The Primrose Path 161

Rishi Sunak’s career reminds me of another spoiled child of fortune who became UK Prime Minister without having to fight an election, Archibald Primrose, the only previous PM almost as rich as Rishi.

Primrose, Lord Rosebery, became Prime Minister in 1894 when William Ewart Gladstone, old and now blind, retired after his fourth (non-consecutive) term in office. Primrose had stood by Gladstone in support of Irish Home Rule, but was well to the right of the Liberal Party and really had nothing relevant to offer in a new democratic and urbanised society. He retired from politics permanently after losing the subsequent general election in 1895.

I strongly expect Sunak will follow a very similar political path.

Sunak attended Winchester College, a private school where fees are currently £46,000 per year. From there it was easy to get into Oxford. 32% of Oxford admissions are from private schools (known as public schools in England) and only 68% from state schools. But only 6% of the population attend private schools whereas 94% attend state schools.

So private school pupils are over five times more likely to get into Oxford than state school pupils.

Elite networking is far more important as the social advantage of attending the “right” school and university, than anything learnt in class. With his Winchester and Oxford background it was a matter of the right contacts for Sunak to get into Goldman Sachs and earn his first millions in investment banking, and then move on and up into the world of hedge funds and private wealth management, with money sticking to him like… use your own analogy.

Marriage to the daughter of a billionaire was only natural. Sunak’s path has been gilded. The notion that his elevation is some sort of victory for equality is the reductio ad absurdum of identity politics.

Like Rishi Rich, Archibald Primrose had started life from a position of great privilege, as heir to the coal rich Rosebery estates around Edinburgh. He went to Eton and Oxford. He too held a variety of ministerial offices and enhanced his wealth spectacularly by marrying a great heiress – Hannah Rothschild, who had the advantage of being an only child.

Dalmeny House, family seat of Archibald Primrose Lord Rosebery

We will have plenty of time to talk about Sunak, so I want to concentrate today on Archibald Primrose, Lord Rosebery. As a historian, it always fascinates me which parts of history have entered national consciousness and which have not, and indeed which are explored by historians and which ignored.

Rosebery acquired Mentmore Towers on marrying Hanna Rothschild

Most people know something of Oscar Wilde’s affair with “Bosie”, Lord Alfred Douglas, son of the Marquis of Queensberry, which ultimately led to the trials that destroyed Wilde. Far less well known is what was widely believed to be the related affair between Archibald Primrose, Lord Rosebery and Lord Alfred Douglas’ elder brother, Lord Francis Douglas.

The Marquis of Queensberry followed Rosebery to the spa at Bad Homburg to confront him over what Queensberry believed to be the sexual relationship with his son, and in a remarkable scene was only restrained from attacking Rosebery by the Prince of Wales (the future Edward VII).

40 Piccadilly, Rosebery’s London home

Rosebery’s name cropped up from time to time in the Wilde trial, which fact was reported in continental newspapers but not in British ones. Rosebery was Prime Minister at the time of Wilde’s trial in the election year of 1895 and had wanted to help Wilde, both financially and possibly in giving evidence, but was warned by Arthur Balfour “if you do, you will lose the election”. Rosebery refrained from helping Wilde, but lost the election anyway.

Villa Rosebery, his Italian home, now the country palace of the President of Italy.

Rosebery when Foreign Secretary had installed Francis Douglas as his Private Secretary, and as Prime Minister arranged Douglas’s elevation to join him in the House of Lords as Baron Kellhead. Rosebery also created him a Lord in Waiting to Queen Victoria, which made it possible for Francis Douglas to be at royal venues when Rosebery was present. It also elevated Francis above his father, whose Scottish title of Marquis of Queensberry did not carry a seat in the Lords.

Lord Francis Douglas then had been shot to death in a “hunting accident” at Quantock Lodge in Somerset a few months before Wilde’s trial began. Rosebery was Prime Minister at the time.

It was almost certainly not an accident. Francis may well have committed suicide. It also must be possible that he was murdered to avert a massive gay scandal (homosexuality was highly illegal) involving the British Prime Minister.

The incident is almost entirely unexplored by historians – I have on my shelves Robert Rhodes James’ life of Lord Rosebery which does not mention his being gay at all. You can find bits and pieces in lives of Oscar Wilde; much of this comes from that by Richard Ellman. Ellman notes that the prosecutor decided to retry Wilde after the original jury came to a hung verdict, telling Solicitor General Lockwood “I would not, but for the horrible rumours against Rosebery”.

The events of 1894/5 – Francis Douglas’ suicide, the Bad Homburg incident, Wilde’s trial and then general election defeat – completely unnerved Rosebery. He had a breakdown and retired from public life aged only 48. He was a reclusive depressive the rest of his life.

History simply drew a veil. Few people today know Britain’s wealthiest Prime Minister ever existed.

One small foonote on Primrose/Rosebery. He had stuck with Gladstone in the disastrous split of the Liberal Party over Irish Home Rule, and Rosebery also advocated for a degree of Home Rule for Scotland. Rosebery had campaigned strenuously for the creation of the post of Secretary of State for Scotland, and introduced a Bill to do so in 1885. This fell with that Gladstone administration but Rosevery’s bill was reintroduced by the succeeding Conservative government and passed into law.

Modern nationalists rightly see the post of Secretary of State for Scotland as an instrument of alien rule, but this was the first political acknowledgement for nearly two centuries of any kind of separate Scottish political administration.

Together with the independence supporting Marquis of Bute and others in an aristocratic circle in the late nineteenth century, Rosebery contributed to the revival of the idea of Scotland as a separate political identity and helped lay the foundations of the future nationalist movement.

On the surface, Archibald Primrose was a hugely successful figure – wealthy beyond imagining, Prime Minister at 45 years old. Yet his career is always presented, when remembered at all, as one of failure – almost of Liz Truss dimensions. Sunak will probably be a similar one time PM who never wins an election.

I am drawing Sunak/Primrose parallels with respect to extreme wealth, an easy life and unelected one term PMs. I am absolutely not drawing any parallels on the sexual front.

Yet the failure of history and collective memory to this day to come to terms with the anti-gay prejudice that destroyed Primrose is really interesting. Primrose knew Wilde personally, was Prime Minister during his trial, had to be dissuaded from helping him, like Wilde had been threatened with physical assault by Queensberry, after having an extremely close relationship with Lord Alfred Douglas’ brother which many, including Queensberry, believed was sexual. Yet even the great many books and films on Wilde’s downfall barely begin to explore it.

This is a strangely deferential country.


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161 thoughts on “The Primrose Path

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  • Alan Sloan

    Queensberry had two gay sons? Does that suggest there may be something about an overbearing pugilistic father in the psychodynamics of Edwardian sexuality? (Would those dynamics change in different epochs?)

    • Richard C

      Or perhaps being overbearing and pugilistic was a socially acceptable method of repressing his own sexuality? I understand that there is a strong correlation between virulent homophobia and repressed homosexuality. Those who are free to express themselves are far less likely to try to stop others from expressing themselves.

  • joel

    Thanks for this. Very interesting parallels to Rosebery on any number of fronts.

