK’s economy, opportunities for young people and rights of individuals. It’s well past the time that the people of the UK were told the full story. There needs to be a way out of this mess.

In the debate the point was made that the two biggest Westminster political parties continue to be committed to Brexit despite the harm that it’s doing to the UK. A long list of disbenefits were rattled off as speakers paced through the evidence. A long list that is growing.

The Government’s current approach is to ask UK Parliamentarians to stop talking about Brexit. It’s the ultimate ostrich with its head in the sand[3]. Brexit is a gigantic strategic mistake. Unfortunately, there remains a significant number of English politicians so entrenched in the mythology of Brexit that change is slow in coming. The public are way ahead of the politicians.

Stereotyping people as being in one camp or another, with the aim of continuing to divide the public is the unscrupulous tool of those people without a rational or coherent argument to make. It’s clear, progress will not be made until Ministers recognise that Brexit was a mistake. We may have to wait until after the next UK General Election before a real change is possible. Let’s hope that day comes soon.

POST 1: UK Press reports on the debate MPs debate consequences of Brexit for first time | The Independent MPs debate Brexit impact ‘for the first time since leaving the EU’ | The National Brexit: MPs call for public inquiry into impact of leaving EU – BBC News

POST 2: Brexit is a drag on the UK Sunak Grins And Bears It As Boss Hits Out At Brexit’s ‘Drag On Growth’ | HuffPost UK Politics (



[3] It’s a myth ostriches bury their head in the sand. Though this isn’t true, Ostrich Syndrome is a popular belief. It’s avoidance coping that people use to manage uncomfortable feelings or rather, not deal with them.


Let’s look at the current fetor objectively. Is it reasonable to say that the Government is using language that is reminiscent of political parties in Germany in the 1930s?

Politicians speaking stridently about making new laws plays well with media commentators and meets the need of being seen to be doing something, even if that something is highly flawed.

To marshal support for a much-criticised proposal, the language being used by Conservative politicians is harsh. Speaking in the House of Commons, a Minister said “there are 100 million people” who would qualify for asylum in the UK. This is reminiscent of the right-wing rhetoric used in 2016 by the referendum Leave campaign to say that 10s of million of Turkish people would come to the UK is we stayed in the European Union (EU).

Shamefully, scare stories about migration are the bread and butter of right-wing politicians much as they were in early 1930s in Germany. It’s clear, that the much-discussed Tweet by a well know football commentator[1], this last week has touched a political nerve. The truth often does touch a nerve.

There’s more than double trouble with Conservative politicians forcing the UK’s “independent” national broadcaster to sanction a well know football commentator for a private remark.

Godwin’s law[2] is known to politicians but maybe not more widely known. Basically, starting an argument by mentioning a comparison to Nazis is not a good a way to win a case. It’s that making an extreme comparison can undermine the credibility of a fair case against something bad.

Now, a national broadcaster with an obligation to aim for political impartiality, with respect to news and current affairs, is inconsistency jumping on the head of one of its popular faces. 

It’s sad that scrutiny of a proposal for a bad law is being overshadowed by an entirely unnecessary media spat. An unnecessary spat that is undermining free speech in the UK[3]. I do not think that Conservative politicians engineered this situation, but they unjustly are benefiting from it. The controversy is corralling right-wing support for a government bill that is full of holes.

I don’t know how we got to this ridiculous state but it’s part of a trend that has been evident since 2016. The reason an evil political party succeeded in Germany in the early 1930s is that they masked their true intent, and countless people discounted their prospects of electoral success. There’s an important lesson in history that we should never ignore.

The language politicians use does matter. It matters a lot.




Small Boats

Are there really hundred million people coming to Britain? Or is this a desperate scare tactic adopted by a Conservative Minister who has run out of workable ideas? It’s certainly the sort of tabloid headline that a lot of conservative supporters like to read. As we saw in the US, with former President Trump’s rhetoric on building a wall these themes stir-up negative emotions and prejudice. It’s a way of dividing people.

Xenophobia is defined as a fear and hatred of strangers or foreigners or of anything that is strange or foreign. With nearly 8 billion people on Earth[1] the potential for this destructive fear to be exploited has never been greater. Here, the Conservative Party is increasingly dominated by xenophobia and demagoguery, whatever a change of leadership may be trying to cover-up.

Will Parliamentary debate save us from the worst instincts highlighted in the Government’s latest proposals on small boat crossings? That’s a big question when the ruling political party has such a large parliamentary majority. Debate is likly to be heated and lacking objectivity.

Pushing the boundaries of international law can cause reputational damage, even if these rum proposals are defeated. However, what concerns most commentators is the high likelihood that the proposed measure will not work. They are merely a more extreme version of past failed policies.

