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The Guardian epaper Journal May 1 2018

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Section:GDN 1J PaGe:1 Edition Date:180501 Edition:01 Zone:
Sent at 30/4/2018 17:49
The ruins I saw in Syria are a rebuke to the west’s inaction Diana Darke, page 4
Young or old, private renters are cursed Dawn Foster, page 5
Replacing politicians with experts is a reckless idea The long read, page 9
The Guardian Tuesday 1 May 2018
and ideas
Windrush was
a scandal just
waiting to
he home secretary is politically dead:
long live the home secretary. Amber
Rudd, having sinned, and having
exhausted her justification as a
lightning rod for a perennially troubled
prime minister, has been cast aside. Her
successor, Sajid Javid, will seek to draw
a line under Windrush and immediately,
by dint of who he is – the first home secretary from a
visible minority – he will adjust the optics. And the prime
minister, beleaguered but immunised from danger for a
while, will hunker down in her political safe room until
the threat and the noise dies down.
The basic narrative in this disturbing soap opera
of government dysfunction is so gripping that by
following the plotlines we risk missing the underlying
lessons and themes.
One is that today, the cost-benefit analysis of
government changed. Rudd may claim to have known
nothing about the migrant deportation targets but we
know for sure that some officials in her department
knew of the policy and the disproportionate effect
it was having on black Britons of longstanding
and positive contribution. How could they not
have known or suspected? Consider that in 2014,
Diane Abbott, in parliament, asked Theresa May, then
home secretary, whether she had considered “the
effect that her measures that are designed to crack
down on illegal immigrants could have on people who
are British nationals, but appear as if they might be
immigrants”. Was May not listening? Did no one in her
department read Hansard or follow the BBC Parliament
channel? Unlikely.
What is more likely is that at some point, and surely
when the Guardian reporter Amelia Gentleman began
highlighting cases of Windrush injustice, someone
did the cost-benefit analysis. They decided that the
risk that the victims would be in a position to make a
fuss, or that anyone would help them or listen to them,
was outweighed by the political and media benefit of
making a government hurtling towards Brexit, with an
immigration-fixated prime minister, look tough.
That calculation, having now cost Rudd her job and
any pretensions she may have had to lead her party,
will now be revised. The Windrush victims did make a
fuss, people did help them. And the public did listen.
Yesterday’s Commons debate was triggered by a protest
petition that garnered 178,000 signatures.
In terms of community cohesion, this is
good news. Not perhaps the unequivocal
Section:GDN 1J PaGe:2 Edition Date:180501 Edition:01 Zone:
Sent at 30/4/2018 18:20
The Guardian Tuesday 1 May 2018
Windrush was a scandal just
waiting to happen
Hugh Muir
Continued from front
embrace of diverse Britain some would like,
but a clear indication that a non-ideological
argument about fairness, properly framed
and circulated, can supersede even the post-Brexit-vote
hostility to difference. Whitehall might bear that in
mind before embarking again on schemes that further
disadvantage the disadvantaged.
But now might also be a moment to think about
how we got here. On the 25th anniversary of the death
of Stephen Lawrence, it is worth pondering on what
Sir William Macpherson said his inquiry report, about
institutional racism. It’s the most controversial element
of his findings. People who like the rest, about dodgy
coppers and vicious, cowardly killers, tend to shy away
from, or become hostile to, his warning that otherwise
good people, unwittingly biased, can in their collective
actions disadvantage and discriminate against people of
colour. There is, I think, a deliberate misunderstanding
from individuals and pundits who cry: “How dare you
call me racist!”
The then commissioner of the Metropolitan police,
Paul Condon, at the Lawrence inquiry itself, refused to
accept the phenomenon might apply to his force. Just
recently Bill Mellish, one of the most senior officers
in the Lawrence case, again dismissed the idea of
collective institutional bias as rubbish.
ut to look at the Windrush scandal
is to vividly see institutional racism
at work. Theresa May, Rudd, former
immigration minister Brandon
Lewis, who admits he did know of the
deportation targets, all the officials
involved; they may be good people.
They may have good intentions. They
may, in part, be liberal in intent. We know from the
unions that represent them that there has been much
unease about the harshness and inflexibility of policies
imposed upon them by politicians. We know documents
revealing the extent to which senior politicians drove the
policy leaked. So there were good people trying, at some
risk, to do the right thing. But what is important here is
the sum of parts. We know what the outcomes were.
The institution, through its leaders, pursued and
defended a policy that, in its application, discriminated
– not wholly, but in large measure – against black
Britons. Their lack of empathy or care at worst, lack
of peripheral vision at best, resulted in what is pretty
much a textbook example of institutional racism from
the department that commissioned Macpherson in the
first place. He defined it as: “The collective failure of an
organisation to provide an appropriate and professional
service to people because of their colour, culture, or
ethnic origin,” adding: “It can be seen or detected in
processes, attitudes and behaviour which amount to
discrimination through unwitting prejudice, ignorance,
thoughtlessness and racist stereotyping which
disadvantage minority ethnic people.” There has, in the
face of opposition and as the shock of Macpherson has
faded, been pushback against that concept. Let us now
put those doubts to bed.
Given the convulsions, there may well be an inquiry
into Windrush; yesterday the Joint Council for the
Welfare of Immigrants called for a full-blown public
inquiry. By following the paper trail, we should pretty
easily be able to find out exactly what has happened.
It would shine light on the practical and leadership
deficiencies. How May and Rudd, by playing populist
politics, turned the legitimate pursuit of illegal
migrants - a matter calling for judgment and sensitivity
- into the gung ho public bloodsport likely to snare both
guilty and blameless. They set the tone. They made
collateral damage inevitable. It might highlight how
our parameters have changed, for last week we entered
new territory as regards how ministers are assessed and
made accountable. The strongest justification for Rudd,
made by friends before her fall to earth on Sunday, was
that she is not wicked, she is merely critically unaware
of the workings of her own department, ie incompetent.
But all that sits on the surface; what’s needed now is
an acceptance that we need to dig a bit deeper. Ruinous
philosophies, assumptions and attitudes brought us to
this sorry point. It is those we really need to unearth.
Founded 1821 Independently owned by the Scott Trust № 53,397
‘Comment is free… but facts are sacred’ CP Scott
The Windrush scandal
demands a new policy to go
with a new home secretary
Amber Rudd had to resign as home secretary on Sunday
night for two reasons: first, because she deceived MPs
about her own immigration policy and, second, because
the Guardian exposed the deception. In the end, her own
words brought her down. Ms Rudd denied that she had
a target for removing illegal migrants under the “hostile
environment” policy. However, this newspaper was then
able to show, from internal Home Office documents,
that this was untrue. Last week Ms Rudd said she knew
nothing about these targets. The documents showed she
had a policy target of 12,800 enforced returns in 2017-18
and had told the prime minister in 2017 that she wanted
a 10% increase in migrant removals. Once the scale of her
misleading answers became clear, she had to go.
This was a textbook example of the press holding
government to account and a classic illustration of the
importance of that effort. But it is not just Ms Rudd who
was exposed by it. It was also the policy itself. The wish
to expel an arbitrary level of illegal migrants managed to
catch hundreds of legal arrivals – notably the Windrushera migrants who arrived without modern papers – in the
net. That should not have happened and it must cease.
The new home secretary, Sajid Javid, must therefore
change the policy as a priority. He made an effective
start in the Commons yesterday, with a pledge to do
“whatever it takes” to give justice and security to the
Windrush cases. But he faces practical obligations too,
including a comprehensive support and compensation
programme for the Windrush families. He must also end
a target culture that may encourage a culture of disbelief
among officials. And he must provide a new adjudication
system, with checks and balances, for handling cases, in
order to reduce injustices. These are large challenges, but
they are also a big opportunity to press the reset button.
Targets are not wrong in principle. They can be useful
tools for measuring the quantity and quality of delivery.
House of Lords
Life peerages saved the
Lords for 60 years but the
system cannot be defended
The House of Lords and radical change are not words
that often appear in the same sentence, least of all on
May Day. Yet the Life Peerages Act 1958, which became
law 60 years ago this week, was arguably the most
radical change in the British parliamentary system of
the postwar era. Until it came into force, the House of
Lords was an overwhelmingly hereditary body. Sixty
years later, the Lords has in one sense been utterly
transformed. Today there are 784 members of the Lords,
of whom nearly 670 are the beneficiaries of the 1958 act.
The 1958 bill was strongly opposed by Labour. Its then
leader, Hugh Gaitskell, objected to the legislation on the
grounds that life peerages might enhance the prestige
of the then predominantly hereditary upper house.
As things have turned out, Gaitskell was largely right.
Life peerages have saved the House of Lords, though not
in the way Gaitskell perhaps expected. Since 1999, the
number of hereditaries has been frozen at 92, and there
are 26 Anglican bishops. More significantly, 60 years on,
Lords reform has ground to an absolute halt.
It is hardly surprising that the current House of Lords
is seeking to accentuate the positive, stressing that this
is also the 60th anniversary of women winning the
right to sit in the House of Lords at all. Until 1958, no
But targets must also be fair, credible and should
be understood and explained in the public interest.