    Establishment protection of ruling-class homosexuals was/ (is?) one thing. Far more sinister though is its protection of ruling-class paedophiles, which remains as determined than ever.

    Last week it went completely unreported that a former resident of Kincora Boys Home waived his anonymity to make allegations of rape against Lord Mountbatten as part of a civil action lodged in a Belfast court.

    Mountbatten (mentor to King Charles, along with Jimmy Savile) – was trafficked children by an Orange Order paedophile gang that abducted and murdered at least one, and perhaps 7, children.
    This is what the UK and Irish governments and their media acolytes have been covering up…

    Of course establishment protection of ruling-class child rapists is not confined to these islands. The US ruling class is just as brazenly guilty. So too the EU-NATO elite in Brussels, as anybody familiar with the story of the Dutroux ring would attest.

        • DiggerUK

          One of the sickest ironies of the fitting up of the Maguire family, (it was alleged they made bombs for an IRA operation that blew up a pub in Guilford, England) was that the bomb making operation was led by Annie Maguire who was the wicked matriarch of the family.
          This ‘vile monster’ had a picture of Queen Elizabeth and Mountbatten on her living room wall. Her lifelong royalist credentials were never seen as odd by those investigating her…_

          With all state security forces at war with Irish Nationalists, and all sections of activists infiltrated by security services, it still begs the question as to why the attack on Mountbatten was successful…_

          • joel

            A bigger question is why he and his ilk have always been protected by state security services.

      • Pears Morgaine

        The matter of him being a high profile member of the British establishment with connections to the Royal Family and a soft target not sufficient motive then? You can’t help but wonder why, if they cared about children so much, the IRA detonated the bomb despite there being three teenage boys aboard the boat; two of whom, one a local lad, were killed.

  • David Warriston

    Lord Rosebery was probably the Scottish football team’s first sponsor: they wore his colours on occasion around the turn of the 20th century. Rosebery’s colours of primrose and rose horizontal stripes were first worn by jockeys on his racehorses, one of which won the Derby when he PM. This concoction was exhumed a few years ago by the SFA as a kind of retro strip, so Rosebery’s name is vaguely known to the Scottish football public.

    Although Rosebery was an aristocrat his interest in sport- he did attend matches by all accounts- presumably allowed him some sort of contact with popular culture. It’s possible that he lived in less of a bubble than modern day PMs such as Johnson and Sunak.

  • Vivian O’Blivion

    One of the few truly anti-establishment acts of the present Scottish Government was to remove business rates relief for private schools in Scotland. This was enacted earlier this year after a reprieve attributed to the pandemic. Credit where credit’s due.
    Figures for Private education in Scotland are slightly different. Only 4% of school pupils in Scotland attend private schools. The figure for autochthonous Scots will be even smaller. Yet, 45% of senior Scottish judges are privately educated (David Hume Institute; Elitist Scotland? 2015).
    The financial benefits that private schools continue to accrue in England and Wales, based on their supposed “charitable works” are a scam.
    While reviewing the educational backgrounds of English actors on the Hollywood A list, it was apparent that an entirely disproportionate number attended private schools (6.3 / million, as opposed to 0.2 / million who attended State schools). Digging deeper into the backgrounds of these actors, many were from the “artistic” and “impoverished” branches of upper middle class and minor aristocratic families. “Cressida met Sebastian at art school, St.Martins in the Field, don’tcha know.”
    English private schools claim charitable status for offering subsidised places for the “disadvantaged”, but that ain’t the bright weans fae the local scheme, it’s the offspring of former pupils who can’t afford the fees.
    This is a means for perpetuating the caste system subsidised by general taxation.

  • Andrew H

    Craig: “Yet the failure of history and collective memory to this day to come to terms with the anti-gay prejudice that destroyed Primrose is really interesting”

    Which raises the question of whether we should try to out historical figures who were not openly gay after their death. I understand why many historians don’t want to go there. People and even politicians should be given privacy with regard to their personal life both in life and in death. We can come to terms with past prejudices through the lives of Alan Turing and Oscar Wilde, where the case is much clearer – there is no need to get into unproven rumours. I think we can all extrapolate and understand that there must have been many victims of prejudice over the centuries without naming everyone.

    On the other hand I do see the academic point that historians should not necessary shy away from these details anymore than scientists should shy away from investigating bing-bangs, atomic structure, biological viruses or artificial intelligence.

    • craig Post author

      I think a biographer has to portray the full person. The idea that sexual relationships do not affect our motivations and decisions in other spheres of our lives is not tenable. In the case of Rosebery, the death of Francis Douglas and the widespread belief in their gay relationship ended his political career, so it can hardly be ignored.

      • Andrew H

        I understand that point of view. Just as you inherently distrust scientists and engineers, I inherently distrust historians. In science there is a corrective process whereby all mistakes are eventually corrected and so we move closer to the truth. [For example, when archaeologists first assembled dinosaur bones into a whole skeleton they made many mistakes – but this has not prevented these mistakes being discovered and corrected].

        When it comes to history, it is far from clear to me that accounts written long after the time are more accurate than those written at the time – it seems random theories (mostly not backed by solid evidence) potentially lead us further and further from the truth. Can we be 95+% certain that the explanation you give is the actual reason for the end of Primrose’s political career? If not, does it lead us to a greater understanding of the person and the decisions they made? Are modern accounts of WW2 more accurate than those written 50 years ago? Will they be more accurate in 200 years time? Are the histories of WW2 from the Russian and European perspectives diverging or converging?

        For the most part – history seems highly subjective – hence my distrust – and the re-writing/embellishment of it may not always be accurate. That said modern historians are becoming increasingly scientific (analysis of human migration through DNA / searching through garbage dumps of ancient Egypt being examples). Equally, there is a greater acceptance amongst historians that written accounts are often highly biased. Perhaps one day we can hope a solid background in math/science will be required to study history. (My daughter is studying P.E. at university – I’m having a lot of trouble helping her with the biomechanics component – eventually all university level studies will require math)

        • Ian Stevenson

          History is a search for the most accurate account we can assemble. It is never final-and scientific theories are tentative as well. The process of discussion can reveal a richer picture. Asking different questions can re-arrange the facts we have to give a different story.
          There are those who want an undisputed narrative -often one favourable to their own views- are people who find it difficult to cope with uncertainty. I can think of American politicians -though they are not unique. Yet the ability to keep several possibilities in mind ,is , IMHO, a sign of maturity.
          A lot of history is presented without context. The war in Ukraine is an example. Some take the ‘mad Putin’ line who must be stopped before he over runs Europe. Others see it as an American proxy war, provoked by ‘NATO expansion’ and Russia is resisting US globalisation. If one takes just looks at part of the picture, it can look very convincing.
          My favourite example is Iran-I have no time for theocracies- which it is often presented as an enemy of the west, planning a war. My take is that the West, mainly the US, has pushed them into that position.
          I used to be a counsellor and therapy has its schools which tell different stories, but some knowledge and experience of human responses can be applied to history. But we have to accept we can never have the whole story.
          Maths, doesn’t contribute much in evaluating motivation though it is useful for economic history. but it can’t tell the whole story. Your examples of DNA and rubbish dumps are really archeology. History is the use of records though they can over lap.
          The other point is our present experience. it influences how we view the past -same facts can be viewed differently.
          When I taught the start of the First world War during the 1980s, the period of the Cold War, I tended to see the dangers of alliances. After 2001, I thought more about the role of terrorists and non state actors. Increasingly, I condemn nationalism as a cause of suffering in the world.
          But history is not dull-at least for me.

