What a Biden Presidency could mean for the Special Relationship

novembre 4th, 2020

If the opinion polls are to be believed, November 3rd should bring about a landslide victory for Vice-President Joe Biden, sweeping him to power and removing President Trump after just one term in the White House.

What could this mean for the ‘Special Relationship?’

If the mainstream media are to be believed, removing Trump from the oval office will strip Prime Minister Johnson of a natural ally across the pond; all but destroying a potential free trade agreement between the US and the UK once the Withdrawal Agreement ends later this year.

President Trump has been outspoken in his support for the UK and ‘Brexit,’ whereas Biden and the Democrats have a very pro-EU agenda. Indeed, Joe Biden as a catholic is very proud of his Irish ancestry. 

Boris Johnson’s recent move to amend the Withdrawal Agreement did not go down well with Biden and the Democrats. Biden himself cited the Good Friday agreement in his tweet on the subject and Nancy Pelosi stated that there was ‘no chance of the House passing a trade deal if the Good Friday Agreement was undermined!’

It is therefore feasible that a Biden administration would be openly hostile to Britain regarding Brexit and less willing to help Britain flourish once it leaves the EU. Indeed, a new trade negotiator would be appointed, and this process could delay UK/US talks by months.

The UK Ambassador to the US, Sir Christopher Meyer, stated that Prime Minister Johnson’s actions regarding the Withdrawal Agreement were, ‘profoundly clumsy and stupid. It immediately ignited the Irish American lobby in Washington, which is second in power to the pro-Israeli lobby.’ Furthermore, ‘…The Democrats think Boris (Johnson) is a pea from the same pod as Trump!’

As such, in the eyes of many Democrats, the British version of Trump is as poisonous as Trump himself.

It would be unfair to say that Trump and Johnson have always seen eye to eye. There have areas of foreign policy disagreement between the two administrations concerning the Iran Nuclear Deal, the UK reluctance to sideline Huawei in the creation of Britain’s 5G network, as well as disagreements concerning the Paris climate change agreement.

Furthermore, many Democrats believe Britain lacks any global clout when it comes to tackling challenges such as China and Russia.

All of this negative rhetoric would make it seem that a Biden Presidency is not what the British government would prefer. 

However, Biden is not anti-Britain as many would have you believe. He backed Britain over the Falkland Islands, when President Reagan did not. His heritage is not solely Irish either. His father’s family come from Sussex.

Additionally, what has not been considered so much by mainstream analysis is firstly Britain’s support and respect for NATO. Whilst President Trump had to create waves amongst fellow NATO members who he felt were not pulling their weight when it came to respecting their NATO commitments, the US has always had a natural and powerful military ally in the United Kingdom. 

Finally, the UK is the single largest investor in the United States, with British companies having invested $560 billion in the US, accounting for 15% of all foreign direct investment, and the US is the largest investor into the UK.

With all this taken into account, it is likely that US/UK relationships will remain pretty much unchanged as a consequence of a Biden election win, resembling perhaps previous UK/US relationships when there was a Democrat administration.

However, with 24 hours to go, there is still all to play for and it is not over for President Trump just yet. Could we be waking up on November 4th to another shock? Well, 2020 has been a peculiar year, so don’t bet against it just yet.

Andrew Crawford. 2nd November 2020.

Source material:

1. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2020/10/14/biden-victory-would-disastrous-boris/

2. https://www.theguardian.com/p/f8cxv/stw

3. https://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-8878655/DOMINIC-LAWSON-Joe-Biden-not-anti-British.html4. https://www.uschamber.com/international/europe/us-uk-business-council/us-uk-trade-and-investment-ties

The Realignment of British Politics – by Matthew Goodwin

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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The Black Lives Matter Movement & Racism

juin 12th, 2020

The death of black male George Floyd on May 25th at the hands of a white male police officer, Derek Chauvin, in the United States has led to worldwide protests about police brutality and apparent systemic racism against Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic groups (BAME) in Western civilization.

This is because, of course, as the Left would tell you, in the US they have ‘White Supremist’ Donald Trump as their president and in Britain the fault lies with ‘Mr Brexit’ and ‘Chief Gammon’ himself, Boris Johnson and his army of little Englanders – the Conservatives who are in power.

All of this despite the fact that Mr Chauvin has been arrested and charged with second and third-degree murder.

Consequently however, it seems that all white people are guilty of unconscious bias against the BAME community; a result of their ingrained ‘white privilege.’

This simplistic narrative has, of course, been dreamt up by an ever delusional Left that still hasn’t learned how to console itself over Brexit, and Donald Trump’s and Boris Johnson’s election victories. It further demonstrates an ever-increasing chasm between their neo-Marxist ideology and the people they purport to represent. In fact the whole #BlackLivesMatter movement is making idiots out of many people.

The Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer, and his deputy took to their knee in solidarity with the #BlackLivesMatter movement, tweeting “We kneel with those opposing anti-Black racism.” Why kneel? We used to stand up to injustice and cruelty and stand alongside people in our battles.

We’ve also seen white people being chained up like slaves whilst wearing “So sorry” T-shirts and being marched through the streets by black people on some sort of slave parade. Additionally, graffiti was sprayed on to Winston Churchill’s statue in London, claiming ‘Churchill was a racist’; the London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, even tweeted, ‘The sad truth is that much of our wealth was derived from the slave trade…’

All of this completely ignoring the history of the slave trade, and the fact that it was in the Christian West that slavery was first outlawed.

It is fair to say, though, that racism does exist in western civilization. However, it simply is not systemic and it is not always directed from the white majority towards the non-white minority. It is a far more complex issue.

Sadly, we still have antisemitism, and there has been an increase in Sinophobia as a result of Covid-19. There is also very clear anti-white racism.

Yes, in the ever gracious virtue signaling of the Left, they can’t see the irony of their own creed. For it is the Left that promotes the terms ‘white supremacy’ and ‘white privilege’, fundamentally highlighting that it is being white that is the problem.

This is racism, plain and simple.

Furthermore, last year the term ‘gammon’ was used to describe white, middle-aged men. So now not only are the Left racist, they are ageist as well.

If this is inclusion, please allow me to be excused.

On occasion it’s important to try to understand this lunacy; to see if it stands up to scrutiny and logic.

What is ‘white privilege’ one may ask? Is it a privilege to be born in white skin as opposed to non-white? Does being white mean that one can access the labour market more easily? Given the anti-discrimination laws in the UK, these arguments defy logic.

One further argument goes that being white means that one hasn’t had to cope with regular racial harassment or had to overcome additional challenges in society. Therefore, as a white person, one can’t sympathize with these kinds of difficulties a non-white person has had to grapple with and overcome.

However, saying that a white person can’t empathise with the issues of a non-white person is like saying they can’t be human. It’s no different than saying Sadiq Khan couldn’t empathise with Steve Jobs when he was dying of cancer. Or a Prime Minister couldn’t empathise with a school teacher. Or a Human Rights lawyer couldn’t empathise with a drugs dealer.

Coupled with this is the negative effect the rhetoric could have on non-white people, discouraging them from believing that they can achieve great things if they set their mind to it and work hard. Why would they want to try, if they are taught from a young age that the cards are systemically stacked against them? Despite the fact that this ignores the numerous occasions when black people, or people of any race for that matter, have come from a poor background in the western world and made a success of their lives.

No. The ideas of ‘while privilege’ and ‘white supremacy’ are a leftwing mantra slightly adapted from terminology employed by Karl Marx who basically portrayed bourgeois bosses as slave keepers over workers. The new terminology has been deliberately constructed to create the same divisions in society with a supposedly utopian vision of the future as its goal.

Society is not always fair. We are taught this from a young age and all religions teach it in a similar way. But society is not fundamentally cruel even though modern mantras portray it as such. The slogans of ‘white supremacy’ and ‘white privilege’ spread envy and hate. History taught us where this ends at least twice in the last century with the Nazi concentration camps and the Soviet gulags.

If we stopped this identity politics and had real deep and meaningful conversations about the problems our society face we would go a long way towards finding greater harmony in an often difficult world.

The statue of former British prime minister Winston Churchill is seen defaced, with the words (Churchill) « was a racist » written on it’s base in Parliament Square, central London after a demonstration outside the US Embassy, on June 7, 2020, organised to show solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died after a police officer knelt on his neck in Minneapolis. – Taking a knee, banging drums and ignoring social distancing measures, outraged protesters from Sydney to London on Saturday kicked off a weekend of global rallies against racism and police brutality. (Photo by ISABEL INFANTES / AFP)

Andrew Crawford

The Stationers’ Company – more on the role of tradition and ceremony, plus the ‘wicked bible’ and copyright.