The hostile environment targets were none of these
things. They were indiscriminate, unachievable and
riddled with too much injustice and fear.
Ms Rudd’s approach to them was cynical. She
adopted fierce targets because that was the line
of least resistance, politically speaking. It allowed
her to prove her support for their ultimate author
Theresa May, whom she rightly supported against the
recklessness of the dogmatic Brexiters. But she also
seemed a reluctant believer, unable and unwilling to
make the case for them. In the end she was caught out
saying one thing to one audience and a different thing
to another. She should not have followed the policy
in the first place – the public can sometimes be much
fairer than politicians imagine – and she should not
have blamed her officials when it all went wrong.
Ms Rudd is a liberal pro-European Conservative.
Her fall has been an object lesson in the perils facing
liberal Tories when they allow cheap rightwing
rhetoric to outweigh their better and more practical
instincts in important areas of public policymaking.
The Home Office has increasingly found itself an
arena for this dilemma in recent decades. Successive
home secretaries of all parties have lapsed into
gesture politics and facile toughness rather than
thinking calmly, strategically and effectively.
They have been encouraged to do this by the
tightness of public money in a continuingly low
tax age, and by the tendency of political leaders, in
the absence of expanding state welfare and spending
projects, to try to justify themselves to an anxious
public and a febrile press in more authoritarian ways.
Yet it simply does not have be this way.
Ms Rudd is the fourth member of Mrs May’s
post-election cabinet, and its second senior woman,
to go in just over 10 months. The wastage rate
is high. It indicates the fragility of the cabinet, the
government and the Tory party. It does not bode well
for the Tories in the local elections. What it says above
all, though, is that this government currently lacks
the confidence, ability and shrewdness to generate
effective and routinely fair policy delivery, making
lives better and strengthening social solidarity. That is
the larger task that Mr Javid must undertake if he can.
woman could do so. But the Life Peerages Act applied
to women, and in that year the sociologist Barbara
Wootton became the first appointee to break the ban.
Today she has 204 successors. It was not until 1963
that female hereditary peers – who continued to be
excluded after 1958 – were able to join the female
life peers. As progressive reforms go, though, this is
hardly a breakthrough on a par with women winning
the right to vote or to stand as MPs.
It remains a ludicrous anachronism for any
democracy that its upper house is wholly unelected.
It is an open question whether it is any better that
the Lords is now almost wholly appointed rather
than wholly hereditary. In some ways it is worse and
more corrupt. The appointment system is too often
a way of rewarding political time servers and donors.
It gives prime ministers a huge power of patronage.
Peerages for former MPs who lose their seats in an
election are particularly unsavoury.
Since 1999 there has been intermittent talk of more
reform. In the event, nothing significant has changed
in nearly 20 years, except that the number of peers has
escalated. Britain now has 1,434 parliamentarians, the
most in our modern history, and this at a time when
significant powers have been devolved to Scotland,
Wales and Northern Ireland. Attempts to democratise
the upper house in 2007 and 2012 were both frustrated.
Since then, there has been silence. If she had more
authority, Theresa May would doubtless like to pack
the Lords with even more pro-Brexit Conservatives,
in order to stem the defeats her government has been
suffering there. But the truth is that nothing but a
wholesale democratic reform of the upper house on
a federal basis will suffice now.
Section:GDN 1J PaGe:3 Edition Date:180501 Edition:01 Zone:
Tuesday 1 May 2018 The Guardian
Sent at 30/4/2018 17:36
The prime
minister tries
to sound thrilled by
the future, but
her political body
language cries
out for the past
What’s the
point of a leader
who only wants
to stand still?
heresa May hates change, while
governing in an age of upheaval.
It is an unfortunate combination:
inflexible temperament meets volatile
circumstance. The result is periods of
tense stasis punctuated by spasmodic
crises. This is a chronic condition
afflicting the government and Amber
Rudd’s resignation on Sunday is the latest symptom.
That doesn’t exonerate the former home secretary of
blame for her political ruin.
She misled parliament over targets for deporting
illegal immigrants. She then pleaded ignorance, but
in terms that proved to be less than candid. But at the
root of Rudd’s problem was the impossibility of doing
her boss’s old job differently to the way her boss had
done it. She was one of the few ministers from David
Cameron’s cabinet to survive May’s 2016 purge of the
pre-referendum Tory ancien regime. The condition of
her elevation was that she leave her liberal, remainvoting impulses at the door.
Two months later, Rudd was talking about forcing
companies to list the number of foreigners they employ.
The theory was that this initiative would promote a
Britons-first hiring culture. It was a nasty idea that didn’t
survive much media interrogation, but it hung in the air
long enough to disabuse anyone of the hope that culture
change was coming to the Home Office.
A Tory MP once told me that May had chosen the
most poisonous chalice for Rudd to sip at the cabinet
table in order to break her spirit. Her energy would be
harnessed to the consolidation of the prime minister’s
Home Office legacy, while any ambitions she might
have to copy May’s route to No 10, perhaps as the
champion of a liberal Tory faction, would be burned up
in the process.
These days, May has less leeway when hiring. In the
absence of a parliamentary majority, she can’t afford
to make new enemies or alienate any Tory faction.
Given those constraints, the promotion of Sajid Javid
to fill the vacancy left by Rudd looks shrewd. He was a
non-committal remainer who embraced Brexit without
a backwards glance. As the son of Pakistani immigrants,
he also represents a pioneering presence at the
top of government.
Sajid Javid and
Theresa May
in 10 Downing
Street in 2017
What May expects to change as a result of Javid’s
appointment is hard to know. Decrypting the prime
minister’s motivations is an unrewarding pastime.
Even long-serving colleagues find her inscrutable. A
discernible trend is that she builds fortifications, not
bridges. This is true of personnel and policy. She keeps a
tight circle of absolute loyalists around her and engages
in minimal diplomacy. Likewise, with Brexit, she talks
about the need for a “deep and special partnership”
with the rest of Europe, but her primary instincts are
more parochial and insular.
When May was new to the job, popular, with a blank
canvas on which to paint her priorities, she depicted
Brexit not in terms of new alignments with continental
neighbours but as an expression of domestic anger
against metropolitan elites. She defined herself as
the champion of ordinary patriots against haughty,
globalised “citizens of nowhere”.
May is not a wild ethnic nationalist, itching
to persecute those who look different. As home
secretary she denounced police abuses of stop-andsearch powers, too often deployed to harass young black
men. As prime minister she has spoken with persuasive
urgency about the way racism obstructs many pathways
to social mobility. And yet she is also the architect of
the “hostile environment” policy that gave officials
licence to treat thousands of entirely blameless black
British citizens as criminals and aliens.
he explicit fixation that led the prime
minister into this moral quagmire is
not race, but borders and their control.
That is how the targets and crackdowns
began. The view that frontiers should
be policed is uncontroversial. But that
is different from the cult of numerical
precision and the fantasy of counting
everyone in and out. That notion is fused with whitemajority nostalgia, inseparable from the myth of the
overcrowded island nation whose hospitality has
been abused. And that often comes as a set with a gut
feeling that national decline and racial diversity are
somehow correlated. Those are common prejudices and
I suspect they inform May’s conservatism more than she
admits, even to herself.
The prime minister tries to sound thrilled by the
future, but all the while her political body language cries
out for the past. When talking about industrial strategy,
she praises digital innovation. But her chief policy
interest in the internet has always been how better to
control it when terrorists and paedophiles thrive in its
ungoverned recesses.
She says the things exuberant Brexiteers want to
hear about the opportunities for Britain beyond the
confines of the European Union. But she negotiates as
if lost in a forest of terrible options, feeling her way to
the path of greatest continuity. She is holding out for
a way to change everything while keeping things the
same, handling each crisis as it comes without dealing
with the underlying problems, and so sowing the seeds
of the next crisis.
Eventually the crisis will come that overwhelms her
completely. But until then, May’s awkward political
destiny is set: to be resisting and leading change at the
same time; to be forced out into the world when she
would rather stay at home; and to march reluctantly to
a revolutionary drum when she looks as if she would
rather be standing still.
Section:GDN 1J PaGe:4 Edition Date:180501 Edition:01 Zone:
Sent at 30/4/2018 17:47
The ruins I saw
in Syria are a
rebuke to the
west’s inaction
hrough a quirk of fate, I was on a bus
travelling from Beirut to Damascus on
the day that the US, Britain and France
launched airstrikes on Syria. The group
I joined was on a pastoral visit arranged
months earlier, at the invitation of
the Syriac Orthodox church, to offer
support and solidarity to Syria’s
Christians. A circular email had arrived soliciting
participants in early March. As my visa application to
enter the country, where I have had a home for more
than a decade, had been refused in February, it seemed
worth trying this route, though my husband and I
never imagined we would succeed. We were accepted
on the trip – but the experience was surreal on almost
every level.
The name of the bus, al-Ma’arri Travel & Tourism,
was chosen for an 11th-century blind Syrian poetphilosopher, Abu’l ’Ala al-Ma’arri, whose treatise on
forgiveness is thought to have influenced Dante’s Divine
Comedy. His poems expressed the pessimism of his
times, during which political anarchy and social decay
were prevalent. He became a vegetarian and adopted a
life of seclusion.
