After a remarkable election night that defied pollsters’ predictions, Donald Trump will be the next president of the United States.
The electorate repudiated the mass of commentators who had expressed disbelief that such a person was running so competitively for the office of president. With Hillary Clinton conceding to Trump by telephone, it appears to have been those “left-behind” voters who, despairing of a political system they feel has failed them, turned to “the Donald” as the saviour who “speaks their language”.
Both these stories have been told many times over. But one aspect of the Trump phenomenon remains a puzzle. This is not about who Trump is, or who his voters are: the questions is what he is.
Everyone seems to agree that Trump isn’t a politician in the true sense, either because he failed to meet the standards expected of a democratic representative or because he expressed no desire to be such a figure. But if (even after being elected) he really isn’t a politician in the truest sense, what is he? What role has he actually played in this bizarre American drama?
For those about to rock
Attempts to answer these questions came to dominate much of the coverage. No presidential election is really a straightforward exercise in political competition. As the writer George Saunders observed: “American presidential campaigns are not about ideas; they are about the selection of a hero to embody the prevailing national ethos.”
No-one seems any surer than they were just what sort of national hero he will be. Trump as rock or pop star was a persistent theme during the campaign: the Guardian’s Jonathan Freedland described standing at the front of a Trump rally in “a kind of Trumpian moshpit”. In his book Trump and Me, Mark Singer twice quotes a Trump associate as saying: “Deep down, he [Trump] wants to be Madonna”. (Which of Madonna’s many incarnations he would choose to emulate is unclear.)
Author and music blogger Bob Lefsetz took the analogy one step further. Trump, to him, is a heavy metal band. “Donald Trump is a rock star,” Lefsetz wrote, “if you go back to what that once upon a time meant, someone who adhered to his own vision living a rich and famous lifestyle who cared not a whit what others said.”
The specific choice of musical genre is the key here. Metal, Lefsetz writes, is the music most despised and overlooked by the liberal elite, even though it is adored by its fans: “The reason metal triumphed was because it was the other, it channelled the audience’s anger, it was for all those closed out of the mainstream, and it turns out there’s plenty of them.”
The music writer Simon Reynolds also saw Trump as a rock star, but instead of Black Sabbath or Madonna, he drew parallels with David Bowie and T. Rex: “Trump surrounds himself with glitz. Trump and the glam rockers share an obsession with fame and a ruthless drive to conquer and devour the world’s attention.”
His tale has remained a kind of ‘80s prime-time soap of aspiration and ego … he cited his TV ratings the way another candidate might boast of balancing a state budget. Mr Trump’s primary win was like having a niche hit on cable … In programming terms, his campaign is nostalgia based content – that thing you used to like, I’m gonna bring it back again! He’s a classic TV show rebooted for Netflix: that old stuff from back in the day, but edgier and uncensored.
And, of course, Donald Trump is a reality television star. His role on The Apprentice is key to understanding his ability to play the role of presidential candidate. As David Von Drehle wrote in Time magazine, with reality TV stars: “Fans are encouraged to feel that they know these people, not as fictional characters but as flesh and blood”.
The idea that someone like this really could be elected to lead a major democracy was once the province of satire. But as I and my colleagues found in our research, many young people in the UK reportedly see people such as Alan Sugar and Simon Cowell as credible political leaders. They were seen as tough and decisive, attributes that were seen necessary to effective political leadership.
Treating Trump principally as a pop icon and his campaign and victory as an extended performance might sound flippant – but it’s crucial that we see this for what it is. Trump’s shocking ascent to the top job indicates that the role of the politician really has finally merged with the role of the rock star.
John Street does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond the academic appointment above.
The hissing sound you hear in the background when you turn up the volume of your music player is called “noise”. Most of this hiss is due to the thermal motion of electrons in the music-player circuitry. Just like molecules in a hot gas, electrons in the circuitry are constantly jiggling about in a random fashion, and this motion this gives rise to an unwanted noise signal.
But there is another type of noise that only comes into play when we have an electrical current flowing. This noise is known as shot noise. Obstacles that generate shot noise in this way are found in many electronic components, such as diodes and some transistors, and electronic engineers take great efforts to try to get rid of the effects of all sources of noise, including shot noise, in their designs.
Now a new study has shown that shot noise can be eliminated at its microscopic origin. And to do so, they have borrowed an idea from an unlikely source – the early days of the steam engine.
Shot noise has its origins in the fact that electrical current is composed of a stream of individual particles – electrons – and that the behaviour of these particles is governed by the strange laws of quantum mechanics.
