The problem with automatic organ donation

January 13, 2008

BBC News: Gordon Brown says he wants a national debate on whether to change the system of organ donation. He believes thousands of lives would be saved if everyone was automatically placed on the donor register.

I see the use of default options becoming an increasingly common trend in coming years – it has already been suggested as a remedy for pensions problems, and may well end up being the way we fund our political parties.

It is undeniably effective. But I can’t help wondering if it is really the best way to go about things.

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Why Barack and Brown aren’t that different after all

January 9, 2008


There aren’t many things that connect Barack Obama to Gordon Brown. But Obama has just gone and made the same mistake in New Hampshire that Brown made at last year’s Labour conference. He believed the polls, and the hype, and he forgot the golden rule of politics: when deciding on your strategy, think, think twice, then downplay expectations.

1. Obama and his team looked cocky before the caucus. “The Obama Wave”: where did that come from? Even the famous Iowa speech sounds very hubristic now. Before Iowa, a two-point victory for Hilary in New Hampshire would have been a victory for Obama, one he could rightfully say was within the margin of error (as this post by the director of polling at ABC makes clear). Now, it looks like a big loss.

2. The print media went to town on an Obama win, and now they look like the biggest bunch of idiots this side of an Arsenal home game. Some will take it on the chin (Gerard Baker in The Times: grace in error). The rest will be looking at avenge their humiliation. At the moment, they’re turning on the pollsters. Will they also go for Obama and his over-confident team? That’s what happened to Brown; he’s still paying for his error.

Next week: why David Cameron is the new Hilary Clinton. (Hint: it’s all in the hair).

Gordon’s fake smile

November 19, 2007

Poor old Gordon. He can’t even smile properly.

Tio posted a comment down below drawing attention to his fake smile; his Bala Fria blog has a montage of Gordon’s most rictus-like grins.

Yeah – it’s as fake as anything. But there’s a reason for this.

Most people know that when Brown was sixteen he detached the retina in both eyes playing rugby, giving him the gargoyle squint we know and love today. Not everyone appears to know, however, that one of the four operations to try and restore his sight was botched, permanently affecting the nervous system in his face. After the operation, Gordon’s smile no longer triggered the appropriate facial muscles. Quite simply: he can’t smile.

As Jonathan Freedland notes in the NYRB, we have exchanged “a prime minister who smiled all the time to a prime minister who cannot smile naturally at all”.

Gordon’s got a brand new tie

November 12, 2007

Gordon Brown is wearing white tie at the Lord Mayor’s banquet tonight.

He has previously been notorious for his refusal to wear formal clothing, even for great public events like the Mansion House speech.

What can this turnaround mean?


Brown’s tailoring has improved markedly since he became Prime Minister. But the alteration has only served to make him look like everyone else. Take his adoption of the ubiquitous blue tie, a trend imported from America. It is meant to make him look “more decisive, but in a human sort of way”, according to Democratic consultant Donna Brazile. In reality, it just makes him look like David Cameron.

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