Our clergy-led coach party was treated like royalty
throughout; there was no need even to sully our feet
with a descent from the bus at the border, which was
especially surreal for me, accustomed as I was to
Damage to a mosque in Aleppo, 2017
The Guardian Tuesday 1 May 2018
Why some
arguments just
go on and on
queueing for hours. Breezing through the checkpoints,
our bus clearly shone with the sanctity of those on board.
My previous trip in late 2014, to rescue my Damascus
house from war profiteers, had involved packets of
cigarettes passed to soldiers and profuse sweating as
hands rummaged among my bags.
When I bought the crumbling building in Damascus’s
old city in 2005, I did so as a private individual, with no
shortcuts or favours. For three years I battled to complete
its restoration, fighting labyrinthine bureaucracy, helped
only by ordinary Syrians, including an architect and
his team of craftsmen, a lawyer and a bank manager.
Various friends who lost their homes in the suburbs to
bombardment by the regime have lived there since 2012 –
up to five families at some points, more after the Ghouta
chemical attack in 2013 when the courtyard was full of
mattresses. Today, just one extended family lives there
at my invitation, in residence since 2015.
In the Christian quarter of the city, we were whisked
on to a smaller bus that wiggled its way past the
Damascus citadel into the pedestrianised square,
directly in front of the spiritual heart of the city, the
Umayyad mosque. Its magnificent courtyard had been
cleared of worshippers in our honour and we were
ushered into an audience hall I had never known existed,
despite scores of previous visits. Here, the grand mufti
– the country’s most senior Muslim authority – Ahmad
Badreddin Hassoun, presided over an atmosphere of
bonhomie and spoke of the joy of Muslim-Christian
relations. Amnesty International notes that the grand
mufti’s approval would have been required for between
5,000 and 13,000 executions carried out at Saydnaya
prison since 2011.
The compulsory hooded robe for females ensured
my anonymity in the official photograph, though I was
peeved to discover later that the worry beads given to
me were half the size of the men’s – the gender pay gap in
another form.
oms was shockingly empty, acres
of devastation, with only the
famous Khalid ibn al-Walid mosque
hastily restored by the military
construction department to be
viewed from afar. It is an empty shell
for show, like so much else.
We were in Aleppo for Syria’s
national day on 17 April and arrived just in time for an
elaborate concert put on for the country’s elites inside
the citadel. As we walked up the ramp of one of the
world’s greatest pieces of military architecture, we
looked down over the destroyed souks and mosques,
and were issued little Syrian flags to wave and shout
“Hurriya” (freedom) followed by “Halab” (Aleppo) when
prompted. It seemed like a cruel echo of the earliest
peaceful chants for freedom in 2011. Freedom is now on
the regime’s terms only.
Back in Damascus, on 19 April I visited my house
and watched helplessly from the roof as fighter jets
from Mezzeh airbase flew in broad daylight over central
Damascus and dropped cluster bombs on the southern
suburbs of al-Hajar al-Aswad.
“Trapped” was the word I heard again and again from
my Syrian friends, Muslim and Christian, to describe
their predicament. While the world debates the legality
of airstrikes, to those on the ground the action amounts
to no more than hot air. Not one of my friends even
mentioned the strikes, knowing their fate remains
unchanged – to be killed if they dare to protest or to
submit to the will of Assad. It is far too late for the west
and the international community to intervene militarily
in Syria – that should have been done in 2011, or 2013 at
the latest, before Islamic State or Russia came in to fill
the lawless vacuum we ignored.
Now the only option is to keep up all forms of
pressure on the Assad regime and on Putin, to make both
feel the heat. In the past, Assad has caved in quickly to
pressure. Assad and Putin are umbilically connected at
present, but if the cord were cut, leaving Assad stripped
of his Russian shield, he would capitulate much faster
than anyone imagines. All it needs is a united and
coherent policy. That’s something that has been sadly
lacking so far.
Diana Darke
is the author of
The Merchant of
Syria: A History
of Survival
he Cambridge Analytica scandals
have made it obvious that some
people’s votes can be predicted
and manipulated by knowing their
emotional triggers. But new research
suggests that the way people think in
apparently unemotional ways is also a
predictor of political attitudes, and in
particular of nationalism and enthusiasm for Brexit.
The psychologist Leor Zmigrod set out to investigate
whether a preference for clear categories in thought
mapped on to a preference for clear national
boundaries and precise, exclusionary definitions of
citizenship. Instead of relying on self-reporting, as
previous surveys have done, she had participants
take part in some standard psychological tests. One
of them tested how easily participants adapted to
changes in the rules of the game they were playing;
the other tested the ability to associate words and
ideas across different contexts, so that it worked as
a measurement of cognitive flexibility.
Even with a reasonably small sample of about
330, the differences that appeared were large and
startling. In particular, Zmigrod found that less
cognitive flexibility correlated strongly with “positive
feelings toward Brexit and negative feelings toward
immigration, the European Union, and free movement
of labour”. One of the strongest links was between
cognitive flexibility, as measured by these two tests,
and disagreement with Theresa May’s statement that
“a citizen of the world is a citizen of nowhere”.
The correlation between the style in which
people thought and the way that they voted was
very much stronger than any of the other factors in
the sample: controlling for class, age and sex only
changed the results by 4%.
What this suggests to me is that some kinds
of political argument are going to be literally
interminable. Obviously this isn’t true of any
particular issue. Even the question of our relations
with Europe will be settled some time before the
heat death of the universe. But it may be replaced by
something else that arouses the same passions and
splits the population in the same way, because the
cognitive traits Zmigrod is analysing are all part of the
normal variation of humanity.
Despite what you learn on the internet, the
people who disagree with you about Brexit do not
all have something terribly wrong with their brains.
Progress is not necessarily on our side. Nor is it even
on the other side. One of the underlying tendencies
of political argument at the moment is that both
left and right expect the other side to be proved
conclusively wrong by history. But if ideologies arise in
part from differences in cognitive style that are evenly
distributed through the population, the war between
progress and reaction will continue for as long as
humanity does.
Section:GDN 1J PaGe:5 Edition Date:180501 Edition:01 Zone:
Tuesday 1 May 2018 The Guardian
Sent at 30/4/2018 17:57
Young or old,
private renters
are cursed
ousing is predominantly
presented as a generational issue:
millennials aren’t able to get on
the property ladder in the same
way their parents were. But while
it’s true that intergenerational
fairness is an issue, this way of
presenting the housing crisis
glosses over much. Similarly, the focus on London
and the south-east in many discussions of priced-out
millennials means the rest of the country is ignored.
But housing inequality is an issue that transcends
boundaries of age, as a report from the National
Housing Federation this week shows. The number
of baby boomers struggling with simply paying their
rent is staggering: 44% of private renters over 50
resort to borrowing from their children, or cutting back
on heating and food. This isn’t a negligible number:
1.13 million people over 50 rent privately now, compared
with 651,000 in 2008. The number of people struggling
with rent is almost identical to the number of new, older
renters. These are people facing penury in retirement,
who will never own a home.
The problem of housing affordability in the UK has
led to increasing numbers of young people finding
it impossible to buy property at all without parental
help. Those whose parents don’t own assets, myself
included, are at a disadvantage. This is how class now
operates in the UK: Thatcher’s dream of creating a nation
of homeowners and the Labour expansion of higher
education were both designed to boost social mobility.
Instead, housing ensures class replicates itself down the
generations: those who can will buy, and spend a smaller
fraction of their earnings on housing. Those who can’t
are stuck renting until they die.
Housing costs are particularly high in the south-east,
but other areas are not immune, while the increasing
precarity of work means the problem is unlikely to
be fixed any time soon. Younger people struggling in
the south-east are told by older homeowners to move
somewhere cheaper, ignoring the fact that London
functions as a black hole for cash and jobs. You can move
elsewhere, but lower earnings mean that affordability
will still be a problem: and that’s if you can find a job
north of the Watford Gap: 65% of job growth in the northeast since 2011 has been insecure.
Renters didn’t used to be cursed: social housing
offered millions of people a steady, safe and secure
home for an affordable price. As John Boughton’s new
book, Municipal Dreams, lucidly details, the postwar
vision of council housing was scuppered from the early
1980s, with the introduction of right-to-buy, followed
by Labour’s failure to build enough social housing and
restrain house-price increases. Right-to-buy was always
designed to turn Labour-voting social renters into
Conservative homeowners, and the policy has never
delivered its promised one-for-one replacement of all
the homes flogged at cut-down rates. Estates are not
now filled with homeowners and social renters, but a
huge number of private renters, paying far more than
their neighbours. Across England, 40% of the 1.5m
council homes sold through right-to-buy are rented
privately, an investigation by Inside Housing magazine
found. The number of people in social housing has
fallen from 31% when the policy began to 17% now.
Apart from anything else, this is a huge drain on the
public purse: housing benefit is paid to landlords for
homes that should have belonged to the state and been
rented cheaply to citizens who needed them. Thatcher
failed to create a nation of homeowners and instead
created a nation beholden to landlords, despite only 2%
of the population being landlords.
