How Britain smashed the slave trade

It was bound to happen sooner or later: a guest on the BBC’s Antiques Roadshow presented an artefact which derived from the slave trade – an ivory bangle. One of the programme’s experts, Ronnie Archer-Morgan, himself a descendant of slaves, said that it was a striking historical artefact but not one that he was willing to value. ‘I do not want to put a price on something that signifies such an awful business,’ he said. It’s easy to understand how he feels. The idea of people profiting from the artefacts left over from slavery is distasteful. Yet, as Archer-Morgan said, it is not that the bangle has no value: it

Who’s afraid of population growth?

In ten years’ time, there’s a good chance that the main concern in the western world will be the threat of population collapse. Fertility rates are falling everywhere and no government has found a way of reversing the trend. Plenty have tried. South Korea has so far spent $200 billion on tax breaks and lowering childcare costs and has succeeded only in beating its own record for the world’s lowest birth rate, year after year. In Italy, the situation is close to a crisis, and in France it’s not much better. If this continues, the welfare state model, which depends on a decent worker-to-pensioner ratio, will collapse. There will not

In search of a second epiphany

When I go home to America next week for Christmas, I’ll go to church – the one my family and I used to attend every Sunday, a few towns over. I visit intermittently throughout the year when I’m back home, but I always go on Christmas Eve. The routine is the same: I sit quietly in the pews, sing along to the carols, and hope to have a second epiphany.   I had my first epiphany – that God exists – when I was a child. This, I’m sure, is the result of having two religious parents who raised me in the church. When I tell my British friends that I

Rishi’s smoking ban inspired me to light a cigarette

What has Rishi Sunak’s government achieved in its first year? The highlights include a renegotiated Brexit policy and setting more practical net-zero deadlines. But Sunak asked the country to judge him on his ability to deliver his pledges set out at the start of the year. If polls are to be believed, voters are preparing to do just that. Inflation is falling, but that’s largely due to interest rate hikes announced by the Bank of England. The economy is growing, but barely. The NHS waiting list keeps rising – 7.6 million now in England alone. On this last point, no doubt the six-figure salaried consultants who keep striking deserve part

The full English: how to fall in love with this country

My nine-year-old half-Russian daughter has arrived in England for the first time since she was a baby. As she knows almost nothing about British culture apart from Peppa Pig and Willy Wonka, my job is to put together a week-long programme before she goes back to Italy, where she currently lives with her mother, my ex-partner. They were living in Russia but left following Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Ideally, my daughter will go home enthused about all things English and wanting a lifetime more. But where do I start? Peppermint Aeros and Crunchie bars are the things I want to pass on, far more than the music of Elgar

How do I know I’m an adult? I’m given unsolicited feedback

Adulthood was once determined by age, but now we’ve extended childhood far beyond the teenage years. If the government gets its way, the next generation will never grow up: there are reportedly plans to ban cigarette sales to anyone born after 2009. This would mean that, come 2060, 50-year-olds could be begging their elders to pop into the local corner shop to buy them a pack of 20. We need a new metric of adulthood, and I have a proposal. The real mark is not an age or any particular milestone, it’s really when you receive your first piece of unsolicited feedback. It’s a grim but unavoidable rite of passage: having personal

Britain has an entitlement problem

An Institute for Fiscal Studies paper, published at the end of last month, makes grim reading. Through the prism of the media reports it generated (‘One in 11 workers in England could be NHS staff by 2036,’ said the Guardian; ‘NHS staff will make up 49 per cent of the public sector workforce in 2036,’ said the Times), the most sensational finding was that our health service will be eating up an ever-increasing share of public spending. But, as so often, this particular cuckoo in the nest of public provision is only the most newsworthy of so many indications of Britain’s long, slow slide into insolvency. The gap grows between

British conservatism is lurching from one crisis to another

No. 10 quickly asserted that the meltdown at National Air Traffic Services was a technical issue rather than a cyber attack. This was presumably meant to be reassuring. It is anything but. It speaks, once more, of a Britain with creaking infrastructure, where national paralysis has become a regular occurrence. The highest tax revenues in peacetime history have not created a properly functioning country.  The breakdown was caused by a single mis-filed flight plan. That such havoc can result from one trivial event does little credit to the organisation entrusted with our airspace. This week’s event may not be a cyber attack, but hostile states and organisations will be taking

Britain should not be nervous of India

For a disconcertingly large constituency in Britain, Indian history ends in 1947.The two centuries leading up to that bloody year – when British rule formally ended, India gained independence and Pakistan was conjured into existence – were replete with books, articles, pamphlets, lectures and debates on India. What unites this body of work, apart from colonial condescension, is an effort to comprehend India. That impulse faded once India attained freedom. After independence, India surged forward; Britain’s idea of India, however, remained captive to the past Britain’s sins in India – racism, carnage, plunder – are a matter for British consciences. But a more confident India will also one day acknowledge

Kate Andrews

Why won’t my British friends see a GP?

