Ralph Berry

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Britain’s New Reality

At 10 p.m. on Dec. 12, the TV screen flashes up a summary of British voting exit polls, showing a landslide victory for the Conservatives. The spectre of a Marxist government under Jeremy Corbyn vanishes, and Boris Johnson now rules

Boris Johnson: A New Oliver Cromwell?
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Boris Johnson: A New Oliver Cromwell?

“Surprised by joy” was Wordsworth’s line, taken up by C.S. Lewis for his spiritual autobiography. It’s a fair reflection of the public mood since the glorious moment when the exit poll revealed all. The Goyaesque monsters conjured up by the

Boris’s Babes
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Boris’s Babes

The Fuseli nightmare is over. Day breaks to a dawn chorus, an ovation for Boris Johnson’s epochal achievement, while Jeremy Corbyn, who would be admirably cast as Scrooge, has no vision of Christmas future and will be dismissed from all

Terrorism, Immigration, and the UK Election
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Terrorism, Immigration, and the UK Election

[above: Fishmongers’ Hall across London Bridge]

Let “Dover Beach,” Matthew Arnold’s finest poem, be the epigraph for today. Many migrants come on shore there in tiny and dangerous boats, often escorted in by border patrols. They will mostly be allowed

Brexit Can Lose Even If Johnson Wins
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Brexit Can Lose Even If Johnson Wins

The British election campaign has been conducted with all the duplicity that characterizes the higher echelons of the State. The Establishment aim is to install Boris as leader of the Conservative Party with a Commons majority but with a much

Prince Andrew in Disgrace
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Prince Andrew in Disgrace

The fall of Prince Andrew, Duke of York, is index to the strength of the monarchy. He has now been ordered by the Queen to step back from public life “for the foreseeable future.” His continued friendship with the convicted

How the Westminster Bubble Burst
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How the Westminster Bubble Burst

“The Westminster bubble” refers to politicians, civil servants and journalists who work in and near the Palace of Westminster. They dwell in a world that is largely divorced from the concerns of the public beyond the M25 (or “beltway”) and

Does the Threat of Corbyn Neutralize Farage?
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Does the Threat of Corbyn Neutralize Farage?

“Scarecrow,” an aged overcoat that saw its best days and owners generations ago, over which is thrown a hat of no known provenance but suggestive of a head underneath, the ensemble being draped over a stick. The idea is to

Testing Time for Farage and Boris
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Testing Time for Farage and Boris

The end of the phoney war is now in sight. The Conservative combatants in the general election have indulged their training exercises, which are to close squares round Boris’s deal and find evermore reasons to belittle Corbyn. Labour is engaged

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Parliament’s Election Angst

“O’ the twelfth day of December” sang Sir Toby Belch. Boris Johnson, who much resembles the knight, completes the line: “Let’s have a general election.” He had his way on Tuesday, October 28, when Jeremy Corbyn announced Labour support for

Fixed Terms and a Broken Parliament
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Fixed Terms and a Broken Parliament

The British adore democracy and cannot abide elections. Currently they are getting neither. They seem to be within hailing distance of getting both, however—if the talk about a general election lightens into action. I have doubts that this consummation, however

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Long Live the Queen’s Speech

The Queen’s Speech is the past at its most glamorous. Netflix could not equal the Queen’s journey in the coach of State from Buckingham Palace to the Palace of Westminster escorted by the superb Household Cavalry, the Blues & Royals,

It’s 1940 All Over Again
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It’s 1940 All Over Again

We have been witnessing a bloodless re-run of 1940. Britain is being expelled from the Continent by order of Germany and is turning to the New World and Commonwealth. Europe has an unchallenged hegemon, Germany, and France fits easily into

Lady Hale Means Farewell to British Liberty
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Lady Hale Means Farewell to British Liberty

If anything can save Britain, it is the national gift for mockery. The country was startled last week to discover that it was run by Lady Hale, president of the Supreme Court, who told the Prime Minister that his prorogation

Boris’s Literary Language
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Boris’s Literary Language

For the first time since Winston Churchill, Britain is governed by a master of language.