        • Dr Zoltan Jorovic

          People who assemble dinosaur bones are palaeontologists, not archaeologists.

          History is very different from science as it is as much about motivation and emotion as it is about fact. What we want to know is not just what happened, but why. You can’t understand why if you don’t know what was influencing those involved – including their feelings. Trying to get into people heads from the available records requires a lot of interpretation and insight, which means it is subjective and will vary depending on who is doing the interpreting. There is no one truth because it is all about relationships and perspectives, which vary widely depending from where the person doing the analysis approaches, what sources they use, how open-minded they are, and how imaginative. You have to get into someone else’s head who lived in a different culture and time. It isn’t clear that having a science background would actually be very helpful for this purpose.

          With science, feelings are irrelevant. It is about what happens, and how it happens, not why, because why is meaningless. There’s no why to a chemical equation or a energy transformation or an interaction between particles. The ability to observe, experiment, and apply existing theory is essential.

          • Robert Dyson

            “With science, feelings are irrelevant” – Very much not so. All the human emotions from joy to hate play a role. The Leibniz vs Newton rivalry illustrates it. “The ability to observe, experiment, and apply existing theory is essential” – unfortunately observation and experiment are theory dependent. Sometimes progress only comes by arguing against existing theory which can be career destroying. I recommend reading “Science in Action” by Bruno Latour, or the works of Paul Feyerabend who was a major inspiration for me.

        • Twirlip

          “Perhaps one day we can hope a solid background in math/science will be required to study history.”

          A knowledge of history can also be valuable when studying mathematics. (For example, it helps to have an idea of the origins in the nineteenth century of group theory and set theory, and in the early twentieth century of general topology, abstract measure theory, and mathematical logic.)

          It doesn’t follow that a solid background in history should be required to study mathematics.

          Surely all that can be inferred from your examples or mine is that there exist interdisciplinary areas in which people with various kinds of expertise can help one another out, and that excessive specialisation is likely to be dangerous.

        • squirrel

          “In science there is a corrective process whereby all mistakes are eventually corrected and so we move closer to the truth.”
          Speaking as a data scientist – this is alas a fairytale. The reality is that science can be corrupted. To wave away such concerns is like saying that a corruption in police is not a concern because they would catch themselves.

          quoting from Ioannadis’ classic paper “Why most published research findings are false”
          “… for many current scientific
          fields, claimed research findings may
          often be simply accurate measures of the
          prevailing bias. ”
          — Ioannidis

          You should not need informing that there is a ‘reproducibility crisis’ in some scientific fields, a quaint term which says that the whole field is full of garbage. This isn’t disputable.

          “The case against science is straightforward: much of the scientific literature, perhaps half, may simply be untrue. Afflicted by studies with small sample sizes, tiny effects, invalid exploratory analyses, and flagrant conflicts of interest, together with an obsession for pursuing fashionable trends of dubious importance, science has taken a turn towards darkness. ”
          — Richard Horton, editor of The Lancet

          You are aware of tobacco science? For decades the tobacco giants hid the danger of their products by paying scientists to come up with wrong science. Well any sane person has to look at the influence of pharma companies today – all of whom are criminal persons in law, and wonder if they are not distorting the field to the same degree just as the tobacco giants did.

          • Antonym

            Just follow Retractionwatch active long before the Covid- vaccination “science” disaster open even eyes of climate change believers.

            His-story has to be taken with a few scoops of salt. Still interesting to see the twists and turns of Homo sapiens ego evolution, beats my imagination.

      • Robert Dyson

        I agree. I read the Richard Evans book “In Defence of History” many years ago, even bought copies to give to people. If we are given only hagiographies of people of the past we will never have a better society in the future. What shocks me at this point about Rishi Sunak is appointing Suella Braverman as Home Minister and fully supporting the forced removal of migrants to our shores off to Rwanda: a cruel and immoral policy. If you can do that don’t expect that other vulnerable people will not be sacrificed if needed.

        • Squeeth

          People who doubt that history can be objective are like those who doubt that reality is objective. I’d like to apply to be a fly on the wall when payroll bugger their wages up; they start banging the table and shout “give me my money”. Payroll say that their reality is as subjective as the payee’s and is equally valid, therefore they haven’t underpaid the person.

          • Squeeth

            I think that their claims fail to take into account that if objective reality exists, it can be elucidated.

    • AndrewR (not H!)

      I’m coming to this late, but here goes:
      If you hide a historic figure’s homosexuality to respect their reputation, then aren’t you accepting the idea that there is something shameful about it? From the perspective of history, it stops any analysis of its effect on the person’s interaction with their society. Here, if Roseberry was removed because of his sexuality then that is important. And lastly, hiding evidence of individual’s homosexuality in the past gives the impression that homosexuality only appeared in the last few decades.

  • JohnA

    Unfortunately, I do not underestimate the way Starmer is alienating the traditional Labour base and its voters and therefore capable of losing the next election even when presented with what looks like an open goal. His only election promise is that he is not officially Conservative, but by his very actions, he most certainly is.
    Sunak may well slink in next time for that very reason.

    • Andrew H

      Because, new labour is new labour. If the socialist workers don’t like it they should set up a new party rather than try to usurp the labour party back into Corbynism. A political party cannot retain credibility and at the same time oscillate wildly from left to right. Since the days of Kinnock the Labour movement has been split and if the two positions are not reconcilable then the Corbynites should leave / be expelled.

      • zoot

        imagine celebrating starmer’s new labour, a formation that represents only bitter reactionaries and the rich. .. you could not fit a cigarette paper between the policies of sunak-hunt and starmer-reeves. how credible a democracy is that?

        • Andrew H

          In a two party system it is inevitable and democratic that the two main parties will have fairly similar positions (each trying to represent the majority). Under this system more radical left-wingers (greens, socialist worker) and right-wingers (national front) feel disenfranchised. Proportional representation would solve the representation issue, but wouldn’t necessarily change policies. The majority of the population does not want to abandon sound econimics and return to wild unfunded spending (be it conservative tax-cuts, or labour nationalizing the rail network or some other spend money now scheme). We are tired of governments spending money they don’t have digging us into ever greater debt.

          • zoot

            again with this ‘we’….
            polling shows even a majority of tory voters want things like rail and energy back in public hands – starmer & co are just appeasing the 1%.
            in any event you’re hardly representative of what even billionaire media pretends is commonsense moderate majority opinion. not even the westminster hive mind goes as far as saying we should weep in sympathy with nazis or that the nordsteam pipelines were blown up by ‘anarchists’. that is too extreme even by their standards.

