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.

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The deafening killer - why noise will be the next great pollution scandal

A growing body of evidence shows that noise can have serious health impacts too. 

Our cities are being poisoned by a toxin that surrounds us day and night. It eats away at our brains, hurts our hearts, clutches at our sleep, and gnaws at the quality of our daily lives.

Hardly a silent killer, it gets short shrift compared to the well-publicised terrors of air pollution and sugars food. It is the dull, thumping, stultifying drum-beat of perpetual noise.

The score that accompanies city life is brutal and constant. It disrupts the everyday: The coffee break ruined by the screech of a line of double decker buses braking at the lights. The lawyer’s conference call broken by drilling as she makes her way to the office. The writer’s struggle to find a quiet corner to pen his latest article.

For city-dwellers, it’s all-consuming and impossible to avoid. Construction, traffic, the whirring of machinery, the neighbour’s stereo. Even at home, the beeps and buzzes made by washing machines, fridges, and phones all serve to distract and unsettle.

But the never-ending noisiness of city life is far more than a problem of aesthetics. A growing body of evidence shows that noise can have serious health impacts too. Recent studies have linked noise pollution to hearing loss, sleep deprivation, hypertension, heart disease, brain development, and even increased risk of dementia.

One research team compared families living on different stories of the same building in Manhattan to isolate the impact of noise on health and education. They found children in lower, noisier floors were worse at reading than their higher-up peers, an effect that was most pronounced for children who had lived in the building for longest.

Those studies have been replicated for the impact of aircraft noise with similar results. Not only does noise cause higher blood pressure and worsens quality of sleep, it also stymies pupils trying to concentrate in class.

As with many forms of pollution, the poorest are typically the hardest hit. The worst-off in any city often live by busy roads in poorly-insulated houses or flats, cheek by jowl with packed-in neighbours.

The US Department of Transport recently mapped road and aircraft noise across the United States. Predictably, the loudest areas overlapped with some of the country’s most deprived. Those included the south side of Atlanta and the lowest-income areas of LA and Seattle.

Yet as noise pollution grows in line with road and air traffic and rising urban density, public policy has turned a blind eye.

Council noise response services, formally a 24-hour defence against neighbourly disputes, have fallen victim to local government cuts. Decisions on airport expansion and road development pay scant regard to their audible impact. Political platforms remain silent on the loudest poison.

This is odd at a time when we have never had more tools at our disposal to deal with the issue. Electric Vehicles are practically noise-less, yet noise rarely features in the arguments for their adoption. Just replacing today’s bus fleet would transform city centres; doing the same for taxis and trucks would amount to a revolution.

Vehicles are just the start. Millions were spent on a programme of “Warm Homes”; what about “Quiet Homes”? How did we value the noise impact in the decision to build a third runway at Heathrow, and how do we compensate people now that it’s going ahead?

Construction is a major driver of decibels. Should builders compensate “noise victims” for over-drilling? Or could regulation push equipment manufacturers to find new ways to dampen the sound of their kit?

Of course, none of this addresses the noise pollution we impose on ourselves. The bars and clubs we choose to visit or the music we stick in our ears. Whether pumping dance tracks in spin classes or indie rock in trendy coffee shops, people’s desire to compensate for bad noise out there by playing louder noise in here is hard to control for.

The Clean Air Act of 1956 heralded a new era of city life, one where smog and grime gave way to clear skies and clearer lungs. That fight still goes on today.

But some day, we will turn our attention to our clogged-up airwaves. The decibels will fall. #Twitter will give way to twitter. And every now and again, as we step from our homes into city life, we may just hear the sweetest sound of all. Silence.

Adam Swersky is a councillor in Harrow and is cabinet member for finance. He writes in a personal capacity.