When an electron encounters an obstacle that you’d think would block its path, quantum mechanics offers the possibility that it can pass through it unhindered. This is called quantum tunnelling, and it makes the seemingly impossible possible. The important thing about quantum tunnelling is that it is a random process — quantum mechanics can tell us with what probability an electron might tunnel, but it can’t tell us whether any particular electron will tunnel or not.
Thus, if a stream of electrons hits an obstacle, some will tunnel and some will not, and this happens in a completely random fashion. If we could listen to the arrival of a stream of electrons tunnelling in this way, it would sound something like the random pitter-patter of raindrops on a flat roof. It is this randomness, as compared with the regimented drip-drip-drip of a tap, that makes up shot noise.
In the 18th century, James Watt was struggling to get his steam engine to run at a constant speed. To solve this problem, he came up with the “centrifugal governor” in 1788, a contraption that consisted of two metal balls rotating on a vertical spindle driven by the steam engine. If the engine ran too fast, the balls would move upwards under the centrifugal force (a force acting on a body moving in a circular path is directed away from the centre around which the body is moving).
This motion was coupled into a valve which then reduced the flow of steam through the engine, slowing it down. Conversely, if the engine was running too slowly, the balls would drop, the valves would open and the engine would speed up. In this way, Watt was able to stabilise the output of his engine around a constant speed. In doing so he had had come up with an early example of what we would now call feedback control.
James Watt to the rescue
The new experiment focuses on an ultra-small electronics device known as the single-electron transistor, which may one day form the basis of extremely efficient, miniature electronics. These single-electron transistors are somewhat like ordinary transistors, which switch electronic signals, but taken to the extreme limit of miniaturisation such that electrons move through them one at a time. This happens via quantum tunneling, which means the current through a single-electron transistor suffers from the randomness of shot noise.
Using sensitive charge measurements, the researchers were able to detect exactly when an electron had tunnelled through the transistor. Based on this electron counting, they then adjusted the voltages of the transistor, following Watt’s recipe for the centrifugal governor: if more electrons than normal had tunnelled, they changed the voltages to reduce the flow; if fewer had tunnelled, the voltages were changed to increase the flow.
In this way, they were able to show that, after a certain time had elapsed, the total number of electrons to have tunnelled through the device could be controlled precisely, with the results being almost entirely free of the randomness of the noisy tunnelling process.
The technique may not make it into your consumer electronics any time soon. The research was carried out at low temperature on a single device so we’d first need to make it work at room temperature and scale up the function. Nevertheless, it does represent an important breakthrough, as it reports the first application of feedback control in electronics that acts at the level of the individual electron.
The results are especially important for the development of future quantum technologies, which look to harness the peculiarities of quantum physics to make devices that vastly outperform our current best. Such machines could be a huge boost in areas including secure communication, code-breaking, precision measurement and quantitative analysis of “big data”. Quantum technologies however require an exquisite degree of control and, as this research shows, tried-and-true feedback techniques with their roots in the steam age may still have an important role to play.
Clive Emary does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond the academic appointment above.
You’d not have known it from the media coverage, but the national election on May 7 was not the only contest playing out in the UK. Almost all English district and unitary councils – 279 of 293 – held elections too, and there were also votes for six mayors, for many parish and town councils, plus the odd local referendum.
There were no council elections in London, Scotland or Wales, but English voters – many doubtless to their surprise – were confronted by up to five ballot papers. Those in Bedford, for example, had votes for an MP, a mayor, two borough councillors, up to 11 parish councillors, and a referendum on their Police and Crime Commissioner’s proposal to increase council tax – the first ever of its kind.
These multiple ballots offered electors the obvious opportunity for split-voting: one for their MP or national government, and another more personal, local or protest vote.
The chief beneficiaries of any split-voting were expected to be minor parties and independents in the council elections. But, as the nearly complete results table shows, that was another prediction largely confounded in these elections.
Local government’s four-year electoral cycle means that the baseline with which to compare these elections was 2011, when most of the actual council seats up this year were last won and lost.
Since then, the opinion poll ratings of both Labour and the Conservatives have dropped. The Conservatives, though, were thought likely to be the bigger losers, having done well in 2011 and therefore defending far more seats than Labour, and having also been more damaged by UKIP’s dramatic rise.
But just as predictions for the national election proved wide of the mark, so did those for the 9,500 local contests.
The Conservatives were the unambiguous winners of these local elections and Labour not just the net, but absolute, loser. The Lib Dems suffered as painfully as they did nationally. The junior coalition partners were predicted to lose around 50 seats but ended up ceding more than seven times that number. UKIP made progress, but less than it hoped, and the Greens flatlined.
The Conservatives won overall control of more than 30 councils – mostly, it should be noted, councils without a single party majority before the vote. Those gains rightly got the headlines, but two of the party’s most satisfying results will be its retained and slightly strengthened control in Solihull and Trafford – the only two of the 36 big metropolitan councils it currently holds.