By 2021 around a quarter of the population will
rent privately. Almost all will find themselves paying
considerably more for their housing than they should,
and the poorer they are, the more they will pay as a
percentage of their income, even after housing benefit.
The plight of young professional millennials is a good
story. But housing in the UK is the biggest barrier to
social mobility and the most powerful mechanism
for entrenching class divisions. Younger people are
suffering, including young middle-class people, but
so are older working-class people, while people with
disabilities are being criminally let down. As long as
almost no new social housing is built, gross inequality
will persist, and class structures will grow ever more
constraining. Everyone should have a right to a home.
Landlords should not have the right to cream off
obscene sums. Yet the government enables this to
continue and, with housing benefit, picks up the bill.
Section:GDN 1J PaGe:6 Edition Date:180501 Edition:01 Zone:
Sent at 30/4/2018 17:53
The government would
rather hit its arbitrary
immigration targets
than see decent people
treated decently
Michael Jones
relation to immigration policy and
race relations.
Professor Raj Bhopal
Chairperson, First World Congress of
Migration, Ethnicity, Race and Health
• So another piece of political
theatre comes to its denouement
with Amber Rudd’s resignation.
Conservative Home Office
scandals come with their own
time-honoured tropes including:
heartless and usually racist Tories
and their selfless Labour opponents
championing the underdog.
Behind the scenes the reality is
rather different. The underlying
driver of the Home Office’s enduring
difficulties is that the views of
our political, media and judicial
establishments on crime and
immigration are fundamentally at
odds with those of the majority of
the British people, who want firm
but fair control of immigration.
In the case of the Windrush
scandal, we expect a speedy and fair
resolution for people who have long
integrated into British life, whether
they are technically citizens or not.
Otto Inglis
• The Windrush generation are not
the only immigrants who have fallen
short of the increased hostility of the
UK government to migrants. After
I married a Japanese national in
1992, we moved to the UK. Within 12
months, she was granted indefinite
leave to remain in the UK. Similarly,
in 1995 we returned to Japan for
my work and I was soon granted
Hostile environments elsewhere
The term “hostile environment”
(Opinion, 30 April) has only, so
far, been used in an immigration
context. As the widower of a late
multiple sclerosis sufferer I also see
this political ambience in a number
of other areas. Disabled people
have been discriminated against
over the past several years and
have certainly been subjected to a
“hostile environment”. And society,
in general, has also suffered from
the “hostile environment” of the
austerity agenda perpetrated on us
over the past several years by the
“nasty party”. Common to all of this
has been Mrs May. I trust that she
and her Brexit hardliners will not
throw us out into a world economic
“hostile environment”.
Dr Stan Moore
• It does not surprise me in the least
about the hostile environment for
immigrants. I wish the Guardian
The Guardian Tuesday 1 May 2018
Rudd’s resignation and
attitudes to immigration
The Windrush affair continues to
expose the fault lines in British
society and immigration policy
(Rudd quits over Windrush scandal,
30 April). The government has
defended the hostile environment
policy as primarily targeted at
“illegal immigrants”. A person as
opposed to an action, however,
cannot be illegal. And it is unwise
to use harsh, derogatory language
about people.
To promote constructive
dialogue among more than 700
people from 50-plus countries
at the first World Congress on
Migration, Ethnicity, Race and
Health being held in Edinburgh
(17-19 May), we have recommended
using “irregular migrant”, defined
as: “A person who, owing to
unauthorized entry, breach of a
condition of entry, failure to gain
asylum, or the expiry of his or her
visa, lacks legal authorisation to
reside in the country where they
find themselves.”
Such a change would be a step
towards rebuilding the tarnished
reputation of this country in
could discover similar targets for
reducing the number of sickness
benefit claimants, which has caused
so much suffering that many people
have killed themselves.
Anne Williams
Hove, East Sussex
• Amber Rudd claims to have
understood the Windrush cases as
individual rather than as a symptom
of a system. The previous week
the DWP reported that “only 1%
of claimants” have had benefit
problems. I convene a small
local charity disbursing grants to
individuals who are in desperate
need. Nearly every case we deal
with is an individual difficulty that
is actually systemic. Needs are rising
faster than we can keep pace with due
to benefit sanctions, universal credit
delays, lack of mental health support,
housing costs beyond people’s
means, inhumane immigration
decisions, and the costs involved
indefinite leave to remain. However,
when we came back to the UK in 2010
(in order for me to establish what has
become a flourishing biotechnology
company) the UK government’s
attitude to foreigners had hardened
to the extent that, despite 25 years
of marriage, my wife still does not
have indefinite leave to remain in the
UK and we have paid thousands in
exploitative visa fees and undergone
numerous stressful tests.
However, the government would
rather hit its arbitrary immigration
and deportation targets than see
decent people treated decently.
Michael Jones
CEO, Cell Guidance Systems
• There is a correlation between the
appalling treatment the Windrush
generation has suffered and the
unaccompanied asylum-seeking
children (Dubs children) promised
safety and sanctuary but denied
it by the Home Office. In May 2016
parliament voted to amend the
immigration bill to allow some of the
“most vulnerable” children already
in Europe to come to the UK. But the
implementation was at fault because
this government did not honour
parliament or our obligation as fellow
Earlier this month, Rudd said she
was “worried the Home Office has
become too concerned with policy
and strategy and sometimes loses
sight of the individual”. Too right.
These are children fleeing war with no
adult to look out for them. They have
no voice against the hostility of the
UK towards immigration, and they
need our help.
Annabelle Zinovieff
Faringdon, Oxfordshire
• Green gone. Amber gone. Is the
government at the crossroads?
Claude Scott
Richmond, Surrey
in challenging unfair rulings. These
costs are met by individual donors,
many of whom are pensioners, and
often support is administered by
volunteers, also pensioners.
When this patching-up “system”
fails because people have to
work longer and have smaller
pensions, who will then sort out the
problems? The whole system places
performativity above care, relying
on charities and overstretched
caseworkers to pick up the pieces.
Anne Watson
Oxford Friends Action on Poverty
• What turned a general problem
into the Windrush catastrophe?
Quite simply, the decision by the
government to make “proof of
residency” compulsory in a range of
situations. Are we sleepwalking into
another fiasco as early as Thursday,
when a pilot is being undertaken that
requires voters to present ID before
they can vote in the local elections?
Any thoughts on what sorts of people
are likely to be in this group?
John Robinson
Deal, Kent
‘Participants at
the Whitby Goth
Weekend, where
it’s always a case
of expecting the
Share your
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It’ll be lights out for
acts like Beyoncé
In response to Richard Pilbrow’s
well put letter (EU rule could
leave theatres dark, 30 April), it’s
pertinent to point out that this
directive on theatrical lighting will
not only leave theatres in the dark
but also every music venue, arena,
music festival and touring concert
production across Europe. As a very
well established lighting designer
designing tours for acts such as
Beyoncé, Sam Smith, Take That,
ELO and many more, the news of
this regulation is terrifying.
Pretty much every single tool
that we use as lighting designers
will be rendered obsolete by these
rules – incredible, as over the recent
past as an industry we have adopted
the latest in energy-saving LED
technology and a lot of tours are
totally LED.
However, as we use bright sources
compared with domestic, this
equipment is not efficient enough
for the European Union. Brexit will
not save us from this edict, as it will
be well adopted before we leave
and even if we were to avoid it, all
of Britain’s amazing cultural exports
would be very dark once they tour
to the continent.
Lighting in shows helps to convey
emotion, drama and energy and
while the artist is always at the
centre of what we do, performing
in the O2 in the stark light of the
cleaners’ work lights will not quite
offer audiences the same exciting
If you multiply the ban out to how
enormous the effects of it could be,
pretty much every lighting source
for television and broadcast will
also be dead in the water, leading to
a need for new genres of television
such as shows like Strictly Come
Dancing In The Dark.
I encourage your readers to please
help #savestagelighting and contact
their MEPs, sign the petition at and promote our cause
against this ridiculous directive.
Tim Routledge
Lighting designer, London
Section:GDN 1J PaGe:7 Edition Date:180501 Edition:01 Zone:
Tuesday 1 May 2018 The Guardian
Sent at 30/4/2018 17:53
 @guardianletters
Corrections and
• We chose the wrong photo to
accompany a piece about Network
Rail’s tree-removal programme
(‘Mile after mile of stumps’: anger at
trackside tree cull, 30 April, page 5).
The line pictured is the Kent and
East Sussex Railway, a heritage line
that has no involvement in Network
Rail’s felling operation.
Editorial complaints and corrections can be sent to or The readers’ editor,
King’s Place, 90 York Way, London N1 9GU; alternatively
call 020 3353 4736 from 10am to 1pm Monday to Friday
excluding public holidays. The Guardian’s policy is to correct
significant errors as soon as possible. For more information
on the readers’ editor’s office and the Guardian editorial
code, see Find contacts for other
Guardian departments and staff at
Time for a better
definition of job
Isn’t it about time the media stopped
giving out misleading employment
figures (Opinion, 30 April)? Surely
a job should be defined as full-time
and providing a livable wage/salary
– ie for shelter, food and reasonably
modern standard of existence. The
so-called employment figures should
distinguish between full-time, parttime, zero-hours contracts, minimum
wage etc. Only then will they be an
honest presentation of reality.
