Newsletter 17/03/24


Reports that cabinet ministers have ‘had discussions’ over whether or not Rishi Sunak should lead the Conservatives into the next election are a good reminder of why the party is in such dire straits.

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Dear Subscribers,

Reports that cabinet ministers have ‘had discussions’ over whether or not Rishi Sunak should lead the Conservatives into the next election are a good reminder of why the party is in such dire straits. Faced with the prospect of electoral annihilation they gossip about making a cosmetic change, leak it to the media, and wait for ‘a candidate to emerge’. The country does not need from its government another palace coup, it needs a sense of purpose and direction.

Trade negotiations between the UK and India have been put on hold until after the Indian election, which finishes in June. The deal is still much closer to completion than the EU’s attempt at a free trade agreement with India. They have been negotiating on and off since 2007. On the European continent only the four member states of EFTA, none of them EU members, have free trade agreements with India in place.
Close, but no cigar

The UK has started negotiations with Turkey over a new trade agreement intended to supplant the existing deal which was carried over from the UK’s time in the EU. It is hoped that a deal will allow easier access to Turkish markets for UK exports of services.

The European Parliament has decided to sue the European Commission in the European Court of Justice over the Commission’s decision to unblock funds for Hungary that had been withheld over concerns about the rule of law. The European People’s Party, of which Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen is a member, supported the move. In a healthy democracy political disputes between branches of government would be resolved at the ballot box. In the EU they are resolved by appealing to unaccountable judges.

Russian voters have gone to the polls to choose the next President. Vladimir Putin is the firm favourite – even his opponents say they want him to win – and is widely expected to win another 6 terms in office, notwithstanding the Kremlin’s stated fears about attempts by the CIA to interfere in the voting process.


6 more years


Briefings co-editor Robert Tombs on the impotence of Western governments

Sarah Gall on learning about illegal immigration from Australia


Beware the Irish Republic’s sham economy by Graham Gudgin

This article discusses how Ireland’s economy is heavily distorted due to operating simultaneously as a real economy and a massive tax haven, resulting in significant tax evasion and misleading economic statistics that impact global and domestic financial equity.

Currently, the Irish Government is offering to share a small part of its ill-gotten tax revenue gains with Northern Ireland, for instance in part financing the dualling of the A5 road. If Northern Ireland were to go further in future and integrate its economy with the Republic it would expose itself to the financial dangers of a tax-haven economy.  Much better to remain a subsidised region of the much more financially stable UK economy.

Stop blaming Brexit for Britain’s economic ills by Derrick Berthelsen

Business analyst Derrick Berthelsen criticises the media obsession with Brexit as a cause of all economic ills. It is not only wrong, he says, it distracts us from our real problems.

Some people claim that the establishment has run out of ideas. But that’s not it at all. The issue isn’t a lack of ideas. It’s that the ideas they have — the same ideas and policies they have been pursuing for decades — are what got us into this mess in the first place. And it doesn’t matter who you vote for — as I explained here, all party’s “solutions” are broadly the same.

The Navy must come first by Adrian Hill

We are a group of islands that trade globally. Over a trillion pounds of our economy last year came from overseas trade. The Royal Navy survives despite our politicians. But it’s a third of the size needed to defend our country and our sea trade.

During the last cold war the Royal Navy was ready to send north sixty destroyers and frigates with thirty submarines and supported by several squadrons of long range maritime patrol aircraft to plug the Greenland-Iceland Gap. We need to make that kind of effort again in defence of our way of life. Stop thinking like your pampered generation, Parliament, and start thinking like ours.

Key Points

After Lee Anderson MP’s defection from the Conservatives to Reform, there is much speculation about whether any of his former colleagues on the government benches will follow him, particularly those representing ‘Red Wall’ seats. The wisdom of defection is doubtful – Anderson had a special reason after having the whip Conservative withdrawn. For others it is not clear what is to be gained from jumping ship, neither for the MP’s themselves nor for the country.

For the MP’s themselves, we can only assume that their aim is reelection. A defector must presumably believe that they have a better chance of retaining their seat if they run as the Reform candidate than if they run as the Conservative candidate. For this to be the case, the MP themselves must take a large number of votes with them when they cross the aisle, since Reform consistently polls lower than the Conservatives. Who are these voters? They cannot be diehard Tories, who, even if they do decide not to vote Conservative, are more likely just to stay at home than vote for someone else. They cannot be converts to Reform, since they would already have jumped ship. They must instead be right-leaning voters who are guided by particular enthusiasm for a particular local candidate. It is hard to see them being strong in number, and so it is hard to see a personal electoral advantage to MP’s from defecting.

There are two ways that a defection might be seen to benefit the country. Firstly, it could help put Reform on the (long) path to power. A glance at Reform’s policy platform suggests that this would not bring much benefit to the country at large. A long list of complaints does not a manifesto make. Reform are right to point out the many problems caused or neglected by the Conservative Party, but there is little to suggest that they have the solutions. Appealing to ‘common sense’ as the magic bullet is at best a sign of charming naivete and at worst of alarming ignorance.

Secondly, defecting could help bury the Conservative Party. To those who think it has come to the end of its natural life and that Britain would be served by having a new right-of-centre party, news of defection may well be welcome. But the Conservatives are already doing a pretty good job of burying themselves, and a challenge from Reform may do just as much to revive Conservative fortunes. It could revive their fortunes by focusing the minds of party activists who see Reform as beyond the pale and who might otherwise have chosen not to campaign. The fight against Labour might seem pointless, but a winnable fight against their righter-than-thou counterparts in Reform might not.

So defecting to Reform is perhaps not as good an idea as it first seems. It will likely make negligible differences to who keeps their seat and who doesn’t and the benefits to the country of trying to bury the Conservatives are limited. Red wall MPs might be better off polishing up their CVs.

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Briefings For Britain