In February, I attended The Freedom Association (TFA) Jillian Becker Lecture held in London. Nigel Farage gave this year’s lecture, with an introduction from TFA’s Chairman and former MEP David Campbell Bannerman and a great summary by Chief Executive Andrew Allison.
Farage, as you can expect, gave a great speech covering many topics not least of all the need to fight against Net Zero environmental policies. He stayed for a fantastic question-and-answer, and never looks better than thinking on his feet with a live audience. For me, possibly the best thing about the event was that it was great to meet up with people you know, people you’ve heard of, and new people involved in all sorts of searches for freedom, or as Nigel put it; ‘it felt like old times’.
The Freedom Association itself has a proud history of supporting freedom in our country. It’s ten principles of a free society cover individual freedom, responsibility, the rule of law, limited government, free markets, national parliamentary democracy, and – something in desperate need of bringing to the fore – freedom of speech, expression, and assembly.
It is a great organisation, and I would encourage anyone to join not least for events like this but also because it’s a great way to support the fight for freedom in Britain. The event was also a great opportunity to meet people from difference parties; the Conservatives, the Reform Party, UKIP, the Heritage Party, journalists from the left and right, people from academia, and a range of activists all believing that we have a right to be free.
Events like these are also a great opportunity to make new contacts. I was busy picking up business cards from people in a variety of thinktanks who I certainly hope to persuade to be on our podcast if not at a live event. One of the greatest feelings I got from the experience was the overwhelming sense of community and comfort in not being alone in one’s beliefs.
Social media is no substitute for real life meet-ups in the flesh, especially with a large crowd. I had a similar experience recently going to see ‘Kevin Bloody Wilson’, the Australian singing comic, at a local theatre. All the political correctness we see in life, all the push back against ‘insensitive’ jokes, suddenly disappears when you’re in a theatre full of people singing songs with names to rude for me to mention.
But things are improving on this front. We hold a regular Libertarian Drinks here in Croydon as part of Dick Dellingpole’s Third Wednesday group. They are gaining popularity across the country, and you can find your local meet-up on the website. One is due to be set up in Christopher Wilkinson’s home city of Lichfield sometime soon. What’s been excellent for us is seeing the group expand from what started as a pro-Brexit group to include some people too young to vote at the time of the referendum! As we hopefully put lockdown well and truly behind us, in real life is clearly the way forward. In the meantime, the whole Jillian Becker Lecture is now available to watch on YouTube.
Mike Swadling proposed the debate, and below is his speech delivered to the society. As always with this friendly group the debate was good natured, very well opposed and drew out some great views from the audience.
“It is time for the West to stand up to Putin and kick Russia out of Ukraine”
What does this mean?
Of course, in many ways this is already government policy. Standing up to Putin is exactly what we are doing by supporting front line states, supplying the Ukrainian government, and restricting the operation of Russia’s economy. So in many ways it means doing exactly what we are doing today.
What it doesn’t need to mean, nor should it, is a direct armed intervention in the Ukraine with NATO forces acting directly against Russia or Russian troops. It would be unwise in the extreme to directly attack another nuclear power, unless you had already set out clearly that their actions were a line that could not be crossed.
I am reminded of a line from a book I read many years ago during the Cold War, called “Nuclear War, What’s in it for you?” In a line about misjudging a military interaction with a nuclear Soviet Union as it was at the time, the good news was you only had 4 minutes to regret your mistake.
What we are talking about here is standing up to a bully, an oppressor, and a calculated man who is in his mind making a logical choice to invade the Ukraine, and will if not stopped, go further. Therefore, we need to stop him and push him back. It’s worth pondering for a while, where we are at, and how we got to this position?
I’m not entirely sure why the global community has decided national borders matter more than anything else. The fact is we do care about borders, but I’d like to consider for a moment if it is the right or moral choice?
Nations continue to trade with China as they intern millions of Uyghurs. Allegations of slave Labour and Genocide haven’t led to sanctions against leading members of the Chinese Communist Party, business leaders or the Chinese media.