David Lockyer
Havant, Hampshire
• Larry Elliott’s otherwise
powerful critique of what passes
for government housing policy
(Analysis, 30 April) omits two
critical factors: namely space and
energy standards, on which the UK
lags behind most EU members.
Jeremy Beecham
Labour, House of Lords
Women can be
incels too
Ironically, misogyny isn’t just
a result of being an “incel”
(involuntary celibate) man (Raw
hatred: How the Incel movement
targets women, G2, 26 April), but
is also quite often the cause of
women becoming incels too.
Having been widowed in my
early fifties, I tried, after a period
of time, to meet possible new
partners on the internet. Here I
quickly found that any expectation
that I’d be attractive to men my
own age (my very attractive
husband had been five years
younger than me, so it hadn’t
seemed too arrogant a hope) was
sadly misplaced.
Almost every man my age on
the sites I visited had set age limits
for potential female partners
at anything from 10 to 30 years
younger than themselves, and
made clear good looks were vital
to any potential relationship,
despite often not being any great
shakes themselves.
Given that I had already lost
one husband and was statistically
likely to outlive other men my own
age, the idea of taking on a man
15 to 20 years older than me was
unappealing. I felt these men were
selfishly seeking physical beauty
now and a care plan for later, with
little evidence of what they felt they
were offering in return.
I have since read theories that
they are often successful because
younger women desperate to have
children before their time runs out
struggle to find men their own age
willing to settle down.
As a result I remain an incel,
and seem likely to spend the rest of
my life alone for the crime of seeking
an equal partner. The number of
older women living out their lives
alone hugely exceeds that of older
men. Another hidden result of
Needless to say, however, I have
not felt driven to massacre innocent
people as a result!
Name and address supplied
Casting your eye
around Hollywood
In the 1980s I was in Los Angeles
discussing a film for television which
I was producing. During the course
of these discussions I had a meeting
with the head of casting of one of the
major US TV networks (The power
behind the thrones, The long read,
26 April). I suggested Ian McKellen
for the leading supporting role.
The response was: “Ian who?”
As I was having other battles I
didn’t pursue the matter, intending
to return to it the following day.
At that meeting she opened by
telling me she had a suggestion
for that role. When I inquired who
might that be she replied: “Ian
McKellen.” Naturally I thanked her
and said I thought it an excellent
choice and we agreed to offer it to
him. It might be of interest to note
that the previous evening Ian had
dined at the White House.
David Conroy
• David Lammy is right to focus
on the fundamental causes of the
Windrush scandal just as he was
right about Grenfell. Anyone else
reckon he would make an excellent
Labour party leader?
Patricia Goodall-McIntosh
Marsh Lane, Derbyshire
• Reading an analogue display from
a prone position in bed demands
the sort of angle transform that I
struggle with even when wide awake
but, when I read “Two One Five” in
the gloom it goes direct to my left
brain without touching the sides and
I know how much more sleep I have
left (Letters, 28 April).
Andrew Lyner
Ingatestone, Essex
• My sympathies to Louis Hellman
(Letters, 30 April) for the sex-change
difficulties he has encountered with
his first name. I, however, encounter
more irritating difficulties. Many
people seem to have trouble with
a wandering i and thus, at a stroke,
I become Lousie.
Louise Smith
King’s Lynn, Norfolk
Established 1906
Country diary
Titchwell Marsh,
It was wonderful as well as
instructive to sit with my younger
daughter at the edge of the wetland
scrape that is the showcase of the
Titchwell Marsh RSPB reserve.
Here before us, in lines that were
as clear and true as the grating calls
of the 1,000 breeding gulls, were
godwits and plovers, curlews and
spring’s first swallow. Here were
the sounds of shelduck and Cetti’s
warblers, avocets and redshank.
Here were ruff in summer plumage,
heads up and down, all feeding
in sewing-machine mode while
teal with shoveler dabbled in the
shallows. All intermittently fed and
flew, buzzed by a sparrowhawk or
passing harrier when a spreading
arc of wings would swirl into the
air, and then, all of a sudden, they
would plump back down as one,
and appear again as they had begun.
It was the typical exhilarating stuff
of spring at this spot – a perpetually
renewed milky way of birds
stretched across a marsh.
As we watched we also pondered
the recent BBC television series
Civilisations. Great, we said, that
they had added to the dead white
European men who were the only
constituents of Kenneth Clark’s
original series Civilisation. The
presenters Mary Beard and David
Olusoga add diversity to the mix, yet
the essential fixture is still apparent.
We seem unable to escape or rise
above the idea that civilisation
is things – paintings, sculptures,
buildings, art. The Canadian
ecologist John Livingston once
lamented that “our sundry aesthetic
models” have no place for living
processes and that “our culture is
essentially abiotic” – ie lifeless.
We recalled the programme’s
images of Simon Schama amid
the ecstatic powers of Chartres
Cathedral and wondered whether
Titchwell too – here, now – wasn’t
also a kind of cathedral, an endlessly
renewed scene of biodiversity
and beauty made by sunlight and
fashioned from stardust. In the
same spring that we saw the last
male northern white rhinoceros,
that giraffes were declared at risk
of extinction, and one in eight of
the world’s 10,000 bird species are
judged to be similarly imperilled,
do we not need to visit the whole
idea of civilisation once more?
Mark Cocker
Twitter: @gdncountrydiary
Section:GDN 1J PaGe:8 Edition Date:180501 Edition:01 Zone:
Sent at 30/4/2018 17:53
The Guardian Tuesday 1 May 2018
 @guardianobits
Ivan Mauger
One of the great stars of
speedway who won six
world championships
in the 1960s and 70s
t the time when
popularity as a
spectator sport
was eclipsed
only by football,
Ivan Mauger was
its greatest star.
In an era when the sport, and many
of its participants, were a little rough
round the edges, Mauger pioneered
hitherto undreamed-of levels of
professionalism on and off the track,
which he allied to perfectionism in
the preparation of his machinery,
and a clinical riding style. Mauger,
who has died aged 78, won the
world championship six times
between 1968 and 1979 and led his
British clubs to four league titles.
The first three of those championships came in consecutive years
with the Manchester team the Belle
Vue Aces, when their home was
the 40,000-capacity Hyde Road
stadium, part of a 68-hectare (168-
Mauger riding
at Wimbledon
Stadium, and,
below, in 1980.
He pioneered
high levels of
in the sport
acre) amusement park that included a
zoo, fairground and dance hall. A good
night out in Manchester in the early
1970s started with the Aces, whose
management ensured at all costs that
racing was over by 9pm so the crowd
could get spending in the fair. It was
an unusual weekend if the spectators
had not seen Mauger score maximum
points for winning all his races.
Ivan was born in Christchurch,
on the South Island of New Zealand,
to Alice (nee Forscutt) and Edwin
Mauger, and grew up obsessed
with sport. He was a talented rugby
and hockey player – good enough
to represent Canterbury at rugby
and hockey as a schoolboy – as
well as a cross-country runner.
Unsurprisingly, he was a lifelong All
Blacks supporter.
In a precursor of his later attitudes
to turnout, he would not just clean
his boots before a match, he would
launder the white laces. Edwin
liked bikes and American cars, and
took the family to the new Aranui
track that was part of the postwar
speedway boom. Ivan took his
first steps in oval racing shortly
afterwards with a cycle speedway
team and from there it was just a
matter of adding an engine.
Mauger arrived in the UK in 1957
as a newly married teenager with
his wife, Raye, and they headed for
south-west London, to Wimbledon
speedway, where their fellow Kiwis
Ronnie Moore and Barry Briggs,
both multiple world champions, had
started their UK careers. Mauger got
a job helping with track maintenance
but did not make much of an
impression as a rider. At the end of
1958, disillusioned, he and Raye
went back to Christchurch.
They returned in 1963, fortified
by competition in Australia and
advice from the Aussie world champ
Jack Young. The results started to
come, as Mauger helped Newcastle
Diamonds to the 1964 Provincial
League (the second-tier) title,
but the money took longer. The
Maugers shared a flat in the Whalley
Range area of Manchester with
an assortment of aspiring riders.
Visitors remember a loaf and jam on
the table, but no butter, and children
sleeping in the bath.
Up until 1995, speedway’s world
No detail was
too small to
escape his attention.
