The local and national government fight to build more homes

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Photo by Aron Van de Pol on Unsplash

“The cool stone steps were the same steps that had been trodden by generations before him. In his fifty years working in this great palace he had never thought too much about what had gone before, but this morning, as he passed the statues of St. George and St. David and brushed against Queen Victoria, he mused about what his role in national life had been on this, his last day in the legislative centre of Parliament. …


“Beware of Gods, Communists and beautiful women,” said the Chancellor

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Photo by Pavel Anoshin on Unsplash

He was adored.

Winchester College and Oxford University beckoned and with calm ease, he drifted through both. Even a Stanford MBA he grasped with the settled relaxation of a man whose destiny had been written by his God; Brahma.

His insouciance was what surprised those who met him. Not only was he bright but his chiselled looks and slim demeanour meant that at University he had been ‘Dishy Rishi’.

It was unsurprising that at 1 a.m. this particular morning in 1999, as he sat in the Baroque splendour of the converted Hawksmoor church that had become the library of Lincoln College, that he was approached by a pulchritudinous, tall, blonde woman who chose to sit in the carrel next to him. Her legs were like branches of a beautiful young silver birch, her hair like the gentle lapping of a willow brushing the water and her fingers like the smooth catkins of a hornbeam.


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Photo by Daniel Cheung on Unsplash

It was 10 p.m. The tumbler of whisky glimmered in the stark light of the desk lamp as smoke rose curlingly from the cigarette dangling precariously on the edge of the makeshift tin can ashtray.

The typewriter lay exhausted. Exhausted by the frenetic and painful hammering of nicotine-stained fingers as they poured out the story that was supposed to be dropping through the doors of the great, the good and maybe the interested, ready for the breakfast tables of the nation. This was a good story.

Those fingers had strained hard to ensure that each word written was crafted by the facts, not by opinion. ‘Stained Fingers’ had learnt the first rule of journalism — ensure the accuracy of the facts.


Crabs, Covid and the Art of War

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Photo by Rod Long on Unsplash

The seas of South Australia were warmed by the intense sun as they lapped the scorched sand of the beaches. In the shallows were the shadows of 800 million Spider Crabs drifting harmoniously in the tides of their life. They are there for a single purpose. They are not there to mate. They are there to be reborn. Like an evangelical Easter Christian, they are there to remove themselves from their former life to take on a new cloak of armour through baptism. The first Spider Crabs to make it to the shallows are the first to shed their shells. They break free of the homes on their backs and like the coming of the Jewish feast of Sukkot they are exposed without s’chach as their now defenceless whole is washed back to the depths by the pulsating tide. …


Covid, Spain and the rise of the public sector

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Photo by Robin Benzrihem on Unsplash

The theatres lie dark. The streets are empty. Restaurant chairs and tables lie stacked against the walls like bones in an elephant graveyard. Even the bright early spring sun can do little to draw us to the coffee patios and sunlit squares of the metropolis. A man emerges from the corner of the square, pushing a broom in front of him, desperately seeking out the silent litter he has made it his life’s work to banish from this once people strewn courtyard. Covid-19 is here and it sweeps all before it.

For a street sweeper, it can be business as usual but for many areas of public life and public service, there is no longer a normal day or a normal job. In a crisis of this nature, there are going to be organisational winners and losers, those who will perform well and those for whom life has become more complicated and more difficult. I thought it might be worthwhile to have a look at the public sector as it stands today and then revisit this in a few months when the dust has settled on what will have been one of the remarkable periods in global history. …


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Photo by Tbel Abuseridze on Unsplash

It was Plato, in his book The Republic, who first proffered the notion of “Kyklos”, or the cycle.

Aristotle gave light to the notion that nation states went through a process of development, or Kyklos, as they mature. All Ancient Greek states started as monarchies, became oligarchies and were soon tyrannies before they decided that democracy was the answer.

In 2000 BC, during the time of Homer, nearly all Greek states were monarchies and we all recall with delight the myths of Kings Agamemnon and Theseus. …


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Photo by Ed Robertson on Unsplash

In today’s politics, it is rare to hear plain-speaking. However, smothered beneath the all-encompassing story of Coronavirus, there has been hidden away a remarkable chapter in the history of housing in London; the response to Sadiq Khan’s draft London Plan from the Secretary of State.

The reality is that London is not building enough houses. This has been a long-term problem but in the past four years, it has gotten worse. Generally, housebuilders across the UK have been getting on with the job of building homes. In fact, records are being broken for the number of homes completed. [1] In London the story is somewhat different. London is the only place left in the country that continues with a spatial strategy which is authored by the Mayor. …


Kingston has no choice if it wants to be proud of its housing

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The Cambridge Estate is a mess. This is no reflection on the people who live there but we need to face the fact that generations of Councils and councillors have neglected to invest in the upkeep of the estate in a way that sought to improve the place Kingstonians live. The state of our social housing is a considerable failure of local government, not just in Kingston but right across the country.

It was not helped by the rush to develop supposedly “modern” estates for the growing postwar population after the baby boom of the 1960s. …


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Photo by Charl Durand on Unsplash

Fleas are damned annoying. They jump like hell, itch like hell and, at the extreme, munch away at human flesh like hell.

It seems odd but fleas were involved in the very first erotic writing when used in a poem by the metaphysical poet John Donne. “How the hell could a flea be erotic?” you might ask…

The poem is an exhortation to “Seize the day” (Carpe Diem). The eroticism comes from the swelling up of the flea as it sucks on the human blood of both the man and the women in the poem. This all culminates in the thought. …


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Fear is a powerful electoral tool. For every voter who has tribal allegiances, there have always been voters prepared to vote against things rather than vote for them. But that dynamic has changed and fear of electoral outcomes is driving much moire campaigning and voting decisions than ever before.

It’s quite difficult to pin down precisely why it should be that the dynamics of elections have changed. It would be easy to point to Brexit and the referendum but it could well be that the surprising referendum outcome was the result of this new trend. For every “take back control” or “£350m to spend” there was the balancing “fear argument” of how the economy would crash and job losses rise after the referendum — something which, of course, has not happened. …

Kevin Davis

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