There have been few such in Downing Street history; most of those who become prime minister have devoted their entire life-effort to climbing “the greasy

The Speech Police Come for Boris
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The Speech Police Come for Boris

“The English vice is not buggery, but humbuggery” was the Continental jest of long ago. It has not been heard for some time, perhaps because opinion is divided on the several assertions in the line. The key word—not that one,

Supreme Court Usurpation, UK-Style
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Supreme Court Usurpation, UK-Style

The Founding Fathers of the United States, in their Ur-wisdom, laid it down that the Supreme Court should consist of 6 Justices. Britain, in its belated imitation of the United States, created in 2009 a Supreme Court of 11. That

What’s Happened to the Mother of Parliaments?
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What’s Happened to the Mother of Parliaments?

Scene: the House of Commons. Speaker Bercow announces that he will stand down on October 31. Labour benches applaud wildly—the convention that members do not clap is so retro—and the Conservative benches are grimly silent, other than two or three

Boris Johnson Considers Martyrdom
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Boris Johnson Considers Martyrdom

Boris Johnson will not go to Canossa, unlike Theresa May who could not stay away from the place. For her, the Castle of Canossa was the Europa Building in Brussels, the seat of imperial power where the EU potentates hold

A Purge Before Brexit
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A Purge Before Brexit

“The name is Pride. Colonel Pride.” Out of the mists of English history a figure emerges whom we can recognize today. We would call him an “enforcer,” a man ordered to carry out a harsh policy determined by his superiors.

Boris Johnson’s Fall Offensive
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Boris Johnson’s Fall Offensive

What winter quarters were to the soldier, summer vacations are to the politician of today. The fall campaign has now opened with a surprise Government offensive. Boris Johnson has made the brusque announcement that Parliament will be prorogued for most

Wir Schaffen Das
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Wir Schaffen Das

“Wir schaffen das”: I admire the cool cheek of Boris Johnson. He spoke those loaded words to Angela Merkel, who had famously spoken them in defence of her open invitation to a million migrants. The massed ranks of the German

What’s Next for Brexit’s Foes?
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What’s Next for Brexit’s Foes?

An anti-Brexit Government of National Unity falls at the first hurdle: its acronym. The political classes had found the dodo useful, as a widely accepted symbol for Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement. Now Theresa has gone the way of the dodo

After Brexit, a Party Purge
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After Brexit, a Party Purge

The near future of British politics is unnervingly poised. The law as it stands is that Britain must leave the European Union on October 31st. This law can only be changed by another law, which requires a Parliamentary majority. Can

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Twilight of the Meritocrats

“The liberal idea is obsolete,” said President Putin in a recent interview with the Financial Times (27 June 2019), “it has outlived its purpose. When the migration problem came to a head, many people admitted that the policy of multiculturalism

A Welsh Defeat Shows Boris Needs Nigel
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A Welsh Defeat Shows Boris Needs Nigel

Brecon & Radnorshire was an encounter battle, unplanned and unwanted. This obscure border constituency has just seen a by-election whose occasion was absurd—the sitting MP was recalled after some minor expenses claims transgressions and was allowed by his Conservative party

Boris Johnson’s Blood Sports
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Boris Johnson’s Blood Sports

“The washing of the spears,” was the Zulu term for victory in battle. The latest phase in the Tory civil war has seen a brutal triumph of the Brexiteers, with no quarter extended to the vanquished. Of Theresa May’s Cabinet

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The Last Day of May

Farewell the plumèd troop, and the big wars,

That make ambition virtue!…

Farewell! Othello’s occupation’s gone!

