Category: Politics

On 10 Downing Street and Sir Robert Walpole – @ASI

On September 22nd, 1735, Sir Robert Walpole, Britain’s first Prime Minister (although the title was not used until much later), moved into Number Ten Downing Street (although it did not have that number then). Its famous door (through which it was not then entered) has become an iconic symbol of Britain’s democratic government.

The Adam Smith Institute’s Madsen Pirie on a famous house and its early resident.

The residence at 10 Downing Street that he occupied is not what it seems. Walpole had the architect William Kent connect two houses, making the Downing Street front one effectively a passage through to the main building behind it. A corridor connects it to the Cabinet Office much further up Whitehall, and there is a tunnel under Whitehall that we’re not supposed to know about that connects it to the Defence Ministry…

In many ways Ten Downing Street resembles the British constitution it safeguards. There is much more to it than the outward appearance might suggest, and it adapts and changes over time to meet the new challenges it is called upon to face. Yet it preserves the outward form, providing reassurance of continuity. It is modest, rather than grandiose, reminding us that the Prime Minister is a person like us, who lives in a house, as we do, rather than some god-like remote dignitary.

Read the rest, here.

And, more on the official government site, here.

Photo by Jordhan Madec on Unsplash

Madsen Pirie on John Locke – @ASI

Last Thursday , 29th August, marked the birthday (in 1632) of John Locke.

The Adam Smith Institute’s Madsen Pirie writes a profile of the “father of liberalism” and his concept of constitutional government.

people eventually form civil governments through a contract to protect their rights. This is a two-way contract in which government has the duty to protect those rights, and loses the consent of the governed if it violates them.

As well as influencing England’s Bill of Rights…

Locke had major influence on the American Revolutionaries, and his ideas can be seen permeating both the Declaration of Independence and the first ten amendments to the Constitution that make up the Bill of Rights. He has been described by some as the intellectual foundation of government by consent, and is thus a major theoretician behind the institution of democratic elections that can give that consent.

Worth a read.

Image: By Godfrey Kneller, Portrait of John Locke (Hermitage).jpg (from arthermitage.org), Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=110128

Niall Ferguson on Brexit and Boris

Now that we have Boris and a very clear statement of intent with regard of Brexit, it’s worth listening to this podcast.

From CapX’s Free Exchange, it dates from a couple of weeks ago. Professor Niall Ferguson gives a historian’s view on Europe, Brexit and politics. He also offers a personal perspective on Oxford contemporary Boris Johnson. It’s both thought-provoking and amusing.

A couple of snippets:

I’m not convinced Churchill would have approved of Brexit since it amounts to a leap in the dark to think Britain can simply exit the EU and hope for a bunch of free trade agreements, including with the United States, to turn up – at a time when most of the world is turning away from free trade.

and…

Ultimately you could argue, in that case Brexit doesn’t really matter – and I would say ‘right, exactly right!’. So why waste all this time on a divorce from something that is in the end becoming weaker over time and is almost certain not to become a superstate…We’re divorcing a slowly decomposing spouse.

A good use of 30 minutes.

You can access the podcast, here.

George Orwell and the Left – @ASI

Madsen Pirie, at the Adam Smith Institute, has a piece on George Orwell, his writing and his impact.

He is still highly relevant, rewarding us not only with his fluent prose, but with his honesty. He self-identified as a socialist and a man of the Left, yet he saw and wrote about what people actually did in the name of socialism. His refusal to excuse the cynical brutality of those who claimed to carry its banner but betrayed all of its ideals, made him many enemies on the Left.

Worth a quick read, here.

Who’s afraid of Machiavelli? – BBC

Should everyone, or at least every sovereign professional, read Machiavelli’s notorious book, The Prince?

From the BBC’s Imagine series, this programme explores the history and contemporary impact of Nicolo Machiavelli’s most famous book.

Continue reading “Who’s afraid of Machiavelli? – BBC”

The Economist on the Conservative Party

From last week’s Economist, a thoughtful piece on the state of the Conservative party:

If it can keep its head, though, and bring off a Brexit that does not plunge the country into chaos or paupery, then its long habit of exercising power, its ruthlessness with its leaders and its ability to mix firmness with flexibility—qualities which have made the Conservative Party the democratic world’s most successful political machine—may yet see it through. And the intellectual skills of a rising generation—not something it has always been able to count on—may, if exercised to the full, allow not mere survival, but success.

Image: Getty Images

The Immigration Backlash – Matthew Parris

Matthew Parris writes a thoughtful column in Saturday’s Times: We ignore migration backlash at our peril.

A strong resistance to mass immigration has built up in our country and the rest of Europe in recent years. You may think it unreasonable and you may think it ill informed but it’s a political fact which I doubt can be argued out of existence. “Europe”, the source of much conspicuous immigration to Britain in recent years, has become the lightning conductor but the electrical charge has other origins and they are something to do with culture, with race, with religion, with Islamist terrorism and with welfare dependency.

For those of us who are relaxed and even positive about the benefits of immigration, it’s worth a read. There is a mood about the people – the voting public – that needs to be understood. Its roots go deep and long as successive governments (of every stripe) have avoided making the case for the immigration they have enabled.

His data, taken from the Migration Advisory Committee’s recent report is interesting. I haven’t read the report to fully understand it, but:

Migration from the rest of Europe brings a big benefit to the British Exchequer. Migration from the rest of the world (which outnumbers European Economic Area migration) is a substantial cost. A small chart we printed illustrated this. The average contribution to UK public finances of migrants from the EEA in 2016/17 was £2,310. The equivalent for migrants from the rest of the world was minus £840. The equivalent for British adults overall was minus £70.

and…

The explanation is clear. The majority of rest-of-the-world migrants come from Asia, within which the Indian subcontinent is the largest component. The great majority of them are dependants: fiancées/fiancés, parents, carers and children brought in under our “family reunion” provisions: 53,000 in 2016, or a quarter of all non-EU immigration that year. These people are not lazy but have mostly come here for family reasons rather than to work. Many will be economically inactive and many will be poor. For cultural and religious reasons they will tend to keep themselves apart from the rest of Britain but be a charge upon the state.

Which is to say that it is not the geographic source of immigrants that creates the imbalance in contribution, but rather the reason for their coming.

Read the full column, here (registration required, I think).

 

Image: news.co.uk

Reinventing Liberalism – The Economist

Last week’s Economist, on its 175th anniversary, has a ten-page essay on  Reinventing Liberalism for the 21st Century.

If, like me, you’ve sometimes struggled to join the dots between the classical liberalism of, say, John Stuart Mill and the snowflakey, leftish liberalism that seems to be growing in US, and now UK, universities, this is an essential read. It offers a history and diagnosis of what is wrong with liberalism today, the challenges that need to be addressed – immigration and refugees; the social contract; China, Trump and right wing populism in Europe – and a call to arms for radical, liberal changes.

Set your Sunday aside and read the full essay, here.

 

Image: The Economist

Robert Colvile on wrong-headed approaches to the Gig Economy – @TheTimes

Left-wing politicians and officials at HMRC dislike the gig economy because it doesn’t conform to their model of what work should be.

Yes, welfare and regulation need to be adapted, but changes should go with the grain of modern employment rather than against it. Not least because it’s what so many people actually want to do.

Read the rest in The Times, here.

A wilful determination to see participants in the gig economy as helpless victims risks destroying the very real value that sovereign professionals both provide and enjoy.

 

Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash