The faux outrage about Sir Keir Starmer’s wealth strikes a new low in British politics.

mai 22nd, 2020

The social media fallout and faux outrage this weekend after the revelation in the Mail on Sunday that the leader of the Labour Party, Sir Keir Starmer, owns land valued at around £10million strikes a new low in British politics.

Firstly, it continues to show how low and cheap both the Left and Right in British politics will stoop to score points against each other; but more importantly it demonstrates how the Right, supposedly totally against identity politics, are quite capable of using it when the situation suits them.

The story, in summary, is brief. In 1996 Sir Keir Starmer, whilst working as a human rights lawyer, bought a field behind his parents’ house so that his now late mother could care for rescue donkeys. Once she completely lost her ability to walk she was still able to watch the donkeys from her home. The land is now valued at around £10 million.

The ‘outrage’ generated from this revelation is that supposedly Sir Keir cannot be seen as a man of the people because he has wealth far in excess of the ordinary working person. His London home is also valued at around £1 million.

The British Right have jumped immediately on this bandwagon, trying to show that supposedly the Labour Party has totally lost touch with their original working-class roots; now only standing for the wishes of the middle-class, university educated, Guardian-reading intelligentsia.

All of this, of course, is complete drivel.

It also shows the shortest, most selective memory on record on the Right – that just six short months ago working class people flocked to the ballot boxes in their millions to vote for Eton and Oxford educated, multi-millionaire Boris Johnson.

What this should say to the Right, and Left, is something we have known all along. The British people want to aspire and they want their leaders to harness an environment that will allow them to do that – responsibly, collectively and individually. Margaret Thatcher knew this, as did Tony Blair, as did David Cameron and as does Boris Johnson. Working people do not buy into this grievance led identity politics. It’s distasteful as well as divisive.

The fact that Sir Keir, of humble origins, went to a grammar school; became a Human Rights barrister; the Director of Public Prosecutions; Knighted and now leader of the Labour Party, purchasing land along the way for his disabled mother, is enough to show every person what hard work can achieve in the UK.

What the Right would be better to focus on is what a Sir Keir led Labour Party would do if they were to regain the levers of power. A cursory glance at the pledges he made in the leadership contest show that whilst Sir Keir might identify as ‘soft-left’, the Labour Party clearly is not. As long as this remains the case it would be a catastrophe for the country were they to regain power.

Andrew Crawford.

BCiP Member

“We’ll meet again”: Michael Barker recalls the Victory Parade of 8 June 1946

mai 11th, 2020

After spending the war with my grandparents in South Wales, we were now based in Sydenham temporarily while my father was building a house in Ashtead in Surrey for his family. He had returned from signals service on the aircraft carrier Indomitable in many oceans around the world. Now resuming his career as a timber broker in the City, he had arranged for my younger brother and me to view the Victory Parade on 8 June 1946 from offices opposite St Paul’s cathedral.

We observed the parade with its cavalcade of the mechanised transport column, smartly marching soldiers and indeed 750 Land Girls.

True, we did not get to join the huge crowds around the Mall, but it was a memorable event nevertheless for a youngster.

Only latterly did I discover that the brave Poles were excluded thanks to a cowardly lefty deference to the Soviets. My RC mother would greet the displaced Poles, unable to return to their homeland, and treat them to tea in John Cobb’s department store.

Also I later discovered, when I led one of my early annual city trips for BCiP to Reims, that it was in Eisenhower’s atmospheric HQ, its walls lined with large scale maps, that he actually received the German surrender on 7 May 1945.

CPF Discussion Brief 2020/3 on Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic – BCiP Response 10th May, 2020

mai 11th, 2020

Click on this link to find the Conservative Policy Forum (CPF) response on behalf of BCiP reported by Paul Thomson.

Labour’s New Leader: Sir Keir Starmer

mai 7th, 2020

In the midst of this global covid-19 pandemic it has perhaps slipped under the radar somewhat that the Labour Party, Her Majesty’s official opposition, has finally rid itself of ‘Magic Grandpa’ Jeremy Corbyn – the man responsible for the Labour Party’s worst election performance since 1935 – and elected a new leader: Sir Keir Starmer.