          • Coldish

            Andrew H: a nationalised rail network may be a ‘spend money now scheme’ but it is what we now have. Network Rail, which operates most of Britain’s rail infrastructure, is a publicly owned organisation under the Department of Transport. Operation of the train services is leased or ‘franchised’ to mostly private companies and consortia including some state-owned agencies – owned, that is, by other states than the UK. Occsionally the UK state has to take back control when a train operating company stops trading.

          • Andrew H

            Zoot writes: “polling shows even a majority of tory voters want things like rail and energy back in public hands – starmer & co are just appeasing the 1%.”

            Polling of the population will also show that the majority of the population wants tax cuts and many other things. If you ask me whether I’d like a yacht then the answer is yes, but if you tell me I’m going to need to sell my house and give up my retirement savings for that then the answer is no. The government has to work with reality. A responsible government consults with the bank of England and other experts before making corporate tax cuts and when they don’t shit happens. This isn’t about appeasing the 1%.

            What does the polling say for wanting a government that is fiscally responsible? For me it means spending what you have and I am willing to pay more taxes for more services or less taxes for less. (In reality, these days it looks like I’ll be paying more taxes for less, but that is ok too).

          • terence callachan

            Andrew, you said
            “ In a two party system it is inevitable and democratic that the two main parties will have fairly similar positions (each trying to represent the majority).“

            Then you said “ Under this system “

            that’s silly

            Why ?

            Well , because a two party system would only have two parties
            And a system that has two main parties obviously has more than two parties

            Make up your mind

            You appear to be desperate to validate Labour being so right wing that it’s almost the same as the Conservative and Unionist party

            My opinion ? I think Labour are no longer the party of the working people of U.K. they are now the party of the rich much as the Conservative and unionist party are

          • Andrew H

            terence callachan: “Well , because a two party system would only have two parties. And a system that has two main parties obviously has more than two parties”

            I’m surprised this needs explaining (lack of coffee on your part??). The UK (and most other anglo-saxon countries) has what I would call a two party system. More accurately it is called first-past-the-post. The system does not prohibit more than two parties and indeed there are more (liberals, DUP, SNP, green etc), however, the first-past-the-post rule tends to produce two main parties. If you look at you will see that there are 10 parties with > 0 seats. With proportional representation power is typically shared more evenly. Similarly, one might describe Russia as a one party system – although there is, in fact, more than one party. Hope that clarifies.

        • Andrew H

          If you look at the economic policies of Germany, UK, Canada, USA, Japan or any other western country you will find that there are not such big differences. We live in the same world and face the same problems and economics is well studied. We should not expect different political parties to offer wildly different solutions to the same problems.

          If you look at the primary difference between a democratic country with two or more political parties and say China with a single party – it is not economics that divides us but rather the right to free speech, the right to protest and other basic human rights. The choice between Tory and Labour even if they are essentially the same poison is a choice that ultimately protects us from autocracy. Political discourse shapes public opinion and shapes the agenda of both parties. No political party today can deny global warming or gay-rights – this does not mean we don’t live in a democracy (quite the opposite).

          • glenn_nl

            A: “No political party today can deny global warming or gay-rights

            Actually the American Republican party quite definitely denies both! They grudgingly accept gay rights for now, but would be more than happy to rescind them given any opportunity. Trump called AGW a “Chinese hoax”, and Dubbya Bush wanted to introduce an Amendment to specifically ban gay marriage.

            No Republican (or Christian Fascist, more accurately speaking) will come out (so to speak) and acknowledge the reality of AGW. It would be political suicide to do so. None speak well of gay rights, although for now they’re concentrating their hatred toward Trans people as a temporary stand-in.

          • Jams O'Donnell

            Your postulated beneficial convergence of parties is rubbish. If the democratic choice is between two parties who differ only in the detail of their policies, then there is no meaningful choice at all. Such converging parties are pretty obviously a subversion of democracy in favour of the prevailing trends in power politics. The most likely outcome of this is some sort of fascism – which is where we and the USA seem to be heading.

      • SA

        Don’t you think it is new Labour who have betrayed and went against socialism who should leave rather than expell the true socialists?

        • Taxiarch

          I think Andrew has applied his pure math and disdain of all things historical to the certain and irrevocable conclusion that the centre right and the right are the only legitimate currents of thought worthy or representation in the majesty of the British Parliament House. Bless him.

          • eg

            Too bad Andrew’s supposed pure math skills aren’t sufficient to grasp a sectoral balances analysis.

      • Fat Jon

        “If the socialist workers don’t like it they should set up a new party rather than try to usurp the labour party back into Corbynism.”

        That might be a sensible solution in a free and fair democratic society; but in a UK dominated by a press owned by right wing billionaires, and a bunch of TV networks either owned or subservient to the same billionaires, there is no chance that an attempt to create a new Socialist party is ever going to get off the ground. The opposition from the MSM would be enough instant humiliation to prevent the new party from being taken seriously by the general population. (Think back to Michael Foot and the ‘donkey jacket’ at the Cenotaph as an ultra-mild version of the treatment which would be spewed out to the public on a daily basis).

        A much more logical political alternative would be for Starmer and his Blairite henchmen/women to join the Conservative party, and leave the Labour party for those who retain the principles for which the party was created in the first place.

        • Bramble

          What is labelled, with manipulative hostility, Corbynism, is in fact routine social democracy, normal in most northern European nations. Those who were complicit in the demonising of Jeremy Corbyn and the sabotage of Labour’s 2017 and 2019 election campaigns bear equal blame for the catastrophic results (one of which is the elevation of Tory plant Starmer to the role of PM in waiting). Meanwhile the media in this country continue to ignore the work of Al Jazeera in exposing and proving that sabotage.

          • Coldish

            Bramble: thanks for pointing these truths out again, altough they should be obvious to readers of this blog. What Corbyn wanted for Britain is a form of social democracy similar to that prevailing in Germany under Mrs Merkel. To portray that as extremism is absurd.

  • Yuri K

    Kinda embarrassing, isn’t it? Of course, no true Scotsman will vote for an Indian who boasted he has no working class friends.

        • Taxiarch

          Yuri, at least some of them don’t know why they would either. Not widely reported, but the Mail Online yesterday shut down its entire comments operation in to pre-moderated comments only. As one comment innocently stated on an entirely unrelated post “anyone any idea why?

          As the Indian Times commented when he ran against Truss, reflecting on his education and interests, Sunak was ‘more English than the English themselves’. It would seem that the Mail readership may hold a different view.

          • Yuri K

            More English? He got his MBA at Stanford. Like many modern European politicians, he’s American-educated.

        • Coldish

          Sunak has been elected 3 times as MP by the voters of Richmond in Yorkshire, regarded as a safe Tory seat. It is a prosperous rural region, most employment being connected with farming and the military. Sunak took over the seat from William Hague, who himself had spent 4 years as Tory party leader without winning an election. Hague is notorious for his threat while foriegn secretary in 2012 to storm the Ecuadorian Embassy in London and kidnap Juilan Assange.

