Ralph Berry

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Ralph Berry writes from England.

  • Theresa May: A Political Obituary

    By Ralph Berry | July 18, 2019
    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 the leadership of the United Kingdom on a silver plate, without having to fight for it or defeat any other candidate, through a series of freak chances.
  • Trump and Britain

    By Ralph Berry | July 10, 2019
    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 in his day (his memoir DC Confidential is highly readable), went in hard for Darroch within the hour after Theresa May announced his departure.
  • A Eurocrat in Washington

    By Ralph Berry | July 08, 2019
    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 consequences. “He has not served Britain well,” said the President, showing a capacity for understatement not always associated with him. But what, essentially, has happened?
  • A Potemkin Parliament’s Humiliation

    By Ralph Berry | July 05, 2019
    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 to Joy”—a title engrafted by the EU upon the last movement of the 9th Symphony, making it the European anthem—was played, a stirring and uplifting salute to the greater glory of the EU. All stand in homage. But what is this?
  • The Establishment’s Hatred Can’t Stop Boris Johnson

    By Ralph Berry | June 27, 2019
    “The necessary man” is the term that explains everything in British politics. Boris is the target of all the focused loathing of the Establishment, a force so powerful and widespread that no man can say who drives it.
  • Boris Johnson Is Bulletproof

    By Ralph Berry | June 24, 2019
    For an informed insight into British politics, avoid the main stream 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 two go into a series of nationwide hustings, with the run-off put to Conservative Party members and a final verdict delivered on July 22.
  • The Tory Contest Is Bad TV

    By Ralph Berry | June 19, 2019
    "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 the standard reason. It would have been diverting to see a candidate clad in a fetching little black cocktail number, who would on her barstool rightly have drawn attention from the men.
  • A Masque of State–and Its Parody

    By Ralph Berry | June 17, 2019
    “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 this. It were well to keep on good terms with the people who can put on a show like this.
  • Brexit Party Beats the Tories Again

    By Ralph Berry | June 13, 2019
    “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 editorials ever heard of “mortal wounds,” or wounds that are so serious they require years in hospital?
  • Britain’s Leadership Void

    By Ralph Berry | May 28, 2019
    “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.
  • Theresa May Resigns

    By Ralph Berry | May 24, 2019
    “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 Minister in living memory has at last been dislodged from Downing Street.
  • Rise of the Brexit Party

    By Ralph Berry | May 23, 2019
    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 not looking at a Lear, or Othello, or Coriolanus. The failure of May is on a domestic scale, and it will be over very shortly.
  • The Hour of Boris is at Hand

    By Ralph Berry | May 22, 2019
    The hour of Boris is at hand. He has been in backbench exile since last July, when he resigned as Foreign Secretary.
  • The Liberal Mind

    By Ralph Berry | April 22, 2019
    “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.
  • Canossa

    By Ralph Berry | April 15, 2019
    “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 returned from another fruitless quest for mercy from the European Union.
  • Mayday

    By Ralph Berry | April 01, 2019
    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

    By Ralph Berry | March 22, 2019
    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.
  • Patriotism

    By Ralph Berry | March 18, 2019
    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.
  • Poincare

    By Ralph Berry | March 06, 2019
    "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.
  • Farce, Then Tragedy

    By Ralph Berry | February 28, 2019
    “In delay there lies no plenty” sang Feste, the controlling figure in Twelfth Night. Theresa May would disagree. She has used delay as the vital investment of her government since its formation, and her personal plenty is the dividend.
  • The Labour Crackup

    By Ralph Berry | February 21, 2019
    Britain today presents the exhilarating spectacle of its two main political parties facing imminent collapse. If there is No Brexit, the Tories will split, says Charles Moore, the doyen of Conservative commentary.
  • Tonypandy

    By Ralph Berry | February 18, 2019
    The Left’s assault on history comes up with an old favourite—you have to crank up your gramophone by hand to get its flavour, as the record strives to speed at 72 revolutions, wheezing and crackling—with their latest discovery that Churchill was a "villain." That’s the word chosen by John McDonnell, deputy to Jeremy Corbyn.
  • The Pelosi Uniform