Whilst from a partisan perspective we Conservatives might have enjoyed having Corbyn and his Marxist cronies McDonnell and Abbott sitting on the front row of the Opposition benches for the duration of this parliament and thus continually ruining the Labour Party’s standing as a respectable and electable force; as democrats we know that for the benefit of democracy and holding Her Majesty’s Government to proper account – this change has been long overdue.

Labour’s new leader comes with a glittering CV behind him.

Born in Southwark, London, 57 year-old Starmer studied at Leeds University and then St Edmund Hall, Oxford, graduated in 1986 as a Bachelor of Civil Law and became a barrister in 1987. In November 2008 he became Head of the Crown Prosecution Service and Director of Public Prosecutions, leaving in November 2013.

In December 2014 Sir Keir was selected to be the Labour Party representative for the safe seat of Holborn and St Pancras for the 2015 election, going on to win with a majority of more than 17,000.

After the Conservative’s gaining a surprise outright majority at the same election, leader Ed Milliband resigned as Labour leader. After Jeremy Corbyn’s victory in the leadership contest, Starmer was appointed Shadow Minister of State for Immigration. He resigned from this post in 2016 in protest at Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the party.

Oridinarily that would have ensured a lengthy spell on the back benches, but following Jeremy Corbyn’s re-election as Leader of the Labour Party and Britain’s decision to vote to leave the European Union in the 2016 referendum, Sir Keir became the Shadow Brexit Secretary. He was to stay in this post until after the 2019 general election which saw Boris Johnson swept back to power with a majority of 80 seats thus forcing Jeremy Corbyn to finally call it a day, knowing the game was up.

Sir Keir has a lot of internal party politics to firstly sort out. The Labour Party’s reputation was heavily damaged through the Corbyn years, with multiple claims of antisemitism throughout the party membership and through the extra grass roots support of Momentum. This has left a bitter taste with the electorate more broadly and will take a while for them to build trust up again.

Apart from this, what does Sir Keir stand for?

He describes himself as ‘soft left,’ however given that the grass roots of the Labour Party has fundamentally changed since the days of Tony Blair, he has had to swing further to the left to win the leadership election. Here is a snapshot of his pledges:

  • Increase top rate of income tax by 5%.
  • Reverse the corporation tax cuts introduced by the Conservatives.
  • Abolish Universal Credit.
  • Shift towards preventative healthcare.
  • Abolish student tuition fees.
  • Invest in lifelong learning.
  • Put Green New Deal at heart of all policy.
  • A clean air act and demand international action on climate rights.
  • Introduce a Prevention of Military Intervention Act.
  • Renationalise: Rail, Mail, Energy and Water.
  • Give full voting rights to EU citizens and defend freedom of movement.
  • Immigration system based on compassion and dignity.
  • Repeal the Trade Union Act.
  • Introduce a federal system to devolve powers.
  • Abolish the House of Lords and replace it with an elected chamber of regions and nations.

This is quite a substantive list of pledges. It is indeed difficult to see where they differs from those made by Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell.

Nevertheless, Sir Keir is a very polished media performer and may be able to articulate his positions in a more convincing manner than his predecessor was able to. It’s also important to recall that opinion polls do point towards many elements of the Labour Party’s 2017 election manifesto as popular with the wider public. That election, of course, cost previous Prime Minister Theresa May her majority.

However, Sir Keir was also responsible for the Labour Party’s rather incoherent policy on Brexit, as it tried to put a square peg in a round hole by pleasing its Party membership (pro EU and pro 2nd referendum) and its broader electorate (pro Brexit.)

In the end, it’s policy was widely ridiculed. How can a government in waiting promise to deliver on the referendum result by negotiating a withdrawal agreement with the EU, then present that agreement to the public in a referendum of Remain vs Agreement and not be prepared to stand by and support its own agreement in the referendum?

It shows to the wider public a government engaged in a process that they don’t believe in and have perhaps deliberately sabotaged. It shows a lack of leadership and contempt for voters.

