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. Last night, I walked with a friend down to where the worst of it had been. Mare Street, the main drag where roaming gangs of hoodies looted trucks and smashed up shops, was largely empty. The Pembury estate, scenes of the worst running battles with riot police, looked dark but peaceful. The pubs were open again, although with wooden boards still over their windows. People looked nervously at each other, holding eye contact just a moment longer than usual, as if to ask: What on earth...

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. On Monday all three party leaders spoke at a conference organized by CitizensUK, a group of faith-based community organizers. Brown came last, following competent performances by Tory leader David Cameron and the Liberal Democrat's Nick Clegg, Britain's newest political phenomenon. Brown had lost all three of the campaign's televised election debates -- the first time Britain had held such contests, and which hugely boosted the previously unknown Clegg. Add in a well-deserved...

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. But here was Cameron, ratcheting up pressure on Prime Minister Gordon Brown's government, in advance of a crucial annual budget, for more action to end poverty among children. Britain has a patchy record on poverty reduction. But the last decade has seen the beginning of remarkable political consensus on child poverty. In 1999 then?Prime Minister Tony Blair outlined a plan...

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. "We both agreed," Rock later recalled, "that Blair coming meant that we [Conservatives] would be fucked." A decade and a half later, even after Cameron's three highly successful years at the helm of the Conservative Party, Rock and Cameron must take no satisfaction from the accuracy of that prediction...

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. WebCameron 's mix of aggressive informality and smart technology adds to the intrigue. Cameron does the dishes. Cameron discusses a speech he gave minutes previously. Cameron taps away at a laptop, while the camera pans in to reveal he is actually writing his own blog . The site�s creators clearly believe that the only production values that can inspire trust among cynical voters are no production values at all. Few politicians here in America have yet managed this trick of conveying a strong personal touch through new media. (I'd say John...

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