Statista the market and consumer data company lists Egypt at the top of the list of worst countries for human rights and rule of law as of 2021, and Amnesty International says “Authorities targeted human rights defenders, opposition politicians and other activists through unlawful summons, coercive questioning, extrajudicial probation measures, criminal investigations, unfair prosecutions and inclusion on a “list of terrorists”, yet we have no sanctions against them.
Prior to the invasion of Ukraine, Amnesty reported the following on Russia: “Torture and other ill-treatment in places of detention remained endemic and prosecutions of perpetrators rare. Enforced disappearances were reported in Chechnya. The authorities failed to address domestic violence. LGBTI people continued to face discrimination”, yet none of this led to sanctions.
The things we choose to care about, or more to the point the things we don’t choose to care about, often baffles me, but that doesn’t mean the national borders don’t matter, in fact from the reactions we see all around us we know they clearly do, and we should be profoundly concerned by the Russian invasion of the Ukraine. What makes Putin’s invasion of the Ukraine so dangerous is the very calculated and to his mind logical nature of it. I want to dismiss any ideas that Putin’s invasion was the act of a mad man.
It may not have worked out well, but that is in part because of the decisive action we have taken to support the Ukrainians. It is worth remembering when the invasion started, no one expected the Ukrainians to last out long or avoid an inevitable defeat.
Why do I say the invasion was calculated and logical? Well if I may, can I ask you to cask your minds back to history lessons of Alfred the Great and his sons and grandsons who united the English people, pulling together the Angles and Saxon tribes who had by that time formed into a common people on this island. Imagine if say the Eastern Anglo tribe of East Anglia, had for some reason stayed separate.
They had through invasion and forced separation formed a slightly different grouping of English people, with a different but recognisable language. We had united for some hundreds of years but had just 30 years ago again separated. Might it be logical to some that we again unite as one people, one country.
Now I’m not suggesting for one moment this is right. All I am saying is might it seem to some uniting an English people who had been separated at a weak point in the tides of history is a reasonable thing to do. Well this is in imperfect analogy for the Ukraine and Russia. Their history does bear similarities.
The Kiev Rus, the first Russians, are a recognised group from the 800s AD. The Mongol Horde split the Kiev and Muscovite Russians. Ukrainians then variously formed parts of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, the Austrian Empire, and the Ottoman Empire, before Catherine the Great united the Russian People, in the Russian Empire.
By then of course these Kiev Rus, or Ukrainians were a separate people, and Ukrainian nationalism flourished in the 19th Century. This nationalism led in part to Starlin’s murder of an estimated 4 million Ukrainians in the famines of the 1930s. The nations finally split again in 1991 with the break-up of the Soviet Union. Despite this, many in Russia and more than a few in the Ukraine see the ‘Rus’ both Kiev and Muscovite as one people.
Now all this talk of Mongol Hordes and Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealths, may seem from a different era, but maybe if we again look closer to home, where we still have disputes between Protestant and Catholic football teams in Glasgow, Edinburgh, and to a lesser extent Liverpool. We still live with the threat that the situation in Northern Ireland may become bloody again, Scotland may well vote to leave the Union. Ireland did join and leave the union, but often people still talk of Cromwell. Scotland joined the union and people talk of Robert the Bruce and William Wallace. Wales, especially in Welsh speaking, Plaid Cymru voting, North Wales is separate from England because 1600 years ago our Anglo-Saxon ancestors moved to these islands.
My point is we have these divisions in a modern tolerant democracy like Britain. A nation with largely one language, that built an Empire and with it the modern world. Yet we still hark back into long history’s, Russia and the Ukraine have never really had any of our benefits, it’s no surprise history casts a long shadow there.
Russia already has Belarus as a de facto vassal state. With a 1,400 mile border, disputed territory, some of the best ports of the Black Sea, and the opportunity to ensure no foreign troops can be on the Great European Plain for a few hundred extra miles away from Moscow. It was not the act of a mad man for Putin to invade the Ukraine. It was from his position in Moscow quite logical. It’s this logic that means we have to stand up to Putin, and kick Russia out of Ukraine.