This is partly where Labour fell to pieces in the 2019 election and the responsibility for it lies mostly with the architect of that policy – Sir Keir.

It’s also easy to see that the list of pledges will be rather pricy for the tax payer to fulfill. Given that the current government has had to seriously splash cash around to support the wider economy during the covid-19 pandemic, it is hard to foresee at this stage what the wider economic outlook will be in almost 5 years time when the next election is due. Money being available to finance Sir Keir’s projects may not be in existence.

However, his first performances at Prime Minister’s Questions have received ample praise from those that would naturally be sympathetic supporters but who had turned their back on Labour under Jeremy Corbyn. So it looks like the opposition is back!

Still, let’s not underestimate the Prime Minister’s own charm and vision for the future of the United Kingdom. However much elements of the British press try to paint Mr Johnson as a right-wing populist, nothing could be further from the truth.

As a student of Winston Churchill, who in turn was greatly influenced by his father Lord Randolph and Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli, Mr Johnson remains a One Nation Conservative. This does not mean the dismantling of the welfare state, the NHS and enhancing crony capitalism; but indeed believing in the Union of our four nations as one, with social and economic programs that benefit the ordinary person. It was this vision after all, not just Brexit, that won him such a huge majority last Christmas.

The next 4 and a half years are going to be interesting.

Andrew Crawford.

A BLOG FROM NAPLES, FEBRUARY 2020

avril 23rd, 2020

Here is an account of a stay in Naples in the month of February by BCiP’s resident art critic, Michael Barker:

I decided on a winter break in February hoping for some sun and Naples did not disappoint, sunny and mild enough during the day not to need an overcoat. Arriving by EasyJet I had prebooked the entirely satisfactory and reasonably priced B & B hotel in the Piazza Garibaldi (one of a useful chain in Italy). The nearby efficient metro station served some travel though I mainly walked, the city being fairly compact.

The city is quite scruffy and its locals have loud voices. Very fond of dogs too from the many street vendors to smartly dressed women. One had to be very careful to avoid being run down by dangerously driven motor bikes and scooters. Quite a lot of graffiti was noticeable.

My first stop was the former Norman fortress of Castel Capucho with its splendid sculpted portico but alas not open to visitors. Nearby is Cintra, an engaging barber’s shop of 1894. In the Via Tribunali to visit the Pio Monte della Misericordia – its chapel with a striking Caravaggio among many religious paintings. Upstairs a large sequence of rooms displaying many paintings and furniture. The immense cathedral, the Duomo, is full of rich Baroque altars and decoration. I rather preferred the adjoining Museum of the Treasures of San Gennaro – an astonishing mixture of treasures with lots of precious stones, also pretty Renaissance chapels with frescoes and caryatids.

The Diocesan museum was firmly closed as was the Girolami church, there is much renovation going on in the city. So I visited the Palazzo Como/Museo Filangeri with steep stairs to climb – a feature of many buildings in the city. Lots of early ceramics on display as I was to find often in Naples’ museums. The church of Santa Chiara has an immense cloister with attractive 17c  majolica tiles and frescoes.

Next, in a square with a pleasing 17c fountain, was the very rewarding church of Sant’Anna dei Lombardi, full of wonderful Renaissance sculptures, a high-light of the day. Adjoining is the beautiful Renaissance Pastrengo Palazzo (a former monastery) now housing the Carabiniero police hq with a bronze war memorial in its entrance colonnade. It apparently  has major frescoes by Vasari inside.

Now to the Via Toledo to discover the inter-war Mussolini-era buildings, all on a grand scale. At no 28 the Instituto Nazionale delle Assicurazione of 1938 by Camino with a big bas-relief inside. In the Via Armando Diaz is a huge, quite handsome appartment block by Chiaramonte, in brick with modernist balconies. Opposite is a quite severe block, now a BNP Paris Bank branch, The Banca Nazionale del Lavoro is a huge, quite eccentric building by Armando Brazzini of 1933-8. In the Piazza Matteotti is a quite attractive building – the Provincial Admin of 1936 by Camino & Chiaramonte, with a pleasing bas-relief above its entrance. Nearby is the vast Post Office of 1936 by G Vaccaro & G Franzi with a Victory war memorial sculpture inside by Arturo Martini. On the south side of the square is the War Veterans building of 1938 by Camillo Guerra, rather shut up, on its stairs a winged angel memorial; Just to the east is the Questura police hq, rather dull.