Other now Conservative controlled unitary councils include Basingstoke & Deane, Poole, and Bath & North East Somerset, where there are now two Greens, but 14 fewer Lib Dems and a first-time Conservative majority.
Shire district councils won included traditionally independent Babergh, Suffolk, also for the first time; Amber Valley, Gravesham, and North Warwickshire straight from Labour; Hinckley & Bosworth from the Lib Dems; Gloucester, St Albans, Scarborough, Winchester, and Worcester.
Further Labour losses included Walsall metropolitan borough and the unitaries Plymouth and Stoke-on-Trent – all now left with no single majority party.
Even defeated parties must find consolation somewhere, and Labour’s will include hanging on to a knife-edge majority in Bradford, thanks to independent candidates, UKIP and Respect all losing seats, and gaining majorities in unitary Stockton-on-Tees, and, after a suspended recount and overnight rest, Cheshire West & Chester.
Labour is also now the largest party on Brighton & Hove – which in 2011 had become the first council to be run by the Greens.
As in the national election, the Greens’ recent membership surge didn’t really translate into hard results, though they will be encouraged by seven gains in Labour-dominated Bristol, bringing them within touching distance of official opposition.
In this year’s local elections, UKIP was the history maker. Party leader Nigel Farage had failed to become Thanet South’s MP, but his party reduced Labour councillors from 24 to four and won overall control of Thanet district – its first principal council.
Good Lib Dem news was at a premium all weekend, but enough of Bedford’s conscientious voters backed Dave Hodgson to re-elect him comfortably for a third term as the borough’s mayor.
In other mayoral votes, Peter Soulsby was re-elected for Labour in Leicester, Gordon Oliver for the Conservatives in Torbay, and Mansfield’s three-term Independent Tony Egginton was succeeded by his Mansfield Independent Forum colleague, Kate Allsop.
Another Independent, Mike Starkie, was elected as the first mayor of Copeland in Cumbria, while in Middlesbrough three-term Independent Ray Mallon has retired and is replaced by Labour’s Dave Budd – though only after a second preference count and the rejection of large numbers of spoilt ballots, presumably from the many Labour members who, despite the result, want the mayoral system abolished.
In these mayoral elections at least, then, there was something for almost everyone: Labour, Conservative, Lib Dem, and Independent.
Chris Game does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond the academic appointment above.
Last week UKIP set out their plan for exit from the European Union, outlining two options: “We repeal the European Communities Act 1972 and leave immediately. We activate Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty and notify the European Council that the UK has decided to leave the EU in two years’ time.” —UKIP manifesto The […]
Professor Anton Muscatelli, Principal of the University of Glasgow, will be joined by Dr Uta Staiger, Executive Director of the European Institute at University College London, Professor Andrea Nolan, Principal of Edinburgh Napier University, and Dr James Rogers, a former Reuters and BBC correspondent whose postings included Brussels and Moscow. Dr Rogers, who now leads the MA programme in International Journalism at City, University of London, will chair the event.
The University of Glasgow’s Sir Charles Wilson theatre is the venue for what promises to be a lively evening of debate that is free and open to the public.
The Conversation is staging this event in collaboration with The University of Glasgow Policy Scotland and we expect to roll out similar public discussions and debates in other European cities in the months ahead. We’re thrilled to have such a strong lineup of experts (yes, we believe experts have never been more important) for the opening event.
Professor Muscatelli has been a consultant to the World Bank and European Commission, advises the House of Commons Treasury Select Committee on monetary policy and is chair of the Scottish Government’s Standing Council on Europe. Dr Staiger was a founder of the European Institute. Originally from Germany, she is also a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and teaches on the history and theory of European integration. Professor Nolan is Convenor of Universities Scotland. A qualified veterinary surgeon, she is also a trustee of Medical Research Scotland and Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.
Chaired by Dr Rogers, the panel will assess the paths ahead for Scotland, the UK and Europe at this, perhaps the most tumultuous time for the continent since the end of the Cold War. We hope you’ll join us. Click here to register.
“Average Private Patient Income per Foundation Trust is up 58 per cent since 2010, including a 17 per cent rise in the year the Tory-led Government abolished the Private Patient Income Cap.” – Labour press release, 25th April This is right, if you don’t include ambulance trusts in the figures. Labour told Full Fact they […]
Whether it happens in the playground or in the workplace, bullying can be enormously distressing and disturbing for anyone on the receiving end. Stories crop up in many places including allegations made during employment tribunals, political parties of all sizes and by company whistleblowers.