Over 20% of Kazakhstan’s population are native Russian speakers, NATO members Latvia and Estonia both have about 30% of their population as native Russian speakers. Of course these overall numbers hide regions that are majority Russian. We know Russia has played fast and loose with Georgian independence, and threats are currently being made to Finland and Sweden. Russia is a bully and history teaches us we must stand up to bullies.
If Mussolini had been stood up to before the invasion of Abyssinia, or Hitler in the Rhineland, Sudentonland, or Austria, the history of Europe could be very much less bloody. Many believe the withdrawal of the ice patrol ship HMS Endurance from the Falkland Islands convinced the Argentinians to go to war.
NATO has kept the peace in western Europe for 70 years, because bullies only understand one thing, strength, and only through strength can we ensure Putin goes no further. How do we show that strength, how do we stand up to Putin?
So far, what I am going to imperfectly call the ‘west’, has reacted with surprising unity. While we haven’t been able to fully wean ourselves off Russian gas, and no country was going to impoverish itself deliberately overnight, progress has none the less been made. We have imposed meaningful sanctions against Russia as a nation and punished the plutocrats that enable the Putin regime.
Britain as the leading military power in Europe has shown we can support the Ukraine, and the nation states on the frontline. Whilst I won’t pretend to be a military expert the ability for relatively small arms to disrupt a large invading force must be a concern to all military powers. Cheap domestic drones have become a feature in this war that will surely challenge future acts of aggression.
Indeed this alone is a reason for our involvement in standing up to Putin. A military only remains strong if it is engaged in or is close to the latest military actions. No one wants to send troops to war, but we do want a military we can trust the readiness off. British expertise is being used, and knowledge is being gained through our providing assistance. Weapons like the NLAW anti-tank missiles, we have been suppling will be better for being seen in battlefield conditions. No one wants a war, but if one is happening, your military intelligence should make use of it. Incidentally we can reflect after the Jubilee weekend, it’s been reported Ukrainian soldiers shout “God save the Queen!” when using the NLAW against the Russians.
Naval warfare has changed as ships have been seen to be more vulnerable to land-based missile attack, something that will affect activities in the Taiwan Strait for years to come.
The coming together of the Ukrainian people and their successful defence of their country sets them clearly apart as a nation from Russia. In the medium to long term a humiliated nuclear Russia would be a concern for all, and once confined to their borders, we should look to re-engage Russia in the international community, but for now our security needs are best met by ensuring the integrity of an independent Ukraine.
There are a few areas of concern from our reaction to the war. On the more absurd end we have seen sanctions against individual sports men and women, the refusal to play Tchaikovsky by the Cardiff Philharmonic Orchestra, and the banning of Russian media.
Chemical Ali was a propaganda boon to the coalition during the Iraq war, Lord Haw-Haw if anything, stiffened resolve against Germany. We could now be watching Putin’s propagandists having to explain the failing of the paper bear Russian army, instead by banning them, we have protected them from their own shortcomings.
Perhaps my biggest concern from the invasion of Ukraine has been the willingness of India to work with Russia to secure energy supplies. With 1.36 billion people, India is by far the largest democracy in the world, and this should be celebrated. Both to handle Putin and with the looming global threat of the Chinese Communist Party, making sure India is on the side of the good guys, on the side of the liberal democracies, is good for one billion souls and good for the globe.
What are our next steps? Some actions we already appear to be taking, we need to align states with NATO and other tenants of the western military alliance as ultimately security only comes through strong defence. Winston Churchill once said “Safety and certainty in oil lie in variety, and variety alone”,we need to exploit domestic supplies of energy and encourage other countries to diversify their supplies of energy and other key commodities.
We should be forming an alliance of democracies with not just India but all countries who are set on a democratic path and open to the peaceful transition of government. The emerging global power of China and with it the Chinese Communist Party, and the regional threat of nations like Russian and Iran, is best stopped by democratic nations working together.And we need to continue to supply better and more sophisticated weapons to the Ukrainian regium. We need to ensure the Black Sea Fleet cannot operate with impunity in the Black Sea, that Russian tanks are proven ineffective, and that Russian soldiers no longer care for the fight.