In the Via Toledo, full of fashion shops, is the best of the Mussolini-era buildings by Piacentini, his favourite architect: the Banco de Napoli of 1939. a huge building with a big columned cente, its plainer wings with alluring figurative sculptures.

I then chanced on the Palazzo Zevallos Stigliano, a 17c building now owned by a prosperous bank who embellished it in the late 19c. An interesting exhibition devoted to David and Caravaggio and upstairs a permanent exhibition of pleasant enough paintings of Naples. That evening I discovered in the Piazza Garibaldi a decent restaurant called Ameroso for a satisfactory spaghetti carbonara, not being much of a fan of the ubiquitous pizzas and a decent Sicilian red at a mere 14€.

After an espresso in my local café, still only 50 centimes at the counter, I took the metro to visit the vast Museo Archeologico Nazionale, full of white marble Greek and Roman statuary including the famous Farnese Bull and fine Roman sarcophargus’. There were lots of frescoes and inlaid mosaic floors to admire. I then walked through the delightful Galleria Principe de Napoli of 1884 but rather deserted and passed the fine late neo-classical Teatro Bellini of 1878 by Carlo Sorgento for a so-so lunch. After the lively Piazza Bellini and the large Piazza Dante with its various churches and a statue of Dante Alighieri, I visited the San Severo Chapel, another high-light. Plain exterior but inside magnificent Baroque interiors with stunning frescoed ceilings and much sculpture. After a delicious ice-cream then a glass of wine, suddenly there was a rare down-pour, the only one during my whole week. Back to the hotel to dry-off then dined again at Ameroso for a delicious risotto ai funghi.

My next day I looked at a sophisticated building at Piazza Nolana no 9, overloking the scruffy street market. Now closed it was the Palazzo dei Telefoni of 1920 by Camillo Guerra with elegant marble elevations and elaborate wrought-iron balconies. Its main elevation has delightful figurative sculptures of Mercury and alluring females. The huge church of Santa Maria del Carmine with the tallest church tower in the city and for once non-paying entry is full of rich Baroque and Rococo decoration, its sacristy handsomely panelled in dark walnut.  Outside is a typical bronze First World memorial.

A tram then took me to the Maritime Terminal  a huge and wonderful Rationalist building of 1936 by Bazzini, its spare exterior with a sculpted bas relief and roundels; its clean open spaces adorned with attractive mosaic motifs in the floors and some paintings on its walls.  After passing the handsome late neo-classical Teatro Mercadante of 1779 by Francesco Securo with façade sculptures, I lunched on a breaded cutlet Milanese, just about OK. In the Piazza Municipio is an equestrian statue of Victor Emanuele II, first king of an united Italy and the lovely Neptune fountain of 1600. The area is now in upheaval with archeological excavations in advance of an extended metro station designed by Alvaro Siza & Eduardo Souto de Moura. I next visited the immense mediaeval Castel Nuovo, gaunt save for its superb Renaissance entrance portal with much white marble sculpture. Not a lot to see inside, lots of religious paintings and a fairly dull collection of 19c paintings of the city.

Facing the monumental colonnaded Napoleonic square of 1809 – the Piazza del Plebiscito with its church of 1817 modelled on the Pantheon in Rome (but closed) and a fine equestrian statue of Charles III de Bourbon by Canova is the Palazzo Reale. This royal palace completed by the Bourbons has endless richly decorated furnishings, all a bit exhausting. Much more attractive was a guided tour of the Teatro San Carlo, Italy’s oldest opera house though what one sees now of its opulent interior dates from 1816 reconstruction after a fire.  I looked in at the Gran Caffè Gambrinus, a venerable establishment dating from 1860, once a haunt of D’Annunzio, De Maupassant and Oscar Wilde. and admired the huge Galleria Umberto I arcade of 1890 with its lofty dome, inlaid floors and sculpted façades.

