breaking news from the world of ideas

by James Billot
Wednesday, 8
January 2020

WATCH: Tory MPs erupt into cheers as Margaret Thatcher is mentioned

Will voters in northern ex-mining towns feel as warmly?

For all the talk of a more economically interventionist Conservative Party representing a new ‘Red Wall’ coalition, the Tory benches seemed as Thatcherite as ever on the first day back from the Christmas break.

When SNP MP Brendan O’Hara mentioned Margaret Thatcher’s name during PMQs, the Tory benches erupted  into spontaneous cheers so loud that the Speaker had to intervene and Mr O’Hara had to repeat his question (only to be met with an even louder cheer second time round.)

While no doubt many of the new Tory MPs idolise Margaret Thatcher, it seems less likely that their voters in ex-mining towns in the North feel as warmly. ...  Continue reading

by James Billot
Thursday, 26
December 2019

Are the Christians turning away from Donald Trump?

Upsets at two Christian publications have put the President's evangelical support in question

Donald Trump is a polarising figure, but he has always been able to count on the support of one group throughout his presidency: white evangelical Christians. In 2016, he won 81% of this group’s vote, a greater share than any Republican candidate in the past 25 years (including George Bush Jr). But in the past two years, cracks in this relationship have started to appear. Beginning with heated criticisms of Trump’s harsh immigration policy and a heavy backlash against his decision to pull troops out of Syria, two influential Christian publications have cast relations between Trump and the evangelical community into further doubt. ...  Continue reading

by James Billot
Monday, 9
December 2019

Are the Tories now the Social Democrats?

The centre-Left in the UK has taken on a very different form

Social democracy is in retreat. In the past two weeks alone, two left-wingers have taken over the German SDP and Romania’s SD Party suffered its worst electoral defeat ever.

So why have voters deserted social democrats and how could they be won back? At a Civitas talk on Friday, Labour Leaver and avowed social democrat John Mills had some suggestions:

“We have got to get the economy performing better and get the growth rate up to a better level. We need to avoid a situation where wages stagnate. Secondly, as long as we have a deficit of a £100bn a year, we are never going to get the government finances under control. We also need to reindustrialise the economy – that doesn’t mean we need to go back to the 1970s, but I think we need to get manufacturing back to 15%.”
- John Mills

It is a peculiar trend in today’s politics that as the Tories move to the Left on borrowing and spending, what remains of the centre-Left is running to the Right on the same issue. Indeed, John Mills’ talk of economic growth, deficit reduction and the 1970s sound more like something out of the 2015 Conservative Manifesto than any kind of social democratic platform. ...  Continue reading

by James Billot
Wednesday, 4
December 2019

What’s behind Hexham’s happiness?

In Northumbria, wealth doesn't equal contentment

Rightmove’s annual ‘Happy at Home’ index came out yesterday, naming Hexham, a leafy market town in Northumbria, the happiest place to live in Great Britain. Residents scored highest on ‘happiness factors’ ranging from a sense of community to feeling safe, outperforming more affluent towns like Harrogate and Richmond-on-Thames, which came second and third.

In fact, it seems that Hexham’s happiness has very little to do with wealth at all. Average median household income in Hexham is £38,000 and house prices are nearly £50,000 below the national average, according to Rightmove. Though not poor, Hexham’s rank seems to be driven more by the town’s amenities than individual income: crime rates and pollution levels are low; A&E waiting times are among the lowest in the country, schools are mostly rated ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ and there is a lot of space (roughly three hectares per person). ...  Continue reading

by James Billot
Wednesday, 27
November 2019

Did the Green Party miss a trick with Brexit?

Could a pro-Brexit Greens party have united liberals and small c conservatives?

With less than three weeks to go until the General Election, polling for the Green Party doesn’t look pretty. The latest YouGov has them down at 2%, which is roughly where they were at the last election. Any hope that it would follow in the footsteps of its sister party in Germany, the second most popular party, is long gone.

It may sound counter-intuitive, but did the Greens miss a trick by not backing Brexit in the 2016 referendum?

Instead of resorting to limp arguments about ‘remain and reform’ in the EU — a slogan that even the most ardent Remainers don’t really believe in — the Greens could have presented a bold, exciting vision of a Green Brexit and drawn on support from across the political spectrum. ...  Continue reading

by James Billot
Friday, 15
November 2019

Meet the Groypers: the alt-Right’s newest fringe

It is perfectly 2019 that today’s ‘rebels’ are a group of hyper-reactionary boys yearning for a time they never knew

For some, it seems, you can never be Right-wing enough.

Last weekend, the President’s son, Don Junior, went to UCLA to promote his new book Triggered: How the Left thrives on hate and wants to silence us. Within 20 minutes, he was heckled off the stage, not by liberal students, but by a group of young Right-wing activists known as the Groyper Army — the latest subculture to grow out of the online Right.

Predominantly male, exclusively white and mostly under 22, Groypers have as their mascot an adapted version of Pepe, the original alt-Right icon. They are calling for a “significant inquiry” into what they call ‘Conservatism Inc’ (including movements such as Turning Point) which they feel has sold out to liberals. ...  Continue reading

by James Billot
Tuesday, 12
November 2019

Lionel Barber: what the FT got wrong on populism

Audio: the retiring editor says his paper has learned from its past mistakes

After 14 years at the helm, Lionel Barber has announced that he was stepping down as editor of the Financial Times. In a candid interview with the BBC World at One, Barber reflects on a range of issues, including his paper’s failure to spot the rise of populism in the UK, the perils of being too ‘metropolitan’, and how journalists can navigate through an increasingly polarised landscape. Have a listen…


“Well I think we did frankly miss, to a degree — not completely — we missed the rise of populism in Britain and we probably underestimated it. We were too metropolitan and I think we’ve adjusted to that. I mean obviously we are a paper built around the city of London and we’re global, but we have an obligation to understand our country in all its aspects and it’s gone through wrenching change partly as a result of the financial crisis so I think that’s one thing. ...  Continue reading

by James Billot
Monday, 11
November 2019

Watch: Nigel Farage backs down

Will this prove to be the most consequential moment of the election?

Will this prove to be the most consequential moment of the election?

Commentators are already divided, with some saying that it won’t help the Tories much as it doesn’t affect crucial Tory-Labour marginals, and others saying it changes the narrative in a fundamental way…