Over 20% of Russians are from non-Russia ethnic groups, over half don’t call themselves Christian. We should be using our considerable media skills as a nation to agitate these populations against Putin, creating problems in his own backyard.
As we did in the Cold War, we need a range of actions, outspending, out propagandising, and out thinking our enemy. In the 1980s, the western alliance’s actions, led to Perestroika and Glasnost in the USSR, making sure the cost of pursuing this war is greater than any benefit they could gain from winning it, can led to a newfound peace with Russia.
In April the UK government announced a new package of £100 million of military aid, building on the £350 million of military aid and around £400m of economic and humanitarian support that the UK has already provided. This included additional Javelin anti-tank systems, Starstreak air defence systems, ballistic helmets, body armour and night vision goggles. We are already standing up to Putin, we are already working to kick Russia out of Ukraine.
In the episode called ‘Grand Design’ of the Yes Prime Minister TV Series, the government’s chief scientific adviser tells Prime Minister Jim Hacker:
“Why should the Russians annex the whole of Europe? They can’t even control Afghanistan.
No, if they try anything, it will be salami tactics.
– Salami tactics? – Slice by slice.
One small piece at a time.”
Destabilising Georgia in 2008, annexation of the Crimea in 2014, further destabilising the Ukraine, involvement in Syria supporting the chemical weapon using Bashar al-Assad, and now the invasion of the Ukraine in 2022.
Putin is using Salami tactics, we need to show him this time he has sliced off more than he can chew.
With the Jubilee weekend just gone it’s a good time to think about what we are, and how we celebrate as a nation. The Jubilee has proved a great opportunity for local neighbourhoods to come together in street parties, for local communities to decorate town centres and hold festivals, and for the nation to celebrate as a whole.
We all know July the 4th when the USA celebrates, most of us have heard of Bastille Day, France’s national day. Thailand, the Netherlands and Belgium all celebrate days associated with past kings as their national days. In the case of Belgium this is more confusing as Belgium is really a country of two nations who frankly don’t get on.
Like the US, Sri Lanka, Botswana, Nigeria, Malaysia and Burma, and many others all celebrate their national day, as the day they gained independence from Britain.
Brazil celebrates it’s independence from Portugal, most of the rest of South American national days celebrate independence from Spain. Australia celebrates the landing of the First Fleet at Sydney Cove, New Zealand celebrates the Treaty of Waitangi, and Canada the British North America Act of 1867. Whatever the countries reason only 2 nations in the world, the UK and Denmark don’t have national days of celebration.
As a nation, a community, we benefit from coming together and celebrating what unites us. As a fast-changing nation we need to find opportunities to come together as one and celebrate our commonality. What’s more with a nation with the history of the United Kingdom, a national day can be used to celebrate many of the values we as liberty lovers hold dear.
Now I should start by saying we will likely be asked to celebrate the NHS, this happens at every opportunity and to be fair it does unite many in the nation as a cause for celebration. But a national day would go further than that. I would propose a national day should as a starting point celebrate the ‘British Values’ as laid out in the National Curriculum. These being:
Rule of law
Tolerance of Those With Different Faiths And Beliefs
These already have political acceptance, are being taught in schools and are hard to disagree with, and are key British traits. I would hope all readers of this journal could get behind them. After a number of years of government and politicians trying to overturn a democratic vote, removing our liberty, and showing no respect for those with different beliefs on for instance medical treatments, it might be good to have these values brought to the forefront once a year.
All this leaves to decide is when do we have the day. We already have hardly celebrated Mayday and Spring Bank Holiday days, we could simply move one of these to early September or late June / early July to give us a reasonable chance of a warm day to celebrate our nation.
And if all else fails it’s just a better-timed excuse to have a day off, and maybe, like the Jubilee weekend raise a toast to the Queen.