On the Friday I walked to visit the extraordinary church of San Giovanni a Carbonara, approached by a steep 18c stairway. It is full of early monumental sculpted tombs of kings and frescoes, though most are faded save for a crucifixion by Vasari. A beautiful circular Renaissance chapel with inlaid marble floors. In another chapel of 1427 lovely blue and white ceramic tiled floors. In the popular Stanita quarter are two fine palaces: Palazzo dello Spagnuolo of 1738 by Ferdinando Sanfelice with a spectacular staircase often used for filming then the Palazzo Sanfelice of 1726. There was a local carnival in progress with amateur bands and excitable children throwing confetti about. I visited the huge basilica Santa Maria della Sanita, painted in pastels shades of grey and blue with an ornamental Baroque chapel with a high altar. Not far away is an an attractive late 19c pharmacy. I took a lift to an upper level and caught a bus to visit the huge Capodimonte museum – rather spruced up since my visit in 1986. This 18c Bourbon palace has rich art and furniture and ceramic collections but first I visited a comprehensive temporary exhibition of the Spanish modernist architect Santiago Calatrava with lots of excellent models of his many bridges, stations and airports, that said lots of pretentious quotations of his egocentric pronouncements. After admiring the magnificent former ballroom and other royal interiors and the superb gallery of tapestries – notably of the Battle of Pavia – as well as a large painting by Angelica Kauffmann of the family of Ferdinand IV and a charming portrait of Princess Maria-Christine by Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun, I took the shuttle bus back to the city centre.

Walking south of the Royal Palace I discovered a handsome and restrained Mussolini-era building at Via Cesario Console 3bis – Marina Militare – its Circulo Ufficiali. Along the seafront a series of grand buildings, views of Vesuvius, and a severe statue of King Umberto I in the uniform of an Italian general.  Then the splendid Fontana dell’Immacolatella, an early 17c giant arch flanked by caryatids, moved here from its original site. Pietro Bernini, father of his more famous son was one of its sculptors. Then in the Via Partenope some posh hotels, the Excelsior and the Vesuvio, its smart façade looks 1950s but in fact not by Gio Ponti, the Royal Continental nearby however is by Gio Ponti of 1960 and apparently retains some first floor rooms with his original furnishings The Norman mediaeval castle: Castel-Ovo has not much open so I don’t bother. I caught a bus back to my hotel, a mistake as it was rush-hour and took ages. to arrive.

The following day by metro to Vanvitelli, a prosperous western residential suburb. The Villa Floridiana park was closed because of winter gales. However the Museo Duca del Martina was open and a very rewarding place, housed in an agreeable 18c palace with attractive rooms with original decoration and furniture and again with lots of ceramics, including some extraordinary contemporary works.

Terrific views on its heights towards the sea.

Perforce to take the funicular down to Piazza Amedeo. Here is the Villa Maria of 1901 by Venetian architect Angelo Treliban, built as the Hotel Eden for rich foreign visitors, its colourful ceramic façade in an eccentric Art Nouveau i.e. Liberty style. The church of Santa Teresa a Chiaia with its lively and unusual Baroque façade was closed. I had a decent omelette for lunch in the smart Bistro Barguiela then to see a Miro exhibition in the Palazzo dei Arti in a dull 18c palace. No surprises as I have already seen much Miro in Barcelona and Mallorca. The Via dei Mille is full of fashion shops and Eclectic buildings: the Palazzo Leonetti of 1908 by Giulio Ulisse Arata, its façade of much dark red ceramic decoration. By him also the Palazzo Mannajuolo of 1909 at no 36 Via Filangeri, its dramatic oval staircase rising high. In the Piazza dei Martiri is the monument to Neapolitan martyrs opposing the Bourbons – a column surmounted by a winged female with fierce lions at its base. It stands in front of the handsome 18c Palazzo Calabritto designed by Luigi Vanvitelli.

