In which I go viral, and upset the BNP


So, the other week I came across a rumour that the BNP had, slightly disarmingly, picked an Uruguayan to be their candidate for the London mayoral race. What’s more, the man in question, Carlos Cortiglia, seems to have given an interview in 2003 to a mainstream Argentinian newspaper, La Nacion, in which he ostensibly claimed to have volunteered to fight against blighty in the Falklands.

So I wrote the story up for Londonist, went about my day, and then spent the rest of the afternoon watching, vaguely dazed, as it went viral, spreading further and faster than anything else I’ve ever written. That night I was in a pub, and could hear the people at the next table discussing the thing. That doesn’t happen to me a lot.

Problem was, the next day, Cortiglia got in touch, and denied the lot. Whether he was misquoted, whether Galtieri’s army turned him down, or whether he’d simply bigged himself up to La Nacion to impress the Argentinians, was never exactly clear. But nonetheless he maintained that he had never been in the Falklands in any context. His official rebuttal (on the BNP’s website, to which I have no intention of linking), implied that the paper had simply made the lot up. Why, I have no idea.

Anyway – in the name of fairness, I withdrew the story. I remain, however, oddly proud, both of my carefully worded retraction, and of the whole mess leading up to it. You can read what’s left of it here.


Jonn @ Londonist: On London’s educational divide


An infrequent but unusually graphical contribution to Londonist. It’s got a map and everything:

Mapping London’s educational divide

Last week, the University and College Union found an exciting new way of illustrating the north-south divide. The union’s researchers used government figures to rank mainland Britain’s parliamentary constituencies by the percentage of their working-age population without a qualification to their name. The resulting coverage focused largely on the notion that there are ‘two Britains’: one smart, educated and go-getting; the other, well, not.

But if there are two Britains, there are two Londons, too. So we decided to use the same figures to locate the city’s educational blackholes.

You can read the whole piece here.

Footnotes: on the demise of the Routemaster, 2006


Another post saved from Londonshelf, which has gone to the great bloghosting in the sky. This one’s on the decision to take the last of the old Routemaster buses out of service.

End of the line
Jonn Elledge argues that the demise of the Routemaster is no bad thing.

I have to confess something that, in London these days, seems to be roughly on a par with admitting to pig molestation: I don’t like Routemaster buses. They pollute; they’re uncomfortable; in winter they’re freezing cold by the open door, yet coma-inducingly hot on the top deck. Worst of all, the ceilings are so low that any passengers over six foot tall are in serious danger of ending up locked in a permanent Quasimodo pose.
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Footnotes: on Shoreditch, 2006


One of the reasons I’m maintaining this thing is as a home for all the things I’ve written that have fallen off the internet. This, I realise, has nothing to do with people being desperate to read them, and everything to do with my being anal about such things. But it’s my problem and I’ll seek professional help when I’m good and ready, and in the mean time I ask that you kindly refrain from judging me.

Anyway, this, and the next post, are my contributions to Londonshelf, a short-lived and now-defunct attempt by the Shinyshelf guys to create a rival to Londonist. This one’s about Shoreditch.

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The 50-foot update, part 2: the politics stuff


The second of two mega catch-up posts, covering everything I’ve been up to over the last 11 months. This one covers the political stuff. You can see the previous post, covering matters cultural, here.

On education:

  • No more A-level moaning: grade students on a curve (The First Post, August 20th 2010)
  • The fair way to fund universities? Income tax (The First Post, November 12th 2010)
  • What exactly is going wrong with Michael Gove’s pet free schools policy: it’s all a question of money (New Statesman, May 9th 2011)

The rest of the political stuff, from either side of the pond:

  • The LibDems’ Belgian problem: on the reasons for the party’s fall from grace (Liberal Conspiracy, October 13th 2010)
  • The good news for Obama: a statistical lifeline, of sorts (New Statesman, October 15th 2010)
  • Why the tea party is a liability for the Republicans (New Statesman, October 28th 2010)
  • On the Tomlinson verdict: How far can we trust the Metropolitan Police? (Londonist, May 4th 2011)

The 50-foot update, part 1: the cultural stuff


Look, I’ve been busy, alright? Since we last spoke, a mere 11 months ago, I have edited nine issues of the increasingly fabulous EducationInvestor magazine, raised six kittens, looked after sick loved ones, attempted to tutor a Zimbabwean teenager in English and Maths, walked in a circle all the way round London, composed half a novel that will almost certainly never see the light of day, and organised an awards do. So there.

As of last night, I’ve also finally got around to re-doing this website to make it a bit more user friendly. In future I’m going to post every new article individually, to make life a bit simpler. But to catch up, here’s the first of two giant posts to wrap up all the freelance stuff I’ve done over the last few months. This one covers the London and cultural stuff; the other will cover the education and politics stuff.

The London stuff:

  • A Ruislip by any other name: What Boris Johnson’s cycle scheme can tell us about the strangely changeable names of the city’s different neighbourhoods (Londonist, August 12th 2010)
  • Solving London’s drinking problem: some modest proposals to make us less bladdered (Londonist, October 27th 2010)
  • Brand new map, brand new mistakes: On how the rail companies care more about corporate identity than about actually helping us get places (Londonist, March 15th 2011)

Culture stuff:

  • A review of Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps: if anyone can tell me what this film is meant to be about, I’d be glad to know (Shinyshelf, October 26th 2010)
  • A review of Burke and Hare: A film that deserves its own truth and reconciliation commission (Shinyshelf, November 8th 2010)
  • Doctor Who regenerates: Russell T Davies versus Steven Moffat (Shinyshelf, June 24th 2010)
  • Elisabeth Sladen obituary: on the death of Sarah Jane Smith (Shinyshelf, April 20th 2011)

I also contributed to Shinyshelf’s three christmas posts on the highlights of 2010 (Shinyshelf, December 24th-27th 2010). Just so you know.

Some words wot I wrote

Freelance scribblings from summer 2010:
  • After hours lock in at the Foundry – on the occupation of a Shoreditch landmark, in protest against plans to replace it with a giant baked bean tin (Londonist, July 5th)
  • Has the tide turned on a university education? On the government’s plans for university reform (The First Post, July 7th)
  • What’s Gove really hiding? How the schools secretary mis-sold the decision to cancel the Building Schools for the Future programme (New Statesman, July 9th)
  • How bad is the feline obestity crisis? In defence of public sector fat cats (Liberal Conspiracy, June 12th)