Originally published in the 17th January edition of Free Speech from Blacklist Press. Mike Swadling wrote about Partygate and the hypocrisy of the PM. Since then we have seen fines issued. the release of Sue Gray’s report, and the revelations of Sir Keir Starmer’s curry and beer in Durham.
None of our political leaders come out well from this, and many in the public are now well and truly fed up with the whole topic. But it did have cut through, and below are thoughts on the Cut Through and Opportunity Partygate created.
It’s not a bad idea in a democracy to be popular as well as right. One of the depressing things surrounding the stories of Boris Johnson and Partygate has been the number of social media posts from liberty lovers saying the story isn’t the party, instead, the story is that the rules were wrong.
They are right of course the rules were wrong. No doubt most reading this broke lockdown rules, some even as early as the spring of 2020. But there is a difference when the rule breakers are those that impose them. Politics requires cut through, and often requires opportunism, Partygate gives both.
Most people in May 2020 were studiously following the rules, and they simply don’t like the hypocrisy of the PM, cabinet members, senior civil servants and their assistants, being out partying when we couldn’t get together with family to bury a loved one. Yes the rules were wrong, but saying the rules were wrong 2 years ago doesn’t have the cut through of pointing at a ruling class laughing at us.
There is another issue here that really matters, the Government must follow the same rules as the governed. Magna Carta set out the need for the Monarch to follow the law as much as the commoner. Today much the power of Monarch is effectively held in 10 Downing Street, and rather than taking their cue from Runnymede our current government seems to have looked to Versailles. John Locke wrote(1) that ‘freedom in society means being subject only to laws made by a legislature that apply to everyone’. The rule of law is a common enough expression, indeed according to the National Curriculum(2) it is a fundamental British value.
I firmly believe the best case for liberty is made when liberty lovers connect with a broad swath of voters and show the hypocrisy of government and the desperate need we all have to constrain it. Can we build a majority that says all people must be free to act with complete liberty? I doubt it. But can we effect change or even build a majority by saying never again can the government be able to act outside of the laws it requires us to follow? Absolutely!
It’s FA Cup third round weekend again and I have spent much of the Friday in a number of meetings with one of the schools I’m a governor at. The meetings were productive, although I can’t pretend hugely fascinating. They were however an opportunity to support the head of the school and provide some insight from the commercial world into the world of education.
As soon as the draw was made for the Cup, we knew this one would be a little special. My team Palace were playing local rivals Millwall at the New Den, and as we hadn’t played them for a few years, we knew it would be quite some match.
Last year during the period between lockdowns, a friend and I ran a ‘Palace Day’ at a local members club (what used to be called a working men’s club), in aid of the club’s charity. It provided an opportunity to draw more people in to watch the match that day, helping raise some much-needed funds for the club and the charity.
This match would provide a similar opportunity, a chance to get the charitable collection for the year started and encourage people out to the club on a miserable January day. Between the time of first goal, picture quiz and lucky dip we managed to raise about £100 for charity and bring in some extra trade – not bad for a lunch time game. Of course, the result also went Palace’s way. (Crystal Palace went on to make it to the semi final where they lost of Chelsea).
As someone who believes in less top-down government control and more local and personal responsibility, it’s been remarkably easy to help be that change. Being a school governor, I have a direct involvement with the school system in my area. We’ve been able to support a local business and a local charity. These activities have stretched me and helped me gain new skills. With government encroaching evermore into every part of our lives, let’s make sure liberty lovers are involved in building communities that can push back.
Mayoral and council elections are fast approaching in our borough. Of course, it’s easy to heckle from the cheap seats if you’re not running, but if I may ask your indulgence, I wanted to share my thoughts on what I think our first elected Mayor should be focusing on in office.
Find out how bad the problems really are
Croydon has twice issued a Section 114 notice, and is either about to, or came close perilously close to issuing a third one due to a misalignment of capital and revenue funds. The new Mayor should go in and ask each department to ask them to rapidly ‘bring out your dead’, the officers need to let the new Mayor know every problem and add them to a risk or issue register, with an assigned cost to resolve. The Mayor needs to be clear with the local officers that now is the time to come clean without prejudice, but anything they try to hide will be used against them in the future. The mayors team can only fix the problems of Croydon Council once they truly know how bad they are.