Having lived in the United Kingdom for almost my whole adult life, I like to think I’m well assimilated. I stopped trying to make pleasantries with strangers a long time ago. I skip dinner to stand outside the pub in the dark. Apart from my accent (though Americans tell me that’s changed, too) I think I can just about pass as British. But never for long. At some point, someone starts talking about a health worry or new ailment, and I tell them to see the doctor. Suddenly, the jig is up, and I’m an outsider again. I’m now very familiar with the British aversion to seeking medical care. Still,

Britain is not a basket case

It’s a dinner party in Brussels and I try to turn the conversation to the war in Ukraine. My host is having none of it. She is determined to initiate another round of discussion on the theme of ‘isn’t Britain a basket case?’ From bitter experience I know that I am in for a lengthy diatribe about ‘nothing works’ Britain.  At times it feels as if there is a veritable crusade targeting Britain. Media outlets on both sides of the Atlantic constantly refer to Britain as if it is a country in the throes of an existential breakdown.  All these critics hold that it is wrong, even shameful for the British people to take pride in their culture and their past ‘Britain

‘Bring Back Boris’ means the Conservatives are unleadable

Boris Johnson was finally thrown out of Downing Street because of his handling of sexual misconduct allegations by a political ally. Dozens of ministers quit his government over his lack of integrity. He remains subject to an investigation that could see him suspended from parliament for dishonesty. Dozens of Conservative MPs believe he is the best person to lead their party and Britain. The Bring Back Boris movement confirms that the Conservative party is now unleadable. Whoever ends up as prime minister next week will be unable to command a reliable majority of the party’s MPs. This puts a major question mark over any Conservative government’s ability to deliver the

Finally, some justice for the infected blood scandal’s victims

Why has the greatest patient scandal in the history of the NHS rumbled on for so long before its victims even start to see justice? It shouldn’t have taken 40 years for there to be an answer Today the government awarded £100,000 in interim compensation to around 4,000 survivors of the contaminated blood scandal, as recommended by Sir Robert Francis, who published a report on the matter earlier this year. They have been fighting for 40 years for justice that, as yet, does not cover the bereaved parents and children of those who were infected with HIV and Hepatitis C when they were given dirty blood products for their haemophilia

Britain’s crippling lack of infrastructure

England is in the grip of its most widespread drought in 20 years. Water companies are implementing hosepipe bans. Half the country’s potato crop is expected to fail. Photographs of reservoirs show them drained, dry banks open to the sky. Another heatwave is here, bringing little prospect of imminent relief. Britain hasn’t built a reservoir since 1991. The population has grown. Hot weather has become more frequent. Water use has become more strained. The barriers to actually doing something about it remain in place. Take Layla Moran, Liberal Democrat MP for Oxford West. As late as March, she was doing the media rounds vigorously opposing the construction of a new

How Germany’s energy crisis could bite Britain

For now, Berlin can breathe a sigh of relief: after a ten-day shutdown for maintenance, the Nord Stream 1 pipeline is back online. Russia is once again heating German homes, fuelling German industry, and using German money to finance its war in Ukraine. But this happy exchange may not continue; the pipeline is still operating at just 40 per cent of its usual capacity, and Vladimir Putin is warning this could fall to 20 per cent next week. With Germany’s gas reserves just 65 per cent full – thanks in part to state-owned Russian energy company Gazprom’s curious oversight in maintaining them last year – and plans to refill it

Blair is wrong: the future of Britain shouldn’t involve Macron

Tony Blair believes the way forward for Britain is to seek guidance from Emmanuel Macron. The former British prime minister has a reputation for outlandish claims but the suggestion that the United Kingdom can benefit from pearls of wisdom proffered by the most divisive president in the history of the Fifth Republic is baffling even by Blair’s standards. According to Politico, Blair will host a Future of Britain conference on June 30, which is a collaboration between his eponymous Institute and the Britain Project, a centrist think tank that was established in the wake of the 2019 general election and which is described by Politico as the ‘British version of

This is how to save the Union

Devolution has failed in Scotland. Nothing that follows will be of use to you if you remain in denial of this fact.  Facing up to a quarter-century of needless, self-inflicted constitutional harm is the admission price to any credible conversation about how to go about fixing the problem. Devolution, sold with the assurance that ‘the Union will be strengthened and the threat of separatism removed’, has weakened the Union and armed the separatists. All historic errors have their guilty men and devolution has an unholy trinity. Labour loves legends, especially those felled on the cusp of greatness, and Donald Dewar — MP at 28, architect of devolution, inaugural First Minister,

China is right to laugh at the west

Signs of the enervating weakness of the west’s governing elites aren’t that hard to find but the case of the Winter Olympics may be the most demeaning. The UK and Canada have followed the US and Australia in announcing a diplomatic boycott of February’s games in Beijing over China’s human rights record. It’s a crushing blow to the communist dictatorship: Xi Jinping has been unable to sleep or dress himself since learning that the deputy head of the British mission will be skipping the mixed doubles luge final. The UK’s boycott may not even be a boycott, with Boris Johnson saying ‘we do not support sporting boycotts but there are certainly

Britain’s relationship with France has taken a turn for the worse

How will Priti Patel’s tour of European capitals in a bid to solve the migrant crisis go? Well, any visit to Paris will be difficult. Relations between the UK and France have taken a turn for the worse overnight, with Emmanuel Macron making a series of comments both privately and publicly that have landed badly with the UK government. Discussing the Northern Ireland protocol, the French President said the EU must not ‘cave in’ to British demands on border checks. In comments viewed as incendiary by ministers, Macron described the issue of the border as a matter of ‘war and peace’. However, where Macron has allegedly been the most critical

Why Britain and France can’t have an amicable divorce

Former Chancellor Nigel Lawson famously said that the National Health Service is the nearest thing we British have to a state religion. You could say much the same thing about the European Union and the French. To our Gallic neighbours, the ‘construction of Europe’ is a sacred task that brooks no challenge. What goal can be higher than binding the once bellicose German nation into a new rules-based European order that has brought peace to a continent riven by war and revolution? What nobler cause for France than leveraging the outsized economic heft of its neighbour outre-Rhin in support of its mission to create an alternative beacon of enlightenment values