juin 11th, 2020

The Cakes and Ale ceremony is an annual event, a luncheon that takes place at the Stationers’ Hall preceded by a Bidding Prayer and Sermon at St Pauls Cathedral every Shrove Tuesday following the bequest made in 1612 of John Norton, Alderman of London, Master of the Stationers’ Company.  Stationers file out of the Hall after coffee at 10.45, the Master, Clerk and  the Court Assistants first, followed by the Liverymen then the Freemen, for the short walk along Ave Maria Lane, across Paternoster Square under the watchful eye  of  a modern (Elizabeth Frink, 1975) bronze statue with the same title of Paternoster, but also known as shepherd with a flock of sheep, and down the steps to the crypt of the Cathedral, past the tombs of the Duke of Wellington and Admiral Lord ‘Horatio’ Nelson, into the Chapel of St Faith-under St Paul’s. Organ music by William Byrd 1543-1623 welcomes the arriving congregation to commemorate John Norton commencing at 11.15, the Bidding this year given by the Dean of St Paul’s and the Sermon by the Vicar of St Martin-in-the-Fields. At 12.15 the procession emerges from the crypt led by the Court dressed in their livery attracting a crowd of on-lookers and on their return this pious assembly with guests enjoy a buffet lunch with pancakes and cakes for dessert (more wine than ale), preceded as always by  a witty version of grace by the Company’s Clerk, William Alden. The Clerk, rather like a CEO, is responsible for the day to day running of Stationers’ that includes the organising of fundraising including charities, participating in and organising the many committees and renting out the Hall for drinks parties, events, lunches and dinners. Aloft as a central feature of the ceiling is a spread eagle and horn in gold and blue, symbols of St John the Evangelist looking down on the Cakes and Ale party, this symbol often appearing of the Saint as it was the bird which could fly highest therefore closest to heaven. At the southern end of the hall, carved in white and gold on the dark oak of the minstrels gallery, are open tomes of the King James’ Bible, reminding us that it was at Stationers Hall that this sacred work was translated by William Tyndale from Latin and edited and read out loud here by the Translating Committee.

In 1608 the Master of Stationers, Robert Barker who was also the King’s printer and therefore tasked with printing the King James Bible, left out ‘not’ from the seventh commandment, “thou shalt not commit adultery”, was fined £2000 and never recovered his health nor fortune, dying in the debtors prison. Copies of the ‘wicked bible ‘ were seized and burned in the Hall’s courtyard also the former churchyard  of St Martin-within-Ludgate, on the site of which now stands a 200 year old plain tree, renowned for its resilience to London pollution of which there was plenty with the burning of coal fires. It not only survived the decades of smoke from coal burning but also the fire and shrapnel of the Blitz, as did Wren’s St Martin’s church and the Hall. It is said that eleven copies of the wicked bible survived and that the Hoho (Chinese Fenghuang) bird carved out on the fireplace provented the destruction of the Hall.

It was on account of the development of printing to publishing that it was considered necessary to protect society against abuses of the press, and this was enforced by ordinances and Acts of Parliament  that also protected authors and publishers against infringement of their rights. The Licensing Act of 1662 was the successor to the Star Chamber decree of 1637 that forbade the publication of books without a licence and these protectionist clauses suited the trade and the Company with a requirement of a copy of every book to be deposited at Stationers’ Hall. The first law relating to copyright was the Copyright Act of Queen Anne of 1710, where infringements could be brought only for titles which had been entered in the Register of the Stationers Company, hence the term ‘entered at Stationers’ Hall’ is synonymous with copyright. It followed that penalties could be incurred by the printer on those books that were deposited, however canny printers only paid to register when they sought copyright protection, so little revenue for the Stationers. One loophole was only to register the first volume of say a series of 12, whilst learned works from universities were not entered because of the procedure and cost. Best sellers were protected and paid for since they would be more likely to attract piratical publication and contributed considerably to the fortunes of the English Stock, a company set up under James 1 that gave the Company a monopoly over certain types of publications in addition to the powerful printing privileges it had acquired through the 1557 Charter granted by Queen Mary. Shakespeare, Marlowe and others appear in the records.

Order and clarity came in 1836 and in 1838 with the international Copyright Act that gave protection to foreign works and British authors published in foreign countries, provided that their works were registered at Stationers’ Hall and one copy sent to the British Museum. The main use of the registry was a means of transferring copyright from author to publisher or publisher to publisher through a simple form of assignment at negligible cost. The proceedings improved after a Commission and the appointment of the Greenhills, London booksellers with a tradition of being Stationers, father George succeeded by son Joseph, a dynasty that lasted from 1797 to 1883. Joseph Greenhill also looked after the purchasing of the wine with an informal team of juniors for ‘blind tastings’ and only he knew which wines were kept and from whom.  His stock last recorded in dozens was, 410 of port, 32 of Madeira, 11 of claret, 15 of Moselle, 110 of sherry and two of champagne. On his demise he was succeeded by a Wine Committee.

In our next edition we shall read about the British tradition for almanacs and astrological predictions that produced annual revenue for the Stationers.

Rafael Pittman

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.


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,


British Conservatives in Paris (BCiP)