Is the ageing of those who can and do vote killing social democracy?

August 27th, 2015 by Roger Darlington

This is an (edited) extract from a blog posting this week by Nick Pearce, Director of the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR).

“Most people are familiar with the inequality in turnout between the social classes. No less egregious is the inequality in turnout between the generations.

This is now a major political cleavage, with hugely significant consequences. In the early 1960s, turnout rates differed little between young and old, but … this gap has widened dramatically over the decades since, and for the 2015 general election it is estimated that the difference will be 35 percentage points (data from the British Election Study data is due to be published in October).

This is of particular consequence for the Labour Party, since it has suffered huge losses among older voters: 47 per cent of the over-65s voted Conservative in 2015, a 5.5-point swing from Labour, who picked up only 23 per cent of this key section of the electorate.

Labour won in every age-group up to those aged 55 and over. Yet its Russell Brand moment never arrived, and barring a major reform (such as compulsory voting for first-time voters), it never will.

Moreover, as Britain ages, the political clout of older generations will inevitably rise, as they become an increasingly larger slice of the electorate. Yet barely any of the Labour leadership discussions has touched on this fundamental point – which is especially glaring in light of George Osborne’s political acuity on the issue.

Indeed, there is an argument to be made that the ageing of northern European societies and the rise of political inequality between the generations has been an important contributory factor to the weakening of European social democracy.

In the US, migration has replenished the population and helped to renew the Democrat coalition – Republicans cannot win elections with older white votes alone. In northern Europe, by contrast, migration and ageing have both worked to the disadvantage of social democrats, splintering working-class voting blocs and pulling politics towards the right.”

The blog posting by Nick Pearce coincides with a new IPPR report on the revitalisation of British democracy.

Posted in American current affairs, British current affairs, World current affairs | Comments (0)


Out of the mouths of babes …

August 26th, 2015 by Roger Darlington

Yesterday, I viewed the new Pixar animation movie “Inside Out” again [my review here] with my granddaughter Catrin (aged four and a half) and a young female friend with her son who is a very similar age to Catrin. They are both single children.

Afterwards the little lad wanted to go to the toilet and I offered to his mother that I would take him. As we marched off to the cinema toilet together, my young friend declared:

“You and me are boys. Mummy and Catrin are girls. Girls make boys crazy. Girls are crazy all the time.”

I think he was using the word “crazy” as a metaphor for “mysteriously wonderful”.

Posted in My life & thoughts | Comments (0)


“The Fallen Of World War II” – a powerful data graphics presentation

August 24th, 2015 by Roger Darlington

The Second World War was the bloodiest conflict in history. The actual death toll is the subject of many estimates and, for the purposes of his video, American Neil Halloran has used estimates which total around 70 million,

He has produced a graphic which explains how this total is made up and how the toll in the war compares to other conflicts both before and after. You can view the fascinating, but chilling, 18-minute presentation here.

Posted in History | Comments (0)


What are the most popular names for new babies in Britain?

August 23rd, 2015 by Roger Darlington

According to the data compiled annually by the Office of National Statistics (ONS), the most popular names for children born in England & Wales during 2014 – published this week – were as follows:

Position Boys Girls
1 Oliver Amelia
2 Jack Olivia
3 Harry Isla
4 Jacob Emily
5 Charlie Poppy
6 Thomas Ava
7 George Isabella
8 Oscar Jessica
9 James Lily
10 William Sophie
11 Noah Grace
12 Alfie Sophia
13 Joshua Mia
14 Muhammed Evie
15 Henry Ruby
16 Leo Ella
17 Archie Scarlett
18 Ethan Isabelle
19 Joseph Chloe
20 Freddie Sienna

There are some patterns here.

First of all, astonishingly the most popular boys’ name and the second most popular girls’ name are essentially the same (Oliver and Olivia) – what is technically known as cognates – and these names have been in the top two for their gender for the last six years. Is this the case in any other nation? Second, it is striking how traditional most of the names are for both boys and girls, although for the boys it is interesting that the familiar form of names rather than the original version is often preferred – Jack instead of John, Harry instead of Harold, Charlie instead of Charles, Alfie instead of Alfred, Archie instead of Archibold, Freddie instead of Frederick. Third, in the case of boys, five of the top 20 names begin with the letter ‘J’ while, in the case of girls, 10 of the top 20 names end with the letter ‘a’, seven of the top 20 names end with the sound ‘ee’, and ten of the top 20 names contain the letter ‘l’ (in four cases, twice).

On the other hand, the name John, which is the most common male name in the Britain, is nowhere in the top 100 names in the 2014 listings, while David – which is the second most common name in Britain – slipped out of the top 50 of names chosen for baby boys born in 2004 and has only just come back (it is currently 50th). Similarly Margaret – the most common female name in the population as a whole – does not even appear in the top 100 names chosen for girls these days, while Susan – the second most common name in Britain – is not even in the top 100.

