Eleven messages from science for COP26

Earlier this year I helped to write and edit a series of briefings produced by The Royal Society on climate change. This article represents my personal perspective on the messages that emerged. If not for [...]

Fill out this survey if you care about democracy

If you care about democracy and think the courts and Parliament should be able to stop the government doing whatever it wants, it’s probably worth filling out this short survey. But don’t hang around – [...]

The Covid-19 failure isn’t just political but systemic

The coronavirus has not only exposed the current government's incompetence but wider, systemic failings in Britain's adversarial culture. The revelation that Dominic Cummings visited his family on the very day the Prime Minister’s tweeted that [...]

Ten albums? No explanations? You’re having a laugh …

Call me nosy, but I always want to know why people choose their favourite albums on Facebook. And call me verbose, but I can't resist explaining why I choose mine. So here are some short [...]

Climate change – give the UN the power to lead

2 December 2019. Today the 25th global conference on climate change has begun in Spain – COP25 for short. Or if you want the full title – the “Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework [...]

10 reasons why Parliament isn’t the enemy

29 October 2019 We’re embarking on an election campaign where ‘Parliament’ will be held up as the root of all Brexit evil – MPs who have failed to deliver the will of the people, a [...]

What Boris really wants – it’s the die-in-a-ditch option

My take on Brexit as of 2pm on 23 October 2019. Just been listening to coverage of Brexit. I think some points are being missed - eg whether an election is pre- or post-Brexit; the [...]

Boycott BP – or save the planet? Your call

Let me start this with two declarations of interest. First, I used to work full-time for BP.   The second is that I am passionate about overcoming climate change. What? How can someone have worked for [...]

Major remembers Ashdown – a different generation

Twenty-five years ago, every Tuesday and Thursday morning, I would sit with Paddy Ashdown, Ming Campbell and various others to try to figure out a line that would floor John Major at Prime Minister's Question [...]

Brexit bafflers – 10 top misunderstandings unravelled

"Ball of Confusion - that's what the world is today." The Temptations, 1970 Brexit doesn't only divide people, it confuses the hell out of them. Here are ten things that either I believed until I [...]

‘No politics’? Must be election time

20 May 2019 ‘No politics – just local’. What’s this then? An advert for the Co-op? Or one of those signs in pubs advising drinkers what to avoid in conversation?  No, it’s the latest slogan from [...]

Would I lie to EU?

You know the rules. Someone says something and everyone has to guess if they’re lying or not. So let’s have a Brexit special. There’s only one round – describe the European Union.  The EU - [...]

Last-minute plea for pro-Europeans to unite for Euro-elections

Dear Heidi Allen, Jonathan Bartley and Siân Berry I am writing to you as leaders of the Change UK and Green parties as one of the 16 million who voted Remain in the 2016 referendum [...]

Why I wasn’t marching

I wish I supported a ‘people’s vote’. I really do. Life would be so much easier. I’d be on the same side as many of my friends. I’d have been marching through London for a [...]

Paddy Ashdown – a lesson in leadership

27 December 2018 Having worked alongside Paddy Ashdown when he was Liberal Democrat leader, I knew he commanded respect, but I was still taken aback by the scale and nature of the tributes paid after [...]

Why I can’t take Hammond’s tax cut

30 October 2018   If you earn £10,000 a year, the 2018 Budget made you £25 better off. If you’re on £15,000, you do a lot better - you’ll be £155 richer. But if you make [...]

A recipe for the perfect speech

Great speeches sound effortless. That means they take a lot of effort. Like a great sporting or musical performance, an excellent speech is based on a blend of talent, experience, knowledge, creative ideas and teamwork. [...]

New times, new party?

This letter of mine was published in The Observer today – 14 May 2017. See below for more on why I want to see a new party. “Will Hutton mentions creating a new party in a [...]

Editor Osborne – a victory for politics over journalism

What matters more: that an MP has five jobs outside Parliament or that an MP is editing London’s top newspaper?  George Osborne’s appointment as Editor of the Evening Standard has led to an outcry on [...]

Council Cuts: the Silent Scandal Tearing our Communities Apart

Another day, another raft of headlines and protests over Trump and Brexit. Meanwhile, away from the cameras, another bit of Britain quietly shuts down. A swimming pool closes in Leeds. A library shuts in Swindon. [...]

The Christmas spirit can last all year

It’s Christmas - time to make that one-off donation to a charity for the homeless. But if you thought it was just for turkey and crackers, think again. Your money may well be changing people’s [...]

Blocking Brexit? A conversation  

A few days ago, I published a blog called ‘Let Brexit happen’, arguing that those of us who voted to remain in the EU in June should respect the outcome of the referendum. My point [...]

Let Brexit Happen. Let People Learn

I voted remain in the Brexit referendum, but I don’t want a re-run. I don’t want MPs to reject it. I don’t want a High Court ruling to stall it.  I just want out – [...]

An open letter to Leonardo DiCaprio

Dear Leonardo I just watched your excellent film on climate change, Before the Flood.  I’m writing to applaud you for highlighting the urgency of this issue, but also to ask you to think again – especially [...]

If years were seconds ….

Climate change can seem a very long-term issue. But that depends what you mean by ‘long-term’. Imagine, as if in some long-lost Star Trek episode, that years became seconds…. If years were seconds, the universe [...]

Soft Brexit – flying pig

There’s been a lot more talk of hard and soft Brexits this week – with the Prime Minister promising more Parliamentary debate and retailers warning of price rises and tariffs when the UK leaves the [...]

Ten top tips for business writing

It’s vital for businesses to have publications written well. Good writing keeps readers reading. Bad writing makes them stop. And when readers stop reading because they are bored or baffled, they form a negative view [...]

Let’s have a party

So what do we know, two weeks on, two weeks after the people spoke, shouted, swore and howled. We know much more than we did before. Pent up feelings have come out – nasty nationalistic, racist ones – and tolerant, [...]

How strong are the Leave arguments?

Anyone out there still planning to vote Leave tomorrow? Let’s have a look at the big arguments for Brexit ….  “There’s too much immigration from the EU” In 2015 the number of immigrants from the EU [...]

Brexit by numbers – update – 22 June

1,280 – the number of UK business leaders who signed a letter to the Times today backing membership of the EU 51 – the number of FTSE 100 CEOs and Chairmen who signed the letter 0 – the number [...]

A SATs test for ministers

Ten and 11-year-old children around the UK will be doing Key Stage 2 SATs tests this week, being examined on their knowledge of such things as determiners, relative clauses, modal verbs and subordinating conjunctions.  Just [...]

Business jargon – why it goes on

Business jargon has been a laughing stock for years. Everyone says they want to get rid of it. But still it goes on. Websites, reports and speeches are littered with paradigms, stakeholders and matrices. Why? [...]