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Diary

Britain Dave and Nick’s coalition conundrums Forget the economy. Some of the knottier challenges ahead for coalition Britain involve simple logistics. The BBC, for instance, must appear absolutely impartial. But with only one party of opposition and two of government, troubling issues of how airtime is to be divided between the Tories and Lib Dems are inevitable—not to mention who gets to go on Question Time.

he quagmire of cabinet reshuffles has been negotiated, in principle, with a strict “one in, one out” policy—blue always replaces blue, yellow replaces yellow. But whether the prime minister really will take final decisions on cabinet posts “in consultation” with his deputy is less clear. Similar problems will apply to coveted No 10 adviser jobs, where jealous Tories fear losing out. Clegg and co may find their party out of pocket too: although they argue they’re still entitled to some of the money allocated to opposition parties, their income is unlikely to remain at pre-election levels.

Worst of all, the nation’s great and good may suffer. The Tories are six to one up in Commons and cabinet—but will this extend to guest lists at No 10 parties? Half a dozen Tory-friendly celebs to every Liberal will surely make for some sedate celebrations.

Joining the government: easier said than done The Conservatives make much of their “big society” agenda, but their manifesto’s “invitation to join the government of Britain” may prove tricky. New research from pollsters Mori revealed that while roughly half of the population wanted to “get more involved” locally, just 5 per cent wanted “active involvement.” But even that looks promising compared to those already taking part in community activities—a mere 2 per cent. Moreover, over half of those involved in local decision-making felt they had little influence, and expressed dissatisfaction with their council. A bigger society, it seems, is still quite some way off.

image s association birchall/pre ss ben

©

Brownies from the Saltford pack become the first ever people to spend the night at the Roman Baths in Bath, as part of the “Museums at Night 2010” event

Time to conduct the electoral post mortems Behind the coalition, a battle rages: why didn’t the Tories win outright? Within hours of the election result, Conservative Tim Montgomery launched a 7,000-word report slamming Cameron’s unwillingness to talk tough on crime and immigration, implicitly fingering his svengali Steve Hilton in the process. Quietly, however, friends of team Cameron are pushing back. Must-win seats like Westminster North and Tooting in London stayed red— most likely, they say, because their urban, educated liberal voters remained unconvinced. So did university constituencies like Bath and Edgbaston, probably because the students weren’t persuaded either. Post-election analysis from American pollster Stan Greenberg also found half of voters still didn’t think the Tories had changed. As one friendly Cameroon told Prospect, “perhaps we didn’t do better because we weren’t Steve Hilton enough?”

europe Is the Tory’s Euro coalition close to collapse? David Cameron enjoys coalitions at home, but are his efforts to repeat the trick in Europe falling flat? Tory MEPs long belonged to the various incarnations of the

“Choked on his own vomit—I wonder how many points you get for that”

12 · prospect · june 2010 diary uropean People’s party (EP), a mainstream centre-right coalition—until Cameron pulled them out in 2009, signing up instead to a new gang of Eurosceptic right wingers, the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR). The move attracted flack, browning off longtime allies like Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats and attracting criticism at home for some ECR members’ views on issues like gay rights.

ow, though, Cameron’s band faces a different problem: size. The rules say any group in the European parliament must include members from seven countries. The ECR manages just eight—and five of these provide only one MEP. Europe-watchers whisper that the loyalties of the lone Hungarian, Belgian and Dutch members may prove unreliable, while several of Poland’s 15 members may be tempted by more mainstream, Europhile groups. With just two defections needed to sink the ECR, the leading MEP from the Czech party that cofounded it bluntly called it an “unimportant faction” in a recent interview. But its collapse would be doubly bad news for Dave: friendless in Europe, with both Labour and the Liberals remaining continental forces.

sport Why 2018 may still be an English world cup Might Lord Triesman’s own goal actually improve England’s chances of hosting the 2018 World Cup? The FA boss cried entrapment and resigned, writes Patrick Nally, after a Sunday newspaper sting caught him gossiping that rival bidders Russia and Spain were colluding, and might even bribe referees this summer in South Africa. Entrapment or not, Triesman’s inferences of corruption are a common theme in England’s football establishment. The FA has been sniffy ever since João Havelange succeeded Englishman Stanley Rous as Fifa president in 1974, seemingly unwilling to acknowledge the success Fifa has made of the World Cup, and world football in general. Other nations were smarter, appointing senior figures to represent their interests at Fifa, and eventually seeing big names—like Germany’s Franz Beckenbauer and France’s Michel Platini—in the the governing body’s hierarchy. England has no such figures on board—surely part of the reason the 2006 bid failed.

ow, there is little room for error in the race for 2018. England has a technically strong bid, is represented by ambassador David Beckham, and impressed Fifa’s current head by arranging a phone call with new prime minister, David Cameron. But Russia also performed well, while an entertaining ploy from Belgium and Holland saw Ruud Gullit and Johan Cruyff arrive on bicycles, promising a “green” World Cup.

David Goldblatt’s World Cup blog,

live from South Africa www.prospect-magazine.co.uk/

worldcup2010

dr pangloss

The ideas hothouse

By Brian Eno

In 1865 Gregor Mendel presented his groundbreaking work on plant hybridisation to the Brunn Natural History Society… and for the next 35 years, nothing happened. When it was finally rediscovered in the early 20th century, it became the basis of the science of genetics.

itself is evolving. It isn’t only academic papers to the natural history society but charts, diagrams, websites, films, documentaries, newspaper stories, radio programmes and so on. These are all different ways of both disseminating and understanding, and they engage different types of intelligence.

What impresses me about this story is the 35 years of neglect. Could such a big idea go unnoticed for so long now? I really doubt it.

We’re witnessing an ever-increasing fluidity of knowledge, which moves more easily and quickly than ever before. First, the internet makes it possible to communicate ideas instantly. Then it encourages you to proclaim them openly, to everybody, not just the group of specialists in your area (who, as happened in Mendel’s case, often don’t get it). The playing field is now inclined towards immediate open outcry.

his revolution is accompanied and catalysed by another—the representation of knowledge s an example, look at David McCandless’s stunning website Information Is Beautiful (and the lovely book of the same name) which organises complex bodies of facts and figures into memorable visual patterns. Thus organised they mean more than they did, because you understand them as gestalts, as whole shapes.

More knowledge; better ways to handle it. The process isn’t just additive: it’s synergistic. When pieces of knowledge come into contact with each other they multiply like Mendel’s pea plants, fuelling an exponential growth of intelligence.

he powerful fecundity of ancient Athens is now the world condition.

Brian Eno is a musician june 2010 · prospect · 13