Archive for the ‘Welcome’ Category

Global Britons: Understanding the unique British communities in Brussels and Washington DC

jeudi, avril 15th, 2021

This Foreign Policy Centre report focuses on two unusual but strategically important British communities overseas. It builds on the findings of 252 survey responses, interviews, a focus group and research to give a detailed summary of who the British communities in Brussels and Washington DC are, what their needs are and how the UK Government can better support them and other Britons around the world.

Keir Starmer – One Year In

vendredi, avril 9th, 2021

By Matthew J.Goodwin <>

Fri, 9 Apr at 09:00, 2021

[Some of this draws on recent talks at the Council on Foreign Relations, UK In a Changing Europe, Withers LLP and Atticus Communications.]

There are some leaders of the opposition who you always knew, in your heart of hearts, would never become Prime Minister. Michael Foot, William Hague and Iain Duncan Smith are the more obvious examples. Keir Starmer might soon be another.
Starmer, in his defence, inherited a sinking ship. He was handed the lowest number of Labour seats since 1935, a bitterly divided party and a Labour brand that even today remains thoroughly discredited among a large swathe of the country. Many of these problems had been building for decades.
Labour’s fracture with the working class, its loss of credibility on crunch issues like the economy and growing dependency on social liberals who tend to congregate in the big cities and university towns where Labour no longer needs votes have all been a long time coming. This is why any recovery — if such a recovery is even possible — will be generational rather than cyclical. 
There is no doubt that Keir Starmer has made a good start. Over the past year, Labour has picked low-hanging fruit, winning back voters repelled by Corbyn. When Starmer took over his party was languishing on 28% and some 22-points behind the Conservatives; today, it is averaging 35% and trails by 8. But more recently this recovery has stalled, as can be seen in the chart below. Amid the successful rollout of the vaccines it is now the Conservatives who are pulling ahead. Of the last 50 polls, Boris Johnson and his party have led in 49.

[Refer Image 1 below]

 How much of Labour’s improvement is down to Starmer also remains unclear. While his supporters point to his strong leadership ratings relative to Corbyn, the fact remains that even today Starmer’s “net satisfaction” score still lags well behind Boris Johnson — while 33% of voters are satisfied with him, 42% are not. And when people are asked who would make the “best Prime Minister”, Boris Johnson still leads comfortably on 37%. His nearest rival is not Starmer but ‘Not Sure’. The Labour leader is trailing in third, ten points adrift from the man who has been in power for a year and is criticised by much of the media on a daily basis.
There are, of course, many who argue that Covid-19 dealt Starmer an unlucky hand. But critics might argue that it is precisely during moments of crisis, when the glare of attention is strongest, that leaders are made. It won’t be lost on Starmer’s team that it is precisely at the same time as the entire country has been sat at home, watching the news and paying attention to politics, that Starmer’s ratings have been falling. To put it simply, the more people have seen, the less impressed they have been.
Starmerites might respond that his ratings are better than Mr Corbyn’s. This is true but we should remember that Michael Howard’s ratings were better than Iain Duncan Smith’s. Yet In the end, neither saw power. And it appears that the British people can sense that, too. More than half of them told YouGov last week that they simply do not see Keir Starmer as a prime minister in waiting. This is a problem.
[Refer Image 2 below]

And even if you put the question of leadership to one side, there remains little evidence that Labour is dealing with the deep-rooted structural problems that will make it very impossible for the party to win the next election. To do so would require a swing close to what Tony Blair and New Labour achieved in 1997 – with a leader who is nowhere near as popular as Blair was and a party that is nowhere near as popular as it needs to be outside of London and the university towns. Here is one fact to keep in mind; Labour has not won the popular vote in England since 2001 yet it is in England where the party needs to make up most ground. Today, Labour leads by 16-points in London -which it already controls- but trails the Conservatives by 26-points across the rest of southern England. In other words, Labour is stacking votes where it does not need them while failing to win votes were it desperately needs them. The broader realignment of British politics is reflected in the fact that while Labour’s Sadiq Khan’s will enjoy an easy victory at the London mayoral election next month, Labour will simultaneously struggle to hold its historic blue-collar fiefdom of Hartlepool.
This reflects how Britain’s new political geography, the first-past-the-post system and earlier Labour leaders have made life harder than it ought to be for Starmer. Over the past two decades, the Left essentially walked into the casino of British politics and put all of its chips behind social liberals whose support is concentrated in liberal enclaves rather than spread across the country. The cost of this strategy was not only reflected in the collapse of the Red Wall but is also visible in the polls today. Ask the working class who should lead Britain and they give Boris Johnson a 19-point lead. Starmer might win a few more seats around London, but he should remember that there are many more Red Wall seats that could yet fall. The assault on the Red Wall might just be starting.

[Refer Image 3 below]

 This reflects a broader point. At the heart of recent political commentary has rested one big assumption – that once Brexit was over and done with life would return to the traditional “Left versus Right” fault line that governed politics during the twentieth century. We would get back to debating the economic issues that play to Labour’s strengths and that would clear the path for the party to repair its relationship with workers and return to power.

But I was never convinced. For a start, this narrative completely ignores the extent to which the Conservatives have now also leaned left on the economy, variously promising to “level-up” the most regionally imbalanced nation in the industrialised world while moving institutions, civil servants and banks into northern England. This stuff matters -it will give the Conservatives a strong narrative at the next election.

The assumption that we are returning to the old world also underplays the extent to which cultural debates remain prominent in national life — as reflected in our intensifying debates over ‘cancel culture’, freedom of speech, the Royal Family and racism in British society. Boris Johnson is still holding a much more ‘aligned’ electorate than Starmer -while close to 70 per cent of Britain’s Leavers are with the Conservatives only 50 per cent of Remainers are with Labour. Put another way, Labour has still not fixed one of the big problems that ultimately cost it the election in 2019 -its far more fragmented electorate.

These problems are also being reinforced by the cultural isolation of many Labour MPs and activists, who as much research has shown hold a very different outlook on these issues than the average person. They are far more convinced that racism is endemic in British society, are far more focused on tackling historic injustices and are, put simply, far more socially liberal. There is nothing wrong with these views. It is just that they are often very far apart from the worldview of the average person. Every day that progressive activists are in the media screaming about racist Britain is, ultimately, a good day for Boris Johnson. As Ronald Reagan reminded Jimmy Carter, nobody wants to be told over and over again what is wrong with their country and people.
Put all of this together and you begin to see why it will be extremely difficult if not impossible for Starmer to chart a path to Number 10 Downing Street. While he might have steadied the ship, many (big) holes remain clearly visible and water is still gushing out – Labour’s broken bond with the working-class, its lack of economic competency in the eyes of voters, the cultural isolation of its MPs from the average voter and radical left activists who are cheered on in seats that Labour already holds but alienate people in seats that Labour actually needs to win. In year two, these are the areas where Starmer will need to act. Unless he does, he might find himself going down in the history books as the Labour Party’s Michael Howard -the man who brought stability but ultimately failed to win power.

Best wishes
Matt Goodwin

Twitter – Website – SpeakingCopyright © *2019* *Matthew Goodwin*, All rights reserved.

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mardi, mars 23rd, 2021

Conservative Policy Forum (CPF) – The Union & Constitution : BCiP response

Season’s Greetings from Erika Angelidi

vendredi, décembre 25th, 2020

My season’s greetings to all readers of this blog and a Happy New Year full of health and happiness.

I wish this New Year 2021 to be also full of positive developments for the UK!

Erika Angelidi, Conservatives Abroad Representative in Athens, Greece

The Realignment of British Politics – by Matthew Goodwin

lundi, juin 29th, 2020
The Conservative Party is no longer the party of the rich while the Labour Party is no longer the party of the poor.

That is the central finding of my new report for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, released last week.

As I said in a talk this week, there is no doubt that Boris Johnson is a prime minister under pressure.

Public disapproval of his government is drifting upwards.

Public confidence in the economy has collapsed.

Johnson’s approval ratings have shed more than 20 points in just two months.

MPs are openly complaining about the workings of his government.

And, for the first time, when voters are asked who they think would make the ‘best Prime Minister’, Labour’s Keir Starmer is now in first place.

In fact, as I write this Starmer is enjoying the highest rating for any opposition leader since Tony Blair was transforming Labour into New Labour in 1995 and (What’s the Story) Morning Glory was topping the charts.

But look beneath the surface of British politics and far more profound changes are taking place -changes that will ultimately determine not only what happens at the next election but, potentially, many elections after what.

Britain is in a state of realignment. 

As I shown with Professor Oliver Heath, things are now happening in Britain which have simply never happened before.

The Conservative Party is more popular with people on low incomes than it is with people on high incomes.

Labour, the party that was founded to speak for struggling workers, is now just as popular with the wealthy as it is among people on low incomes.

Both of Britain’s two main parties have inverted their traditional support base.

This is, put simply, remarkable. 

As recently as 2017, Labour still led the Conservatives among people on lower incomes -as it has always done.

But at the general election six months ago Boris Johnson and his party overturned this unwritten rule.

The Conservatives established a striking 15-point lead over Labour among one of Labour’s core groups. This is the first time in Britain’s recorded history that the Conservatives outpolled Labour among low-income voters.

Remarkably, the Conservatives are more popular among people on low incomes than among people on high incomes.

Much of this new support for Boris Johnson has come direct from Labour, which is why Johnson was able to tear down Labour’s Red Wall.