The Villa Communale is a linear garden stretching along the seafront, a play-ground for families. Lots of sculptures, many in not good condition except for the handsome tall stone monument of 1936 to Armando Diaz, world war hero who became the Duca de la Victorio. An equestrian statue and bas reliefs below of fighting soldiers. Excellent period lettering. I visited the Museo Pignatelli, housed in a smart white Grecian villa of 1826 built for British diplomat Sir Ferdinand Acton. Full of good furniture and inevitably ceramics. Upstairs his splendid bathroom with an ornate marble tub.

Thanks to disruption caused by roadworks I alas missed the Sirene fountain in the Piazza Sannazzaro. I then looked at the huge neo-Baroque station: Stazione Mergellina.

I dined at the vaunted Ristorante Mimi alla Ferrovia but it was hardly worth the effort. On the TV I watched for the umpteenth time the Hitchcock film ‘To Catch a Thief’ with Grace Kelly and Cary Grant.

On Sunday I took the metro to look at the Cardarelli Hospital and eventually found the original Mussolini-era building a huge neo-classical work of 1934 (dated also by the Fascist calendar: XII EF)with tall ceilings and simple interiors. Back to Vanvitelli and after a so-so pasta to the enormous medieval Castello Sant’Elmo – the best thing its entrance with a splendid monument of 1538 to Carlo V with its double-headed eagle. A long and tiring walk up its ramp to the upper terrace with views over the city. A gallery has quite decent paintings of 1910-1980 by local artists.

Much more rewarding was the Certosa & Museo San Martino. Inevitably lots of religious paintings, splendid royal carriages and barges and a stunning collection of Nativity cribs. Its very fine church is full of frescoes and paintings. The enormous Renaissance cloister is particularly beautiful.

A trip then out to look at Mussolin’s ill-fated exhibition ground Mostra d’Oltremare of 1940 but all closed up and little to see. I dined at the vaunted Ristorante Ieri, Oggi e Domani. used in De Sica’s film of 1963 with Sophia Loren and Mastroianni. But now tarted up and the food disappointing too.

On my last day I got into the splendid church of Gesu Nuovo with its extraordinary diamond-pointed façade. Nearby is the Palazzo Pignatelli with an impressive entrance portal. It seems Edgar Degas was a guest. I took the Metro Toledo with its marvellous mosaics by South African artist William Kentridge and then to the airport to fly back to Paris.

To facilitate my stay I used the Lonely Planet Guide and the Cartoville. I should have got the DK Eyewitness guide.

If you follow my itineraries you will get the best of the city but may have better luck with restaurants.

One Rationalist building I missed was in the Piazza Duca degli Abruzzi – the fish market of 1929-30 by Luigi Consenza. And I also missed the Teatro Augusteo of 1929 by Pier Luigi Nervi in the Piazza Duca d’Aosta, just near the Galleria Umberto I.

Michael Barker February 2020

Reflections on housing and house building in the UK

avril 18th, 2020

Now that the question of Brexit has been settled following the general election victory, it gives us chance to discuss some incredibly pressing domestic issues.

Perhaps the most pressing issue is that of homeownership, and with it, home building.

As Conservatives we fundamentally understand that the best way to build a cohesive society is for the people within a country to own their home, lay some roots and feel part of their community.

Regrettably this aspiration for many people, particularly the youngest, is fast becoming a fantasy.

It is not an issue that has been born out overnight, it’s the result of over 30 years of changing legislation and economics that have created the problem.

Since the mid 2000s, Labour and Conservative governments have tried to help younger buyers get on to the housing ladder. Labour reduced stamp duty land tax to 0% for first time buyers. The Conservatives, under David Cameron, introduced amongst other things the ‘Help to Buy’ scheme.

Sadly, all the measures seem to have done is to stoke the demand side of the market without addressing the other issue on the probable lack of supply. As a result, house prices keep continuing to rise, and vastly faster than increases in wages.

