Turkey Coup Happening: Military attempting to depose Erdogan

Reports of ‘low flying aircraft’ and ‘gunfire’ in Ankara. Erdogan’s ambition to re-establish Turkey in it’s role as the pre-eminent Muslim power has been covered in depth and fairly open. His persecution of the military top brass has been much discussed and his court-martial of leading Kemalist generals had seemed to confirm his victory and the shift back towards atavistic Islamism.

However, the disintregration of Syria and the constant stream of refugees into Turkey, the petulant power play which saw a Russian jet downed, Turkey’s alleged support for ISIS, and the recent ISIS attack on Istanbul airport all seemed to have undermined Erdogan’s authority.

Indeed there have been recent reports and analysis discussing the “Political comeback of the Turkish Military?”, “Turkish Military’s Influence Risis Again”.

However, the steady emasculation of the Kemalist military – which had the unique role of being obliged and expected to interfere in politics to maintain the secular, Kemalist, nature of the Turkish state – during Erdogan’s time in power seemed to have secured his position and irreversably set Turkey on the path of re-Islamization.

But it appears the military has not forgotten the responsibility accorded it by the founder of the Turkish Republic.


Apparently Erdogan – despite claiming to be ‘in control’ via facetime – has been denied landing at Istanbul airport and has applied for asylum in Germany.

Given the already fractious nature of relations between German-Turkish-Islamist groups, German-Turkish-Secularist groups, and German-Kurdish groups Erdogan being given refuge in the country will be far from a dream situation for Mutti Merkel.

Update 2

The Turkish military are now climaing “full control” of the country.

Gun Deaths in America


FiveThirtyEight have put together an excellent interactive graphic to illustrate the demographic/causal breakdown of gun violence and deaths in America


H/t Isegoria,

SciTech Roundup 1






The ship ‘graveyard’ at Fournoi which hit the news late last year continues to produce a remarkable number of ancient shipwrecks:

The team carrying out the investigation, The Fourni Underwater Survey, previously found 22 wrecks in the same area, bringing the total number of finds in a nine month period to 45.

The project, an exciting joint Greek-American venture, is exploring the coastline of a group of islands east of mainland Greece which may contain one of the largest concentrations of ancient shipwrecks in the world, hidden beneath the waves.

Peter Campbell, of the University of Southampton and the US based RPM Nautical Foundation says: “The concentration of the shipwrecks and the large area remaining to be explored leaves every indication that there are many more sites to discover. We expect more seasons like these first two. The data we have recorded offers great insight into ancient navigation and trade.”

The area doesn’t seem to have been particularly dangerous but it’s location in the Aegean meant it saw a great deal of sustained traffic from merchant ships (and others) throughout history:









From Classical Greece to Medieval Times

The sunken ships discovered in June 2016 span more than 2,000 years of Greek maritime history. The earliest shipwreck dates to roughly 525 B.C., while the most recent is from the early 1800s. The other wrecks range across the centuries, with cargoes from the Classical period (480-323 B.C.), the Hellenistic period (323-31 B.C.), the Late Roman period (300-600 A.D.), and the Medieval period (500-1500 A.D.) Cooking pots, plates, bowls, storage jars, a palm-size lamp, and black-painted ceramic fine-ware are among the artifacts recovered from the wrecks so far.


In the aftermath of the 2013 Yarnell Hill Fire in Arizona, which killed 19 firefighters, NASA has been trying to adapt some of it’s technology for use by firefighters stateside:

NASA Technology May Help Protect Wildland Firefighters

NASA research into flexible, high-temperature space materials may some day improve personal fire shelter systems and help wildland firefighters better survive dangerous wildfires.

NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, is working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service to see if flexible thermal protection system technology being developed for space entry vehicles could also work to protect firefighters caught in a raging forest fire.

This follows a well established tradition over the last coule of decades whereby technology developed by NASA being modified and adopted for use by fire services:

In the late 1990s, the Houston Fire Department took a trip down to the local NASA office to see what they could do to help them develop a better helmet, which hadn’t changed much since the 1800s. The discussion began, and soon a partnership developed that had them rethinking the entire suit. In 2000, NASA unveiled this newfirefighter suit, developed with the Houston Fire Department, the Department of Defense and Lockheed Martin [source: Petty].

