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.

Getty
Show Hide image

Richmond is a wake-up call for Labour's Brexit strategy

No one made Labour stand in Richmond Park. 

Oh, Labour Party. There was a way through.

No one made you stand in Richmond Park. You could have "struck a blow against the government", you could have shared the Lib Dem success. Instead, you lost both your dignity and your deposit. And to cap it all (Christian Wolmar, take a bow) you self-nominated for a Nobel Prize for Mansplaining.

It’s like the party strategist is locked in the bowels of HQ, endlessly looping in reverse Olivia Newton John’s "Making a Good Thing Better".

And no one can think that today marks the end of the party’s problems on Brexit.

But the thing is: there’s no need to Labour on. You can fix it.

Set the government some tests. Table some amendments: “The government shall negotiate having regard to…”

  • What would be good for our economy (boost investment, trade and jobs).
  • What would enhance fairness (help individuals and communities who have missed out over the last decades).
  • What would deliver sovereignty (magnify our democratic control over our destiny).
  • What would improve finances (what Brexit makes us better off, individually and collectively). 

And say that, if the government does not meet those tests, the Labour party will not support the Article 50 deal. You’ll take some pain today – but no matter, the general election is not for years. And if the tests are well crafted they will be easy to defend.

Then wait for the negotiations to conclude. If in 2019, Boris Johnson returns bearing cake for all, if the tests are achieved, Labour will, and rightly, support the government’s Brexit deal. There will be no second referendum. And MPs in Leave voting constituencies will bear no Brexit penalty at the polls.

But if he returns with thin gruel? If the economy has tanked, if inflation is rising and living standards have slumped, and the deficit has ballooned – what then? The only winners will be door manufacturers. Across the country they will be hard at work replacing those kicked down at constituency offices by voters demanding a fix. Labour will be joined in rejecting the deal from all across the floor: Labour will have shown the way.

Because the party reads the electorate today as wanting Brexit, it concludes it must deliver it. But, even for those who think a politician’s job is to channel the electorate, this thinking discloses an error in logic. The task is not to read the political dynamic of today. It is to position itself for the dynamic when it matters - at the next general election

And by setting some economic tests for a good Brexit, Labour can buy an option on that for free.

An earlier version of this argument appeared on Jolyon Maugham's blog Waiting For Tax.

Jolyon Maugham is a barrister who advised Ed Miliband on tax policy. He blogs at Waiting for Tax, and writes for the NS on tax and legal issues.