A Christmas Tale

The Public Inquiry

Photo by Ian Schneider on Unsplash

Catch up on part 1 and part 2 first to meet General Despair’s team and find out how they gamed the system to save Christmas.

“Hello and welcome to the 9 o’clock evening news. Today is the 17th March 2023. The main story tonight, Lord Have-Mercy’s public inquiry into the Ministry of Defence’s controversial delivery of Christmas stockings on December 24th, 2020.

“It has become yet another issue to divide the nation. Allegations of cronyism, corruption and extreme waste have been compounded by evidence that the scheme contributed to the rapid spread of the virus’ most deadly strain.

“But support…


A Christmas Tale

Next Day Delivery

Photo by Les Anderson on Unsplash

Catch up on part 1 first for introductions to General Despair and his elite team of idiots.

7am, December 24th, 2020. Still eating breakfast and only top-half dressed, the elite team convened on zoom to devise their plan to save Christmas.

According to official records, it was Private Parts’ turn to take notes. No one knows if this actually happened, and his computer is in such a mess that we probably never will.

What matters is that an idea was born. Somehow, without anyone really proposing or believing in it, they settled on a vision.

The best way to save…


A Christmas Tale

The Elite Team of Idiots

Photo by Sapan Patel on Unsplash

3pm, December 23rd, 2020, in a rusty shipping container just outside Didcot, Oxfordshire.

“Welcome, welcome”, boomed General Despair. Too loud, given the small and damp army barracks they were in.

“Thank you all for coming. You have each been selected because of your unique skills.” He looked around at his new team. As he would soon find out, they were among the most useless people on earth.

“Major General History, you are here for your wisdom. Major Itty, we need your knowledge of politics and community development. Private Parts, you are our pubic health expert. And Corporal Punishment…”


History and Economics

Lest We Forget

Statue of Winston Churchill outside Parliament in London. Photo by Kristina G. on Unsplash

If we truly cared for peace, would we not remember the victims of British tyranny every 11 November too?Akala, Natives

Today, the United Kingdom is among the wealthiest countries in the world. We have relatively good health and education systems. Our labor market is well stocked with exciting, interesting, well-paid jobs. We have moderate financial protection if we lose our jobs. We have an okay state pension. We are quite safe to walk the streets at night. Almost all of us have 24/7 water, gas and electricity in our homes. …


Academia has a long history of giving undue credibility to racist tropes.

Photo by JOSHUA COLEMAN on Unsplash

There is evidence that, in England, psychosis is more common among some ethnicities than others.

This evidence tells a sad and scary story. It brings together history, economics, society, and health. Today, October 10th, 2020, is World Mental Health Day. This is an opportunity to reflect on the place of mental health in our society.

My day job is to provide information to the mental health system in England:

How many people need mental health care?
How many people are using mental health care?
Which groups of people are most likely to need mental health care?

My colleagues and I…


The Best of the Pantomime Villains. Photo taken from https://www.blackpoolgrand.co.uk/pantomime-villains

COVID-19 has prompted a staggering growth in government borrowing. This borrowing is funding vital support to households and businesses as economies plummet into recession. It is also funding the procurement of emergency health commodities and the rapid implementation of disease control strategies. Thank goodness for the borrowing!

But, what comes next?

We are back at a junction we have recently crossed. Who remembers the 2008/9 financial crash and all the borrowing that followed that?

Is there anything we can learn from a quick journey back in time?

UK government borrowing and COVID-19

Between April and June 2020, to fund its emergency COVID-19 support packages, the…


Regent Town, Freetown, 1821
Church Missionary Paper. https://liberatedafricans.org/image_gallery.php

This is a story about how, like a line of dominoes or a chain reaction, the British colonisation of Freetown spread throughout what we now know as Sierra Leone.

The story of Britain and Sierra Leone is just one chapter within the wider European colonisation of Africa. In 1800 a few sections of the African coast were under European control. Fast forward to 1914, however, and European countries had colonised 90% of the continent— interior and all. The major exceptions were the areas that are now Ethiopia, a portion of Somalia and Liberia.

With each new step of territorial expansion…


Modern Freetown. Photo by Abdul Karim Jalloh on Unsplash

When Britain began to colonise the land that became India, the area’s aggregated economy accounted for more than a quarter of the world’s economy. When India declared independence nearly 200 years later, it accounted for just 3% (Tharoor, 2017).

Shashi Tharoor, a sitting Indian MP and former Under-Secretary General of the United Nations, argues that the British colonial administration’s policies systematically dismantled the previously strong agriculture, steel work, textiles and shipbuilding industries for the purposes of moulding the area into something which better suited the British economy — a supply of resources. …


Photo by Étienne Godiard on Unsplash

As the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic swept through the UK, every Thursday, at 8pm, people came to their windows and doors to clap for those on the frontline of our response.

Such expressions of appreciation are understandable, but do not actually address any problems; most notably low pay or lack of protective equipment.

A recent petition to increase pay for NHS health workers has been debated in Parliament. The essence of the response was ‘we acknowledge the importance and value of their work, there is already an ongoing three year pay reform, many are already benefiting from that.’


Coast of Guinea and Bay of Sierra Liona, 1732. Image source:
http://www.uflib.ufl.edu/maps/AMD8184L.JPG
. Author: Jan Kip. Public domain.

In 2019 the average annual income in the United Kingdom was US$40,000 and a single child’s death was an extremely rare shock (it is estimated that less than one in 200 children died before they were five). Fly south just six hours, in Sierra Leone the average annual income was US$550 and it is estimated that more than one in ten children died before they were five.

Today, April 27th 2020, as we celebrate the 59th anniversary of Sierra Leone’s independence from the British Empire, these two comparisons mark the visible edges of huge inequality.

How have we got here?

Conrad Jones

History, economics and health

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