Politics is back for the autumn, and I'm back too, having taken a break since August. I went to Cornwall for a week - more of which later. While I've been away there have been two big political stories here: Labour's leadership, and the government's cuts. Cuts first. Everyone knows the UK has a serious budget deficit, and mounting debt, and that serious fiscal discipline is … [Read more...] about A Pint of Bitter: Child benefit cuts and Labour’s new leader
We're in the "silly season" in Britain now, the period when Parliament is in recess and little happens politically until the party conferences in September. But nowadays, politics happens even in August - though the Prime Minister probably wishes it didn't. First, in America last month, he said Britain had been the "junior partner" to the US in 1940, which didn't so much wound … [Read more...] about A Pint of Bitter: Cameron’s gaffes, Boris’s bikes and one big pub garden
England crashed out of the World Cup. Of course. Their defeat, conceding four goals to Germany, was abject and depressing even by their own sorry standards, and led to an angry, vindictive inquest from supporters, giving edge to the despond that usually follows England's exit. How is that stars like Rooney and Lampard can go to a tournament like that and simply not perform? How … [Read more...] about A Pint of Bitter: Football failure, fiscal austerity and the third man
Away from government, the contest for the Labour leadership is beginning to take shape. Nowadays following election defeats, Prime Ministers depart the political scene very quickly indeed. John Major famously went to watch cricket after he was beaten in 1997; this time, Gordon Brown left quickly for Scotland. But was that a good idea? Brown had already resigned as Labour leader … [Read more...] about A Pint of Bitter: Labour’s leaders and England’s World Cup
In one way, Britain's new government - the coalition, as we're beginning to call it - resembles the administration it replaced, rather than representing a break from it. Just as Labour government since 1997 was dominated by the relationship between two men, so this government is clearly based on and revolves around the obvious chemistry between David Cameron and his deputy … [Read more...] about A Pint of Bitter: UK Coalition government, and how men’s relationships matter
This has been a truly unusual, historic week in British politics. As I delivered Labour's final leaflet in my London constituency, I felt Labour was coming back slightly. Not enough to win, perhaps, but enough to stave off disaster. Election night itself was reasonably dramatic - we spent hours wondering whether the Conservatives might still gain a majority in Parliament - but … [Read more...] about A Pint of Bitter: a hung Parliament, and a new kind of government
Last time I wrote, we'd just had the first election debate and it looked as though Nick Clegg's strong performance promised a breakthrough for his party. It did: Cleggmania swept the country and the Liberal Democrats leapt in the polls, ahead of Labour, making this the most unusual general election for years. It looks now as though the LibDem peak has passed: Labour may have … [Read more...] about A Pint of Bitter: The final British Eelction debate, “bigotgate” – and the least predictable election for decades
I wouldn't say there was election fever in Britain; most of the election campaign's first week has been uninspiring, dull stuff without real controversy or passion. That may be because the two big parties both have such visible weaknesses (Gordon Brown, for Labour; most things except David Cameron, for the Conservatives); it may be because of the general mood of quiet, surly … [Read more...] about A Pint of Bitter: British Election Campaign Week 1 – Lib Dem Clegg wins first TV debate
Last week's budget wasn't much to write abroad about - very few of us here expected it would be. In truth Alistair Darling had very little room for manoeuvre, Britain's budget deficit being so high at just under ï¿¡170 billion. Some government backbenchers might have wanted to bribe the electors with a giveaway budget: one of the great Labour myths is that it lost the 1970 … [Read more...] about A Pint of Bitter: Could Darling’s dullness and Tory wobbles give Britain a hung Parliament?
