Britain

The Son: A classic of our times

Tuesday, 23 July, 2013 0 Comments

The Son

Hat tip: Xtian


In Bruges

Wednesday, 17 April, 2013 0 Comments

On 20 September 1988, Margaret Thatcher delivered her famous Bruges speech. The venue was the College of Europe, the Oxbridge, the Harvard and the MIT of the European Union. It produces the officer class of the “European project” and most graduates go on to work in the European Commission, Parliament, Central Bank or the Court of Justice.

In Bruges, Mrs Thatcher spoke to those who religiously believe that federalism is the European raison d’être. To their horror, she sang the praises of national sovereignty. “The European Community is one manifestation of that European identity, but it is not the only one. We must never forget that east of the Iron Curtain, people who once enjoyed a full share of European culture, freedom and identity have been cut off from their roots. We shall always look on Warsaw, Prague and Budapest as great European cities.”

Margaret Thatcher called out the federalists in Bruges and accused them of plotting the end of the nation state in Europe. In doing to, she placed Europe at the heart of British politics and the aftershocks continue to this day. That fact that her successor as leader of the Tory Party, David Cameron, has pledged an in/out referendum on Europe is something she could not have dreamed of that night in Bruges.


Blond on Thatcher

Monday, 15 April, 2013 0 Comments

Mrs Thatcher A cover story in the February 2009 edition of Prospect magazine ensured fame for Phillip Blond, the English political thinker, Anglican theologian and director of the ResPublica think tank. His celebrated essay on Red Toryism proposed a radical communitarian traditionalist conservatism and railed against state and market monopoly. Blond noted that Thatcherism was determined to end state monopolies and markets would then become the vehicle by which prosperity would be attained. “But the free market fundamentalists often did little more than create new monopolies of capital to replace those of the state,” he noted.

At the weekend, Phillip Blond revisited these issues for readers of the Dutch publication, The Post Online, and in “The legacy of Margaret Thatcher” he painted a picture of light and shadow in which the late British Prime Minister was praised for her many international achievements but criticized for what Blond saw as her lack of domestic social conscience. Snippet:

“She simply had no account of the social or the intermediate. For her there were just individuals and everything she tried to do was to create the type of individuals she believed would make Britain great again. The lack of any account of the social blinded her to the fate of her people — human beings need structures to help them in life especially when faced with economic change. But nobody in the north was offered anything except welfare and indifference bordering on hostility.”

And then there’s this barb:

“In respect of negative legacies others abound, her justified hostility to the European project blinded her to the possibility that Britain’s rise back to power might also be through Europe. If she had not disliked non-English speaking people so, she might have helped save Europe (and so fulfil Britain’s historical role on the continent) from the terrible consequences of the euro.”

Phillip Blond has written one of the best Tory essays on the legacy of Margaret Thatcher that we will read this week.


No. No. No.

Tuesday, 9 April, 2013 0 Comments

In her two autobiographies, The Downing Street Years and The Path To Power, the late British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher made clear that she wanted the UK to have no part of EMU (Economic and Monetary Union) in the form of what became the euro currency. With uncanny prescience, she foresaw that Germany would baulk at the inexorable need for greater inflation and that the weaker countries would inescapably become uncompetitive and need bailouts.

“I said that it was psychologically wrong to put ourselves in a frame of mind in which we accepted the inevitability of moves towards EMU rather than attacking the whole concept. We had arguments which might persuade both the Germans — who would be worried about the weakening of anti-inflation policies — and the poorer countries — who must be told they would not be bailed out of the consequences of a single currency, which would therefore devastate their inefficient economies.” The Downing Street Years (1993)

And so it has come to pass. After Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Cyprus have had to be bailed out, and now Slovenia is wobbling into parlous territory. If only the hotheads had listened to Mrs Thatcher 23 years ago, much of the current suffering could have been avoided.

“It will be recalled that when John Major and I had been discussing the tactics required to resist pressure towards economic and monetary union in the summer of 1990, I had been quite prepared for the other eleven Governments to negotiate a separate treaty for Economic and Monetary Union (EMU). Under this, Germany and France would finish up paying all the regional subventions which the poorer countries would insist upon if they were going to lose their ability to compete on the basis of a currency that reflected their economic performance.” The Path To Power (1995)

As it’s turned out, Germany, not France, is paying for the poorer countries in the form of a new wave of anti-German feeling swelling across Europe. The things that vex stony sleep to nightmare are many, as the poet said.