One of the poorest political arguments is to criticise an opponent for reasoned opposition. It goes like this: here’s my policy and by opposing, it without providing your policy, you automatically make my policy a good one. It’s like planning to build a dangerously rickety bridge, likely to fail, and pointing to those who criticise the project as a reason why it’s a good to project.

When spelt out, like this it’s clear how curiously subversive this shoddy bombast can be. However, one of the basic party-political instincts, to seek headlines and publicity, has overridden common sense in this case. In the Government’s case, legislating regardless of the consequences, is an act of political desperation. Sadly, that’s where we are in this pre-election period.

NOTE: In June 2022, the UK had a prison population of roughly 89,520 people. The detention facilities needed to enable the Government’s small boats policy would need to be in the region of 40,000 people. Yet, there’s no published plan for a significant expansion of detention facilities. 


Every little helps

When drawing comparisons with parts of the UK, it’s responsible to say that the town I live in, Reigate[1] in Surrey is relatively affluent. However, much debt people may be carrying, the amount purchasers are prepared to pay for houses in this town is way above the national average.

Past associations between affluence and the habit of voting Conservative in local and national elections is well established. That said, for a good half of the population in Reigate there’s no love of what the Conservatives have done over the last 12 years. In fact, I would wager that a good number of former Conservative supporters are well and truly fed-up with the never-ending deception and incompetence of that political party.

Yesterday morning, just for a short while, in the chilly air a few local people gathered on a street corner to protest. Their concerns included polluted rivers, climate crisis, cost of living crisis, real incomes falling, idiotic Government rhetoric, corrupt politics, a damaging Brexit, and the suppression of the right to protest. The public response was overwhelmingly positive. Drivers tooted their horns in support, people waved and stopped to chat.

As is perfectly reasonable, there were a small number of passers-by who disagreed with the group’s banners and posters. Most often this was a shaking of the head or a traditional English gesticulation, but in addition one or two words were voiced. That’s the heart of the matter. It mystifies me how some people can be happy with the current predicament in Britain.

The most distressing words uttered were: “What’s the choice?”

There are several ways to interpret this negative shout-out. One: it could be a cry of genuine desperation.  Two: it could be a deep reticence accepting a bad situation and a loss of hope. Three: it could be a stubborn Conservative who’d be happy regardless of the situation.

This is what those who want to see change happen have got to get to grips with this year. To bring real change about there needs to be a big collection of people who openly welcome change. That does mean embracing those who are still sitting on the fence.

It means seriously building confidence that today’s troubles can be beaten. As can be seen from this small group’s posters the list of troubles is long, so this is no simple task. Hope for the future means overturning incompetent incumbents and giving a chance to competent fresh faces. It means having honest and practical solutions ready to go. It means having a vision. 

Rebuilding Britain’s liberal democracy is the vital and urgent mission.


3-years on

Today, the weakest arguments are being used to sustain Brexit. Still the advocates of Brexit call for deregulation, slashing taxes but more Government borrowing. The Truss formula, despite its disastrous effect remains popular amongst Brexit supporters.

Britain, having left the EU Customs Union and Single Market, has agreed roll-over trade deals with some countries. However, there has been no huge boost to trade as Brexit advocates claimed there would be after the 2016 vote. Brexit negotiations drag on and on. It’s perpetual motion. Maybe there’s a fix to the Northern Ireland difficulties. Maybe not.

If you are inclined, you can always blame everything on the Government’s pandemic response. As politicians are apt to do, there are quite a few avenues open to excuse away the negative impact of Brexit.

The lies told during the UK referendum campaign of 2016 will not go away.

On the 3-year anniversary of leaving the EU, pollsters have been out and about to gauge public opinion. It seems that apart from some parliamentary constituencies in Lincolnshire, others show a majority think Brexit wasn’t a good idea. 54% say Britain was wrong to leave the EU[1][2].

We don’t not know exactly when the next UK General Election will be, but political parties are gearing up for the fight to come. Because of the dreadful First Past the Post (FPTP) electoral system the UK’s opposition parties have a hill to climb in the race for Westminster. Again, referencing the current polls, even with that hill to climb there’s a high likelihood that change is on the way.

The end of this Brexit Government will not come soon enough. Look at the state the country is in. The longer this Conservative party remains in power the more damage will be done.

NOTE: The United Kingdom withdrew from the European Union on 31 January 2020. Based on the Withdrawal Agreement that had been ratified by both the EU and the UK, a transitional period during which EU law continued to apply in the United Kingdom ended on 31 December 2020.

POST: Ardent Brexit supporters are saying: we have to give it more time. Judging our economic position after 3-years isn’t enough to draw conclusions. This is like saying that having made a bad investment, it’s best to stick with the bad investment. Some people may agree with this type of argument. I say it’s foolish. The Brexit referendum has done damage. It will only be repaired by reversing a destructive and much regretted decision.