Change the culture
Croydon council appears to have a frankly toxic culture towards the people of Croydon, quite a few of the staff, and some of the councillors. The council recently voted to stop using their auditors Grant Thornton in what appears to be a response to the auditors continually finding problems in the running of the borough. Why are the council continually arguing with their auditors? Yes, auditors can be a royal pain, but that’s their job. The Mayor should invite the auditors in to sit with department heads and detail the problems that didn’t make it to the ‘Reports in the Public interest’. It’s far from just the Audits, it’s the planning department that doesn’t care to listen to residents, it’s the phones that go unanswered. When the council was making national headlines for the problems at the Regina Road flats in South Norwood, it was clear the council lacked basic crisis management skills, no war room, no briefing for the Council Leader Hamida Ali, no plan of action to make some rapid improvements or even speak to residents. The council needs to stop operating as if in a bunker where everyone else is the enemy and start acting as a professional partner and service provider.
The councils’ involvement in planning is a mixture of policy setting and sitting in judgment on individual planning cases. The legal details that need to be met mean planning in the borough is far from a quick problem to solve. Firstly, the local plan needs to be updated and approved, it appears all Mayoral candidates are committed to holding the submission of the plan over whilst they review and focusing on a new plan that doesn’t attempt to exceed the required numbers from the GLA would be a great start. As would a greater focus on houses rather than flats, more in setting with most of the borough. Planning is a legal quagmire, and any new Mayor is likely to disappoint more people (at least initially) than they please, but with some local sensitivity to planning and a much less aggressive attitude from councillors and council officers, things can improve.
Work across the borough
One of the main selling points from the DEMOC (democratically elected mayor of Croydon) campaign was that a Mayor would need to secure votes from across the borough and would therefore govern for both Purley and Thornton Health, not being able to win re-election without a decent support from both. Croydon is 2 to 3 different types of area, and many small towns brought together in one borough. One size doesn’t fit all, and a town hall that respects that diversity will make for a much happier and more successful borough. A new Mayor would do well to focus planning as locally as possible, target services at a local level, work with residents’ associations and dare I say it councillors in each local area for the success of the borough. To suggest that a likely Labour or Conservative Mayor works with councillors from the other party may be a heresy to many, but that is part of the fundamental problem with Croydon’s politics. I can understand why in the swing wards in Addiscombe this might prove impossible, but in safe wards like Sanderstead and South Norwood, there is no reason why collecting the bins needs to be a partisan issue, and a Mayor should try to bring together all elected officials to work to the betterment of each area.
Children’s Services is spiralling out of control again
Croydon’s Children’s Services department has been in and out of Special Measures over the past few years. Children’s Services looks after the most vulnerable people in our society, there is a moral as well as legal imperative that of all the councils’ services, this is the one that we make a Rolls Royce solution. A new Mayor should move the best and the brightest into this department to make improvements. Any blocker to increasing capacity needs to be removed, and we need social services working with key community services, forming hubs around local schools and medical practices. No easy answers on how to do this, and a constrained financial environment won’t help, but keeping the Children’s Services on track should be an early focus of a new Mayor.
Do something with the town centre
I fundamentally believe the best people to decide how to run a shop are shopkeepers, the best to decide how to run a pub are landlords, and the best to run a restaurant are restaurateurs. In all these cases the worst people to decide how to run the business are politicians, with local government officers a close second. If you needed any proof of this look no further than Croydon town centre. Brilliant planning schemes have led to the collapse of our main shopping centre. I think a Mayor would be best to leave the next steps for the town centre to the experts, the landlords, retailers and business groups that own and operate the towns main shopping areas. That’s not to say there aren’t any areas the council can help with. People need to feel safe in the town centre and the council can co-ordinate with services like the police to make sure Croydon is a safe place to shop. People need to be able to get to the town centre, buses in Croydon seem to be routed ever further from the shopping areas, and car parking has become ever more expensive. We do have new cycle lanes, but who seriously believes we will ever see large numbers cycle to go shopping or for a night out? Get the basic infrastructure right and leave the enterprise to the entrepreneurs.
