Good news for those of you who like your weekends peppered with punchy debate: the Battle of Ideas takes over the Barbican from tomorrow.
Pulled together by the marvellous Institute of Ideas, the festival of free-thinking is a safe-space for people who still revel in the clash of opinions. City A.M. is a proud partner of this event, and on Saturday afternoon I’ll be joining a panel debating the issue of fake news.
Does it represent a threat to our democracy or has the panic over its influence grown out of proportion? The first thing that strikes me is that there’s a spectrum. Fake news in its most glaring sense consists of authentic-looking websites that post fabricated stories designed to look like the real thing. The motive could be to generate advertising revenue or it could be more sinister. Some of these sites gained traction during the US presidential election, concocting stories about the Clintons’ life of crime or claiming that the Pope had endorsed Donald Trump.
To my mind, there’s a much more serious and pervasive form of fake news, which doesn’t rely on pure fabrication so much as it does extreme bias. A raft of pro-Corbyn fan blogs have emerged (some of which have enormous reach) that abandon all journalistic integrity in pursuit of championing Corbyn’s cause and denigrating his opponents. Their content is free, easily shared and designed to generate clicks. You could argue that newspapers have been merging news and opinion for years, but not on this scale and certainly not with such energy and determination.
There’s nothing wrong with a proliferation of opinion (indeed, it is to be celebrated) but it should form part of a varied diet. Students should be taught to retain their critical faculties and to balance the products that seem to confirm their opinions with ones that challenge them. They could start by heading to the Barbican this weekend.
Boisdale, Game of Thrones and Adam Smith
The team at Boisdale know how to entertain, which explains why their Belgravia restaurant is awash with the great and the good. The latest edition of their excellent magazine, Boisdale Life, carries an interview with actor James Cosmo – also known as the Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, in Game of Thrones. The veteran actor discusses politics and economics, and outs himself as a fan of Adam Smith’s philosophy – which he says is “absolutely fascinating and on the button”.
A tailor-made suit
In the age of same-day delivery and instant gratification, I find myself taking particular pleasure in the process of having a tailored suit made. This is a first for me, and the anticipation is thoroughly delightful. I had the first consultation back in July and every few weeks since then I’ve strolled down to a charming tailor in the City for fittings, tweaks, adjustments and conversation. It’s a treat to watch skilled professionals go about their work, and I can’t wait for the result.
Nicky Morgan speaks some Brexit sense
Earlier this week I discussed Brexit and the City on a panel chaired by former Tory MP (now Lord) Francis Maude – whose signature adorns the Maastricht Treaty. I spoke alongside Nicky Morgan, Miles Celic of the TheCityUK and Stephen Booth of think-tank Open Europe. Morgan, who chairs the Treasury Select Committee, stressed that although she would vote Remain again, there is no prospect of another referendum so the focus must be on making Brexit work. It’s an obvious point, though still lost on some people.
The City of London stays democratic
News for critics who claim that the City of London Corporation is undemocratic: a by-election is soon to take place in the Bishopsgate Ward. One of the candidates, Patrick Streeter (an accountant) is standing on a platform of highlighting “masonic influence, slush funds and Machiavellian cabals”. He also questions whether there are too many feasts in the Square Mile and is concerned about pollution. Seems like the City’s democracy is perfectly vibrant.