Reshuffling while Rome burns

Clarke's Comment

This week's much-anticipated cabinet reshuffle turned out to be a storm in a tea-cup, with Gavin Williamson being fired 2 years too late and Dominic Raab being rewarded for his failure at the Foreign Office with another prestige cabinet role at Justice. Robert Jenrick also went, although, importantly, not for the 'cash-for-favours' scandal, but just in order to make way for Michael Gove. Priti Patel appears to be unfirable under Johnson, in spite of the fact that he jokes that her agenda is to make the UK 'Saudi Arabia of penal policy' Our new culture secretary Nadine Dorries could scarcely be less qualified for the role, her most well-known act being to abandon her job and her constituents, without permission, in order to eat bugs for attention on 'I’m A Celebrity ... Get Me Out Of Here!'. Rounding out her CV are opposition to gay marriage, criticism of the BBC and participation in the expenses scandal. Our new Housing Minister is Michael Gove, whose recently unearthed comments on 'dirty northerners' and 'fetid foreigners', (amongst other noxious remarks) exemplify the kind of sneering arrogance and remote aloofness that characterises many of the most prominent Conservatives. Indeed, Gove's comments could just as easily have come from one of fellow journalist Johnson's notoriously unpleasant Spectator and Telegraph columns from the 90s and 2000s. The rot does indeed start at the top.

I'm a celebrity... put me in the cabinet

The good news of the week was Emma Raducanu's astonishing and unprecedented win at the US Open, watched by an incredible 9.2m Brits on Saturday night, (many of us on the edge of our sofas, bellowing at the screen). Bizarrely, the win was celebrated by Nigel Farage, who famously suggested that people should be 'concerned' if Romanians moved in next door and fellow hypocrite Piers Morgan, who earlier in the year had gone out of his way to suggest that she 'couldn't handle pressure' and needed to 'toughen up'.

Once again we see that the UK's real role models embody a sense of inclusion, diversity, openness and compassion. Much has been made of Emma Raducanu's multi-cultural background, in the same way that England's football team come from such differing backgrounds, not just geographically, but also socio-economically. Marcus Rashford's well-publicised campaign to address food poverty comes directly from his own experience of poverty as a child. In fact, examples abound of the vast contributions to British culture made by people from diverse backgrounds from Freddie Mercury to Salman Rushdie to Idris Elba. Winston Churchill himself was half-American, our Royals part-German and St George himself was born in Cappadocia. The ability to attract great achievers has always been a strength of the United Kingdom and ought to be celebrated as a national virtue rather than presented as a burden carried resentfully as our Home Secretary and others now do.

If our political classes could be drawn from the same rich and diverse backgrounds as our sportspeople, we might expect a more thoughtful and compassionate approach to policy-making and less of an urge to cynically engage in divisive culture wars. The contrast between the two fields could not be starker.

In other news, a book that should be of great interest to Renewers was released this week, 'Poles Apart - Why People Turn Against Each Other and How to Bring Them Together'. It addresses the political polarisation that characterises current UK politics (and was the catalyst for Renew) and looks at ways of addressing it. The themes will be familiar to our supporters and include the counterproductive nature of aggressive partisanship, the extreme difficulty involved in changing minds and the trend to reward political loyalty over ability or merit. The authors are a former Lib Dem Deputy Chair, a former Conservative councillor and behavioural scientist, and a non-aligned political affairs and communications director. They also host a podcast featuring public figures who have changed their minds on major topics called 'Changed My Mind'. The book and the podcast come highly recommended.

If we are to address the issues of division, enmity, polarisation, stubbornness and inflexibility, we must first understand where it comes from and what has caused it. If we are to recruit more open-minded and thoughtful people to our cause, our approach must also be different and distinct from the parties that seek to thrive through zealotry and the deliberate, dishonest mischaracterisation of opposing views. Renew was borne of a simple idea - that broadening the base of political participation is a necessity and that better outcomes require new people operating under a new system. We have to put reform, renewal and participation at the centre of everything we do, in order to avoid making the same mistakes that the mainstream parties have cemented as 'politics as usual'.

If you want to be a part of this new chapter for Renew, you can become a member and you can join us at the Renew Conference 2021 on October 9th in London - we want to hear from you, and we want to see you too - sign-up here.

It's time for something new.

Renew Conference 2021

Here at Renew, work is continuing apace to deliver a successful Renew Conference on October 9th 2021. (Deep apologies to those who responded to the earlier announcement of September 11th).

The event will take place at the fabulous Us&Co workspace at London Monument that we have used for Renew events in the past. The event is free for members.

We will also be electing 2 members to the board at the Conference. Those interested in putting themselves forward, please contact Renew CEO Tom Meek at [email protected]

We look forward to seeing some familiar faces and some new ones too.

Renew Conference Venue

If you want to be a part of this new chapter for Renew, you can become a member and you can join us at the Renew Conference 2021 on October 9th in London - we want to hear from you, and we want to see you too - sign-up here.

It's time for something new.

Have a great week,

James and the Renew Team