(Shakespeare 3.3.349-357)

 

Here I intuit the thoughts of Theresa May, as she prepares to leave office. For her though the office of Prime Minister

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Theresa May: A Political Obituary

The time for Theresa May’s political obituary is at hand. I write it with relish. There never was a politician on whom the gods lavished such favors, and who squandered their gifts with such perverse determination. She was presented with

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Trump and Britain

The sensationally miscast Sir Kim Darroch, H.M. Ambassador to the United States, has now gone, followed by a grieving cortège of the Foreign Office. Their clan spirit is that of Macbeth. Even Sir Christopher Meyer, a pretty good Ambassador

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A Eurocrat in Washington

Sir Kim Darroch’s epic misjudgment has as good as ended his time as H.M. Ambassador in Washington, and his career. His dispatch to the Foreign Office complaining of the utter ineptitude of the Trump administration has been leaked with devastating

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A Potemkin Parliament’s Humiliation

The elephant in the next room is Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party. For a graphic proof, look at the media, TV, and newspapers lately. The European Parliament met in Strasbourg for the first plenary session of its newly-elected members. Beethoven’s “Ode

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Boris Johnson Is Bulletproof

For an informed insight into British politics, avoid the mainstream media. You would rest on a waterbed of misconceptions. The final ballot for the Tory leadership candidates closed with this result: Boris, 160; Hunt, 77; Gove, 75. So the top

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The Tory Contest Is Bad TV

“Excruciating” was the verdict on the TV debate of the five remaining candidates for the Tory leadership. They were perched on stools, like five barflies in search of a bar.  I regretted the absence of a woman, though not for

A Masque of State–and Its Parody
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A Masque of State–and Its Parody

Soft Power is real power. The State Banquet at Buckingham Palace earlier this month showed royals and the President at their best, with an unstated but perfectly clear implication: no other country can do

Brexit Party Beats the Tories Again
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Brexit Party Beats the Tories Again

“The main lesson to draw from the Peterborough by-election is that the Brexit Party can wound but it cannot kill.” Thus the London Times, in all its majestic myopia verging on outright blindness. Have the wordsmiths who write its

The Death of Comedy
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The Death of Comedy

The left hates comedy. It subverts and challenges the dicta of the liberal hegemony, and is closed down whenever possible. The Left has had notable successes, especially in Britain, where I can point precisely to the roughly two decades in

Britain’s Leadership Void
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Britain’s Leadership Void

“Thou art weighed in the balances and art found wanting.” The verdict on Theresa May is the same as that on Belshazzar. The Book of Daniel records other similarities: Belshazzar’s Feast uncannily foreshadows the Buckingham Palace banquet in which President

Theresa May Resigns
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Theresa May Resigns

“Pass me the can, lad; there’s an end of May.” A.E. Housman, in a different key, has the right words for a nation celebrating the exit of Theresa May. The impossible dream has come to pass, and the worst Prime

Rise of the Brexit Party
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Rise of the Brexit Party

“Regardless of their doom, / The little victims play.” All eyes are on the impending fall of Theresa May, whose tragedy is hyperbolically termed “Shakespearean” by scribes who are yet to acquaint themselves with more than his titles. We are

The Liberal Mind
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The Liberal Mind

“The Liberal Mind” might seem a large subject. In practice, it is not. It is defined through the words and actions of its believers, who operate within a tight compass, not quite hermetically sealed but near enough. We can re-construct

Canossa
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Canossa

“We shall not go to Canossa!” declared more than one eminent German statesman. Theresa May loves Canossa, and cannot stay away from the place. For her the Castle of Canossa is the Europa Building in Brussels, whence she has just

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Mayday

399px-May_at_the_EP_(46110746645)

Last night’s quip went round the country: “Theresa May fell on her sword—but missed.” She is indeed, like Charles II, an unconscionable time dying. That monarch however went on—though not for long—to say that he hoped they would excuse it.

Ethelred
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Ethelred

Ethelred the Unready, once thought of as a star performer in England’s gallery of incompetent rulers, is now seeing his place taken over by Theresa May. She has been in sole charge of the Brexit negotiations for nearly three years,

Patriotism
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Patriotism

Patriotism, once thought of as “the last refuge of a scoundrel” (Dr. Johnson) is now the last resort of a failed leader. The word entered the vocabulary of Theresa May for the first time yesterday. The Sunday Telegraph carried this

Poincare
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Poincare

“I take refuge under the impenetrable arch of probability” said Poincare—the mathematician, but the French President of the same name might have adhered to the same doctrine. It remains good advice for politicians, and for those writing about politics. So: