Fourteen months later…


When I started this thing, however many thousand years ago it was, it was with a couple of goals in mind. One was to have a place which collected links to everything I’d ever written, a urge that presumably stemmed from the same OCD impulse that means I’m incapable of leaving the house without going back to my front door at least once just in case this is the day that I go mad and forget to lock it.

But the other, saner, reason was because – during my nearly 10 years in the trade press – so much of what I’d written was hidden behind paywalls or in printed magazines or otherwise inaccessible to the internet at large. I wanted a place to collect my freelance work and so on, to make it easier to show the world what I did with my time, and, frankly, with half an eye on getting out of the trade press and getting a job where this wouldn’t be a problem any more.

Well – nearly a year ago now, that happened. Last spring I left Investor Publishing, the institution I’d spent the longest time attached to since my secondary school, and joined the staff of the New Statesman, where I was to launch and edit a new website about cities. That eventually appeared in late July, under the name CityMetric, and very good it is too.

But, look, obviously, if you’re reading, you already know this. Because if you’ve found this website, you probably follow me on Twitter. Or you’ve come across something I’ve written for the NS or CityMetric recently and are wondering who I am. Or you’re perhaps one of the few dozen people who, mystifyingly, signed up to receive updates whenever I post something to this thing, and forgot all about it until your email went ping three minutes ago. (If you are one of those people, incidentally, I can only apologise for a) taking so long, and b) telling you stuff you already knew when I got there.)

Anyway. The point is that none of my reasons for updating this thing, a job at which I was always pretty sporadic, have really applied since last May. But it’s here, and it’s intermittently useful, and (this is the crux of it) I really can’t be bothered to change the design of the whole thing just so that articles I wrote several lifetimes ago stop being at the top of the site.

So instead, I wrote this. Because pointlessly spewing words onto the internet remains the guiding principle of my existence. Just look at my Twitter feed.

I doubt I’ll be collecting links here again, at least for stuff that relates to the day job; there’s just no point in it. But if you are interested in keeping track of stuff I write then my NS stuff is here, and CityMetric is here. And you should definitely read both because they’re brilliant.

Oh, and if someone could publish my bloody novel now I’m a proper self-facilitating media node then that’d be very much appreciated, thank you. K, thanks, bye.

Jonn @NewStatesman – on the politics of “hard choices”


On George Osborne’s latest round of cuts, and the strange political euphemism of “hard choices”. 

Whenever politicians start talking about how tough they’re being, in fact, it’s like a flashing neon arrow pointing down the path of least resistance. If a policy actually requires guts, the last thing you want to do is draw attention to the fact, as that’ll just tip your voters off that someone’s about to get stiffed. Better, then, to reserve the label for making yourself feel big while doing exactly what you wanted to do anyway. 

You can read the rest here.

Luck and Oxbridge


Every year, the British media will bang out the same predictable stories about the Oxbridge entry process. In December they’ll write about crazy interview techniques; in August, they’ll debate the existence of systemic bias towards posh people. These stories have been written since time immemorial, as regular a feature of the British newspaper diet as Diana conspiracy theories and Winterval.

…so this is me trying to write a third variant – on quite how arbitrary the process can be.

How to drain the poison from the MPs’ pay debate


I know, I know, we’re all sick to the back teeth of comment pieces arguing that MPs have their faces in the trough/aren’t really paid that well when you really look at the numbers, actually [delete according to taste and income]. But we have the same arguments every time this topic comes up, and I’m not sure our inability to talk sensibly about these things is conducive to good government. So here’s a couple of ideas on how we can drain this swamp before we all go mad and start bashing our heads against things.

You can find out what those ideas are here.

“Let’s concrete the North Downs!” and other stories


For someone primarily employed as an education journalist I’m spending a lot of my free time thinking about housing policy. Some recent snippets for the New Statesman:

  • And finally, a new way of illustrating the insanity of London’s housing market: how much would Del Boy’s flat be worth these days? Contains other sitcoms, too.

On politics and objectivity


My latest at the NS, on why a little noticed admission of error from Michael Gove tells us much about the subjective nature of public spending decisions.

Politicians can come up with a formula based on an objective set of numbers – but which numbers they choose, and what they do with them, will always be a matter of judgement.

You can read the piece here.