  • mark cutts

    Rishi (pharmacy educated) Sunak is a pretty simple person to work out.

    Like Tim Gheitner? in the US he is the Markets place man and will therefore do the Markets bidding.

    And he already is.

    There is an old Irish saying:

    Expect nothing but a grunt from a pig.

    Oink – oink.

    • Courtenay Francis Raymond Barnett

      Mark Cutts,

      I think that you are correct on two counts (one stated and one unstated).

      The first is that he indeed will do a Tim Geithner:-

      1. Inject money in a massive way and in consequence kick the national debt burden down the road (then maybe – even get a Nobel Prize).

      2.In 1947 on the cusp of Indian Independence, Winston Churchill supposedly said “…all Indian leaders will be of low calibre & men of straw.” Today, during the 75th year of Indian Independence, all are poised to see a man of Indian origin anointed as PM of the UK.

      And life goes on….

        • Courtenay Francis Raymond Barnett

          Stevie Boy,

          Triple lock:-

          The best that can be done in all the realistic prevailing circumstances:-

          The highest of three possible figures, inflation, average earnings or 2.5%.

          Or -what alternative – suffer on outside the ‘triple lock’

          Over to you mate.

      • Jimmeh

        > all Indian leaders will be of low calibre & men of straw.

        A “man of straw” is a person that is not a man of substance; no significant assets. Accordingly it’s said that you should never sue a man of straw.

        So Churchill was saying that all Indian leaders will be ill-educated, and none will be of independent means (he was notoriously bigoted).

  • Jack

    The home secretary – Suella Braverman – is really something:

    “Braverman has described herself as a “child of the British Empire”. Her parents, who were from Mauritius and Kenya, came to the UK “with an admiration and gratitude for what Britain did for Mauritius and Kenya, and India”. She believes that on the whole, “the British Empire was a force for good”,[65] and described herself as being “proud of the British Empire.”

    • cimarrón

      Rishi Sunak stated, “This government will have integrity, professionalism and accountability at every level.”

      Then he appointed Suella Braverman Home Secretary.

      “Suella Braverman did not mistakenly leak a meaningless document. She endlessly consulted a maverick. She deliberately emailed a policy doc not yet agreed to her pvt email. Then she sent it to John Hayes and someone she thought was his wife. Then lied to PM about when it was sent.

      “The wheels began to fall off when Simon Case, the cabinet secretary, alerted Truss that Suella Braverman, the home secretary, had committed two breaches of the ministerial code. She had emailed cabinet papers from her ministerial account to her private gmail account and then on to backbench veteran Sir John Hayes, a fellow right-winger. She also copied in someone she thought was Hayes’s wife but was actually an assistant to Andrew Percy, the MP for Brigg and Goole. After taking advice from colleagues, Percy spoke to the chief whip, Wendy Morton, who referred. the issue to Case.

      “Braverman was later to argue that the document was simply a written ministerial statement, that she had had a blazing row with Truss about immigration numbers (implying that was the real reason for her dismissal) and that she had sent it by mistake at 4am. It was, in fact, sent three or four hours later that morning.

      “A No 10 source was withering: “She doesn’t make any decision without consulting John Hayes,” who had been acting as an unofficial adviser, frequently seen in the Home Office, meetings which had come to the attention of Matthew Rycroft, the permanent secretary. “Concerns had been raised prior to Wednesday that Braverman might have been sharing restricted government documents with people she shouldn’t have,” a source said. Braverman agreed to resign.”

      Tim Shipman
      Chief Political Commentator, Sunday Times. Author of All Out War.

      • Stevie Boy

        Shades of Patel and her conspiracies and plotting with her Israeli chums. Just cannot trust certain people, if this is what they do in public then think of the evil they do behind closed doors.
        Nothing has changed, we are all still f*cked.

    • Alf Baird

      “child of the British Empire”

      Postcolonial theory suggests that, historically, many immigrants moving to an imperial ‘mother country’ from its numerous former colonies will have been collaborators with the imperial power prior to the independence and decolonisation of their ethnic home nation, particularly those from among the native bourgeoisie who very often had to flee upon the independence of their home country. Native elites supported colonialism and benefitted during the period of colonialism, and with that played a part in the usurpation, exploitation and oppressions of their own ethnic nation and people. This to some extent explains the significant multicultural populations today of former major imperial powers such as Britain and France, and the United States, which are often a consequence of colonialism (and thence decolonisation).

      We saw this as recently as the Afghanistan exit when many Afghans who worked for the British and Americans sought to hurriedly leave the country, for obvious reasons. It should not therefore be unexpected that ethnic minority elites and extraction from former colonies now coming into senior roles in the UK appear to take a rather rose-tinted view of the former British Empire and in particular the ‘superior’ mother country (England), which is largely determined by their cultural and family background. This might also help explain this group’s similar opposition to Scottish independence.

  • Laguerre

    Sunak’s father is a GP, and his mother runs a pharmacy. Not classic wealth. I heard somewhere he had a scholarship to Winchester; people like that wouldn’t be able to afford the fees. But he adapted well to the environment, in becoming head boy. By the way, I once had a friend who was a master at Winchester, and the atmosphere was much more sane than at Eton. To a degree, Sunak has made and married his money himself.
    They’re not even Indians, but East Africans – the father from Kenya, the mother from Tanzania – the same situation as Patel and Braverman. But for some reason he is labelled ‘Indian’, and they aren’t. I suppose he has to keep the wife’s family happy.

    • Ian Stevenson

      My mother was born in Hong Kong. Grandad was a colonial policeman. It didn’t make her Chinese.
      Rishi Sunak is Indian by ancestry and by his home’s culture. Ethnicity and citizenship are not always the same. I am sure there are Sikhs in Scotland who vote SNP and think of themselves as Scots and Sikh.

    • Terence Callachan

      Laguerre…no no…Sunak’s parents were from India (the west which is now Pakistan); they moved from India to Africa then to England. They must have had money to do this and even more when they sent their son to Winchester which in today’s money is forty six thousand pounds a year!
      Sunak studied psychology at Oxford then economics then did an exchange programme with Stanford. He met his wife to be at Stanford; her dad owned Infosys a global company worth billions.

      • Laguerre

        Wiki must have got it wrong then, understandable as Sunak is only a new PM. They have it as I put it, detailed in two full paragraphs.

  • Roger

    spoiled child of fortune

    Can we please try to be fair to Rishi Sunak? Fairness used to be a characteristic of ordinary Brits. The UK isn’t exactly an easy country to run at the moment, nor is today’s Tory party an easy organisation to manage. Let’s see how he does before slagging him off.

    I wish him well. And for the people (I know there’ll be some) who want to see the entire British economy crash and burn because that would damage the Tory party, I’d suggest more empathy for the people who live in the UK right now.

    • Jules Orr

      He has already vowed needless austerity and hopes to deflect with stupid culture wars. However it is obvious the MSM is going to tell the public to love him regardless. You do not have to worry for him, wherever you are, he will be okay.

