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Thoughts on the Referendum

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These are tough times to be a supporter of the European Union. For decades the EU and its predecessors were rightly held up as a guardian of peace and prosperity of Europe. Then came the global financial crisis, and the Euro currency, the totemic symbol of European integration, became a "machine from hell" (in the words of one German official), ripping apart the fabric of Europe that the EU had previously done so much to stitch together.

The Eurozone crisis remains unresolved to this day, stuck between the very reasonable desire of creditor countries not to risk their own finances in bailing out the debtor countries, and the very reasonable desire of debtor countries not to have their people ground into the dust by the lunatic austerity regimes imposed by the creditors. Why then should we stay in an institution that has pursued such a reckless experiment?

For starters, obviously, we are not in the Eurozone and its tribulations will affect us no more or less if we vote to le…

AIPL: Aquababy

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If you have not had the privilege of looking after a baby on a full time basis, you may wonder how you fill the endless hours of leisure between wakey-wakey and beddy-byes. I too fondly imagined time stretching to infinity between little strolls around the park and long naps as I perfected my guitar technique or wrote the great American novel.

The awful truth is that there is time to achieve perhaps one goal during the day that is not directly related to your baby's survival, and only then if you're quick about it. Not only that but there is no time to think about what the goal should be. Thankfully there are a staggering number of pre-organised activities to build your day around, and the only thought required is how to get to them taking into account naps, meals, badly-timed nappy disasters, &c.

Baby activities can be divided into two broad groups, namely swimming and not swimming. I was thrown straight into the shallow end on day one of my leave as it happen…

The Scottish experiment

Before Corbyn was elected I noted that the results of the Scottish election would be a fascinating natural test of his leadership and some assumptions often made about the Scottish electorate, namely:

1. Scotland is more left-wing than the rest of the UK (look how they don't vote for Tories!)
2. Labour is losing support because it isn't left wing enough (unlike those lovable lefty nationalists)

The alternative hypothesis - that since the referendum Scottish voting preferences have been determined mainly by attitude towards independence - was fiercely disputed by some people, predominantly ex-Labour voters north of the border, safe in the knowledge that there was no easy way of determining which explanation was correct.

With Corbyn at the helm, however, there is no longer any ambiguity. Labour could hardly have chosen a more left-wing leader, and this year Scottish Labour ran on an overtly more left-wing platform than the SNP. For their pains they have been reduced to third pla…

AIPL: When numbers lie

I shouldn't let this week go by without noting the supremely dodgy statistic, as reported by ITV, Sky, the Guardian, the Independent, the Telegraph etc. that only 1% of men are taking shared parental leave in the first year since its introduction. Cue much speculation over why the figure is so low.

As many others have pointed out, however, this figure, from a survey by My Family Care, is a percentage of all male employees and not, say, those who have actually had a baby and are therefore eligible for shared parental leave. (See More or Less for a dramatic reconstruction of the survey).

The takeup of SPL might yet turn out to be disappointing, as any idiot could predict, but these reports prove nothing other than the inability of journalists to get their facts straight. Worse than that, it sends out a misleading signal that sharing leave is the preserve of a tiny minority which could well cause less people to take it up in future. Perhaps not the best way to celebrate the anniversa…

AIPL: Poppropriation

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It is a scientific fact that while looking after an infant 50% of your unconscious brain activity is devoted to modifying song lyrics to fit your current circumstances. This begins right from when baby comes back from the hospital, when early hits such as Petula Clark's Downstairs and school assembly favourite Clean Clean Nappy (On Her Bottom) first burst onto the airwaves.

Mid-period classics tended to focus on either getting food into the Elspedoodle (Oasis's pub-rock anthem (You've Got To) Drink Your Milk) or further ruminations on what comes out (Do We Need To Change Your Nappy? from Disney's Frozen). Many dozens on similar themes were created and sadly forgotten about.

Late-period works often succumbed to baroque excess, culminating in the Kinks' nostalgic The E------ Appreciation Society. A full set of alternative lyrics exists for this song but have been embargoed under the 30 year rule [1]. 

By the end of my leave period almost the entire Western pop canon…