James Crabtree

James Crabtree is Comment Editor at the Financial Times. He lives in East London.

Recent Articles

Now Is the Summer of Our Discontent

Deep structural problems lie beneath the London riots.

(AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

The area around our house in Hackney was quiet last night, as were streets across Britain. Monday was a different story. Four blocks to the north, the local estate was in flames. Three blocks to the east, police struggled to contain rampaging street violence. Three blocks to the west, dozens of local Turkish men lined the streets, armed with meat cleavers borrowed from kebab shops, to protect their businesses. Police helicopters buzzed overhead, and, on our road at least, the curtains were firmly shut.

How Did Labour Fail?

Despite an exciting shake-up of a campaign, Britain appears headed for a conservative victory.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown (AP Photo/Lewis Whyld/PA Wire)

Two days ago Gordon Brown did something unexpected. Britain's embattled prime minister spent the last month presiding over a lackluster Labour election campaign, culminating in the epic gaffe of being overheard insulting a senior. His party had fallen from a merely dismal second place in the polls to facing electoral humiliation in third. And then, with four days to go, and just as the obituaries were being polished and the recriminations were creeping out in public, Brown gave a genuinely brilliant speech.

A National Mission

Britain's national goal of reducing child poverty was a political success. Did it work?

How do you build a bipartisan consensus to tackle seemingly unfashionable social problems? Look at Britain. In October 2007 David Cameron, head of the U.K.'s partially revamped Conservative Party, made a speech that boldly concluded, "We can make British poverty history." In March 2008 he attacked a "Labour Party that rests on its historical laurels as the voice of the poor and downtrodden while all the time the poor have got poorer and inequality has gone up." The jibe was unusual coming from a party that, under then-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, had unflinchingly presided over a sharply rising poverty rate.

Britain's Great Right Hope

As the Republican Party struggles to develop a new message and regain popular support, its British counterpart is on the verge of a comeback. Will the Tories become the model for conservatives everywhere?

The Two Chairmen is a cozy backstreet pub, nestled in the heart of the Westminster Village -- the small corner of London that includes 10 Downing St., Parliament, and most of Britain's major government departments. On a warm summer day in May 1994, two young Conservative Party political advisers stood outside, discussing the unexpected death of then-Labour Party leader John Smith, and his likely replacement: the young, telegenic Tony Blair. The more experienced of the two, Patrick Rock, was a hard-nosed spin doctor for Britain's hawkish home secretary, Michael Howard. The second drinker, younger-looking than even his 28 years would suggest, was future conservative leader David Cameron.

WEBCAMERON. Wrist-deep in...

WEBCAMERON. Wrist-deep in a sink full of dirty dishes, discussing his vision for a better country while continuously fighting off interruptions from his kid -- this is how Britain�s boyish new Conservative Leader David Cameron chose to appear in a new behind-the-scenes website launched this week. Cameron, who spoke today at his party�s conference and is profiled glowingly in this morning�s Times, is already a political phenomenon across the pond.

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