    By Ralph Berry | February 11, 2019
    The Woman in White was Wilkie Collins’s finest novel. That title is on his chosen headstone. I thought of Collins, as I viewed Nancy Pelosi, “clothed in white samite, mystic, wonderful” at the State of the Union address.
  • Richard II

    By Ralph Berry | January 31, 2019
    "I wasted time, and now doth time waste me." Richard II’s lament might seem to apply to Theresa May, as she contemplates a near future when the final Withdrawal Agreement has to be submitted to the Commons in two weeks time.
  • Brexit? Let’s Not Make a Deal

    By Ralph Berry | January 23, 2019
    “You have delighted us long enough,” said Mr. Bennet, speaking for all of us on the exhausted subject of Theresa May. We had hoped for closure before Christmas, since a Meaningful Vote on May’s Withdrawal Agreement had been promised and this was surely destined for a massive defeat.
  • Britain’s Clean Imperial Conscience

    By Ralph Berry | January 16, 2019
    We are enjoined to partake in a deep sense of unproven guilt for events that occurred before our birth. This is nonsense, but is repeated as if it were divine revelation.
  • Shall Not Perish From This Land

    By Ralph Berry | January 10, 2019
    [O]n January 8, 2019, the Daily Telegraph reported that in oil-rich Gabon—which is the re-branded French Equatorial Africa—loyalists had thwarted a coup against the President. His name is Ali-Ben Bongo, whose family has ruled Gabon since 1967.
  • Scenes & Dispatches

    By Ralph Berry | January 03, 2019
    It is announced in France's New Year's Honours list that Michel Houellebecq has been awarded the Legion of Honour for his writings. The State, which in France is especially powerful, has acknowledged the impact of his novels, above all the most recent one: Submission (2015).
  • Project Fear

    By Ralph Berry | December 28, 2018
    Project Fear, the code name for the great anti-Brexit counter-offensive, is still under way but lost its attacking force some time ago. It now survives through a few tropes that have lost their rhetorical teeth, and their power to maul minds.
  • May’s Reprieve—And Brexit’s Future

    By Ralph Berry | December 20, 2018
    The execution of Theresa May has been postponed sine die. It fell to Jacob Rees-Mogg, the leader of the Tory rebels (the European Research Group, ERG), to announce the stay of execution.
  • Downfall—the Theresa May Story

    By Ralph Berry | December 17, 2018
    At this time our thoughts turn to Theresa May’s bunker, which we politely do not name Untergang but cannot put the word out of mind. The scenes from that film are etched on the mind: the soldiers and functionaries are as polite and dutiful as ever, but the Soviet artillery is now creeping up to the bunker under the Reich Chancellery.
  • The Tory Civil War Begins

    By Ralph Berry | December 12, 2018
    “The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.” Within living memory there was once a Conservative Party. It was led by men who had received their M.C. (Eden, Macmillan) and a woman-warrior Brunhild out of Wagner, Margaret Thatcher.
  • Will Boris Johnson Be Prime Minister?

    By Ralph Berry | December 10, 2018
    “Boris” is the only British politician universally known by his first name. He was Foreign Secretary, until he jumped ship from Theresa May’s Ship of Fools and is now on the Tory backbenches. Since May’s political life is passing peacefully to its close he is much talked of as a likely successor. What are his chances?
  • Between Gibraltar and a Hard Place

    By Ralph Berry | November 28, 2018
    The crisis in British politics deepens. Everything changed Sunday, when the European Union, without further debate, approved the Withdrawal Agreement that is Theresa May’s work.
  • Theresa May’s Impending Exit

    By Ralph Berry | November 20, 2018
    The War of the Tory Succession is now entering its terminal phase. The ultra-loyalist Amber Rudd, badly wounded a couple of months ago, has now after convalescence returned to the Front.
  • How Theresa May Survived—For Now

    By Ralph Berry | November 01, 2018
    “Our expectation hath this day an end.” The dolorous admission of the citizens of Harfleur, that Henry V's siege cannot be withstood, is the judgment on last Thursday’s meeting of the 1922 Committee, which consists only of backbenchers.
  • Will the Honduras Column Intimidate America?