Other developments include the adoption of satellites and drones to monitor fires and co-ordinate response.


The significance of patient gender in transplant outcomes is well established – both with regards to longterm prognosis for males vs females as well as the impact of gender difference/matching between organ donor and recipient – but recent research has shown women who receive cornea transplants from men do worse than those who have a gender-matched donor:

She Has His Eyes: Does Gender Matter in Cornea Transplants?

Doctors who transplant corneas have always thought of the vision-saving surgery as gender-neutral, but a new study in the United Kingdom has found that female patients do better if they get their new corneas from other women rather than men.

The study of more than 18,000 British patients found that female transplant recipients were more likely to have successful transplants if they got a woman’s cornea—but there was no gender difference in failure rates for men receiving women’s tissue. With one corneal disease, called Fuchs endothelial dystrophy, women’s transplants were 40 percent less likely to fail if they received another woman’s cornea instead of a man’s, according to the study published Thursday in the American Journal of Transplantation.

Despite their considerable historical influence, comparatively little is known about the Phoenician people. Most historical sources which deal with them tend to come from their enemies; particularly Rome, which famously acted on Cato’s consistent advice that Carthago delenda est

While their worldview, language and culture, may be lost forever the advances in archaeology and genomics have led to the first sequencing of Phoenician DNA:

DNA Captured From 2,500-Year-Old Phoenician

Researchers have sequenced the complete mitochondrial genome of a 2,500-year-old Phoenician, showing the ancient man had European ancestry.

This is the first ancient DNA to be obtained from Phoenician remains.

Known as “Ariche,” the young man came from Byrsa, a walled citadel above the harbor of ancient Carthage. Byrsa was attacked by the Roman general Scipio Aemilianus “Africanus” in the Third Punic War. It was destroyed by Rome in 146 B.C.

Ariche’s remains were discovered in 1994 on the southern flank of Bursa hill when a man planting trees fell into the ancient grave.

Analysis of the skeleton revealed the man died between the age of 19 and 24, had a rather robust physique and was 1.7 meters (5’6″) tall. He may have belonged to the Carthaginian elite, as he was buried with gems, scarabs, amulets and other artifacts.

Which allowed the reconstruction of what ‘Ariche’ looked like:

And research into the cause of individual musical taste has reached the unsurprising conclusion that preferences are formed due to upbringing rather than being biologically rooted:





Some people like to listen to the Beatles, while others prefer Gregorian chants. When it comes to music, scientists find that nurture can trump nature.

Musical preferences seem to be mainly shaped by a person’s cultural upbringing and experiences rather than biological factors, according to a study published on 13 July in Nature1.

“Our results show that there is a profound cultural difference” in the way people respond to consonant and dissonant sounds, says Josh McDermott, a cognitive scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge and lead author of the paper. This suggests that other cultures hear the world differently, he adds.

The study is one of the first to put an age-old argument to the test. Some scientists believe that the way people respond to music has a biological basis, because pitches that people often like have particular interval ratios. They argue that this would trump any cultural shaping of musical preferences, effectively making them a universal phenomenon.

Ethnomusicologists and music composers, by contrast, think that such preferences are more a product of one’s culture. If a person’s upbringing shapes their preferences, then they are not a universal phenomenon.

Though I’m not sure what part of my childhood I can blame for this abomination being the first pop single I ever bought:


Bitcoin Halving Day!

Belated Happy Bitcoin Halving Day!

I can’t claim to have a great track record as an early adopter or predicting trends in technology/prophecising great events.

I did, however, become aware of Bitcoin very early on in it’s existence. Due to an obnoxious combination of an-cap libertarianism and passive interest in tech I maintained a bit of an interest in potential ‘crypto-currencies’  and promptly did (about 5 mins) of research to find a program I could download which I could use to buy bitcoins using my – at the time – fairly substantial disposable income.

I downloaded a recommended program (cannot remember which) aaaand my laptop proceeded to go completely to shit. Not sure if I’d DL’d malware or if it was perfectly random but either way I had to buy a new laptop and never got round to buying any Bitcoin. This was in early 2011.