Stop coming up with bright ideas
Westfield, buying hotels and shopping centres, new building companies, massive redevelopments of the Fairfield Halls, Boxpark, £10,000 for someone to defecate on stage, all bright ideas brought to you by Croydon Council in recent years, all ultimately helping lead to the borough’s de facto bankruptcy. With the financial problems the council faces, the planning problems, the risks in Children’s services, and many more issues on the new Mayors plate, they need to stop coming up with new bright ideas and focus on these priorities. This might not suite everyone, many at the council might want to undertake new and exciting work, well they can leave, that will help drive the cultural change the council so desperately needs.
The Mayor needs to ensure that the council can delivery its basic services well on the limited budget available. They will be negotiating with central government for grants, investments, and probably more bailout funds, and they will need to show they are delivering the service to the people of Croydon. The new Mayor will have few places to hide, the buck will stop with them. As discussed, the councils’ offices need to undergo cultural change to start responding to the people of Croydon and focus on delivery of basic services on budget rather than generating big ideas. One way to keep a large organisation like Croydon Council on track is to implement Key Performance Indicators or KPIs at each level to ensure departments are delivering on the tasks asked for. KPIs aren’t a panacea, and it can lead to misaligned priorities, but all these priorities, misaligned or not will be on delivering key services not on big new bold spending plans.
Mike Swadling was interviewed recently by Lorena Serantes Prieto, about the Croydon Constitutionalists, Brexit and the state of the Conservative Party.
Lorena’s blog covers a range of interviews with people engaged in politics in the UK, she can also be found on Twitter at @LoreSerantes.
“Broadly we are in favour of Brexit, Low Taxes, Free Speech, Free Markets, and Rational science not climate alarmism. We try to find national organisations or groups we can partner with on a local level to campaign for these things.”
“I don’t believe it’s possible to negotiate a reasonable deal with a party that doesn’t believe you are an equal. I believe the EU regards the UK as somewhat of a renegade province and it these circumstances it is not possible to negotiate as equals.”
“What is the purpose of a Conservative Government if we have high tax, high spend, high cost of living and low home ownership? The Conservatives risk losing their core support”
For most people in the UK if they are aware of Ben Shapiro, it’s due to his 2019 interview with Andrew Neil. Whilst not one of Shapiro’s finer days, it was an early indication of the extent to which Neil whilst the best on the BBC, is very much an establishment figure who won’t leave the left’s Overton window.
There are endless Ben Shapiro destroys videos, and The Ben Shapiro Show is considered the 5th biggest podcast in the World with 2.6 million daily listeners. The show is published by The Daily Wire an organisation Ben created with Jeremy Boreing and which is fast becoming one of the most interesting news and entertainment organisations in the US. Originally focused on news with a conservative slant, it has attracted new broadcasters including Candace Owens last year.
Having filled the space left by so main mainstream media broadcasters who ignore those with conservative (in the American sense), libertarian, or classical liberal views more recently they have started to expand into wider entertainment to fight back against the woke. Actress Gina Carano joined after she was cancelled by Disney, and they acquired all of PragerU’s content. But it doesn’t end there, with Disney taking a political stance against Florida’s Parental Rights In Education Bill, The Daily Wire is expanding (with a $100 million investment over 3 years) into children’s entertainment.
Is there a market for all this? Well, my personal travels around Florida suggest there is. Watching the entertainment channel TBS, you are suddenly subjected to adverts for other shows telling you how conservatives are subverting free speech (and I thought it was Trump who was banned from Facebook and Twitter). As already mentioned, Disney with a significant base in Florida have decided to weigh in against the state’s popular governor. The Oscars, Wil Smith and Chris Rock aside, was a wokeathon which comparative to 10 years ago nobody watches, and Harry’s Razors possibly the most masculine of products pulled their adverts from the Daily Wire following one complaint on Twitter.
