Who is Anthony Browne, new head of the British Bankers' Association?

Trade association for banking industry to be headed by former journalist once described as "bordering on fascism" by David Blunkett.

Anthony Browne, a former advisor to Boris Johnson who currently works at Morgan Stanley, has been appointed to become the head of the British Bankers' Association from September. The BBA is the key trade body for the UK banking and financial sector, with over 200 member banks. It is responsible for setting the London Inter-bank Offered Rate, a measure of the average rate charged for loans between banks which was investigated (£) by the American Securities and Exchange Commission over "erratic behaviour" in February.

Browne had a past life as a journalist and think-tanker, with a particular interest about immigration. In 2000, he authored a special report for the Observer, titled The last days of a white world, which claimed that non-whites will be a majority in the US and Britain by 2050, and compared the fate of white Britons to that of the Native Americans, who "used to have the lands to themselves but are now less than 1 per cent of the US population, with little chance of becoming a majority again." In 2002, Browne wrote a pamphlet for Civitas, Do we need mass immigration? (pdf), which reiterated many of the arguments at greater length, as well as blaming immigration for "rising congestion" and "importing diseases such as HIV and TB".

His writings on immigration in the Times (archived here) led to David Blunkett denouncing him in the commons as "bordering on fascism”. A later book, The Retreat Of Reason, was praised by the BNP as:

A devastating expose of the effects of Political Correctness and its poisonous effect of public debate in modern Britain. The author shows how the media and government even resort to employing misleading statistical evidence to support their PC objectives. A far reaching book which has the left squealing in horror.

A few months later, the Mirror reported that Do we need mass immigration? was on sale on the BNP's online gift shop, where it is described as "blaming poverty, crime, TB and HIV on immigrants".

Browne told the Mirror that:

There is a huge difference between my views and those of the BNP.

Upon Browne's appointment as Boris Johnson's policy director, Nick Cohen wrote that:

A concern for fact and a hatred of conventional wisdom have marked his progress from journalism to the Conservative think-tank Policy Exchange, and now on to one of the most powerful jobs in London. . .

It's not political correctness he [is] against but the perversion of liberalism by Whitehall and the BBC, which holds that it is somehow wicked to talk about racial attacks on whites, anti-Semitism or tensions between immigrants.

Given that the banking sector one of the most cosmopolitan industries in the UK, and that, according to the Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society:

the City’s competitiveness is significantly dependent on the functioning of its global labour market, of which a key factor is the immigration of European Economic Area (EEA) and non-EEA talent.

It will be interesting to see which side of Browne comes out in his new job.

To welcome refugees? Not likely if you're Anthony Browne. Photograph: Getty Images

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.

Photo: Getty
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Who will win in Stoke-on-Trent?

Labour are the favourites, but they could fall victim to a shock in the Midlands constituency.  

The resignation of Tristram Hunt as MP for Stoke-on-Central has triggered a by-election in the safe Labour seat of Stoke on Trent Central. That had Westminster speculating about the possibility of a victory for Ukip, which only intensified once Paul Nuttall, the party’s leader, was installed as the candidate.

If Nuttall’s message that the Labour Party has lost touch with its small-town and post-industrial heartlands is going to pay dividends at the ballot box, there can hardly be a better set of circumstances than this: the sitting MP has quit to take up a well-paid job in London, and although  the overwhelming majority of Labour MPs voted to block Brexit, the well-advertised divisions in that party over the vote should help Ukip.

But Labour started with a solid lead – it is always more useful to talk about percentages, not raw vote totals – of 16 points in 2015, with the two parties of the right effectively tied in second and third place. Just 33 votes separated Ukip in second from the third-placed Conservatives.

There was a possible – but narrow – path to victory for Ukip that involved swallowing up the Conservative vote, while Labour shed votes in three directions: to the Liberal Democrats, to Ukip, and to abstention.

But as I wrote at the start of the contest, Ukip were, in my view, overwritten in their chances of winning the seat. We talk a lot about Labour’s problem appealing to “aspirational” voters in Westminster, but less covered, and equally important, is Ukip’s aspiration problem.

For some people, a vote for Ukip is effectively a declaration that you live in a dump. You can have an interesting debate about whether it was particularly sympathetic of Ken Clarke to brand that party’s voters as “elderly male people who have had disappointing lives”, but that view is not just confined to pro-European Conservatives. A great number of people, in Stoke and elsewhere, who are sympathetic to Ukip’s positions on immigration, international development and the European Union also think that voting Ukip is for losers.

That always made making inroads into the Conservative vote harder than it looks. At the risk of looking very, very foolish in six days time, I found it difficult to imagine why Tory voters in Hanley would take the risk of voting Ukip. As I wrote when Nuttall announced his candidacy, the Conservatives were, in my view, a bigger threat to Labour than Ukip.

Under Theresa May, almost every move the party has made has been designed around making inroads into the Ukip vote and that part of the Labour vote that is sympathetic to Ukip. If the polls are to be believed, she’s succeeding nationally, though even on current polling, the Conservatives wouldn’t have enough to take Stoke on Trent Central.

Now Theresa May has made a visit to the constituency. Well, seeing as the government has a comfortable majority in the House of Commons, it’s not as if the Prime Minister needs to find time to visit the seat, particularly when there is another, easier battle down the road in the shape of the West Midlands mayoral election.

But one thing is certain: the Conservatives wouldn’t be sending May down if they thought that they were going to do worse than they did in 2015.

Parties can be wrong of course. The Conservatives knew that they had found a vulnerable spot in the last election as far as a Labour deal with the SNP was concerned. They thought that vulnerable spot was worth 15 to 20 seats. They gained 27 from the Liberal Democrats and a further eight from Labour.  Labour knew they would underperform public expectations and thought they’d end up with around 260 to 280 seats. They ended up with 232.

Nevertheless, Theresa May wouldn’t be coming down to Stoke if CCHQ thought that four days later, her party was going to finish fourth. And if the Conservatives don’t collapse, anyone betting on Ukip is liable to lose their shirt. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.