Historical Bitcoin Valuation

So anyway. For once (and probably the only time) in my life I identified a genuinely novel, and profitable, product or innovation and then never got round to following up on my initial gut feeling.

Which leaves me here, blogging about random shit on wordpress – rather than being written about alongside these smug (no jel) assholes.

BREXIT Hysteria: Science to end, universities to die

A typically staid and rational headline from The Independent:

Brexit could destroy Britain’s status as a scientific superpower, Government warned

Science and Technology Committee chair Nicola Blackwood tells Science Minister Jo Johnson: ‘I think this will be make or break for our knowledge economy’

A horrifying prospect – if there’s one thing anyone with a cursory knowledge of history is aware of it’s that the UK had no scientific or technological achievements prior to joining the EEC in 1973. Let’s have a look at the latest World University rankings to see how well the UK holds up courtesy of its EU membership (counting UK Unis as already non-EU):


10 = 0/10 EU Universities

11-20 = 0/20 EU Universities

21-30 = 1/30 EU Universities

31-40 = 2/40 EU Universities

41-50 = 2/50 EU Universities

51-60 = 4/60 EU Universities

61-70 = 7/70 EU Universities

71-80 = 10/80 EU Universities

81-90 = 11/90 EU Universities

91-100 = 18/100 EU Universities

So the UK had the choice to Remain alongside the EU, which has produced (without the UK) 18% of the World’s Top 100 Universities, or rejoining the rest of the World which will number (including the UK’s 18 Universities in Top 100) 82% of the World’s leading scientific research establishments. Of course simply comparing the UK’s 18/100 vs the EU’s 18/100 is more than a little misleading.

A single nation – or an irrelevant little island if you’re a Brussels hack – should have no right to numerically match the total contribution of continental Europe to the World’s Top 100 Universities in the first place. But even ignoring that obvious imbalance, the UK’s institutions are grouped far higher up than those of the EU. The UK provides 4/10 of the World’s Top 10 Universites (vs 5/10 from the USA and 1/10 from Switzerland) while the EU provides 0. The UK is the only country which can conceivably compete with the World’s undisputed scientific, technological, and economic superpower within the sphere of Higher Education which is of course the (never been in, never will be) USA. The EU does not even begin to make a reasonable showing until the bottom half (50-100) of the World’s Top 100 Universities.

Racist, xenophobic and anti-intellectual: Academics threaten to leave Brexit Britain

So startled!


The academics who have suddenly decided that the UK (a country which has never had a fascist elected to Parliament and which nearly destroyed itself fighting European fascism) voting to abandon a supranational bureaucracy, rooted in a continent which has repeatedly elected – and continues to vote for – violent fascist governments will certainly have a tough choice ahead:

  1. They can elect to move to the embarrassingly small number of EU universities within the lower end of the World’s elite

Aaaaand that’s it. Obviously the absence of EU membership= Xenophobic, nativist, fascist hatred so they absolutely wouldn’t even think of moving to the US, Canada, Australia, Chile, Switzerland, New Zealand, Singapore, Norway, Japan, PRC, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea or any of the other evil inherently racist and scientifically primitive nations which  – through irrational hatred alone – have never joined the European Union.

Following the outpouring of arrogant, contemptuous, smuggery and trigglypuff levels of emotional incontinence in the immediate aftermath of the BREXIT result I had hoped the majority of the MSM would calm the fuck down and put an end to Project Fear.

Unfortunately, it seems like they’ve decided to chase clicks and sales (or are simply intellectually and ideologically incapable of rationality) by continuing to push hysterical, inconsistent, alarmist nonsense about their imagined Kali Yuga following the triggering of Article 50.

China, Florence, India: Social mobility and stalled history

I’ve just come across another reference to the recent study on social mobility in Florence since the Middle Ages:

The top earners among the current taxpayers were already at the top of the socioeconomic ladder six centuries ago – they were lawyers or members of the wool, silk, and shoemaker guilds; their earnings and wealth were always above the median. In contrast, the poorest surnames had less prestigious occupations, and their earnings and wealth were below the median in most cases.

