What’s really behind the Tories’ present woes?

The problem is, we really need a Tory party. Whether we have one at the moment is another question. Political debate requires a significant and trustworthy proponent of personal freedom, of the limits of government, of personal responsibility, of strict limitations of government expenditure, of independent enterprise which may succeed through a lack of intrusive state control or may fail without hope of public rescue. Not everyone will share those values. But I think everyone should accept that it’s proved catastrophic that those values have apparently disappeared from public policy. History rhymes, but does not repeat itself. The lessons of previous periods when major economic policies of an interventionist sort

A walled garden in Suffolk yields up its secrets

In the hot summer of 2020, during the Covid pandemic, Olivia Laing and her husband Ian moved from Cambridge to a beautiful Georgian house in a Suffolk village and began work on restoring the neglected, extensive walled garden behind it. She was vaguely aware that the garden had been owned and loved by the well-known garden designer and plantsman Mark Rumary, who had died in 2010. He had been the landscape director for the East Anglian nursery of Notcutts, and I remember him as a genial man overseeing extensive, award-winning tree and shrub exhibits at the Chelsea Flower Show in the 1980s. I once owned a copy of the Notcutts

Must Paris reinvent itself?

In this odd book, the Financial Times columnist Simon Kuper narrates his experience as an expatriate ‘uptight northern European’ living in Paris with his family. His American wife, Pamela Duckerman, also a journalist, is the author of Bringing Up Bébé, a culture-shock memoir about having children in Paris and discovering French child-rearing ways, which are often radically at odds with American ideas and habits. Impossible City touches on some of the same territory (Kuper’s French acculturation through his children’s schooling and socialising), but it aims at a more comprehensive portrayal of rapidly evolving 21st-century Paris, warts and all; or, as he puts it, in a phrase that some may find

Must we live in perpetual fear of being named and shamed?

You should feel thoroughly ashamed of reading this infamous rag. Or else you might decide to revel, shamelessly, in its critics’ prim disapproval. From political squalls to global wars, David Keen argues that a ‘spiral of shame’ and shamelessness now traps individuals and societies in arid cycles of pain, rage and revenge. Manipulative actors – ‘advertisers, warmongers, terrorists, tyrants and charlatans’ – sell us ‘magical solutions’ to the anguish of the shame they themselves stoke. But they merely pass the burden to other groups, leaving us with more suffering. Keen writes: ‘Such actors do with shame what the Mafia does with fear.’ The author teaches conflict studies at the LSE.

Can I stay in Britain?

Brexit Britain, for all its flaws, has been welcoming to me. When the UK was a member of the European Union, the only way to control immigration was to crack down on non-EU visas. Ten years ago, Americans like me who studied in Britain and wanted to stay needed to earn £35,000 a year (which would be £47,000 now). That was unrealistic for a recent graduate. After Brexit, Boris Johnson brought back the old post-study visa, giving us two years to find work and requiring a more achievable minimum salary of £26,000. Finally, international students who won places at British universities could meet their EU equals as, well, equals. We

Will Starmer soften Brexit?

13 min listen

Keir Starmer is in Paris today. It’s a bid to ‘look statesman-like’, Katy Balls says, but also underlines where a Labour government would take British relations with the EU. Oscar Edmondson talks to Katy and Charles Grant, director of the Centre for European Reform. Produced by Oscar Edmondson and Cindy Yu.

‘We need to start the road to rejoin’: Gina Miller on Brexit, farmers and her ambitious plans for Epsom

Gina Miller is trying to convince me that she understands why I voted Brexit. The woman who went to the High Court in 2016 to effectively try to cancel my vote by insisting the EU referendum result be referred back to a Remain-dominated parliament, plunging Brexit into years of legal and parliamentary wrangling, says she feels my pain and always has. How can this be? Well, maybe it’s just the magic of politics. ‘My case was not to do with Brexit. It was to do with parliament’ Ms Miller is attempting to turn her single-issue, referendum-wrecking fame into a broader platform, by standing in leafy Epsom and Ewell as one

Rory Stewart is a fish out of water

Rory Stewart is one of that almost extinct species in the modern Conservative party, a one-nation Tory. He is also – or was (until Boris Johnson kicked him out) – a politician with hinterland. He had been places and done things before getting himself elected in his late thirties, entering parliament in 2010. Disillusion rapidly set in: Too much of our time was absorbed in gossip about the promotion of one colleague or the scandal engulfing another. Even four weeks in, I sensed more impotence, suspicion, envy, resentment, claustrophobia and schadenfreude than I had seen in any other profession. It is made clear to him from the outset that rebellion

How the British intelligentsia fell out of love with Germany

An economic slowdown, the far right on the rise, even apocalyptic hailstorms – what on earth is happening in Germany? Is Europe’s industrial powerhouse on the slide? Well, yes and no. Germany is in recession, and Germany’santi-immigration party, Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), is growing stronger, but the bad news coming out of Germany indicates a more lasting sea change: liberal Britain has finally fallen out of love with the Bundesrepublik. It’s not just British Teutonophiles who are troubled by the rise of AfD. This week Germany’s domestic spy chief, Thomas Haldenwang, warned about growing right-wing extremism within the party and German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier has echoed these concerns. ‘Ban the

The drop in language students has nothing to do with Brexit

The number of students studying modern languages is plummeting, The Sunday Times says today. ‘The number of pupils studying German has fallen below 2,200 with French also on a downward trend — amid fears students are becoming little Englanders.’ It shows a graph suggesting, rather absurdly, that Brexit is linked to the drop. Really? Little Englanders because they don’t want to learn German? My hunch is that today’s young are more globally-minded than any generation that came before, and this is reflective of a Britain that voted in 2016 not to move away from Europe but to strengthen ties with the wider world. When I was at school, we were

Why on earth did The Spectator support Brexit?