As a result, in 1998 the average house price was 4 times the average annual salary. Today it is 8 times the average annual salary.

When discussing homeownership amongst the youngest, in 1991 67% of 25 to 34 year olds owned their own home. Today that figure has fallen to just 38% and given birth to the term, ‘generation Rent.’

Whilst the reasons for this phenomenon are complex, part of the issue is the lack of homebuilding. Changes in legislation and market forces often mean that large developers find it more profitable to sit on land rather than build.

Based on 2016 prices, the average price of residential land in the mid 1950s was £150k per hectare. In the mid 1990s it had increased to £1.3m and by 2007 £5m.

In England, land without planning permission is worth £20k per hectare. The same land with planning permission is worth £2m per hectare.

Coupled with these issues has been the extreme lack of new housing that has been delivered. France, a country with a comparable population and population growth to the UK, has completed 16.7 million new homes since 1970. In the same period, the UK has completed just 8.9 million.

It is good to see that our manifesto has pledged to close this housing gap by firstly pledging to complete 300,000 new homes a year. Additionally there is a pledge to provide support for builders using modern methods of construction and by making it easier for people to self build should they chose to.

It is still worth noting, however, that some analysts and commentators are very skeptical as to whether these measures go far enough. Further analysis, legislation and support will be required to the construction industry in the years to come.

The risk for the Conservative party politically is stark. As Labour elects a new leader the threat of socialism is still close at hand, whoever replaces Jeremy Corbyn.

Given that scores of 18-24 year olds flock to the left wing cause, and are very anti-Brexit, unless we are able to deal with issue and show that only a Conservative government can really help people achieve the simplest of aspirations, we may find ourselves out of power again for a duration similar to that from 1997 to 2010.

Andrew Crawford,

Secretary,

British Conservatives in Paris (BCiP)

Feedback from British Conservatives in Paris to Conservative Policy Forum (15 February, 2020) concerning the Queen’s speech

avril 18th, 2020

1.

·         General: the overall balance between the international role of the UK on the one hand and the emphasis on a One Nation approach to “healing” the nation & the body politic is commendable

·         Particular points we were happy to see included

o   The points-based immigration system

o   The “NHS Long Term Plan”

o   The proposal to increase funding per pupil “to ensure all children can access a high quality education”

§  Cf we have recommended elsewhere that the cost of higher education puts an unconscionable burden on young people and invited policy makers to consider how things are done in certain countries on the Continent such as France or Germany (not to suggest that those countries have perfect systems:  it is noteworthy however that in them there is a very broad consensus in favour of distinctly modest/virtually nominal tuition fees)

o   The “Renters’ Reform Bill”

§  Again reference to what actually happens in France and Germany (legal regime, market conditions) would be instructive

·         In France the renters may be over-protected:  the system does however prevent much or most egregious abuses by landlords – of particular importance given the unaffordability of housing for own home purchase for a very large share of the (especially younger) part of the population

·         In Germany there is a massive private rental housing sector which provides quality housing in attractive locations with protections for renters designed to allow them to make a choice in favour of longterm rentals

o   Germans’ appetite for such rentals is sometimes blamed for the surprisingly low net worth of German private households

§  However again the point for the UK situation is the inaccessibility of housing on the buy/sell market and thus the need for remedial measures elsewhere

o   The “Counter Terrorism (Sentencing and Release) Bill”

o   Policy to invest in public services and infrastructure

§  Cf budget/national debt policies

·         One might infer from the speech that tax increases somewhere will be necessary to maintain the financial equilibrium called for therein

o   Clarification in this area will be needed – politically and practically – in the near future

o   Levelling up across regions

§  Same comment as in preceding point re public finances

·         NB:  this is not intended to convey the message that we are lukewarm on this “Northern Strategy” policy – on the contrary!

o   Reform business rates

o   Consider constitutional issues raised by the Brexit “saga”

§  The role of the courts is a major question:  does the UK wish to go the way of the US with “government by the judges” across the board?

