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by Paul Embery
Wednesday, 21
September 2022

Labour is right to embrace the national anthem

The party has a patriotism problem — and Keir Starmer knows it

If the decision were theirs alone, would the massed ranks of delegates attending the Labour party conference next week really wish to have the King saved, whether by God or anyone else? Most likely not. Which is why many among them will be more than a little unsettled at the leadership’s decree that the event be opened with a rendition of the national anthem.

The chances are that even Sir Keir Starmer himself wouldn’t exactly die in a ditch to ensure any monarch was long to reign over us. He was, after all, once captured on film professing his own republican sympathies.

But the decision to have conference sing the anthem is, if nothing else, shrewd politics. Let’s be frank: we all know that Labour has a “patriotism problem”. Millions of voters still view the party, not without reason, as being populated by anti-British, “progressive”, citizen-of-the-world types who sneer at any demonstration of patriotic sentiment. This perception is especially prevalent among voters in Labour’s old Red Wall constituencies, whose support the party must regain if it is ever to win power again. And Starmer probably understands that it is among these working-class communities that monarchy enjoys some of its highest levels of affection...  Continue reading

by Paul Embery
Thursday, 21
April 2022

Banning Russian players from Wimbledon is morally wrong

It's unfair to make citizens pay for the crimes of their nation’s rulers

The news that the All England Club has barred Russian and Belarussian players from competing at this year’s Wimbledon tennis championships comes as no great surprise. Not because the decision was in any way wise or ethical; but simply because it is the latest in a series of decrees by bodies and institutions apparently so determined to parade their virtue on the Ukraine crisis that they are even prepared to go to the lengths of making innocent Russian and Belarussian citizens pay for the crimes of their nation’s rulers.

The absurdity of some of these sanctions has been such that one could be forgiven for assuming the stories were made up. There was the decision of the Cardiff Philharmonic Orchestra to remove the works of Tchaikovsky from one of its concerts; the university in Milan which cancelled a course on Dostoevsky (the decision was later reversed); authorities in Canada who pulled vodka and other Russian products from the shelves of local shops; the opera which banned a Russian soprano because she wouldn’t submit to its demand that she issue a statement condemning Putin; the orchestra which scrapped a performance by a Russian piano prodigy. The list goes on. Even a primary school in Warrington got in on the act, terminating lessons on Russian culture. ...  Continue reading

by Paul Embery
Friday, 1
April 2022

Don’t turn the Ukraine refugee crisis into a new normal

Ultra-liberal immigration policies are domestically divisive

No issue has, over recent years, more tested the patience of ordinary voters — or thrown into such sharp relief the ideological chasm between them and the political elites — than that of immigration.

At the turn of the century, the spectacle of the National Front spewing hatred in England had become largely a thing of the past. While nobody could, of course, claim that racism had been abolished, the issues of race and immigration had certainly become less of a dividing line in our society than ever before.

Ultra-liberal immigration policies, and a turn in the public stocks for anyone who opposed them, followed. Hyper-progressives set the tone and tempo of this enormous social change. ...  Continue reading

by Paul Embery
Friday, 10
September 2021

The myth of Blue Labour Boris

Economically and socially, the Prime Minister remains an instinctive libertarian

That’s it! True conservatism is dead. Boris Johnson, closet pinko, has ditched the Tories’ traditional low-tax, small state philosophy and, in its stead, adopted some kind of Blue Labour agenda.

Can this be true? Well, certainly it is the case being made by some Right-wing commentators in the wake of the hike in national insurance contributions and the resulting inevitability that the tax burden will hit its highest-ever level.

Assuming that these commentators are referring to the distinct Blue Labour movement, and not using the term as some loose pejorative, I for one don’t buy the analysis. While it is undeniable that the Tories have, over the past couple of years, adopted a kind of “radical on the economy, conservative on culture” Blue Labour posture — to great effect, it must be said, across much of working-class, provincial England, as the 2019 general election showed — there is little evidence that they “get it” instinctively or that the messaging will ever translate into reality. ...  Continue reading

by Paul Embery
Monday, 7
June 2021

Don’t dismiss the booers as bigots

BLM has alienated large chunks of the country — and it shows

“That some fans are booing players taking the knee shows just how far football still has to go in tackling racism.” That is the type of high-minded narrative beginning to take hold following the hostile reaction displayed by many supporters when England’s players took the knee before recent matches against Austria and Romania.

In truth, things are not quite so clear-cut. While it is certainly the case that a schism has emerged on the issue, it would be wrong to portray it as one between a few hardcore bigots and everyone else.

On the one hand we see the game’s authorities and big-name stars who, in supporting knee-taking, appear driven by a desire to flaunt their progressive credentials (as well, no doubt, as an acute fear of causing offence by being seen to display anything less than full-throated support) and, on the other, thousands of ordinary fans — and not just those emitting boos — who are, let us be frank, growing increasingly frustrated at what, for them, has become a protracted moral lecture. ...  Continue reading

by Paul Embery
Wednesday, 12
May 2021

Don’t be fooled by the Tories’ Big Government rhetoric

Ben Houchen shows the Conservatives are still wedded to free markets

Just prior to viewing UnHerd’s interview with the freshly re-elected Conservative mayor of Tees Valley, Ben Houchen, I had (fun-loving guy that I am) been watching an old Channel 4 documentary filmed during the 1982 party conference season.

A contribution from a speaker at the Tory gathering was, looking back from this distance at least, quite astonishing. He called for the abolition of job centres, arguing that it was the duty of the jobless themselves — over three million of them at that point — to find work, with no assistance from the state. Perhaps he was riffing off the then employment secretary, Norman Tebbit’s, infamous comment the previous year about how his unemployed father had “got on his bike and looked for work”. ...  Continue reading

by Paul Embery
Friday, 30
April 2021

Sorry Sir Keir, attacking ‘Tory sleaze’ is a dead end

Voters care more about the issues affecting their everyday lives

It is often said that it was sleaze that did it for the John Major government of 1992-97. But did it really? Scandals such as ‘cash-for-questions’ and ‘back to basics’ unquestionably inflicted damage on the Tory brand during those years. But, in truth, sleaze was only part of the story. The ignominy of Black Wednesday, which saw interest rates ramped up to 15% and helped to destroy the Conservative party’s reputation for economic competence, surely did far more to repel the average voter than revelations about the financial or sexual indiscretions of individual Tory MPs.

That is why Sir Keir Starmer and the Labour party need to be careful. Assuming that media furores such as the current one surrounding the refurbishment of the prime minister’s flat will automatically translate into a shift in their favour in the polls is risky. In the long run — and even accounting for the fact that this particular affair involves the PM himself — these brouhahas tend not to be electorally significant. ...  Continue reading

by Paul Embery
Monday, 19
April 2021

The European Super League shames the people’s game

The plan violates the spirit and ethos of the sport

If someone had sat down to devise a plan to unite millions of usually-partisan football fans across Europe, they would have been hard-pressed to come up with anything better. My social media feeds are filled with diehard supporters spitting tacks at the proposal for a breakaway European Super League. These include fans of the six English clubs involved in the caper. They have been joined in their fury by pretty much everyone else involved in the game, from its authorities to high-profile former players and pundits. Even presidents and prime ministers have got in on the act.

These individuals and groups see the proposal for what it is: a cynical and unashamed attempt by billionaire owners to generate ever more colossal sums of wealth for their clubs by creating a closed shop at the top of football. ...  Continue reading

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