    By Ralph Berry | October 24, 2018
    There is something about “column” that alerts the mind. It is not the same as “crowd,” and is active, purposive. My Chambers dictionary gives for column “a body of troops forming a long, narrow procession,” reminding us that the word is quasi-military.
  • When Will Theresa May Exit?

    By Ralph Berry | October 22, 2018
    “I wasted time, and now doth time waste me” was Richard II's lament. It could be echoed by Theresa May, but she doesn't echo any wording other than the drab officialese of “We are working to ensure there will be no hard border.”
  • Of Deep Concern

    By Ralph Berry | October 11, 2018
    The migrant crisis is principally a deep concern for Europe, with the United States increasingly affected. Canada now joins the list of nations involved in migration issues.
  • What Happened to Russian Spycraft?

    By Ralph Berry | October 08, 2018
    I am losing confidence in Vladimir Putin. Time was when I had naive respect for the operations of the KGB or whatever the descendants of the Cheka and Ogpu call themselves these days.
  • The Conservative Party’s Phoney War

    By Ralph Berry | October 04, 2018
    Theresa May is on death row but files legal appeals that extend her life. She might have taken a mortal hit at the Conservative Party Conference, but Boris Johnson, the Young Pretender (he is actually eight years short of her 64) did not strike the assassin's blow that many expected.
  • Europe Rebuffs Theresa May

    By Ralph Berry | October 01, 2018
    Failure of a Mission was the title of Nevile Henderson's book. He had been British Ambassador to Germany (1937-39), and hoped to the end that he could bring peace. He had some heartening talk with Germans in high places, but their rulers had other plans.
  • A Skeptical Note on Skripal

    By Ralph Berry | September 10, 2018
    Two words of caution before we close down our judgment on the Salisbury poisonings.
  • Boris Johnson Bides His Time

    By Ralph Berry | September 05, 2018
    May's position remains fragile. Her plan for a continuing relationship with the EU will have to go before Parliament in the next couple of months.
  • UKIP Invades the Tories

    By Ralph Berry | August 30, 2018
    TORIES FEAR INFILTRATION BY UKIP MEMBERS warned a headline in The Times this week. That journal of record has been slow on the uptake, but this is now a settled trend.
  • Is Britain Going the Way of Greece?

    By Ralph Berry | August 29, 2018
    The War for the Tory Succession is about to resume in all its fury, as the combatants leave their summer quarters and prepare for the fall campaign. The War Cry will be voiced by Boris Johnson, who has a Monday column in the Daily Telegraph paid at £275,000 a year.
  • Shrink the Party to Save It?

    By Ralph Berry | August 22, 2018
    Entryism: the very word is like a knell. It conjures up the many efforts by Moscow Central to take over British politics. They had successes. In the general election of 1945, two Communist M.P.s were returned to Westminster.
  • Farage's Midlothian Campaign

    By Ralph Berry | August 20, 2018
    History never repeats itself but can offer echoes and rhymes. One rhyme coming shortly is Gladstone's Midlothian campaign. The old man had retired, deeply wounded by Disraeli's victory of 1874.
  • Boris Johnson is Britain's de Gaulle

    By Ralph Berry | August 16, 2018
    Boris. Only one politician in the land is universally known by his first name. “Boris Johnson” is unnecessary. He is now the center of a political storm, since he wrote in his Daily Telegraph column last week that burka-wearers looked like letter-boxes and bank robbers.
  • Commeration of Amiens

    By Ralph Berry | August 09, 2018
    On August 8th, 1918, the battle of Amiens began, with stunning success. It was a masterpiece of planning and execution, utterly different from the blood-soaked failures of previous attacks—which included the Kaiserschlacht of July 1918.
  • Who Wants Power?

