Category Archives: Risk and fear

After Grenfell: more health and safety?

People talk about health and safety gone mad. The truth is it never really quite goes mad enough.’ This was the verdict of Times columnist David Aaronovitch, in the immediate aftermath of the Grenfell Tower disaster. He reminded us of some of the terrible disasters that scarred the 1980s, including the deadly fires at King’s […]

Millennial terrorism comes of age

‘If you want to strike at the sinful west, you pick a Friday night. While devout Muslims are fresh from prayer, young Parisian non-believers are knocking back the booze’, wrote Roger Boyes, diplomatic editor at The Times, on 17 November. ‘Islamic State killers made their point about a clash of civilisations: frustrated young men ready […]

‘Edge of Eternity’: before freedom was feared

For anyone who has devoured the first two novels in Ken Follett’s ‘Century Trilogy’, the publication of Edge of Eternity last month comes as an eagerly awaited treat. Follett’s journey through this tumultuous period took us through the First and Second World Wars (Fall of Giants, Winter of the World), and now brings us to the Sixties – […]

From the freewheelin’ Sixties to the fearmongerin’ Noughties

Arthur Marwick’s history of the Sixties, first published in 1998, is one of those books that you just want to have on your shelf. Covering every cultural development from the rise of the mini-skirt to the birth of hippy culture, from sex and urban planning to art, film and literature, it’s a fascinating romp through […]

How the vetting frenzy alienates adults from kids

The Liberal-Conservative government’s announcement that the controversial Vetting and Barring Scheme (VBS) will be ‘very significantly’ curtailed is very welcome. Under its new incarnation, rather than seeking to subject anybody who works or volunteers with children to a police check, the vetting scheme will reportedly focus on ‘those in sensitive posts or who have intensive […]

Anthony Horowitz: ‘We’re afraid of our kids, and we’re afraid for them’

‘A child should be able to make up his or her own mind about an adult they are meeting without that adult having to wave a government-stamped piece of paper. The idea that the government can come in to the most fundamental of relationships – between an adult and a child – and somehow manipulate […]

Turning teachers into objects of suspicion

One of the most pernicious prejudices of our time is that adults, given half a chance, will abuse the children in their care. This is the prejudice that lies behind the UK government’s out-of-control, increasingly unpopular mass vetting scheme, in which adults who want to spend time with, or take responsibility for, children other than […]

Good v Evil need not apply

  For the second week running, I found myself watching BBC1’s Sunday War Report. Chaired by John Humphrys, veteran of Radio 4’s Today programme, this seems like the BBC’s latest attempt at information-populism, combining breaking news with interviews with feature reports with Peter Snow (famous for his election-time swingometers) gabbling breathlessly through an electronic presentation of what troops/planes/bombs […]

Apologetic imperialism

If you want to understand the world as it really is not, it’s often a good idea to read some of the columnists in the UK press. This week, the Award for the Most Unreal Analysis goes to the Guardian’s Madeleine Bunting. Bunting used her slot on Monday 8 October to launch a bitter attack on […]

Growing up scared

As aeroplanes were crashing into New York’s World Trade Centre, I was halfway through an online quiz to find out if I am suffering from a ‘quarterlife crisis’. Sometimes, the news really puts things in perspective. The quarterlife crisis, apparently, is the twentysomething’s version of a midlife crisis. It refers to the condition of graduating […]