So now we're sure the general election will be held on May 6th. Not officially. Firm knowledge on the day Gordon Brown decides (and it is his personal decision) to take the short car ride to Buckingham Palace to ask the Queen to dissolve Parliament. Which she certainly will, according to constitutional convention and because Parliament is near is legal end in any case. No, the … [Read more...] about A Pint of Bitter: Brown’s plan for May 6th; the BA strike; and England’s Achilles heel
I know I usually write about the political controversies and manoeuverings of the day: matters such as the taxes of Lord Ashcroft and the return of Labour in the polls do matter. But some things matter more, and I want to devote my words on this occasion entirely to the life and ideas of Michael Foot, who died this week aged 96. He was well known here in Britain as a politician … [Read more...] about A Pint of Bitter: Michael Foot, 1913-2010; writer, minister, leader
The huge scandal about MPs' expenses that began last summer simply rolls on and on, and it's becoming more confusing, not less, as audit upon audit comes together with reform upon reform. First Sir Thomas Legg audited the past expense claims of MPs, and ordered sums to be repaid - all the party leaders - Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg - being among those who had to … [Read more...] about A Pint of Bitter: MPs in the dock, a journalist questioned – and Gordon’s brown sugar
It's always good to discover a new pub so good it becomes an instant favourite - and I was lucky to have that experience this week at the Old Mitre, tucked away in a little alley off Hatton Garden, just outside the boundary of the City. Superlatives come easily when discussing this pub. It's traditional to the point of being genuinely old-fashioned, its leather-topped stools … [Read more...] about A Pint of Bitter: Growth at last for Gordon; England’s captain John Terry with his shorts down
Last time, I wrote about Anjem Choudary and his Islamist gang, Islam4UK. Well I doubt I'll be writing about them again, because since then they've managed to get themselves banned. The government has power to "proscribe" organisations under Britain's terrorist legislation, and Home Secretary Alan Johnson, spurred no doubt by the controversy over Islam4UK's suggested Wootton … [Read more...] about A Pint of Bitter: Choudary banned, Blair and Iraq (again) – and UK joblessness down
Happy New Year! Snow is on the ground again in London. It's not like much of the rest of the country: my parents are actually snowed in, up North. There's no infrastructural breakdown here, apart from the predictable tube delays. But cold, it certainly is. Ideal weather for settling down with a warming pint of winter beer somewhere like the St. Stephen's Tavern, right by … [Read more...] about A Pint of Bitter: Gordon Brown survives brief blizzard Coup Attempt, Islam in the UK and Much More!
What's your image of Christmas in England? I bet it involves a crisp layer of snow underfoot, or at least a white scene visible from the windows of a cosy house as you tuck into your eighteenth mince pie (my mum's are especially good). Much as we'd all love a white Christmas here, it's a most rare, elusive thing. I can't remember one - in the sense of there being fresh snow on … [Read more...] about A Pint of Bitter: England’s Snow, Pies and Nick Clegg’s Present
Would he bash the bankers? And how hard? That was the question everyone was asking here this week in advance of the Chancellor of the Exchequer's "Pre-Budget Report", which Alistair Darling gave in the House of Commons on Wednesday. By the wonders of the interwebs, you can see his statement or read the full published report. The big financial and fiscal event of the year in the … [Read more...] about A Pint of Bitter: Taxing, Cutting and Measuring – The State of Britain’s Finances
I was delighted to discover a new drinking establishment very near me last week - it's new to me, anyway - the Crown Hotel in Cricklewood. There are two bars, the busy front one and the pleasanter hotel bar at the side, with comfy sofas and real beer - which is why it appeals to me. It has speakers and music, which is a drawback (I like pubs to sound like pubs - of people and … [Read more...] about A Pint of Bitter: Queen and Crown, Baroness and Brown
I celebrated Halloween at one of my local cinemas, the excellent Lexi in Kensal Rise (where they also occasionally broadcast opera live from the New York Met; I had to miss Turandot last Saturday, unfortunately). The film was Dracula - Prince of Darkness, an outstanding piece of vintage schlock horror from the legendary Hammer film studios. An appropriately scary time was had … [Read more...] about A Pint of Bitter: Eurotreason and plot!
I promised you London; and London it is. One sure-fire way of winding up the English is to call London "London, England" as though any one is likely to confuse it with London, West Virginia or London, Arkansas. Yes, yes, yes, okay - there's a London in Canada, a London in Australia and quite a few Londons in the States, as well as the famous one on the Thames. But they're the … [Read more...] about A Pint of Bitter: London, England
Southwold Strange: I spend most of my time in London, and will usually be writing London thoughts, dreamed up in London pubs; yet in this, my first piece for Anglotopia, nothing at all happens in London. The thoughts have been thought and the beer has been drunk elsewhere. Lavenham, Suffolk In Suffolk first, where I escaped in September with my girlfriend Francesca. … [Read more...] about A Pint of Bitter: Anywhere but London…
Editor's Note: Our latest contributor here at Anglotopia is Carl - a British Blogger who has kindly consented to gives us fortnightly updates from the mysterious land that is Great Britain. Check out Carl's own blog here. Today I'm posting the first of my fortnightly column for Anglotopia. Let me introduce myself, and what I'll be writing about! I'm from the North … [Read more...] about Introducing A Pint of Bitter: Me and my Pint