    • Stevie Boy

      I might be mistaken but it’s my impression that the British economy is crashing and burning. And the cause ? that will be 12 years of Tory mismanagement, corruption and lies. They’ve had 12 years of chances and have just made things worse and worse with every indication they intend to continue ruining the economy and stealing our assets to feather their nests. Hatred is what they deserve – along with the rest of the Parties..

      • Roger

        You’re spectacularly mistaken – if you think the current state of the British economy constitutes “crashing and burning”, you need to get out more.
        Unemployment in the UK, for example, is still below the EU average, and I wouldn’t describe any of the EU economies as “crashing and burning”.

        • Stevie Boy

          I would get out more but for the limited public transport (no drivers), and the price of petrol, and local shops being closed. Also, I need to save a bit for heating. Oh, but at least we have plenty of foodbanks, more than branches of McDs – something that virtually didn’t exist ten years ago. Employment is great if you want to deliver parcels for Amazon on a zero hours contract but don’t look for an apprenticeship for your kids. Maybe you’re right, everything in the garden is rosy …

    • Terence callachan

      Roger, don’t be daft, Sunak has no expertise to be a PM. He was under qualified to be Chancellor too but still decided to make more lives in U.K. miserable.

    • Bayard

      “Can we please try to be fair to Rishi Sunak?”

      I was going to give him the benefit of the doubt, until he reinstated Suella Braverman only six days after she had resigned for breaching the ministerial code. What kind of example is that? Now they are saying it wasn’t anything important. Why did she resign then?

  • Fat Jon

    The entire economic policy argument in the UK appears to be, do we encourage growth by cutting taxes for rich people; or by increasing benefits/wages for poor people?

    What a strange way to run a country. But then, polarising all arguments seem to be the way of the world these days.

    • eg

      I read your policy debate rather more narrowly — it’s do we encourage growth by cutting taxes for rich people; or by cutting benefits/wages for poor people?

  • Ronny

    “So private school pupils are over five times more likely to get into Oxford than state school pupils”

    Sorry, this is nonsense. Pretty much everyone from Winchester will apply to Oxford or Cambridge. Probably less than 1% from the average comprehensive will apply. The success rate for non-applicants is zero. You need the figures for the success rate for *applicants* from state schools vs *applicants* from private schools.

    • glenn_nl

      Sorry, Ronnie – it’s utter nonsense to suggest that comprehensive schools turn out students just as capable of getting into Oxford, but they simply don’t bother applying.

      What would be the point of an equal proportion applying, when students from comprehensives have had a crap education and barely passed any GCSEs?

      Fact of the matter is that you have a vastly better chance from a ‘public’ school. Not because those students are any less stupid, but because their education is vastly better. Not to mention their references.

      Good grief, of course it would suit the apologists of such a rotten system to pretend we should only look at applicants, as you’re doing here, but even that doesn’t disguise the gross inequality of opportunity in the class-ridden UK.

      • Roger

        glenn_nl is basically right – state education just isn’t very good, because the government doesn’t spend enough resources on it. Boosting military expenditure seems to be a higher priority than education, for both main parties.

        Admissions to Oxford and Cambridge actually try to compensate, by accepting candidates with lower results from state schools than from ‘public’ schools – they want bright students, whatever their background – but there’s a limit to how much they can compensate because some state schools are really crap. Kids who haven’t learned any mathematics, for example, are not going to be able to keep up with a physics degree course at the pace expected at the top universities.

      • Bramble

        That in its turn is nonsense. Many able students at comprehensives do not apply to Oxford and Cambridge because they know they could not fit in with the high-spending life style of the privileged children of the elite who get there with little effort. And many would not want to. Anyway, there are, as it happens, other universities in the country with far more to offer to range of students interested in a range of disciplines.

        • Bayard

          “Many able students at comprehensives do not apply to Oxford and Cambridge because they know they could not fit in with the high-spending life style of the privileged children of the elite who get there with little effort. ”

          It helps, if you want to condemn a comment as nonsense, not to follow that condemnation with more nonsense. If you are bright enough to go to Oxford, no-one is going to force you into a “high-spending lifestyle”. Those “privileged children of the elite” who adopt such a lifestyle are easily ignored, to the extent that they even exist outside the pages of “Brideshead Revisited”.

      • Bayard

        “Fact of the matter is that you have a vastly better chance from a ‘public’ school. Not because those students are any less stupid, but because their education is vastly better.”

        True, but the way Craig’s comment was worded “are over five times more likely to get into Oxford” does suggest that a comparison is being made of pupils that actually applied. You appear to be reading it as “are over five times more likely to go to Oxford” which is probably true.

        • Fwl

          There seems to have been an unfortunate tendency on the part of some comprehensive schools to give up on Oxbridge as if there has been a loss of confidence among Heads and perhaps a falling away of connections.

      • Andrew H

        This notion that you can only get a good education at Oxford/Cambridge is really just elitist garbage. Similarly with the notion that private schools offer better education than state schools. Who propagates this nonsense – the rich or the poor or both?

        There are plenty of good universities in the UK. Employers will hire from all universities. After your first job, the details of your university education is less important – ability to work in a team and proven practical skills are more important. Probably there are still a few careers where ‘Oxford’ is a thing (diplomatic core, bbc), but in industry it is not relevant (my experience). [And could presumably even hurt your career if your employer has a thing against upper class Oxford elitists].

        I also think that the perception that private schools are better is wrong. Intelligent well educated parents tend to produce intelligent well educated children, but this is certainly not universal.

        • glenn_nl

          If anyone said one couldn’t get a decent education outside Oxford, I missed it. I certainly said nothing of the kind.

          Children of intelligent – or at least, well educated – parents will always tend to do better. Such parents are quite obviously more likely to be found among the well off, not among impoverished people who will be using crap schools, and likely have poor home conditions in which to study, no external help other than the schools, and very few of the “outside interests” favoured by the Oxford selection process.

          It appears you know very little about rough neighbourhoods or just how crap an awful lot of comprehensives are, with all due respect.

          I suggest reading “Chums” by Simon Kuper, to appreciate just what a stranglehold Oxford and elite ‘public’ schools have on Britain.

          • Andrew H

            Glen: “Children of intelligent – or at least, well educated – parents will always tend to do better.”

            That is what I said in my last paragraph – so it seems we are largely in agreement.

            Glen adds: “It appears you know very little about rough neighbourhoods or just how crap an awful lot of comprehensives are, with all due respect.”

            Yes, you need to go to a comprehensive school in a middle class neighbourhood. No disagreement. I am not denying the existence of poverty traps. However, this is true everywhere and there is no miracle cure. My point is that if you want to improve class mobility and education in rough neighbourhoods you need to stop focusing on Oxford and other elite schools which are little more than a distraction. Killing off all the upper class won’t improve the lives of the middle and working classes.

          • glenn_nl

            Andrew H: Apologies for the somewhat combative tone of my previous post, I had mistaken your comments as denying that the chances of an Oxford education were somewhat skewed by one’s background.