Racing was a jigsaw
puzzle; every piece
had to fit perfectly
Wes Anderson,
film director, 49;
Naim Attallah,
publisher, 87;
Prof Sir Richard
economist, 66;
Bernard Butler,
guitarist and
producer, 48;
Steve Cauthen,
jockey, 58;
Judy Collins,
singer, 79; Rita
Coolidge, singer,
73; Ian Curteis,
playwright, 83;
Jamie Dornan,
actor, 36; David
Freeman, opera
and theatre
director, 66; Prof
Fiona Gilbert,
62; Gordon
cricketer and
coach, 67; Phillip
King, sculptor, 84;
Joanna Lumley,
actor, 72; Julian
Mitchell, writer
and playwright,
83; Bo Nilsson,
composer, 81;
Archie Norman,
chairman, Marks
& Spencer, 64;
Sir Bob Reid,
former chief
executive, Shell,
84; Yasmina
Reza, playwright
and novelist,
59; Nicola
Solomon, chief
executive, Society
of Authors, 58;
Una Stubbs,
actor, 81; Prof
Megan Vaughan,
historian, 64.
championship was run along similar
lines to the FA Cup. Riders worked
their way through qualifying events
and regional finals until just 16
were left to contest the world final.
Mauger made it for the first time
in 1966, finishing fourth, and went
one place better next time. In 1968,
still a Newcastle rider, Mauger went
through the card winning all five
of his races. In 1969 he did it again,
dropping a point only in his final race
as, with the title already retained, he
shepherded his Belle Vue team-mate
Sören Sjösten home to put him in a
run-off for second place with Briggs.
He was now the fully formed
professional, just in time to ride
a popularity boom as the days of
baggy black leathers gave way to TV
coverage and colour. Mauger was
indisputably the best in the world,
but he was not universally popular
with fans. Neither his personality
nor his riding were theatrical. There
were no wild broadslides on full lock
– he dealt in beautifully traced arcs
precisely calculated for maximum
efficiency. Winning was more a
cause for relief than joy. No detail
was too small to escape Mauger’s
attention. Racing, he said, was a
jigsaw puzzle; every piece had to fit
perfectly without being forced. Diet,
sleep patterns, travel schedules were
all planned with the world title in
mind. Throughout his career he had
just one engine builder, one wheel
builder and one mechanic.
In 1970 he was champion again,
and again with a maximum score.
Mauger is still the only rider to have
won three consecutive world titles.
His other wins came in 1972, 1977
and 1979; between 1968 and 1974, he
was never out of the top three.
On the domestic front, now
comfortably ensconced in Cheshire,
he captained the Belle Vue Aces to
a hat-trick of titles, forming them
into the best team the UK had seen.
Mauger demanded high standards
from other riders but was a generous
team leader. One junior Ace was
shocked when Mauger let him take
first pick for grid position and on
summoning up the courage to ask
why was told: “They won’t let me
pick my starting position in the
world final.”
He was not given to sentiment.
He won the league again in 1974
with Exeter, again with a squad
he moulded. Next season, after he
was booed at Belle Vue, he took
cold satisfaction in Exeter winning
the return fixture to prevent
the Manchester club becoming
champions. By contrast, he was
always generous in his assessment
of Jerzy Szczakiel, the Pole who
beat him in the controversial run-off
for the 1973 world title: “I made a
mistake, he didn’t.”
On Mauger’s retirement from
racing in 1985, he and Raye moved
to the Gold Coast, Queensland.
She survives him, along with their
children, Julie, Kym and Debbie.
Julian Ryder
Ivan Gerald Mauger, speedway rider,
born 4 October 1939; died 16 April 2018
Section:GDN 1J PaGe:9 Edition Date:180501 Edition:01 Zone:
Tuesday 1 May 2018 The Guardian
Sent at 30/4/2018 16:52
The long read
Should we put the experts in charge?
In the age of Trump and Brexit, some people say democracy is fatally flawed and we
should let experts run things. Here’s why that’s a bad idea. By David Runciman
emocracy is tired, vindictive, selfdeceiving, paranoid, clumsy and
frequently ineffectual. Much of the
time it is living on past glories. This
sorry state of affairs reflects what
we have become. But current
democracy is not who we are. It is
just a system of government, which
we built, and which we could replace. So why don’t we
replace it with something better?
This line of argument has grown louder in recent years,
as democratic politics has become more unpredictable
and, to many, deeply alarming in its outcomes. First
p p
Brexit, then Donald Trump,
plus the rise of p
and the spread of division, has started a tentative search
for plausible alternatives. But the rival systems we see
he unl
ly fforms
around us have a very limited appeal. The
ism can at best provide
of 21st-century authoritarianism
y a
a partial,
ti pragmatic alternative to demo
cy. Th
only a
ll pan
der to public opinion, and in
world’s strongmen sti
case of competitive authoritarian regimes such as
the case
the ones in Hungary and Turkey, they persist with the
rigmarole of elections. From Trump to Recep Tayyip
Erdoğan is not much of a leap into a brighter future.
There is a far more dogmatic alternative, which has its
roots in the 19th century. Why not ditch the charade of
voting altogether? Stop pretending to respect the views
of ordinary people – it’s not worth it, since the people
keep getting it wrong. Respect the experts instead! This
is the truly radical option. So should we try it?
The name for this view of politics is epistocracy: the
rule of the knowers. It is directly opposed to democracy,
because it argues that the right to participate in political
decision-making depends on whether or not you know
what you are doing. The basic premise of democracy
has always been that it doesn’t matter how much you
know: you get a say because you have to live with
the consequences
of what y
you do. In ancient Athens,
d in
in tthe
he practice of choosing
this principle was reflecte
lders by
by lottery. Anyone could do it be
y ne who wa
sn’t a woman, a
everyone – well, everyo
ner, a pa
pauper, a slave or a child – counted as a
member of the state. With the exception of jury service
in some countries, we don’t choose people at random
for important roles any more. But we do uphold the
underlying idea by letting citizens vote without
e task
checking their suitability for the
Critics of
of democracy
cy – starting
ting with Plato – have
always argued that it means rule by the ignorant, or
worse, rule by the charlatans that the ignorant people
fall for. Living in Cambridge, a passionately proEuropean town and home to an elite university, I heard
echoes of that argument in the aftermath of the Brexit
vote. It was usually uttered sotto voce – you have to
be a brave person to come out as an epistocrat in a
democratic society – but it was unquestionably there.
Behind their hands, very intelligent people muttered to
each other that this is what you get if you ask a question
that ordinary people don’t understand. Dominic
Cummings, the author of the “Take Back Control”
slogan that helped win the referendum, found that
y about spelling
g it out to his
his critics were not so shy
face. Brexit
Brexit happened,
d they told him, beca
because the
wicked people lied to the stupid people. S
So much
for democracy.
To say that democrats want to be ruled by the stupid
and the ignorant is unfair. No defender of democracy
has ever claimed that stupidity or ignorance
ran are virtues
in themselves.
s. But it is tr
ue tha
thatt democrac
democracy doesn’t
ate on the grounds of a lack of kn
It considers the ability to think intelligent
about difficult questions a secondary
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Sent at 30/4/2018 16:52
consideration. The primary consideration is whether
an individual is implicated in the outcome. Democracy
asks only that the voters should be around long enough
to suffer for their own mistakes.
The question that epistocracy poses is: why don’t
we discriminate on the basis of knowledge? What’s so
special about letting everyone take part? Behind it lies
the intuitively appealing thought that, instead of living
with our mistakes, we should do everything in our
power to prevent them in the first place – then it
wouldn’t matter who has to take responsibility.
This argument has been around for more than 2,000
years. For most of that time, it has been taken very
seriously. The consensus until the end of the 19th
century was that democracy is usually a bad idea: it is
just too risky to put power in the hands of people who
don’t know what they are doing. Of course, that was
only the consensus among intellectuals. We have little
way of knowing what ordinary people thought about
the question. Nobody was asking them.
Over the course of the 20th century, the intellectual
consensus was turned around. Democracy established
itself as the default condition of politics, its virtues far
outweighing its weaknesses. Now the events of the
21st century have revived some of the original doubts.
Democracies do seem to be doing some fairly stupid
things at present. Perhaps no one will be able to live
with their mistakes. In the age of Trump, climate change
and nuclear weapons, epistocracy has teeth again.
So why don’t we give more weight to the views of the
people who are best qualified to evaluate what to do?
Before answering that question, it is important to
distinguish between epistocracy and something with
which it is often confused: technocracy. They are
different. Epistocracy means rule by the people who
know best. Technocracy is rule by mechanics and
engineers. A technocrat is someone who understands
how the machinery works.
In November 2011, Greek democracy was suspended
and an elected government was replaced by a cabinet
of experts, tasked with stabilising the collapsing Greek
economy before new elections could be held. This
was an experiment in technocracy, however, not
epistocracy. The engineers in this case were economists.
Even highly qualified economists often haven’t a clue
what’s best to do. What they know is how to operate
a complex system that they have been instrumental in
building – so long as it behaves the way it is meant to.
Technocrats are the people who understand what’s
best for the machine. But keeping the machine running
might be the worst thing we could do. Technocrats
won’t help with that question.
Both representative democracy and pragmatic
authoritarianism have plenty of space for technocracy.
Increasingly, each system has put decision-making
capacity in the hands of specially trained experts,
particularly when it comes to economic questions.
Central bankers wield significant power in a wide
variety of political systems around the world. For that
reason, technocracy is not really an alternative to
democracy. Like populism, it is more of an add-on.
What makes epistocracy different is that it prioritises
the “right” decision over the technically correct
decision. It tries to work out where we should be going.