Which contrasts very interestingly with articles I read yesterday by the always excellent Steve Sailer which (among other things) covered the comparatively incredible levels, and longevity, of social mobility or ‘social darwinism’ within Imperial China:

Feudalism had ended in China a thousand years before the French Revolution, and nearly all Chinese stood equal before the law.[14] The “gentry”—those who had passed an official examination and received an academic degree—possessed certain privileges and the “mean people”—prostitutes, entertainers, slaves, and various other degraded social elements—suffered under legal discrimination. But both these strata were minute in size, with each usually amounting to less than 1 percent of the general population, while “the common people”—everyone else, including the peasantry—enjoyed complete legal equality…

…The vast majority of Chinese might be impoverished peasants, but for those with ability and luck, the possibilities of upward mobility were quite remarkable in what was an essentially classless society. The richer strata of each village possessed the wealth to give their most able children a classical education in hopes of preparing them for the series of official examinations. If the son of a rich peasant or petty landlord were sufficiently diligent and intellectually able, he might pass such an examination and obtain an official degree, opening enormous opportunities for political power and wealth….

…However, the flip-side of possible peasant upward mobility was the far greater likelihood of downward mobility, which was enormous and probably represented the single most significant factor shaping the modern Chinese people. Each generation, a few who were lucky or able might rise, but a vast multitude always fell, and those families near the bottom simply disappeared from the world. Traditional rural China was a society faced with the reality of an enormous and inexorable downward mobility: for centuries, nearly all Chinese ended their lives much poorer than had their parents…

…Furthermore, the forces of downward mobility in rural Chinese society were greatly accentuated by fenjia, the traditional system of inheritance, which required equal division of property among all sons, in sharp contrast to the practice of primogeniture commonly found in European countries.

And also Anatoly Karlin, who discusses why he thinks projections of India matching and potentially surpassing China are hugely overblown – with reference to the damage done by the caste system and it’s millenia long enforcement of separate, non intermarrying, ethnic groups as opposed to the comparative social mobility and homogeneity of China – and covers what he thinks is the likelier route for both giganations as they attempt to industrialise and develop.

Instead of buying into their own rhetoric of a “India shining”, Indians would be better served by focusing on the nitty gritty of bringing childhood malnutritionDOWN to Sub-Saharan African levels, achieving the life expectancy of late Maoist China, and moving up at least to the level of a Mexico or Moldova in numeracy and science skills. Because as long as India’s human capital remains at the bottom of the global league tables so will the prosperity of its citizens.

The Puzzle of India: A Nation of Gypsies and Jews

What I conclude from this is that in terms that would be familiar to Westerners:India is a nation of Gypsies and Jews.

Over the centuries, Brahmins have been selected for intelligence. They were expected to master requisite texts and those who couldn’t handle it dropped away. These selective pressures did not apply to the lower castes who made up the vast majority of the population.

The reason for why India split along caste lines was because of Hinduism and its origins as a religion/ideology to hold society together under the boots of the conquering light-skinned Aryans who brought down the original Harappan civilization (indeed 4 millennia on Bollywood still glamorizes lighter-skinned actors and this is not very controversial within Indian society). These invaders became the Kshatriya military caste, and the Brahmins became their spiritual apologists and enablers. (The Kshatriya were also the one major caste that was allowed to eat meat to build up muscles. Quite logical). The darker skinned aborigines had to continue tilling the soil for their new masters.

I’ll give a final shoutout to the research that uncovered, a few years ago, that Britons with Norman surnames continue to be richer on average than those with traditionally Anglo-Saxon surnames – and I would expect to see similar results with regards to Celtic vs Germanic/Norman surnames in Scotland, Ireland and Wales:

Surnames which indicated nobility and wealth in medieval times are still richer even today, research has suggested.

‘Moneyed’ surnames, such as Darcy, Percy, Baskerville and Mandeville continue to have more cash than those with ‘poor’ names, such as Smith, Mason and Cooper.

The research, which uses university admissions, probate records and official information going as far back as the Domesday Book, tracked what happened to those whose surnames suggest their forebears were either aristocratic or ‘artisans’ from the working class.

May’s Leaving Cabinet

So Georgie Porgie has been fired. Probably inevitable, given his mixed popularity amongst the parliamentary Conservative Party and overwhelming unpopularity amongst the electorate.

