Despite 7 years of stagnant economic growth in Europe, austerity in Britain and growing inequality in the US, the political left has never looked weaker. That is a problem. All good political systems require competition of ideas to help both sides refine and improve the policies which they offer their electorates. In the founding of any democracy it is widely acknowledged that a failure to create two equal political parties, who can act as counterweights to one another, is essential. Some even believe that if the Russian Communist party had split into two parties in 1990, one moderate and the other traditionalist, it would have fundamentally changed the trajectory of Russian democracy.
But why are the political left so weak? The answer is that they are focusing on all the wrong issues. LGTBQQ rights, climate change, religious tolerance and gender equality are important issues in making our world a better place. But they are not the reason why people decide to vote for one party or another at the ballot box. Hillary Clinton did not lose because every Trump voter is a climate-denier, racist, misogynistic homophobe who wishes to punishes poor people. Though there were likely many of those too. But the reality is that people vote for bread and butter issues and as Bill Clinton once famously quipped, it’s often about “the economy stupid”.
Southern Skiing, Staying Fit & Dreaming of Pow
It’s that time of year again that I start pining for my skis; it’s the midway stage between the last turns of the late season and the start of another winter. What to do? If the urge to ski some powder is overwhelming, why not head south to chase the snow in the Chilean Andes where big mountains and heavy snowfalls combine with warm Chilean hospitality for an unforgettable skiing experience.
We had heard mixed reports about Rick Stein’s new restaurant in Barnes, situated on Mortlake High Street. The Depot had been a much admired restaurant with a fine reputation frequented by a loyal clientele who would be bitterly disappointed if the Rick Stein team fell short of their expectations. It was by recommendation of a friend and local that we tried Rick Stein Barnes as he had had some mixed experiences with this restaurant under its new management but hoped that by the time we visited those initial inconsistencies in service and food would be corrected.
Just a word to the wise to readers unfamiliar with the area and travelling to the restaurant by train, do not alight at Barnes Station but continue to Barnes Bridge from which the restaurant is only a few hundred yards away. We unfortunately did the former so then had no idea where we were and had to stand by the busy road, in the rain, hoping a free taxi would pass which actually was not a frequent occurrence!
The Audi S5 Cabriolet driving through the grounds of Hotel Endsleigh at the height of Spring
If you are seeking the peace and tranquillity of nature, shaped by the hand of man, and a temporary escape from the stresses and strains of the 21st century, then I can highly recommend a few days at Hotel Endsleigh, situated on a stunning stretch of the Tamar valley on the edge of Dartmoor.
The house and surrounding gardens and landscape, have all been substantially restored since Olga Polizzi first saw and fell in love with this special place, and bought it in 2004.
It first opened its doors to hotel guests in 2006, and has now established itself as highly desirable hotel surrounded by some of the most beautiful gardens and impressive scenery in Britain.
The Conservative party today lies in tatters. A leader that has lost the support of the public and her party. A party that is seen as out of touch, ruthless and clueless by the British public and nations afar. A government that has no vision and an opponent that offers hope, change and momentum. A momentum towards a past that the Conservative party and its leaders have spent nearly 40 years fighting. Perhaps the only saving grace is that the Conservative party is not alone in its struggles.
Today we see in America, in France, in Italy and across the Western World, that the old political systems and their parties are collapsing. Some are being replaced by new liberal structures. Many are not. During the Cold War the terms of debate were clear and the enemy was clearer. With the end of the Cold War, liberal parties rejoiced in their hard one victory. But they got complacent. They ignored the people and they forgot that Liberalism is not a finite end in and of itself. Rather, it is a mechanism for helping those who govern to make choices for the future. But there was no plan for the future. No dream end game or envisaged utopia. In short, they forgot the most human of all things. They forgot that people need hope of a brighter and better tomorrow.
The election today represents a reversion to the mean for British politics. For the first time since 1992, the voters of the UK face a clear choice between Labour and Conservatives. For many this is unsettling. My generation grew up with the Centre Ground. A place where limited ideologies existed and variations between the parties were driven more by local issues and individual biases than existential differences in party governing ideologies. This is how the awfully phrased “millennials” think of politics. A choice between technocratic governments with different faces. Until today.
Today ideology is back, and as I have written before, this has been a shot in the arm for the health of UK democracy. The Brexit referendum marked the first nationwide turnout above 70% in 30 years and repeated polling suggests that the 18-24yr old turnout will be a record 60% or better. But with ideology and passion comes clear winners and clear losers. In part that is why this election is so much harder than those before. There is a trade-off and whoever wins the election will change the face of Britain.
The name of William Russell Flint has acquired iconic status in the Art world as a talented artist who is, perhaps unfairly, best known for painting semi naked ladies in classical poses, which were immensely sought-after, and acquired ‘cult status’ in his lifetime, so much so that he was Knighted for his efforts.
His son, Francis was also an accomplished artist, but preferred striking Architecture and superb landscapes, although he could paint portraits if needed, and he was also commissioned to paint Warships in action in the Second World War, and sail training ships like the Sir Winston Churchill.
However, by the time the artistic genes had been passed on to Sir William’s Grandson, Simon, they were not as powerful, and after ‘dabbling’ in the art world for a while, he made the very sensible decision to become a criminal Barrister, and his meteoric career has fully justified this decision, and he was made Queen’s Council in 2004.
He married his childhood sweetheart, the impossibly beautiful Jaqi Verden, who resembled one of William Russell Flint’s models. Jaqi went to Art School, and designed highly individual leather clothing, which she sold to Harrods and many other London stores.
Jaqi brought her own talents to the Russell Flint artistic dynasty, and she and Simon produced a daughter, Jessica and a son, Freddie.
Jessica definitely inherited her Mother’s artistic legacy and has created the foundations of fashion empire under her own name, designing an impressive range of distinctive clothes and accessories, which are fast becoming a powerful new international brand in this highly competitive market.
April is the cruelest month, breeding
lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
memory and desire, stirring
dull roots with spring rain
― T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land
Unlike T.S. Eliot, I love April. Who can resist the charm of spring when everything becomes anew? When young green shoots and spring blossoms of all colours dotted the luscious pastures and birds sing happy tunes. Well, this was pretty much the image in front of my eyes when I visited the Loire Valley in France in mid April.
It may have been long overdue (like the pun there?), but the UK Prime Minister’s decision to call a general election this morning was a piece of political masterclass and a bold, calculated gamble.
By calling a general election Theresa May is attempting to resolve several major headaches at once, assuming that she is successful: Firstly, the move creates political certainty in the UK at a time where it is sorely needed. Secondly, the move will end questions around the Theresa May’s political support within the party itself and lastly it will strengthen the UK’s negotiating hand with the EU.
If the Conservatives win (especially by an increased margin), then Theresa May will have a clear mandate for her Brexit negotiation strategy. This will give investors, businesses and political leaders a greater sense of what the UK will choose to prioritise and a clearer idea of which figures will manage the UK’s transition from a full EU member state to an independent nation. Assuming that the PM will stay for a full five-year term, the Conservatives would govern until 2022, giving them the ability to handle the transition after Brexit as well and a chance to resolve any outstanding issues with EU members, the WTO and Scotland.
As you may have heard I was a guest on the Radio 4 Saturday Live show hosted by the Rev. Richard Coles. Frankly, as my first time live on national radio, I was fully expecting to be scared out of my wits but it is a huge tribute to the production team at Broadcasting House that I felt nothing of the sort.
Presenters: Laura & Richard. Guests: Lady Carnarvon, Daniel O’Donnell, me & Samantha Renke.