A technocrat can only tell us how we should get there.
How would epistocracy function in practice? The
obvious difficulty is knowing who should count as the
knowers. There is no formal qualification for being a
general expert. It is much easier to identify a suitable
technocrat. Technocracy is more like plumbing than
philosophy. When Greece went looking for economic
experts to sort out its financial mess, it headed to
Goldman Sachs and the other big banks, since that
is where the technicians were congregated. When a
machine goes wrong, the people responsible for fixing
it often have their fingerprints all over it already.
Historically, some epistocrats have tackled the
problem of identifying who knows best by advocating
non-technical qualifications for politics. If there were
such a thing as the university of life, that’s where these
epistocrats would want political decision-makers to
get their higher degrees. But since there is no such
The Guardian Tuesday 1 May 2018
Until the end of the
19th century, the
consensus was
that democracy is
usually a bad idea
university, they often have to make do with cruder tests
of competence. The 19th-century philosopher John
Stuart Mill argued for a voting system that granted
varying numbers of votes to different classes of people
depending on what jobs they did. Professionals and
other highly educated individuals would get six or more
votes each; farmers and traders would get three or four;
skilled labourers would get two; unskilled labourers
would get one. Mill also pushed hard for women to get
the vote, at a time when that was a deeply unfashionable
view. He did not do this because he thought women
were the equals of men. It was because he thought some
women, especially the better educated, were superior to
most men. Mill was a big fan of discrimination, so long
as it was on the right grounds.
To 21st-century eyes, Mill’s system looks grossly
undemocratic. Why should a lawyer get more votes than
a labourer? Mill’s answer would be to turn the question
on its head: why should a labourer get the same number
of votes as a lawyer? Mill was no simple democrat, but he
was no technocrat either. Lawyers didn’t qualify for their
extra votes because politics placed a special premium on
legal expertise. No, lawyers got their extra votes because
what’s needed are people who have shown an aptitude
for thinking about questions with no easy answers.
Mill was trying to stack the system to ensure as many
different points of view as possible were represented. A
government made up exclusively of economists or legal
experts would have horrified him. The labourer still gets
a vote. Skilled labourers get two. But even though a task
like bricklaying is a skill, it is a narrow one. What was
needed was breadth. Mill believed that some points of
view carried more weight simply because they had been
exposed to more complexity along the way.
Jason Brennan, a very 21st-century philosopher, has
tried to revive the epistocratic conception of politics,
drawing on thinkers like Mill. In his 2016 book Against
Democracy, Brennan insists that many political
questions are simply too complex for most voters to
comprehend. Worse, the voters are ignorant about
how little they know: they lack the ability to judge
complexity because they are so attached to simplistic
solutions that feel right to them.
Brennan writes: “Suppose the United States had a
referendum on whether to allow significantly more
immigrants into the country. Knowing whether this
is a good idea requires tremendous social scientific
knowledge. One needs to know how immigration tends
to affect crime rates, domestic wages, immigrants’
welfare, economic growth, tax revenues, welfare
expenditures and the like. Most Americans lack this
knowledge; in fact, our evidence is that they are
systematically mistaken.”
In other words, it’s not just that they don’t know; it’s
not even that they don’t know that they don’t know; it’s
that they are wrong in ways that reflect their unwavering
belief that they are right.
Brennan doesn’t have Mill’s faith that we can tell how
well-equipped someone is to tackle a complex question
by how difficult that person’s job is. There is too much
chance and social conditioning involved. He would
prefer an actual exam, to “screen out citizens who are
badly misinformed or ignorant about the election, or
who lack basic social scientific knowledge”. Of course,
this just pushes the fundamental problem back a stage
without resolving it: who gets to set the exam? Brennan
teaches at a university, so he has little faith in the
disinterested qualities of most social scientists, who
have their own ideologies and incentives. He has also
seen students cramming for exams, which can produce
its own biases and blind spots. Still, he thinks Mill was
right to suggest that the further one advances up the
educational ladder, the more votes one should get: five
extra votes for finishing high school, another five for a
bachelor’s degree, and five more for a graduate degree.
Brennan is under no illusions about how provocative
this case is today, 150 years after Mill made it. In the
middle of the 19th century, the idea that political status
should track social and educational standing was barely
contentious; today, it is barely credible. Brennan also
has to face the fact that contemporary social science
provides plenty of evidence that the educated are just
as subject to groupthink as other people, sometimes
even more so. The political scientists Larry Bartels and
Christopher Achen point this out in their 2016 book
Democracy for Realists: “The historical record leaves
little doubt that the educated, including the highly
educated, have gone wrong in their moral and political
thinking as often as everyone else.” Cognitive biases are
no respecters of academic qualifications. How many
social science graduates would judge the question about
immigration according to the demanding tests that
Brennan lays out, rather than according to what they
would prefer to believe? The irony is that if Brennan’s
voter exam were to ask whether the better-educated
deserve more votes, the technically correct answer
might be no. It would depend on who was marking it.
Some advocate
exams for
voters, to ‘screen
out citizens
who are badly
However, in one respect Brennan insists that the case
for epistocracy has grown far stronger since Mill made
it. That is because Mill was writing at the dawn of
democracy. Mill published his arguments in the run-up
to what became the Second Reform Act of 1867, which
doubled the size of the franchise in Britain to nearly
2.5 million voters (out of a general population of 30
million). Mill’s case for epistocracy was based on his
conviction that over time it would merge into democracy. The labourer who gets one vote today would get
more tomorrow, once he had learned how to use his
vote wisely. Mill was a great believer in the educative
power of democratic participation.
Brennan thinks we now have 100-plus years of
evidence that Mill was wrong. Voting is bad for us.
It doesn’t make people better informed. If anything,
it makes them stupider, because it dignifies their
prejudices and ignorance in the name of democracy.
“Political participation is not valuable for most people,”
Brennan writes. “On the contrary, it does most of us
little good and instead tends to stultify and corrupt us.
It turns us into civic enemies who have grounds to hate
one another.” The trouble with democracy is that it
gives us no reason to become better informed. It tells
us we are fine as we are. And we’re not.
In the end, Brennan’s argument is more historical than
philosophical. If we were unaware of how democracy
would turn out, it might make sense to cross our fingers
and assume the best of it. But he insists that we do know,
and so we have no excuse to keep kidding ourselves.
Brennan thinks that we should regard epistocrats like
himself as being in the same position as democrats were
in the mid-19th century. What he is championing is
anathema to many people, as democracy was back
then. Still, we took a chance on democracy, waiting
to see how it would turn out. Why shouldn’t we take
a chance on epistocracy, now we know how the other
experiment went? Why do we assume that democracy
is the only experiment we are ever allowed to run,
even after it has run out of steam?
It’s a serious question, and it gets to how the longevity
of democracy has stifled our ability to think about the
possibility of something different. What was once a
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Tuesday 1 May 2018 The Guardian
Sent at 30/4/2018 16:52
seemingly reckless form of politics has become a
byword for caution. And yet there are still good reasons
to be cautious about ditching it. Epistocracy remains
the reckless idea. There are two dangers in particular.
The first is that we set the bar too high in politics by
insisting on looking for the best thing to do. Sometimes it
is more important to avoid the worst. Even if democracy
is often bad at coming up with the right answers, it is
good at unpicking the wrong ones. Moreover, it is good
at exposing people who think they always know best.
Democratic politics assumes there is no settled answer
to any question and it ensures that is the case by
allowing everyone a vote, including the ignorant. The
randomness of democracy – which remains its essential
quality – protects us against getting stuck with truly bad
ideas. It means that nothing will last for long, because
something else will come along to disrupt it.
Epistocracy is flawed because of the second part of
the word rather than the first – this is about power
(kratos) as much as it is about knowledge (episteme).
Fixing power to knowledge risks creating a monster
that can’t be deflected from its course, even when it
goes wrong – which it will, since no one and nothing
is infallible. Not knowing the right answer is a great
defence against people who believe that their
knowledge makes them superior.
Brennan’s response to this argument (a version of
which is made by David Estlund in his 2007 book
Democratic Authority) is to turn it on its head. Since
democracy is a form of kratos, too, he says, why aren’t
we concerned about protecting individuals from the
incompetence of the demos just as much as from the
arrogance of the epistocrats? But these are not the same
kinds of power. Ignorance and foolishness don’t oppress
in the same way that knowledge and wisdom do,
precisely because they are incompetent: the demos
keeps changing its mind.
The democratic case against epistocracy is a version of
the democratic case against pragmatic authoritarianism.
You have to ask yourself where you’d rather be when
things go wrong. Maybe things will go wrong quicker and
more often in a democracy, but that is a different issue.
Rather than thinking of democracy as the least worst
form of politics, we could think of it as the best when at
its worst. It is the difference between Winston Churchill’s
famous dictum and a similar one from Alexis de Tocqueville a hundred years earlier that is less well-known but
more apposite. More fires get started in a democracy,
de Tocqueville said, but more fires get put out, too.
The recklessness of epistocracy is also a function of
the historical record that Brennan uses to defend it. A
century or more of democracy may have uncovered its
failings, but they have also taught us that we can live
with them. We are used to the mess and attached to the
benefits. Being an epistocrat like Mill before democracy
had got going is very different from being one now that
democracy is well established. We now know what we
know, not just about democracy’s failings, but about
our tolerance for its incompetences.
The great German sociologist Max Weber, writing
at the turn of the 20th century, took it for granted that
universal suffrage was a dangerous idea, because of the
way that it empowered the mindless masses. But he
argued that once it had been granted, no sane politician
should ever think about taking it away: the backlash
would be too terrible. The only thing worse than letting
everyone vote is telling some people that they no longer
qualify. Never mind who sets the exam, who is going to
tell us that we’ve failed? Mill was right: democracy
comes after epistocracy, not before. You can’t run
the experiment in reverse.
The cognitive biases that epistocracy is meant to
rescue us from are what will ultimately scupper it.
Loss aversion makes it more painful to be deprived
of something we have that doesn’t always work than
something we don’t have that might. It’s like the old
joke. Q: “Do you know the way to Dublin?” A: “Well,
I wouldn’t start from here.” How do we get to a better
politics? Well, maybe we shouldn’t start from here.
But here is where we are.
Still, there must be other ways of trying to inject more
wisdom into democratic politics than an exam. This is
Politicians seeking votes
don’t much care what
we actually want. They
care what it is they can
persuade us we want
Donald Trump
at a rally in
last week
is a professor
of politics at
University, and
the author of
books including
The Politics of
Good Intentions
and The
Confidence Trap the 21st century: we have new tools to work with. If
many of the problems with democracy derive from the
business of politicians hawking for votes at election
time, which feeds noise and bile into the decisionmaking process, perhaps we should try to simulate
what people would choose under more sedate and
reflective conditions. For instance, it may be possible to
extrapolate from what is known about voters’ interests
and preferences what they ought to want if they were
better able to access the knowledge they needed. We
could run mock elections that replicate the input from
different points of view, as happens in real elections,
but which strip out all the distractions and distortions
of democracy in action.
Brennan suggests the following: “We can administer
surveys that track citizens’ political preferences and
demographic characteristics, while testing their basic
objective political knowledge. Once we have this
information, we can simulate what would happen if
the electorate’s demographics remained unchanged,
but all citizens were able to get perfect scores on tests
of objective political knowledge. We can determine,
with a strong degree of confidence, what ‘We the People’
would want, if only ‘We the People’ understood what
we were talking about.”
Democratic dignity – the idea that all citizens should
be allowed to express their views and have them taken
seriously by politicians – goes out the window under
such a system. We are each reduced to data points in
a machine-learning exercise. But, according to Brennan,
the outcomes should improve.
In 2017, a US-based digital technology company
called Kimera Systems announced that it was close to
developing an AI named Nigel, whose job was to help
voters know how they should vote in an election, based
on what it already knew of their personal preferences.
Its creator, Mounir Shita, declared: “Nigel tries to figure
out your goals and what reality looks like to you and is
constantly assimilating paths to the future to reach
your goals. It’s constantly trying to push you in the
right direction.”
This is the more personalised version of what
Brennan is proposing, with some of the democratic
dignity plugged back in. Nigel is not trying to work out
what’s best for everyone, only what’s best for you. It
accepts your version of reality. Yet Nigel understands
that you are incapable of drawing the correct political
inferences from your preferences. You need help, from
a machine that has seen enough of your personal
behaviour to understand what it is you are after. Siri
recommends books you might like. Nigel recommends
political parties and policy positions.
Would this be so bad? To many people it instinctively
sounds like a parody of democracy because it treats us
like confused children. But to Shita it is an enhancement
of democracy because it takes our desires seriously.
Democratic politicians don’t much care what it is
that we actually want. They care what it is they can
persuade us we want, so they can better appeal to it.
Nigel puts the voter first. At the same time, by
protecting us from our own confusion and inattention,
Nigel strives to improve our self-understanding.
Brennan’s version effectively gives up on Mill’s
original idea that voting might be an educative
experience. Shita hasn’t given up. Nigel is trying to
nudge us along the path to self-knowledge. We might
end up learning who we really are.
The fatal flaw with this approach, however, is that we
risk learning only who it is we think we are, or who it is
we would like to be. Worse, it is who we would like to be
now, not who or what we might become in the future.
Like focus groups, Nigel provides a snapshot of a set
of attitudes at a moment in time. The danger of any
system of machine learning is that it produces
feedback loops. By restricting the dataset to our past
behaviour, Nigel teaches us nothing about what other
people think, or even about other ways of seeing the
world. Nigel simply mines the archive of our attitudes
for the most consistent expression of our identities. If
we lean left, we will end up leaning further left. If we
lean right, we will end up leaning further right. Social
and political division would widen. Nigel is designed
to close the circle in our minds.
There are technical fixes for feedback loops. Systems
can be adjusted to inject alternative points of view, to
notice when data is becoming self-reinforcing or simply
to randomise the evidence. We can shake things up to
lessen the risk that we get set in our ways. For instance,
Nigel could make sure that we visit websites that
challenge rather than reinforce our preferences.
Alternatively, on Brennan’s model, the aggregation
of our preferences could seek to take account of the
likelihood that Nigel had exaggerated rather than
tempered who we really are. A Nigel of Nigels – a
machine that helps other machines to better align
their own goals – could try to strip out the distortions
from the artificial democracy we have built. After all,
Nigel is our servant, not our master. We can always tell
him what to do.
But that is the other fundamental problem with
21st-century epistocracy: we won’t be the ones telling
Nigel what to do. It will be the technicians who have
built the system. They are the experts we rely on to
rescue us from feedback loops. For this reason, it is
hard to see how 21st-century epistocracy can avoid
collapsing back into technocracy. When things go
wrong, the knowers will be powerless to correct for
them. Only the engineers who built the machines
have that capacity, which means that it will be the
engineers who have the power.
In recent weeks, we have been given a glimpse
of what rule by engineers might look like. It is not an
authoritarian nightmare of oppression and violence. It
is a picture of confusion and obfuscation. The power of
engineers never fully comes out into the open, because
most people don’t understand what it is they do. The
sight of Mark Zuckerberg, perched on his cushion,
batting off the ignorant questions of the people’s
representatives in Congress is a glimpse of a
technocratic future in which democracy meets
its match. But this is not a radical alternative to
democratic politics. It is simply a distortion of it. •
Adapted from How Democracy Ends by David
Runciman, which will be published by Profile on 10 May.
Buy it at
Section:GDN 1J PaGe:12 Edition Date:180501 Edition:01 Zone:
Sent at 30/4/2018 17:58
The Guardian Tuesday 1 May 2018
Killer Sudoku
Each letter of the alphabet makes at least one appearance in the grid,
and is represented by the same number wherever it appears. The letters
decoded should help you to identify other letters and words in the grid.
Killer Sudoku
The normal rules of
Sudoku apply: fill each
row, column and 3x3 box
with all the numbers from
1 to 9. In addition, the
digits in each inner shape
(marked by dots) must
add up to the number in
the top corner of that box.
No digit can be repeated
within an inner shape.
Cryptic crossword
Solution No. 27,496
Guardian cryptic crossword No 27,497 set by Vlad
Stuck? For help call 0906 200 83 83.
Calls cost £1.10 per minute, plus your
phone company’s access charge.
Service supplied by ATS.
Call 0330 333 6946 for customer
service (charged at standard rate).
Want more? Get access to more than
4,000 puzzles at
crossword. To buy puzzle books, visit or call
0330 333 6846.
1 Become annoyingly amorous —
we object going: “ ______ ”
5 Singer’s keeping last of home
comforts (6)
9 Removed Dexter, retired hurt (8)
10 Eager to fight Rod and Henry
in turn (4-2)
12 Stop working in centre of Beaune
— I’m getting outta here! (5)
13 Eat in low spirits, extremely low
spirits (9)
14 In replay, clatters dopy old
wingers (12)
18 Criminal’s old mate wrong — 10
isn’t being clobbered (12)
21 Plan succeeded with huge
cutting back (9)
23 Writer’s book is out around
second half of the month (5)
24 Flash Gordon, flyer (6)
25 Has new single out — it’s dirty (8)
26 Open Dad’s wine (6)
27 Best saying 12 at start? That’s
unexpected! (2,6)
1 Blasted cat’s bitten tot — that’s
upsetting (6)
2 Juicy piece of news — time it
proved effective (6)
3 Narrator describes sport he wants
you to join (9)
4 Again Emperor’s given order —
Congress won’t be restricted by it
6 On top of one time beauty —
she’s fascinating (5)
7 Sweetheart’s a joy — short but a
really good looker (5,3)
8 Director Nick has succeeded in
style, but not content (8)
11 Hard cash? Yes and no (7,5)
15 Criticise cold wine scandal? (9)
16 Made a mistake — came clean
after changing gender (6,2)
17 Politicians here — most are
reportedly not Labour (8)
19 Found in Waterstone’s, the right
book (6)
20 Nervous performing at the
Fringe? (2,4)
22 Cross, tense and nearly going
nuts (5)
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