The temperature has hit 40°C in Crete, where I am writing this, and although there have been no fires, nothing is quite how it ought to be. I can’t work out whether this is a great opportunity to get a tan or, effectively, the end of the world. My 60-year-old taxi driver tells me that unfeasibly hot summers were a regular occurrence when he was young and that there’s nothing to worry about. But, he adds, he’ll be dead soon anyway so why should he care? Right or wrong, this is the paradox at the heart of the climate change debate. Older people, who could be held responsible for the

John Major has learned nothing over Brexit 

Rishi Sunak’s government is sometimes compared to that of John Major, the man who succeeded Margaret Thatcher in 1990, went on to win an unexpected election in 1992 – and then went down after a landslide defeat at the hands of Tony Blair’s New Labour in 1997. On an episode of The Rest Is Politics, a podcast hosted by former Tory MP Rory Stewart and Alastair Campbell, Blair’s media chief and an architect of New Labour, Sir John, now 80, looked back at his seven years in power. Major reflected on the lessons that time may hold for Sunak’s similarly embattled administration. Major refused to be drawn on whether today’s Tories are

Do Brits regret Brexit?

11 min listen

Today is the seven years’ anniversary of the Brexit referendum, and new polls find that a majority of Brits would prefer a closer relationship with the EU, or rejoining the European Union altogether. Can Labour capitalise on this? Cindy Yu talks to James Heale and Fraser Nelson. Produced by Cindy Yu.

Why Europe’s shift to the right may cost the Tories

On her recent visit to Washington, shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves presented herself as the perfect candidate to be the next chancellor in the modern mould: an environmentalist, interventionist and protectionist similar to Joe Biden and Olaf Scholz. Reeves champions what she calls ‘securonomics’, a sister of Bidenomonics with an environmental twist. But the trouble with Reeves’s approach is that just as she makes plain her direction, much of Europe is heading the other way. Take Finland. Until recently the country was led by Sanna Marin who, with New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern, became the face of the international centre-left. Marin was voted out in April’s general election and as of this

How many black or Asian Britons feel a strong sense of European identity?

Though wokeness is a vile thing, it has contributed to our culture in one fortunate way – by inspiring brilliant books which refute it. The woeful lack of anything passing for analysis (probably a colonial tool of oppression, like brunch) on the SJW side has thrown into gloriously sharp relief the difference in the intellectual firepower between those who believe in free speech and those who resemble Veruca Salt after joining the Stasi. We have Andrew Doyle’s The New Puritans and Remi Adekoya’s Biracial Britain; they have Laurie Penny’s Sexual Revolution and Jolyon Maugham’s Bringing Down Goliath – the latter category comprising unintentionally hilarious scribblings which will soon be up

Ross Clark

Brexit could fix inflation

Has food price inflation finally peaked? Figures released by the British Retail Consortium (BRC) this morning reveal that food prices were up 15.4 per cent in the past 12 months, down from 15.7 per cent in the year to April. Last week’s figures from the Office of National Statistics also showed a small fall, from 19.2 per cent in March to 19.1 per cent to April. The BRC’s methodology is different from the ONS’s, not only in that it tends to produce slightly lower figures but that it also runs slightly ahead. The inflation story has subtly changed, from being one led by energy prices to being dominated by food

Remainers should be honest about the costs of Brexit

Those opposed to leaving the European Union repeatedly accuse Brexit of being based on ignorance fed by lies. The ‘lie’ they invariably refer to is the £350 million on the side of the Boris bus. In reality, it was the Remain campaign, and its interminable Rejoiner sequel, that was and is based on systematic distortions and gross misunderstandings. One might shrug one’s shoulders if the distortions came only from business lobbies, EU-funded think tanks, the subsidised European media and the like. But some of the most damaging originate within the British state and its associated bodies. No one denies that the Civil Service has been and remains overwhelmingly opposed to

The DUP has a right to be difficult over the Northern Ireland Protocol

It’s easy to take an unsympathetic view of the Democratic Unionist Party. For many, its politicians are caricatures of the dour Ulsterman come to life; flinty types with an antediluvian outlook. An unfortunate reminder – for a certain type of Englishman – of all that ‘Irish stuff’ they would rather not have to deal with.  The back and forth over the Northern Ireland Protocol has seen this sentiment ratcheted up. Jeffrey Donaldson’s standpoint – no return to devolution without his party’s tests being met – is engendering incredible frustration among government ministers and a press tired of having to surrender column inches to this intractable tale.  One-time Brexit hardman Steve

Will there be resignations over Northern Ireland?

10 min listen

Rishi Sunak continues to try to get his MPs onside when it comes to the government’s deal with the EU on the Northern Ireland Protocol. Some Eurosceptics have warned that the Prime Minister could see resignations from his government if this is handled badly, with some touting Home Secretary Suella Braverman’s name. What’s the latest? James Heale talks to Fraser Nelson and Isabel Hardman. Produced by Oscar Edmondson and Cindy Yu.

Sunak is taking a gamble on the Protocol

Westminster is back to the Brexit wars this week. Once again, a Conservative leader is trying to finalise a deal with Brussels while facing warnings from their own side that it could prove a compromise too far. On Friday, there was much fanfare that a new deal on the Northern Ireland Protocol could be imminent. Rishi Sunak flew to Northern Ireland to meet with the DUP – where talks proved amicable. Then the Prime Minister met European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on the fringes of the Munich security conference. However, since then a string of Tory MPs have spoken publicly to raise their concerns and Sunak has been