EU: I’m voting to Remain, but not for those reasons

In case it escaped your notice, there’s a referendum on the UK’s continued membership of the European Union on 23rd June. The biggest campaigns on either side are Stronger In and Leave.EU.1 I’d like to tell you why I don’t support either of these campaigns and why I’m voting to Remain. It’s true that the EU is a mess. The multiple interlocking levels of government are confusing even to the people who work there. Many of the power and decision-making is made by unelected or indirectly elected bodies. And there’s a huge transparency crisis where secret negotiation of treaties like TTIP threatens public services in every member state without accountability to their populations. Awful. Here’s the thing about the Leave...

Ticket barriers: an unnecessary bane

Ticket barriers: an unnecessary bane

Recently, Leeds station opened a new entrance on the south side, to great fanfare. I live on the north side of the station and lots of my favourite places to go out are on the south side. Wouldn’t it be nice, I thought while it was being built, to be able to walk through the station instead of around it? Well, sadly, that’s not possible thanks to Leeds being a so-called “gated” station, with ticket barriers at both entrances and no right of way between them. (And as if to rub salt in, they’re shortly closing the staircase that leads to the south side from the north entrance.) Isn’t Leeds station public land? It’s certainly owned by the taxpayer. Why is it that I can’t walk across a huge public building to get from...

Health anxiety, me and the NHS

Health anxiety, me and the NHS

Those of you who have been keeping track probably know that 2 years ago I self-referred myself for therapy to deal with a moderate case of anxiety that began around 2006 and has stayed with me since, although I can handle it much better with the techniques I learnt. Without the therapy I would not have a clue what was actually wrong with me and what the triggers of anxiety were. It turns out I have a phobia (in the medical sense of the word) of not being in control. I’m a medically diagnosed control freak! I wouldn’t swap my not-being-in-control-phobia1 for anything — it makes me who I am. My skills as a manager and software architect derive in part from it. My obsession with maps, public transport and strange details that other people miss. My...

The dangers of “curbing extremism”

I’ve come out of blog hiding for this because I think it’s really important. And I’ll try to keep it short. These are words spoken by David Cameron this morning about the Tories’ proposed new measures for “curbing extremism”: “The problem that we have had is this distinction of saying we will only go after you if you are an extremist that directly supports violence. “It has left the field open for extremists who know how not to step over the line. But these are people who have radicalised young minds and led to people heading off to Syria or Iraq to take part in this ghastly slaughter.” The reason we’ve had this distinction is quite simple: one is an incitement to violence, the other is political...

Leeds Tube map v3

Leeds Tube map v3

Update: you can now buy the Leeds Tube map as a poster for your wall! My Tube map has been getting a lot of attention recently. I’ve twice been on BBC Radio Leeds to talk about it, it’s been shared (uncredited) on the Facebook pages of O2 Academy and Trinity Leeds, and a version of it (bizarrely) appears in public transport app Moovit. So it’s high time for a little update. This version joins the Abbey Line and Skyrack Lines in Otley, and adds the two planned National Rail stations at Apperley Bridge and Kirkstall Forge. It also fixes the shape of the East Circle, which has been bugging me since I made version 2. As usual, it’s released under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial license, which means you can use it for any...

Rivers of Yorkshire

Rivers of Yorkshire

When I think about the locations of towns and cities in Yorkshire, I tend to think in terms of the railway maps. This gives a distorted view that connects Leeds with Huddersfield and Shipley with Ilkley. A more geographically sensible way to look at things would be to think in terms of the major rivers of Yorkshire. In school I remember learning “SUNWACD” as a mnemonic for remembering the order in which major rivers drain into the Ouse but I didn’t have a good visual picture of how they were laid out. So this afternoon I spent some time drawing a public-transport-style map of the major rivers in Yorkshire, and settlements along them. There’s no strong logic to which rivers and settlements I chose: they’re just based on my own...

The Humanity Party: a manifesto

The Humanity Party: a manifesto

The European elections are around the corner, in just two days. Like many others, I am tired of all the major political parties. It’s a race to the right, with every party spouting the same anti-immigration, anti-poor rhetoric. So I put together a mini-manifesto for a political party I could believe in. Who else would vote for the Humanity Party? The Humanity Party Every person in this country, regardless of who they are or where they come from, is a human being and entitled to be treated with dignity and respect. Every person is entitled to all human rights laid out in international law. The Humanity Party believes that human rights supersede all other laws. A Humanity government would never introduce or vote in favour of legislation that contravenes or...