From the BBC:

  • Chancellor – Philip Hammond
  • Home Secretary – Amber Rudd
  • Foreign Secretary – Boris Johnson
  • Defence Secretary – Michael Fallon
  • Secretary of State for exiting the European Union – David Davis
  • International Trade Secretary – Liam Fox

For once the Chancellorship is not the prize. With the career-defining, history making, BREXIT negotiations upcoming the position as Chancellor has been relegated from it’s status as the ‘Great Office of State’ 2nd only to the Prime Minister; which it has held over the last 20 years or so since the Blair-Brown partnership.

Johnson as Foreign Secretary, David Davis as ‘Secretary of State for exiting the European Union’, and Liam Fox as International Trade Secretary, is a very strong selection for the Leave wing of the government.

The return of David Davis – one of the most principled ‘big beasts’ – in the Tory Party to frontline politics is a pleasant surprise but seems a sensible choice by May. I’ve always found it remarkable that the shameless poseur, and career politician hack, Cameron was chosen as Conservative Party leader over the experienced and widely respected Davis in 2005.

Overall a solid Cabinet from May. It should give people confidence that the negotiations with the EU will be taken seriously. Even Nigel Farage has gone from opposing May to endorsing her selection of Johnson and Fox as ‘inspired choices’. which give leave him feeling ‘optimistic’.

‘Having skin in the game’: Childless politicians and their investment in the future


Post-BREXIT, the political landscape in the UK is extremely uncertain. In the long term there’s every chance that Peter Hitchens may finally experience the catharsis of witnessing the death of the ‘Blairite’, London-centric, Conservative and Labour Parties as the establishment struggles to cope with the electorate’s rebellion in the referendum.

Theresa May PM

In the short-term, and for the likely duration of the negotiations for the UK’s exit from the EU, the premiership will be retained by the liberal wing of the Conservative Party as Theresa May succeeds David Cameron.

Curse of Brexit

The complete failure of major Leave figures to competently challenge for the leadership of the Tories was initially surprising – Boris having been anointed as probable successor to Cameron quite some time ago – but once Gove was left as the most prominent Leaver I didn’t doubt that May would end up winning the leadership. While Gove is respected as a capable man, he isn’t known for charisma and remains slightly ‘toxic’ following his stint as Education Secretary.

Boris GoveWhile the rumours of ‘back-stabbing’ between Johnson and Gove, to add to the fractious relationship with Farage throughout the campaign, will doubtless result in some very readable books over the next year or so it’s the controversy which erupted between the two female candidates which I found most intriguing.

May will become The United Kingdom’s 2nd female prime-minister. While Margaret Thatcher had two children when when she assumed office at the age of 54, May is 59 and childless.


Having been asked about the influence of motherhood upon her political career – if she felt “like a mom in politics” – Leadsom answered in the affirmative:

“Yes. I am sure Theresa will be really sad she doesn’t have children so I don’t want this to be ‘Andrea has children, Theresa hasn’t’ because I think that would be really horrible, but genuinely I feel that being a mum means you have a very real stake in the future of our country, a tangible stake,” she responded.

“She possibly has nieces, nephews, lots of people, but I have children who are going to have children who will directly be a part of what happens next.”

A fairly straightforward and understandable answer – the usual bromides one expects. However, the reaction to Leadsom’s statement was one of fury as she was condemned by both Conservative colleagues and many in the media. While May had briefly spoken about her lack of family life in a manner which suggested her childlessness was not a lifestyle choice, it’s pretty clear that a great deal of the reaction against Leadsom was rooted more in the – largely female – insecurity over not becoming a parent.

Jan Moir in the Daily Mail provides the most explicit example of this:

Why I deplore smug Andrea’s childless woman jibe at Theresa

What Leadsom means is that unless you are a mother like her — she has three children — you cannot possibly care about the future because you have no personal investment in it.

The tacit suggestion is that May and others in the same no-baby boat are somehow second-class citizens, lacking the full experience of what it means to be a human being.