            It strikes me that a stint at Oxford actually leaves one with a far more narrow education than is generally appreciated – particularly by the recipients of same. We are in agreement there. But the stretch of the Oxford influence on British society goes way beyond diplomats or the BBC. Most of the British Prime ministers in recent history, and cabinet members for that matter, went to Oxford. A quite disproportionate segment of the media intelligentsia and the upper echelons of so many major institutions also attended Oxford.

            There is an equivalent of the female’s glass ceiling beyond which one cannot rise, while lacking Oxford credentials. This might not seem terribly significant, one can do well outside such ranks. But consider how badly these institutions are run – particularly government – because of this narrow Oxford bias, and the corrosive effect this has on society as a whole.

            A: “Killing off all the upper class won’t improve the lives of the middle and working classes.”

            I don’t know about that!

          • Bayard

            “I suggest reading “Chums” by Simon Kuper, to appreciate just what a stranglehold Oxford and elite ‘public’ schools have on Britain.”

            The operative word here is “elite”. It is a fallacy to think, as our host appears to, that education at any private school, such as a small private school in West Wales started in the 1990s, opens the door to a life of wealth and privilege. There is really only one private school that does that and that is Eton. You only have to look to see how many of our PMs are Old Etonians. There are a handful of other private schools that give you similar, but inferior, connections, but that is all.
            You can bet your bottom dollar that, if all private education was made illegal, that Eton’s place would be taken by an elite state school, where the price of the houses in its catchment area would be so inflated that only the richest could afford to buy them and thus send their children to that school. This process is already taking place round certain very good state schools. The parents end up paying the same as sending their children to a public school, but to the banks, not to the school.

      • Jimmeh

        > but because their education is vastly better.

        It’s true that education at a *good* private school is better than you get at a *good* state school. In general, they hire good teachers – people that have written school textbooks, for example. But the fact is that some of those teachers are too clever by half; it’s hard to teach if you’re much cleverer than your pupils.

        On the other hand, many private school teachers are not even qualified to teach.

        What private schools do have is vastly better facilities (language labs, libraries, workshops and so on); more supervised study hours per week (they’re mainly boarding achools, so the pupils are captive); compulsory prep; usually a cadet force to impart leadership skills; and the ability to expel disruptive pupils at will. Also, private schools tend to teach an Oxbridge exam-board curriculum, and have their pupils take Oxbridge exams. Also, they’re geared-up to teach Oxbridge Entrace pupils; the Oxbridge entrance exams are taken in the autumn term, after the other pupils have gone off to their red-brick university.

        I do believe that fantastic teachers exist, but they are exceptional, and certainly not the norm in private schools any more than in state schools.

        • Bayard

          “Also, they’re geared-up to teach Oxbridge Entrace pupils; the Oxbridge entrance exams are taken in the autumn term, after the other pupils have gone off to their red-brick university.”

          I think that stopped sometime in the last century.

    • Terence callachan

      Ronny, don’t be silly , the reason less than 1% of comprehensive educated apply is because so many of those who have applied in years gone by have been refused , government even tried to introduce law that compelled elite universities to accept students from comprehensive schools but it failed to increase the numbers by much .
      The job was done, people put off , treated differently , embarrassed by demands for payment for unexpected services they could not afford.
      Surrounded by wealthy students , understandable.

  • Crispa

    As a prime minister Lord Rosebery sounds more like Liz Truss than Rishi Sunak in that, as I understand it, he assumed office in 1894 as Queen Victoria’s choice against the advice of the outgoing Gladstone and fell in a heap in office because no side had confidence in him. That resulted in Lord Salisbury’s Tories trouncing Lord Rosebery’s Liberals following which Rosebery soldiered on as Liberal Leader before giving up the political ghost.
    The 1895 election of course was significant in that it was the first to be contested by Keir Hardie’s recently formed Independent Labour Party resulting in a tiny vote and no seats. The current Keir might take note.
    An interesting snippet I came across while browsing a few newspaper paper archives of the period were the reports in the local press of Rosebery’s visit to Carlisle in September 1899, when he asked for information about the burial whereabouts of an ancestral relative, Sir Archibald Primrose, who was executed as a rebel follower of Bonny Prince Charles after the recapture of Carlisle. The grave could not be found because the original church to which there were directions (north side within four yards of the second window from the steeple) had long before been pulled down and rebuilt.

  • Roderick Russell

    I don’t know what sort of PM Mr. Sunak will make. I do know that his appointment has more to do with a successful Coup D’etat than with what one would expect in a functioning democracy. I’m sorry to say but from where I live in Canada this whole Boris, Truss, Sunak process is seen as a bit of a joke.

    • Coldish

      RR: unfortunately the only UK opposition party with a realistic chance of winning a general election against Sunak’s Tories is led by another joker whose priorities are (a) expelling and excluding socialists and social democrats from the Labour Party and (b) turning it into a second-rate Tory Party.

  • DavidH

    Interesting stuff. Which narratives mainstream history chooses to highlight, and which it neglects, of course depends on the values of those writing and publishing the history, and what they would like the history to teach. Many thanks to Mr Murray for some alternative enlightenment.

    Although I’m not so sure the wealth and privilege comparison holds so well with Rishi Sunak. He’s not of the born with a silver spoon, idle rich. From just a little reading, Sunak’s father was an immigrant, worked as a GP, never had a stately home. Rishi got a privileged education and married incredibly well, for sure, but I’d expect had to work damn hard and have more than a little ambition to get there. Sounds like Archibald Primrose Lord Rosebery burned out because he wasn’t clever enough and couldn’t take the pressure, perhaps not Rishi’s weak points.

    I’d wonder more whether that rather swift route to wealth left any skeletons in the closet that may come back to bite him. Great fortunes, great crimes and all that. Or just some rather jealous and left-behind competitors. Not to pre-judge a man, and you’d think the Tory machine might have checked all that out, but let’s see…

    • Blissex

      «I’d wonder more whether that rather swift route to wealth left any skeletons in the closet that may come back to bite him.»

      That’s a happen not always but notably among not-oligarch people who manage to infiltrate oligarch finishing schools, even if perhaps meeting at university the daughter of a billionaire is not so common. But I think they both won the lottery: even for the daughter of a billionaire meeting Sunak at university was a good catch (in particular quite handsome and confident, ambitious, reliable) and while she is not a classical european beauty she is quite decent and surely interesting and committed, and almost, from appearances, a classic indian wife. I think both their mothers-in-law think they did very well indeed, which matters a lot for indian culture (based on oppressive mother-in-law dictatorship).

  • Goose

    Primrose was old money to be fair, Sunak is new money, largely self-made. Although whether a fortune from investment banking should ever be viewed in a positive light? Sunak’s background certainly isn’t as silver-spooned as that of Lord Rosebery.

    Early days, but thus far, Sunak seems quite surefooted, almost anyone would coming after the strange, woeful, comically poor Truss, and her arrogant, hubristic, old Etonian Chancellor, Kwasi Kwarteng. I don’t know if Truss was set up to fail(?), but if she was, she should have had the political nous to spot that bear trap a mile off.