Florida does lean Republican, but I mostly spent my time in major cities and you were never far from a pro-Trump t-shirt, flag or hat. Joe Biden ‘I did that’ stickers pointing at the price you are paying on petrol pumps, are I’m told ubiquitous, and Chick-fil-A’s, the famously Christian chicken restaurants have long queues of cars at them. My personal favourite, the ‘Let’s Go Brandon’ slogan is something I managed to see most days on holiday. It’s a slogan that does more than almost any other to highlight the two political Americas. For those that don’t know the story a sports reporter hearing the crowd chant ‘F*** Joe Biden’ decided to tell the audience she heard ‘Let’s Go Brandon’ a reference to one of the participants. As anyone who watches televised football in the UK knows, sports commentators are best to ignore many of the crowds’ chants, or if they must mention them, simply apologise to anyone offended by the unkind comments.
Much like the growing success of GB News here, The Daily Wire is tapping into an audience deserted by the mainstream news and entertainment industries. They are not alone, Heroes of Liberty, Little Libertarians, and PragerU, all make inroads into an audience desperate to be served content they consider suitable for them and their family. None of this is to say I think it’s a good thing. Driving America into separate camps, watching different news, sports reports, eating at difference restaurants, and increasingly doing this from childhood is unlikely to end well. But it is incumbent on the rollercoaster and cartoon provider to stay out of debates on state education law, and entertainment programs to at least pretend to entertain rather than lecture, to foster a societal bond. As Michael Jordan said “Republicans buy sneakers, too”.
What about men’s razors you ask? The Daily Wire even expanded into that. Jeremy’s Razors was set-up by Jeremy Boring and The Daily Wire, they already have 45,000 subscribers, more some say that CNN do for their new streaming service. For good or ill, if you don’t like the business the market is increasingly providing you an opportunity to not buy from them.
Most Croydon residents will have a memory of the Croydon Park Hotel, for me some its of work dos, a venue for giving blood and some slightly clandestine visits to the hotel bar conveniently situated in central Croydon but somewhere you’d be unlikely to bump into anyone you didn’t want to see. Pictures of the hotel still adorn travel sites, a reminder of what a great asset to the town the hotel was. Of course that was before lockdown and the benevolent hand of Croydon Council.
News came this week that the hotel purchased by the council in 2018 has been sold at a loss of some £5 million. Ironically a loss of this magnitude is pretty small fry compared to the disaster that Croydon Council has been in recent years. The purchase was of course hailed as a great success at the time, the council was borrowing cheap money to make a strategic investment and return revenue to its overall budget. Of course things didn’t workout quite as planned, to quote Croydon council’s internal auditors:
“The investments in The Colonnades and Croydon Park Hotel were not grounded in a sufficient understanding of the retail and leisure market and have again illustrated that the Council’s strategy to invest its way out of financial challenge rather than pay attention to controlling expenditure on core services was inherently flawed.”
It is easy to be clever after the event, who could have known at the time the things would go so badly wrong? Well whilst no one likes a ‘told you so’, we, err, ‘told you so’. Writing about the hotel purchase together with the purchase of the Colonnade shopping centre in March 2019 we were able to point out the council has no expertise in running commercial property, we calculated the investments only needed a 3% downturn in revenue for taxpayers to be burdened with the costs of servicing the debts funding these projects. Indeed the council has now confirmed the hotel itself had a running cost of £610,000 a year without even being used as a hotel.
Who knows what would have happened without the pandemic but this was foreseeable. The council had already undertaken an upgrade to the famous Surrey Street Market at a cost of 1.1 million resulting in a lost of both casual and permanent traders, costing over £91,000 per trader lost.
I’m reminded, as is often the case with our local authority of Ronald Regan’s famous line that “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, “I’m from the Government and I’m here to help”.
If any good comes from this aside from removing the ongoing running costs from the council, is that it removes the conflict of interest, where the council gives planning permission for, and permits licensing of businesses it’s in competition with. Let’s hope Croydon Council will now stay out of commerce, and instead focus on just doing its basic job right.