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 tale of Battersea power station shows how affordable housing is lost

Initially, the developers promised 636 affordable homes. Now, they have reduced the number to 386. 

It’s the most predictable trick in the big book of property development. A developer signs an agreement with a local council promising to provide a barely acceptable level of barely affordable housing, then slashes these commitments at the first, second and third signs of trouble. It’s happened all over the country, from Hastings to Cumbria. But it happens most often in London, and most recently of all at Battersea power station, the Thames landmark and long-time London ruin which I wrote about in my 2016 book, Up In Smoke: The Failed Dreams of Battersea Power Station. For decades, the power station was one of London’s most popular buildings but now it represents some of the most depressing aspects of the capital’s attempts at regeneration. Almost in shame, the building itself has started to disappear from view behind a curtain of ugly gold-and-glass apartments aimed squarely at the international rich. The Battersea power station development is costing around £9bn. There will be around 4,200 flats, an office for Apple and a new Tube station. But only 386 of the new flats will be considered affordable

What makes the Battersea power station development worse is the developer’s argument for why there are so few affordable homes, which runs something like this. The bottom is falling out of the luxury homes market because too many are being built, which means developers can no longer afford to build the sort of homes that people actually want. It’s yet another sign of the failure of the housing market to provide what is most needed. But it also highlights the delusion of politicians who still seem to believe that property developers are going to provide the answers to one of the most pressing problems in politics.

A Malaysian consortium acquired Battersea power station in 2012. Initially, it promised to build 636 affordable units. This was pretty meagre, but with four developers already having failed to develop the site, it was still enough for Wandsworth council to give planning consent. By the time I wrote Up In Smoke, this had been reduced to 565 units – around 15 per cent of the total number of new flats. Now the developers want to build only 386 affordable homes – around 9 per cent of the final residential offering, which includes expensive flats bought by the likes of Sting and Bear Grylls.

The developers say this is because of escalating costs and the technical challenges of restoring the power station – but it’s also the case that the entire Nine Elms area between Battersea and Vauxhall is experiencing a glut of similar property, which is driving down prices. They want to focus instead on paying for the new Northern Line extension that joins the power station to Kennington. The slashing of affordable housing can be done without need for a new planning application or public consultation by using a “deed of variation”. It also means Mayor Sadiq Khan can’t do much more than write to Wandsworth urging the council to reject the new scheme. There’s little chance of that. Conservative Wandsworth has been committed to a developer-led solution to the power station for three decades and in that time has perfected the art of rolling over, despite several excruciating, and occasionally hilarious, disappointments.

The Battersea power station situation also highlights the sophistry developers will use to excuse any decision. When I interviewed Rob Tincknell, the developer’s chief executive, in 2014, he boasted it was the developer’s commitment to paying for the Northern Line extension (NLE) that was allowing the already limited amount of affordable housing to be built in the first place. Without the NLE, he insisted, they would never be able to build this number of affordable units. “The important point to note is that the NLE project allows the development density in the district of Nine Elms to nearly double,” he said. “Therefore, without the NLE the density at Battersea would be about half and even if there was a higher level of affordable, say 30 per cent, it would be a percentage of a lower figure and therefore the city wouldn’t get any more affordable than they do now.”

Now the argument is reversed. Because the developer has to pay for the transport infrastructure, they can’t afford to build as much affordable housing. Smart hey?

It’s not entirely hopeless. Wandsworth may yet reject the plan, while the developers say they hope to restore the missing 250 units at the end of the build.

But I wouldn’t hold your breath.

This is a version of a blog post which originally appeared here.

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