·         Hopefully not

§  Fixed-term Parliaments Act:  has proved problematical in practice and therefore deserves to be fundamentally called into question

o   “Integrated Defence, Security and Foreign Policy Review”

§  The state of the world as it is today calls for such a review:  fundamental shifts are occurring on many fronts and on many levels

2.

·         General:  the thrust and most of the particular items in the speech were well received

o   A handful of items encountered minority questioning

·         Particular items with majority reserves

o   Increase local powers to tackle air pollution

§  Problems

·         Is the nature of such problems not inherently national (or wider) in scope (even if there may be local sources of pollution:  these should be addressed in the larger context)?

·         Even ignoring the first point:  local authorities may lack the technical competence and/or political will and/or clout to effectively deal with such issues

o   “animals as sentient beings”

§  In agreement with the principle of avoiding cruelty to animals

§  Cave:  avoiding providing succour to animal rights extremists

3.

·         General comment:  there were some omissions we deemed regrettable

·         Particulars

o   Some indications were given as to areas of infrastructure spending (eg wrt transport) however a bit more here would have been helpful

o   Withdrawal from the European Convention on Human Rights?:  or meaningful threats at least to do the same (or suspend membership) to resist the politicisation of that instrument and of the ECHR, and their surreptitious partial capture/being subjected to influence by unrepresentative groups (cf recent serious of articles in Valeurs Actuelles on the subject; and the general evolution of ECHR decisions in recent times)

o   On foreign policy major issues:  perhaps at least some general indication of the direction of travel on specific subjects might have been helpful, eg

§  The recently presented US peace plan for Israel and Palestine

§  Libya

§  China

§  Etc

§  – taking care of course not to unduly tie the hands of the government for dealing with future circumstances

o   “votes for life”

o   Re financial services:  what is the aim wrt the future relationship with UE/27 in this area?

o   Addressing the housing shortage:  a “mega issue” in our view

§  Cf

·         Problems of social justice

o   A major share of the population has “lucked into” vast housing wealth they never contemplated

o   While another major share has “un-lucked into” a prospect of a lifelong housing poverty (at least in relative terms) – regardless of hard work etc

·         Imbalances created by new trends in financial flows worldwide “distorting” or at least mightily impacting housing markets:  why should the government consider it appropriate to sit by passively and “let the market do its work/worst”?  ↘ Government has a responsibility to address big issues arising out of such massive disruption of economic flows and (im)balances

o   Policy on GAFA et al

§  Including taxation

o   Productivity levels in the UK – how to address the relatively poor performance of the UK in recent decades as against eg France, Germany & many other countries

Paul Thomson

Vice Chairman/CPF Secretary

BCiP

UK Conservatives Abroad France Branch – new Meetup Group launch.

février 14th, 2020

Rafael Pittman, Regional Coordinator, France for UK Conservatives Abroad, has launched a new Meetup group to increase membership of the Conservative party within the expatriate British community in France.

Find out more by clicking on the Meetup link below.

UK Conservatives Abroad France branch

Paris, FR
12 Members

This group meets in Paris and London and is a focal point for ex pat members of the Conservative party making sure ex pat issues such as overseas voting rights are brought to …

Next Meetup

Conservatives. Abroad France – February Meeting

Saturday, Feb 29, 2020, 3:00 PM
1 Attending

Check out this Meetup Group →

Season’s greetings from Erika Angelidi

décembre 23rd, 2019

From Erika Angelidi, the Conservatives Abroad representative in Athens, Greece:

Season’s Greetings!

I would like to wish all the best for this blog and its members.

Very best wishes,

Erika

Political Promises & Responsibilities

octobre 29th, 2019

Boris Johnson’s failure to follow through on his wonderful-sounding promises for Brexit , blaming his failures instead on Jeremy Corbyn, an unruly Parliament, the EU…. etc. , reveals himself as neither de Gaulle, nor Churchill, nor Thatcher, nor Reagan, nor Trump, according to BCiP member Evelyne Joslain, comparing e.g. President Trump’s seemingly successful manoeuvring with respect to Syria and the surrounding region in her article below.

Promesses et Responsabilités