    Struck by how Sunak seems very Blair-like, it’s not just in his mannerisms and diction, he’s genuinely upbeat. It’s a quality Blair had, downbeat Gordon Brown craved, but Brown could never quite mimic, his smile being more a rictus grin. The reinstatement of the fracking ban suggests Sunak is already listening and course correcting although, his North Yorkshire constituents may have also heavily influenced that decision? The fiscal policy differences between Sunak and Hunt and Starmer and Reeves is likely going to be cigarette paper thin from now on. Sunak seems likely to cause Starmer-led Labour and their political strategy of nondifferentiation, all sorts of problems. This incarnation of Labour deserve to face someone like Sunak. Labour’s sole electoral pitch, based on an unproven claim of superior managerial competence, may now come unstuck.

    • David Warriston

      [ MOD: Kindly desist from putting your NAME IN ALL CAPS ]

      Sunak looked very relaxed at PM questions and emitted a pleasant, optimistic air. He came across as young and purposeful, making Starmer appear rather halting in his speech and movements. The comparison with Blair/Major was there to be seen.
      These are merely my impressions of course but if they take root amongst the wider public, especially amongst those who take only a passing interest in politics, then Starmer’s 30 point lead in the polls may begin to erode.

      • Stevie Boy

        Excellent comparison Blair !
        That would be the money grabbing, slimeball, war criminal who destroyed educational standards by introducing Academies and levelling up higher education by insisting everyone and their dog should have a degree amongst other minor atrocities !
        And Starmer is not a threat so much as a c***.

        • Goose

          It’s uncanny.

          The next time Sunak is being interviewed or at PMQs, close your eyes and imagine it’s Blair. Sunak does a better Blair than Rory Bremner!

      • Blissex

        «He came across as young and purposeful, making Starmer appear rather halting in his speech and movements. The comparison with Blair/Major was there to be seen.
        These are merely my impressions of course but if they take root amongst the wider public

        As a rule both the press and the leader have a small (0-1 percent points) effect on votes, because the press preaches to the choir, and not many people have any idea who the leader is and what they do. The only significant exception in recent times was Tony Blair, who was so electorally toxic that he made New Labour lose 4 million votes after 1997.

        «especially amongst those who take only a passing interest in politics»

        Most people like that vote their wallets and in the UK that means most vote on property profits (for or against), and the past decades a governing party that has pushed up housing cost inflation has always won elections, and a governing party that lets property fall has always lost elections.

        For Sunak everything depends on keeping pushing up housing costs: opening even more the immigration flood, creating higher pressure for doubling-up.

        «then Starmer’s 30 point lead in the polls may begin to erode.»

        Those leads are in large part an optical illusion:

        * They have been created not by Starmer, but by the relentless campaigns by most right-wing media against two Conservative leaders, campaign by the globalist thatcherites against the kipper thatcherites.
        * Because the media preach to the choir, right-wing media can have a significant effect on Conservative voters, which have then moved to abstention/”don’t know” or to the LibDems as a protest vote.
        * It is not that suddenly Starmer has become a lot popular and is getting a lot more votes (even if this has happened a bit), but that the “I am certainly going to vote Conservative” responses have fallen a lot.

        That is born out by a long series of local by-elections, where there has been no Conservative collapse like New Labour had in 2004.

    • DavidH

      I like the Sunak / Blair comparison. Similarly dynamic, pragmatic, communicative, leads from the front.

      I must admit I was a big fan of Blair in the beginning, well before his prayer meetings with Bush converted him to international crusader.

      But we all now know what was really going on, and how it all turned out…

      We’ll see how Sunak’s wealth and ethnicity go down if people are actually choosing in the ballot box.

      The Brits certainly have a different attitude to wealth than the Americans. How Trump, flying around in his own gold-plated Boeing, could ever present as as a man of the people, is quite incredible. Whether the Trump wealth was a fiction or a scam, it didn’t seem to bother the have-nots. The Brits are not quite so easily impressed, I believe.

    • Johnny Conspiranoid

      “if Truss was set up to fail(?), but if she was, she should have had the political nous to spot that bear trap a mile off.”
      She might be rewarded for this service later in some way which is not visibly connected to it.

  • Stevie Boy

    Interesting comparison of government priorities.
    Cost of increasing one of Europe’s lowest pensions (UK) using triple lock ~£25Bn
    Cost of PPE Scandal ~£12Bn
    Cost of illegal immigrants ~£7M/week (£2.1Bn/yr)
    Cost of current HS2 Overun ~£30Bn
    Cost of supporting Ukraine ~£1.5Bn.
    Cost of upgrading Trident ~£205Bn
    My point is that money can always be found for mates and general f*ck ups but never for the people, particularly the old and vulnerable.

  • Blissex

    «another spoiled child of fortune who became UK Prime Minister without having to fight an election»

    Our blogger seems to have forgotten that the UK PM must be “elected” by Parliament and that is pretty much the only requirement (membership of Privy Council can always be bestowed).
    A party can only nominate a potential PM, but cannot elect one. The confidence of Parliament is not a trivial detail.

    Or perhaps our blogger is trying to push the point made implicitly by many people that Parliament is not a democratic institution and does not represent any voters, in which case having the confidence of Parliament is democratically meaningless.

    Or perhaps our blogger thinks that England is already the 51st state, it has a presidential direct-election system, and its “governor” or president must be elected by a popular vote.

    As to the position of leader of the Conservatives, it is pretty obvious that Sunak’s election was a shameless stitch-up, like that of Theresa May (which was less shameful in substance though), but he was elected according to party rules, and so his election by MPs as leader is legitimate. Consider the election of Attle as leader of Labour:
    The second contest took place on 3 December:
    Name Votes %
    Clement Attlee 88 64.7
    Herbert Morrison 48 35.3

    88 votes? What kind popular mandate did he have to lead a big party and then be deputy PM and minister during 1940-1945?

    • Alf Baird

      Scotland only gets a Tory PM and their dubious ‘values’ imposed on us because England votes for them. If Scotland was independent we would never have a Tory PM or Tory government. This reflects a major cultural difference between nations and ‘peoples’, and an unwanted alien Cultural Hegemony imposed on Scots. Its no wonder many Scots seek liberation from oppression.

      • Johnny Conspiranoid

        “If Scotland was independent we would never have a Tory PM”
        But you would have an SNP PM which would be the same thing.

      • tim

        Out of the frying pan and into the fire springs to mind.
        Any person preferring the Tartan Tampon to a deep fried mars bar is clearly out of their tiny little mind.
        Having said that, I would definitely be in agreement with a Scotland presided over by my friend Alex Cole Hamilton.
        As I told him once, I may think that his politics stinks, but I would still vote for him.

  • SleepingDog

    Social cheating… Perhaps you ‘skim’ (or scam, or scum) rather than ‘earn’ millions in investment banking? Perhaps playing life largely on the easy level does not produce the best players? I guess the single-sex sequestering of the elite’s offspring so they can arrange aristocratic/dynastic marriages that enhance their own riches, political and social influence (or at least keep it within a tight circle) has foreseeable consequences.

  • Antonym

    Looks like the next coconut, see Barak Obama or Kamala Harris. Brown on the outside, privileged white on the inside. The effects of residential culture, not jeans..

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