Margaret Thatcher RIP

Monday, 8 April, 2013 0 Comments

“For my part, I favour an approach to statecraft that embraces principles, as long as it is not stifled by them; and I prefer such principles to be accompanied by steel along with good intentions.” Margaret Thatcher (13 October 1925 — 8 April 2013)

“Socialists cry ‘Power to the people’, and raise the clenched fist as they say it. We all know what they really mean—power over people, power to the State.”


Spy Wednesday

Wednesday, 27 March, 2013 0 Comments

Today, the Wednesday before Easter, is known as “Spy Wednesday“, indicating it’s the day Judas Iscariot conspired with the Sanhedrin to betray Jesus for 30 silver coins. An ideal day, then, for an espionage thriller and our recommendation is Rip Tide by Dame Stella Rimington, the former Director General of the British security service MI5. […]

Continue Reading »

Cameron: It will be in-out

Wednesday, 23 January, 2013 0 Comments

“The next Conservative Manifesto in 2015 will ask for a mandate from the British people for a Conservative Government to negotiate a new settlement with our European partners in the next Parliament. It will be a relationship with the Single Market at its heart. And when we have negotiated that new settlement, we will give […]

Continue Reading »

The aphrodisiac of power

Thursday, 30 August, 2012

In 1975, when Margaret Thatcher was bidding for the leadership of the Conservative Party, the Labour Party health secretary, Barbara Castle, was prompted to commit the following observation to her diary:

“The papers are full of Margaret Thatcher. She has leant herself with grace and charm to every piece of photographer’s gimmickry, but don’t we all when the prize is big enough? What interests me is how blooming she looks — she has never been prettier. I am interested because I understand the phenomenon. She may have been up late on the Finance Bill Committee; she is beset by enemies and has to watch every gesture and word. But she sails through it all looking her best. I understand why. She is in love: in love with power, success — and with herself. She looks as I looked when Harold [Wilson] made me Minister of Transport. If we have to have Tories, good luck to her!”

The aura of attractiveness bestowed on mere mortals by the aphrodisiac of power can now be seen in the person of Paul Ryan, who looks like a young John F. Kennedy, but without the patina of privilege.


The enduring image

Monday, 4 June, 2012

In the year 1968, the world was in “a terrible state o’ chassis” as Captain Boyle says in Sean O’Casey’s drama,Juno and the Paycock. Student unrest was widespread on both sides of the Atlantic, war was raging in Vietnam and the Soviet Empire was making increasingly threatening noises about the Prague Spring of political liberalization. […]

Continue Reading »

Here Comes Everybody and Here Comes Everybody

Friday, 20 April, 2012

In 2008, Penguin Press published Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations, a book on the effect of the internet on modern group dynamics by Clay Shirky, who says it’s about “what happens when people are given the tools to do things together, without needing traditional organizational structures.” The title, Here Comes Everybody, […]

Continue Reading »

Dickensian London and the author’s inner child

Tuesday, 24 January, 2012

Dickens’s Victorian London is a collection of 19th-century photographs that has been published by the Museum of London to coincide with the 200th anniversary of the author’s birth. This picture shows London Bridge, teeming with vehicles and pedestrians in 1875.

The London of Dickens

The book accompanies the Museum’s current exhibition on the writer’s life. One remarkable image, a Fox Talbot picture from 1841, is thought to be the earliest existing photograph of the Thames. It provides a view of Westminster, with no Houses of Parliament and no Big Ben. When we do see the river, it appears with not a single duck, cormorant or coot in sight because the water was simply too filthy. Dickens’s Victorian London was an industrious, dynamic place, but it was also a dirty, dangerous city, where children were as likely to die as survive. It was the city of Oliver Twist. But it was not all grim as the late, great Christopher Hitchens explained in his final essay, “Charles Dickens’s Inner Child“. Snippet:

“It is all there to emphasize the one central and polar and critical point that Dickens wishes to enjoin on us all: WHATEVER YOU DO — HANG ON TO YOUR CHILDHOOD! He was true to this in his fashion, both in ways that delight me and in ways that do not. He loved the idea of a birthday celebration, being lavish about it, reminding people that they were once unborn and are now launched.”