    By Ralph Berry | August 06, 2018
    "In office but not in power." That came from Norman Lamont in his resignation speech, on John Major's hapless Government.
  • Acronyms & Developments

    By Ralph Berry | August 01, 2018
    S.O.T. is the latest acronym to come out of Liberal HQ: Save Our Terrorists. The unco guid are outraged because Sajid Javid, the Home Secretary, has written to the US Justice to confirm that he has no objection to the American authorities trying two nominally British jihadists for their crimes—and without lodging the standard reservation, that if found guilty they must not be executed.
  • To Russia, With Respect

    By Ralph Berry | July 23, 2018
    Does anyone in the media read Alexis de Tocqueville? Many will have gone to college, and some have encountered a reading list that includes Democracy in America. It is the best book ever written on America, and because of its time the best that ever will be written.
  • Trump Visits the Ancien Regime

    By Ralph Berry | July 16, 2018
    “England,” said Roy Strong, “is the last ancien regime.” President Trump visited three visible proofs over this weekend.
  • The Last Days of Theresa May?

    By Ralph Berry | July 11, 2018
    “Britain is in turmoil” said Donald Trump. He is right. The country is perfectly happy with its World Cup entertainment, and a prolonged heat wave, but the political class is distraught.
  • A Tale of Two Humblebrags

    By Ralph Berry | July 09, 2018
    I was lately in Exeter, hoping to see something of the Islamic Centre at the University. As it was a Sunday when I visited, I thought they might have been open for business. But the doors were locked and no access was possible.
  • A Snap and a Party Gone Mad

    By Ralph Berry | July 02, 2018
    In any shopping mall, on any day, you can see a grizzling kid yearning for the chocolate-covered candy bar that his/her cruel mother is withholding from the distraught child.
  • Why the Left Fears Division

    By Ralph Berry | June 20, 2018
    'Divisive': the Left denounces the term. Good. It means that the enemy is running scared.
  • Trump Versus the Feminizers

    By Ralph Berry | January 18, 2017
    With Donald Trump soon to be inaugurated President of the United States, I can put forward what I see as the central factor in his victory. It is masculinity.
  • Honeymoon

    By Ralph Berry | October 25, 2016
    They are now sweeping up the confetti from the drive, whence Theresa May departed on her honeymoon. It is over.
  • Finito

    By Ralph Berry | September 15, 2016
    Nothing is easier than getting the future wrong. But I think that Hillary Clinton's presidential bid is finished.
  • Regime Change

    By Ralph Berry | September 06, 2016
    Speculation is mounting that Theresa May, emulating Richard Nixon’s epoch-making visit to China, may be planning a visit to Washington with a view to laying the foundations for a trade deal between the UK and US.
  • Post-Brexit

    By Ralph Berry | August 29, 2016
    The Remainers, having lost the war, have now entered the franc-tireur phase and have taken to the hills where they continue the clamor for the lost provinces. Their current spokesman is Owen Smith, pretender to the Labour throne.
  • Lords

    By Ralph Berry | August 02, 2016
    You might think that after the recent referendum the Peers v. People issue had been settled, for a time. And it is true that a heavy majority of Remainers wore ermine on parade. But no: the Resistance movement is headed by Baroness Wheatcroft, who now urges that the Government "revisit" the LEAVE decision of the people.
  • Media

    By Ralph Berry | July 25, 2016
    Groupthink is the grand code of political commentary, together with its corollary; groupthink is wrong, nearly all the time.
  • Nigel Farage, a Different Direction

    By Ralph Berry | July 05, 2016
    It is given to very few to say that they have changed history. Farage did. UKIP was less a party than a movement, which owed everything to the personality of one man who converted a nation to his way of thinking.
  • Referendum Campaign

    By Ralph Berry | June 24, 2016
    “Peers v. People”: the EU referendum campaign appeared as a remake of the great debate a century ago, and like most remakes it was not up to the original.
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