I mean, just look at you, you crone. Your eggs have not hatched, your hormones have withered, the gates to the Kingdom Of Mum will for ever be slammed shut in your face. Do you recycle, do you care, should you even be allowed to vote, you miserable husk of a woman?

These paragraphs are particularly striking. Of course it’s possible to care for the future or to feel some investment in it despite not having reproduced. However, this doesn’t change the fact that having reproduced – having children and forming a family – obviously, undeniably, does render one inherently more invested in the future of their country and people. If you do not have children and are of an age where it is no longer possible to have children then you simply do not have anywhere near as much skin in the game as those who do.

The bitterness, anxiety and insecurity, of Moir’s last paragraph displays quite an amusing lack of self awareness while also showing Moir herself, subconsciously, feels that her spinster status does indeed render her a type of ‘2nd class citizen’.

The statement where she worries that being childless renders one ‘lacking the full experience of what it means to be a human being’ is also worth considering – because this is precisely what remaining childless does to you. I myself am childless despite being of an age where – in any generation other than the Xers and Millenials – I would have been expected to have several children already. I am keenly aware of the fact that my lack of family absolutely does leave me lacking ‘the full experience of what it means to be a human being’; as becoming a parent is (normally) the final and confirmatory step towards achieving full adulthood.

It doesn’t matter how old you are, or what type of fabulous career and interesting experiences you’ve had, if you have never had children you are to some extent simply an aged boy or girl.

When I first decided to write this post I’d intended to look into any precedent of ‘childlessness’ amongst British Prime Ministers. The famously childless Angela ‘Mutti’ Merkel was also on my mind while the occasional bit of browsing through the Alt-Right left me considering the ‘dysgenic’ angle for society at large.

To my delight, I found that Moir had already referenced both and in amusingly ironic fashion:

More seriously, it is maddening to be considered unworthy and perhaps even selfish simply because one has not delivered the world of a child. One wonders what childless Angela Merkel, the most powerful politician in Europe, feels about that. Something unprintable, I hope.

Or even May herself who will, if she wins, be the first prime minister since Edward Heath not to be a parent.

Speaking of which, while it is bad enough for the 20 per cent of British adult women who are childless, such discriminatory thinking affects childless men, too.

So her attempt to prove that childlessness is no barrier to competent governance or empathy for future generations rests upon the examples of:

Mutti Merkel

  • Primarily responsible for the migrant chaos in Germany and Europe which led directly to Leave victory EU Referendum, consequent Brexit crisis, as well as the surging of the ‘far-right’ across Europe.
  • Facing constant calls to step down within her own country. 

Ted Heath

  • A 4-year prime minister whose greatest political acts were leading the UK into the ECC via a famously dishonest referendum held when the country was (with some thanks to him) at it’s lowest ebb.*
  • Completely failing to negotiate successfully with militant unions which resulted in the already moribund British economy resorting to ‘3-Day Weeks’.
  • Oversaw the complete disintegration of civil order and political process in Northern Ireland – leaving it a bloody hellhole for decades.
  • A famously self centred and vain man widely regarded as a failure and even ‘quisling’ by many in his own party.

I can’t say Moir’s paragons of political spinsterhood and bachelerhood do much to convince me of the benefits of childless leaders.

Anyway, as Moir has pointed out, May has one predecessor who served as prime-minister despite not having produced offspring who would inherit the country his policies helped mould. Looking at all who held this office in the 100 years prior to May starting with H.H. Asquith (who squeeks in due to his term ending in 1916) we find:

Prime Minister No. Children
Theresa May (2016-) 0
David Cameron (2010-2016) 4
Gordon Brown (2007-2010) 3
Tony Blair (1997-2007) 4
John Major (1990-1997) 2
Margaret Thatcher (1979-1990) 2
Jim Callaghan (1976-1979) 3
Harold Wilson (1974-1976) 2
Ted Heath (1970-1974) 0
Harold Wilson (1964-1970) 2
Alec Douglas Home (1963-1964) 4
Harold MacMillan (1957-1963) 4
Anthony Eden (1955-1957) 2
Winston Churchill (1951-1955) 5
Clement Attlee (1945-1951) 4
Winston Churchill (1940-1945) 5
Neville Chamberlain (1937-1940) 2
Stanley Baldwin (1935-1937) 6
Ramsay MacDonald (1929-1935) 6
Stanley Baldwin (1924-1929) 6
Ramsay MacDonald (1924) 6
Stanley Baldwin (1923-1924) 6
Bonar Law (1922-1923) 6
David Lloyd-George (1916-1922) 4
H.H. Asquith (1908-1916) 10

All childless Prime-Ministers are coloured red. Individuals who served more than 1 term are italicised in all their subsequent entries.