These observations underline how much fashion shapes the popularity of different names. Fashion is a stronger influence with girls’ names than those of boys. So, for example, in the last 10 years (2004-2014) Lexi is up 724 places to 64, Ivy is up 704 places to number 54, Violet is up 538 places to 71, Bella is up 462 places to 52, and Elsie is up 387 places to 32.

It should be noted that the Office of National Statistics (ONS) produces its ranking of the popularity of names using the exact spelling of the name given at birth registration. If one combines the numbers for names with very similar spellings, a very different picture is revealed. For boys, combining the occurrence of Mohammed, Muhammad, Mohammad & Muhammed plus eight other spellings of the names would put it in first place – a reflection of the changing ethnicity of the British population and the powerful trend for Muslim families to name their son after the Prophet. Similarly, if one combines the occurrence of Isabella, Isabelle, Isabel and Isobel, one would find the name top of the girls’ list and, if one took Lily and Lilly together, the name would come third.

You can find the top 100 boys and girls names in 2014 click here

You can find my comprehensive guide to naming practices around the world here.

Posted in British current affairs | Comments (0)


Ever wondered just how far can one drive the predestination paradox?

August 23rd, 2015 by Roger Darlington

No – neither had I.  Until I watched a 2014 Australian science fiction thriller called “Predestination” which I’ve reviewed here.

Posted in Cultural issues | Comments (0)


“Lonely Planet”‘s ultimate travellers’ bucket list – how many of them have you visited?

August 22nd, 2015 by Roger Darlington

This week, the “Lonely Planet” organisation issued a list of its top tourist destinations around the world. The top 20 were as follows:

  1. Temples of Angkor, Cambodia
  2. Great Barrier Reef, Australia
  3. Machu Picchu, Peru
  4. Great Wall of China, China
  5. Taj Mahal, India
  6. Grand Canyon National Park, USA
  7. Colosseum, Italy
  8. Iguazu Falls, Brazil-Argentina
  9. Alhambra, Spain
  10. Aya Sofya, Turkey
  11. Fez Medina, Morocco
  12. Twelve Apostles, Australia
  13. Petra, Jordan
  14. Tikal, Guatemala
  15. British Museum, England
  16. Sagrada Familia, Spain
  17. Fiordland National Park, New Zealand
  18. Santorini, Greece
  19. Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
  20. Museum of Old & New Art, Australia

I have been so fortunate in my opportunities to travel, so I have been to every location in the top 10 and to 16 of the top 20.  You can find a guide to these 20 destinations here and read some of my travel reports here.

What has really saddened me recently is how many tourist locations are now targeted by terrorists or the scene of insurgences. As we have broadened our travel destinations over the last decade and a half, we have visited a number of countries where there has been violence before (Egypt), during (Nepal) or after (Syria) our time there.

This week, we have seen the murderous explosion in Bangkok (Thailand) which we visited just two years ago and the brutal beheading of an antiquities curator in Palmyra (Syria) which we visited four years ago.

It seems that nowhere in the world is truly safe, but many of the poorest countries on earth rely very much on earnings from tourism, so we have to keep travelling and hope that engagement will be good for us and for those we meet.

Posted in Miscellaneous, My life & thoughts | Comments (0)


My 24th short story: “A Question Of Life”

August 21st, 2015 by Roger Darlington

Having written more than 20 short stories some five years ago, I was emboldened to try one with a Holocaust theme. You can check it out here.

Posted in My life & thoughts | Comments (0)


Word of the day: myrmidon

August 20th, 2015 by Roger Darlington

The word means ‘a person who executes without question or scruple a master’s commands’.  It comes from the name of a character in Greek mythology.

It’s a new word for me and I came across it in the book I’m reading at the moment: “The Storm Of War”, an account of the Second World War by Andrew Roberts. In this context, Roberts uses to word to describe those who blindly followed the orders and wishes of the Fuhrer Adolf Hitler.

Posted in Cultural issues | Comments (0)


The bloodiest siege in history: Leningrad 1941-1944

August 20th, 2015 by Roger Darlington

I am currently reading the 600-page book “The Storm Of War”, an  account of the Second World War by Andrew Roberts. Even though I am familiar with all the major events of the war, it is still shocking to be reminded of the utter devastation of the conflict.

Following the German invasion of the Soviet Union in Operation Barbarossa, the city of Leningrad suffered the most horrific siege in history. There are various estimates of the death toll, but Roberts writes:

” … somehow Leningrad surveyed its gruelling 900-day ordeal, despite suffering over one million deaths, or an average of more than 1,100 people a day for nearly three years. It was by far the bloodiest siege in history, and more Russians died in Leningrad alone than British and American soldiers and civilians during the whole of the Second World War.”

You can read more about the siege here.

An excellent novel set in the siege is “City Of Thieves” by David Benioff which I have reviewed here.

Posted in History | Comments (0)


A review of the new Pixar animation movie “Inside Out”

August 18th, 2015 by Roger Darlington

Summer’s here and school’s out, so thank goodness for a great new movie from Pixar. “Inside Out” manages to be a delight for both kids and adults. You can read my review here.

Posted in Cultural issues | Comments (0)