The art of politics is having a story – who knew?


I learnt a valuable lesson about political blogging over the weekend. If you want your story heard in a crowded space, have one — just one. The power of story is a single coherent narrative. And as heads are scratched this morning, that’s the lesson for political parties too. As I laboured over my post late into […]
Why men have to talk about the stuff that shames us


Anyone for a Peyronie? No, that’s not a spelling mistake. I don’t mean Peroni, the fashionable Italian lager, which quite a few of us might have been reaching for as the late spring sun finally graced us with its presence. I do mean Peyronie’s Disease, a condition which causes curvature of the penis, resulting in […]
Notre Dame – ‘the heartbeat of our story’


‘The heartbeat of our story’, said Archbishop Vincent Nichols on the radio this morning. He’s right. And it’s why, for a moment last night, my heart stopped and then felt broken. The unmistakable image of Notre Dame on my Twitter feed, caught in a casual glance at the screen when I should have been looking […]
Inclusive education – the hard lessons from Birmingham


There are some political moments that you keep coming back to. No matter the sands of time. They resonate. Sometimes for the right reasons, but not always. Margaret Thatcher’s speech to the Conservative Party conference on October 9th 1987 is, for me, one such moment. ‘‘Children are being taught they have an inalienable right to […]
Scottish devolution needs cool heads – and social security reminds us why


Politics can be a fickle business. It’s invariably more volatile moments which make the news at the top of the hour. A life in politics requires an apprenticeship in the school of hard knocks. It means having a thick skin. Credit is short-lived; blame can stick. Less than a year ago, the Scottish Parliament voted […]
Civil society – what next for Scotland?


When I was 15, I got into a bit of a stushie with my mum and dad. A couple of years earlier I’d become a member of my local church. I sang in the choir and edited its children’s newsletter, Small Talk. It was all going swimmingly until my running coach at school suggested I […]
The love that dared to speak its name


When I was 12, our English teacher, Mrs Greenwood, asked us to write an extended composition. Our task was to tell a story in three parts — to go wherever our imagination took us and take her, the reader, with us. While other boys wrote tales of adventure and ambition — on the playing field and elsewhere — I wrote about […]
Damian, Me – and Maggie Too


On the morning of 13th October 1984, aged 23, I stood on my friend Sue’s doorstep in Stoke Newington. Sue was a fellow trade union activist. We were members of a small but determined community, engaged in a struggle for our rights — lesbian and gay rights. I’d gone round to drop off some papers for a […]