Even as we rail at our leaders, we fail to address our own manifest flaws | Howard Jacobson

Even as we rail at our leaders, we fail to address our own manifest flaws | Howard Jacobson

Our political class is paralysed and we complain that we have never been so badly served. But what about our own errors of judgment?

Now is the perfect storm of our discontent. Rather than wonder how it will end – because it can only end badly – we’d do better by asking how it began. I am inclined always to take the long view myself. We listened to the snake in the garden – it’s striking how like Brexit the Garden of Eden story is – and that was the last we knew of happiness.

Even if we start with more recent events we cannot discount the gullibility of our natures, our appalling judgment in the matter of those whose advice we take and our restless reaching after catastrophe. We should be looking to morality and psychology for an explanation, not politics.

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We risk losing slices of our past if we don’t root out racism in our universities  | David Olusoga

We risk losing slices of our past if we don’t root out racism in our universities | David Olusoga

History is in crisis when black students refuse to study it and staff suffer abuse

What happens when a highly respected professional body undertakes serious and rigorous research into race and racism in its industry? Then, in the light of depressing findings, the researchers call upon their profession, institutions and colleagues to confront “persistent inequalities in our habits and practices”?

The dismal answer is that both the researchers and their findings are served up, by parts of the press, as disapproval fodder for the “world’s gone mad”, “had enough of experts” demographic; the hard core of the unreality-based community.

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What harm can a couple of inflatable penises do to our historic cities? | Sophie Heawood

What harm can a couple of inflatable penises do to our historic cities? | Sophie Heawood

York’s latest assault on hen and stag parties ignores the fact that it owes so much to marauding outsiders

And so to York, where the powers that be are trying to ban buskers from letting drunk people grab their microphones and sing their tuneless hearts out. Yes, the buskers, already subject to a fair few rules of their own, are now being given laminated cards that will state that they are “not allowed to hand over their microphone”, according to a report that was discussed by councillors in York on Tuesday evening and which surely met with resounding support, because everyone recognises the forcefield of power that a laminated card can wield against a drunk idiot doing what they want to. Oh.

Ah, but we must not mock, for it has been a busy few years for York’s fun police and they are weary. First, the town’s officials warned, in 2015, that the city centre was becoming a “no-go area” at weekends, with hen parties and stag dos descending from Newcastle and Sunderland to do their boozing within the walled city. Then they banned alcohol from certain incoming trains, to stop these groups from pre-loading, and even tasked the coppers with asking hen parties to deflate the inflatable pink penises they liked to carry with them, in what can only have felt like some kind of reverse breathalyser procedure.

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The People’s Vote is a cause worth marching for

The People’s Vote is a cause worth marching for

The energy is with Remain: when hundreds of thousands give up their time for peaceful protest, they are never wrong

Approaching 700,000 people marched on Saturday for a People’s Vote – from London’s Marble Arch to Parliament Square. The crowd seemed endless. Yet as the marchers knew full well, they have no purchase on either a Conservative party consumed by civil war and unable to coalesce around any kind of compromise, or on a Labour leadership absurdly wanting to be both in and out, and soon to descend into its own civil war. So did the march mean anything?

I was there, walking all the way with marchers that Saturday’s Sun leader had described as having a collective hissy-fit and full of hate. A less hate-filled crowd you could scarcely find. It was good humoured, funky and fun. But for all that, the question I was asked repeatedly was if I thought anyone was listening. Was the march worth it?

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John Bercow is not the man to fix the house. He should go | Jess Phillips

John Bercow is not the man to fix the house. He should go | Jess Phillips

It pains me to say it, but the Speaker is not up to the job of ending the culture of bullying at Westminister

A fish rots from the head, apparently. I have no idea if this is fact or a fiction that makes for a brutal metaphor, one that I heard again and again in parliament last week. The fish is parliament and the head is the Speaker, John Bercow.

Dame Laura Cox’s report into bullying and harassment had no need for putrefying metaphors. The language was clear, the message simple. In parliament, there are “systemic or institutional failings and a collective ethos in the house that have, over the years, enabled the underlying culture to develop and to persist”.

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The Observer view on the urgent need for a fresh vote on Europe | Observer editorial

The Observer view on the urgent need for a fresh vote on Europe | Observer editorial

While Europe remains united in defence of its principles, the Tory party is hopelessly divided. Voters must be given a voice

The way the hard Tory Brexiters told it, Europe’s leaders should have been begging for mercy by now. Instead, Germany’s Angela Merkel and France’s Emmanuel Macron popped out for a convivial beer or two in a Brussels brasserie after last week’s supposedly make-or-break EU summit. If they were worried about the latest failure to complete a Brexit deal, they were hiding it well. The contrast with Theresa May, who dined alone after her nervy plea for help was met with embarrassment and pity by the other 27 leaders, was stark. Humiliating does not begin to describe the situation the government has got itself into.

What has happened to all those German car manufacturers whose panic at the prospect of losing British sales would force the German government to bow to Brexiters’ demands? David Davis, the former Brexit secretary who quit while he was behind, is still peddling this fantasy. The reality is that Europe’s exporters would rather preserve the single market, which has massively benefited them and us. And just in case Boris Johnson wonders, Italian prosecco-makers are also holding their nerve with true Brit grit.

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Fit in my 40s: ‘Athleisure and active wear are hard to tell apart’ | Zoe Williams

Fit in my 40s: ‘Athleisure and active wear are hard to tell apart’ | Zoe Williams

The technology of sweat is now in a new league

Here’s a small life dilemma for you: athleisure. It’s the new shoulder pads, a sartorial norm in which structure and adornment have given way to slouch and utility. Basically, if you go out to lunch looking as if you could happily sprint 15 miles home, and defeat a foe with kick-boxing on the way, that’s good. But don’t mistake it for active wear. Active wear is when you dress for the gym, but your true intentions are coffee and a muffin. This is delusional and inauthentic, the stuff of parodic videos, the stain of that already much-derided class, the Yummy Mummy.

The problem is, athleisure and active wear are really hard to tell apart. It mostly comes down to smelliness. As Jodi Kerschl, who founded Bellum (beautiful sports stuff, mainly for runners), tells me, the technology of sweat is now in a new league. “Some of the older polyester fabrics, that mesh look, were absolutely awful. Even after you’d washed it, you could still smell every odour. Performance fabrics now breathe really well.”

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