As we can see there have only been 2 childless PMs in the last 100 years – the previously mentioned Heath and now May.

PM Fecundity





So at the two extremes we have the impressively fertile father of 10 H.H. Asquith, born during the Victorian Age and becoming Prime-Minister at it’s apogee, and the childless Theresa May, born in post-war Britain in the year when the Suez Crisis confirmed the nation’s irrevecable loss of ‘Superpower’ status and going through childhood and early adolescence in the 60s.

One obviously can’t draw too many conclusions from a simple comparison of 2 individuals but they do stand as fairly representative of their generations and the eras into which they were born. The British, and wider Western, decline in fertility can also be seen when one considers the families of all Prime-Ministers serving from 1916-2016. From Asquith (born 1852) to Clement Attlee (b. 1883) we have men born and reaching adulthood during the Victorian Era and height of British power and averaging 5.375 children.

Eden, MacMillan and Douglas-Home were all born just either side of 1900 (1894-1903) with the first 2 serving in WWI but Douglas-Home being too young for WWI, too old for WWII. They experienced childhood and early-adolescence/early-adulthood with the British Empire at it’s height before witnessing and participating in the Great War. They average 3.3 children.

Wilson, Heath and Callaghan were born between 1912-1916 with the latter two serving in WWII. They average 1.67 children or, if one excludes Heath as an outlier, 2.5 children.

Thatcher rather stands alone as she, being born 1925, is fairly younger than her predecessors while being noticeably older than her successor (John Major) who was born 1943. Thatcher had 2 children.

Major also stands alone due to the 18 year age gap between himself and Thatcher and also the 10 year gap with his successor, Tony Blair. He had 2 children.

However, from Blair onwards we again see successive PMs who are comfortably part of the same generation. Blair (b. 1953), Brown (b. 1951), both had their most formative years during the 60s – as did May (b. 1956) – while David Cameron (b. 1966) grew up during the strife and economic downturn of the 70s and early 80s. Blair and Brown averaged 3.5 children while Cameron has 4.

Looking at the TFR for England and Wales as processed by Jessica Chamberlain at the ONS:

TFR 38-03


The PMs (starting with Thatcher b. 1925) who reached reproductive age from WWII onwards have tended to have either as many children as expected by contemporary national TFR – with Blair, Brown, Cameron – considerably more than the national average. May, along with confirmed bachelor Ted Heath, does seem to be an outlier amongst PMs. I suspect it’s her gender and membership of the 60s Coming of Age Baby-Boomer generation that has left any reference to her childlessness such a sore point for female journalists of that generation.

While I don’t think having a family makes you an inherently superior person or more competent as a potential political leader, the claim that having children – probably – renders you more considerate of the impact you may have beyond your own lifetime seems patently obvious and shouldn’t be remotely controversial.

Regardless of the international crisis she inherits as PM, the odds of Theresa May lasting do not look good. Kevin Theakston at LSE has analyzed the time in office and nature of departure of all ‘takeover PMs’ (those who did not come to office via an election) from 1916 onwards and finds they tend to serve a comparatively brief term as PM while having a 50/50 chance of being defeated at the ballot box or resigning from office.

With luck, May’s lack of any genetic or family legacy will help motivate her to ensure a strong political legacy and a reasonable deal for the UK post-EU.

*The referendum on EEC membership was actually under Harold Wilson’s Labour government in 1975. The decision to join had been taken by Heath’s Conservative administration in 1973.


I’ve decided to upgrade from being a standard issue local pub bore.

Expect I’ll post on a variety of topics. Probably history and culture for the most part. Will try to cover anything I find intriguing from the STEM fields though I don’t have the level of education to do much more than point at something of interest.

May throw a bit of politics in there as well.

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