Six months ago, Labour lost nearly one in three of its low-income voters who had turned out to vote Labour in 2017. 

Meanwhile, Johnson and his party hoovered up votes from working-class people, pensioners and people who left school after taking their GCSE’s, at sixteen or seventeen, while they lost ground in areas that contain large numbers of young voters, graduates and people from minority ethnic backgrounds.

Johnson has been winning over the small towns and industrial heartlands but he has also been losing the cities, university towns and highly diverse areas; of Labour’s 50 strongest results in December nearly half (22) came in London while highly diverse and/or young urban areas such as Bradford, Birmingham, Manchester and Sheffield hosted many of the others.

And these shifts are reflected in the polls today.

Ask Brits who would make the best leader and Starmer leads Johnson by a striking 44-points among Remainers, 24-points among 18-34-year-olds, 19-points among Londoners, 12-points among people who live in cities and 3-points among middle-class professionals.

But Johnson leads Starmer by 46-points among Leavers, 19-points among pensioners, 10-points among the working-class, 6-points in non-London southern England, 5-points among voters who live in seats that Labour has lost since 2005, 5-points in rural areas and 2-points in towns.

What these numbers reflect is how broader winds are sweeping through Britain’s political system and pushing it into a state of realignment.

Why is this happening?

As we show in the report, the reality is that lots of people who live on average or lower than average incomes are ‘cross-pressured’ -they lean to the left on the economy, favouring more redistribution, but lean to the right on culture, supporting Brexit and the reform of migration. 

These voters want power sent down to the regions, not up to London and the big cities. And, by the way, they wanted a much tougher reply to the unilateral tearing down of statues. 

They do not fit neatly onto the traditional map of British politics.

Johnson tapped into this by leaning left through promises to deliver more infrastructure and help the ‘left behind’ while promising to deliver Brexit and change immigration rules.

Labour, in contrast, went in the other direction. As we show in the report, Labour’s drift to support a second referendum on Brexit damaged the party among these low-income voters who noticed the shift.

This handed Johnson the keys to the Red Wall.

Most of those who switched to him were strongly pro-Brexit and wanted to see their decision carried through and implemented by their representatives.

Johnson also had another in-built advantage – more than 60 per cent of constituencies had favoured Leave at the 2016 referendum. So long as Johnson’s strategy was focused on consolidating the Leave side he had a major advantage.

This was further underlined by the failure of Remainers to find unity, being split between Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Greens.

So, where do we go from here?

Johnson needs to tread carefully, for obvious reasons.

Many of the same people who switched over to him six months ago also come from those groups that have been hit the hardest by the double crisis that Johnson has struggled to manage -the Covid-19 health crisis and the accompanying economic crisis.

There is not yet much evidence that they are jumping ship.

Perhaps they are willing to give Johnson benefit of the doubt until the end of the Brexit transition period. Either way, it is not hard to see how things could start to go very wrong for the incumbent prime minister.

Immigration numbers are still high and there is also no guarantee that amid a major economic crisis these voters will continue to prioritise their values over their wallets. Nothing focuses minds like lost jobs and rising debt.

Keir Starmer has challenges, too.

Winning adulation in London and the university towns -or ‘Remainia’- is fine. But Labour already holds much of this territory.

To return to power, and given the SNP’s dominance in Scotland, Starmer also needs to make serious progress in non-London England -where lots of voters are instinctively socially conservative and wary of the new turn toward identity politics.

It is worth remembering that the Labour Party has not won the popular vote in England since 2001. Let me say that again – by the time of the next election Labour will not have won the popular vote in England for more than twenty years.

So, there are also huge challenges for Starmer’s team.

Blair managed to crack this nut by promising to be ‘tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime’ -he hoovered up the professional middle-classes while giving the more instinctively socially conservative working-class a message that resonated.

But that was also before the values-ridden debates of today -with debates over migration, Brexit, gender, statues, the legacy of empire and who-knows-what-is-next shooting up the agenda.

Starmer will need to find his own way of navigating our values divide. But find a way he must if he is serious about winning the next election.

So, is Britain’s realignment temporary or permanent? Can Boris Johnson retain his support in the Red Wall? Or can Labour repair their relationship with these low-income, blue-collar and cross-pressured voters? 

Only time will tell.

And for Johnson, especially, the clock is ticking … 

Matthew Goodwin – Twitter – Website – Speaking

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Copyright © *2019* *Matthew J. Goodwin*, All rights reserved.

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

lundi, mai 11th, 2020

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


jeudi, 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

samedi, 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,


British Conservatives in Paris (BCiP)

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

samedi, avril 18th, 2020


·         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


·         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


·         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


UK Conservatives Abroad France Branch – new Meetup Group launch.

vendredi, 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 →