Dressing up with the PM

Clarke's Comment

This week our PM Mr Johnson has been indulging in his favourite hobby, this time dressing up as an 'International Statesman' in the US with Joe Biden and the UN General Assembly. It was not as compelling as his earlier roles, as a baker, JCB driver, fisherman, gas engineer, tank commander, B&Q worker, firefighter, U-12 rugby player, zip-line clown or vaccine scientist, but he threw himself into the role with all the gusto we have come to expect from our very own Mr Benn.

He returned to the UK yesterday, with an attempt to put a positive spin on what was, in fact, a less-than-triumphant trip. Joe Biden's obvious antipathy to the UK is quite clear and one can't help but think that Johnson would have far preferred palling around in a Trump second term, as has been suggested. Not since Barack Obama snubbed Gordon Brown 5 times at a UN security meeting in 2009 has the 'special relationship' looked so one-sided.

One 'win' appeared to be the lifting of the (one way) UK>US travel ban, although, in reality, this was the result of the US lifting the ban on 33 countries, including EU member states and China. On the much-vaunted US trade deal, there was nothing to be said, or rather, what wasn't said spoke volumes. When questioned, both Biden and Johnson prevaricated awkwardly, with a “We’re gonna have to work that through…” here and a “the reality is that Joe has a lot of fish to fry…” there. Given that the trade agreement is considered to be the ultimate prize in the 'Why did we do Brexit?' stakes, this is a major blow for the Johnson project, such as it is.

US animosity to Johnson and the UK notwithstanding, Biden's clear message, “I would not at all like to see, nor might I add, would my Republican colleagues like to see a change in the Irish accords.”  was that the issue of Ireland is as big an obstacle to good UK relations for the US as it is for the EU. If only someone had tried to point that out back in 2016...

Now that baiting the French appears to be in resurgence as a national political pastime and post-hoc justification for leaving the EU, Johnson filled his boots with the spectacularly patronising, “I just think it’s time for some of our dearest friends around the world to prenez un grip about this and donnez-moi un break.” on the topic of the AUKUS submarine controversy. 

Master of none

Back in the UK the government is looking at the prospect of a very difficult winter. Rocketing energy and food prices, combined with the tax hike and cut in Universal Credit will make for an awful lot of unhappy voters. It's clear that those sympathetic to Johnson are prepared to take a lot of punishment, but an extended drop in living standards might be a step too far. Worse, the double whammy of Covid and Brexit means that the threat of that unspeakable ghoul - (whisper it) stagflation is now being discussed openly by economists. We thought that we were going back to the 1930s, but it might end up being the 1970s instead.

And what of the alternative, Her Majesty's Most Loyal Opposition? Keir Starmer's ongoing attempts to drag the party away from the hard-left now include a 14,000 word essay entitled 'The Road Ahead'. The central thrust appears to be the distinctly Conservative-sounding themes of 'opportunity', 'security, and a 'contribution' society where hard work is better appreciated and valued. The paper has provoked a wide range of responses, as one might expect, meeting with broad approval from the right of the party and noisy disparagement from the left. As ever, the Labour leader is hemmed in by his party's continued ambivalence on Europe and the terrible imperative not to blame the Tory Brexit for the problems everyone knows it has caused. Given that a solid chunk of Labour activists would like nothing more than to see Starmer lose by more seats than Corbyn did, 'the road ahead' will probably want a complete resurfacing before he takes his dented Rav4 out on it.

Here at Renew we are continuing our Conference preparations in earnest, writing (short) speeches, preparing presentations, delivering invitations, sending press releases and also (naturally) seeking out a venue for post-conference food and drinks. The months (and years) since the last General Election have been as tough for us as they have been for everyone, but we feel that we are now turning a corner. The tail-end of Covid will mark a new start for Renew as we reshape the party and rebuild as a credible, reformist political organisation, offering a distinct and viable alternative to the creaking party franchise system that has brought us to this unenviable spot in our shared history. It's time for something new and we want everyone on board to spread the message.

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.

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.

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