Workplace bullying occurs when a worker is subject to mistreatment by another worker that is persistent, regular and causes harm – and it can take many forms. And through my research on the subject I have discovered there are generally five different types.
These can include “overt acts” – such as threats or actual violence, demands for resignation, verbal assault or “subtle acts” like teasing, gossip or banter. Then there are “work related acts” such as micro managing, limiting options for annual leave, giving too much or too little work, and “person related acts”, which include insults or jokes of a personal nature or withholding information needed to do your job. Then there are also “organisational factors” which can include cultures that are extremely competitive, target driven or chauvinistic – where there are often no clear policies, codes of conduct or grievance resolution procedures.
But one of the problems with bullying is that while “overt acts” – particularly where aggression is a feature – can be clearly identified and investigated, bullying behaviours of a more subtle nature are harder to prove. And these subtle acts of bullying can be just as distressing for a worker to experience. They can include being “sent to Coventry” – or frozen out by coworkers – along with teasing and so-called “banter”.
Type of workplace
It stands to reason then that when it comes to workplace bullying, the type of organisation a person works in can play a large part in whether bullying is accepted or frowned upon.
Research shows that bullying is often seen in a workplace where the culture allows or encourages “positional game playing”. Or in an organisation where there is a real or perceived lack of fairness and conflict within teams, along with competitive environments where workloads are continually high and unevenly spread.
And it is these workplace cultures that can foster an environment where bullying is allowed to happen – and a lack of awareness, acknowledgement and involvement by senior managers can be a big part of the problem.
My research also shows that organisational changes and restructuring can often lead to bullying. Here it seems the uncertainty around job security, hours, status, pay, position and work overload can often lead to workers lashing out at each other and a rise in bullying incidents can occur.
Bully or victim?
Targets of workplace bullying were traditionally thought to be introverts – submissive, shy, and quite reserved. The type of person you might describe as “delicate” and who would find stressful situations difficult to cope with. But more recent research has shown that targets are often not shy, sensitive or silent. Rather, they are often someone who is outgoing, popular, successful and a high achiever, which can then cause envy among colleagues and makes them a target.
Research also shows that workplace bullies are more likely to be men. Although that said, the behaviours of women can often play out more subtly. So while men might shout and criticise in public, women are more likely to withhold information needed to successfully complete work tasks or spread rumours – which can make identification and investigation of an incident more difficult.
Bullies also often hold posts where there is an element of formal power which comes from their managerial or supervisory post. But managers themselves are not immune to being bullied either. And there is an increase in research showing that bullying can happen to managers when they are simply carrying out the will of the company. A recent paper on the topic even suggested that legitimate actions undertaken by managers act as “fertile ground for false claims of bullying”.
That said, care does need to be taken in applying labels to the type of person a “victim” or a “bully” is. And in my experience both parties may well have engaged in negative acts towards each other.
These figures are concerning, as workplace bullying affects everyone involved. From the targets to the perpetrators, the bystanders, and the witnesses. Even clients, customers and the organisation itself are adversely affected. This is because motivation of workers begins to drop and loyalty is lost. Care over the end product or work can also decline because essentially workers do not want to be at work and remove themselves either mentally or physically.
Given this, it is important that we take the opportunity to have conversations on this topic at every level in our organisations. Time to dust down and review HR policies, time to consider the culture, structure and anti-bullying strategies. These are essential in developing workplaces that offer better work and working lives.
Frances McGregor does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond the academic appointment above.
A number of media outlets have reported today (Wednesday 18 May 2016) that a university plans to ban their students from throwing mortar boards in the air on graduation day for health and safety reasons. HSE has provided a response to this age-old myth: Geoff Cox, who heads the Health and Safety Executive public sector team, said: “You’d think […]READ MORE
The claim “The mental health budget has not been cut. It has actually gone up in real terms and we can show you the numbers.” Jeremy Hunt, Channel 4 News, 24 March 2015 The background Conservative health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, his Lib Dem colleague Norman Lamb and Labour shadow Andy Burnham had a bit of a ding-dong on Channel 4 News last week. Both coalition ministers were keen to deny accusations from Mr Burnham that the coalition has presided over cuts to spending on mental health in this parliament: With Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg promising today to spend an extra £3.5bn on mental health over the next parliament, it seems a good time to look at the coalition’s record on mental health – an area currently overseen by a Lib Dem minister. The analysis Mr Lamb has been asked about the mental health budget in parliament, and this is what he told MPs: At first glance, this looks fairly straightforward. We’ve crunched the numbers with the latest official GDP deflators to factor in inflation, and we reckon this adds up to a small real terms cut over five years: the budget was £11.76bn in 2009/10, £11.82bn in 2010/11 and […]READ MORE