Charlotte Street Partners



The Neville you know

Written by Charlie Clegg, senior associate 
Edited by Tom Gillingham, partner
24 January 2022

Good morning,

In low moments, I often turn to Chamberlain and the Beautiful Llama: a cheeringly irreverent compilation of photo juxtapositions. The book was published in 1940 – the year Chamberlain both resigned as prime minister and died – and is an example of how quickly his reputation sank. Despite the efforts of some historians, popular memory of Chamberlain has barely recovered, until, perhaps, now. Last week may have been the most Chamberlain-heavy week of news in over 80 years. On Wednesday, David Davis repeated to Boris Johnson Leo Amery’s exhortation to Chamberlain: “In the name of God, go!” It was a piquant phrase to aim at this most self-consciously Churchillian of leaders; though one which Johnson – himself a biographer of Churchill – claimed not to recognise. Just as Davis evoked Chamberlain’s nadir, Britain’s commentariat has been asking how bad the prime minister really was. This has been spurred by Netflix’s Munich: The Edge of War, based on Robert Harris’ novel Munich. It features Jeremy Irons as an avuncular and principled, if slightly naïve, Chamberlain who, if he could not secure peace, at least bought time to secure victory. Why does posterity’s view of a long-dead statesman matter at all? In part because appeasement and the Second World War are part of a national, political story: one whose retelling informs present day policy, as David Davis’ intervention shows. In the Financial Times, Robert Shrimsley argues our entrenched view of Chamberlain as craven is so powerful and useful that cultural attempts to rehabilitate him are both pointless and unhelpful. I accept the power of that story but would draw a different conclusion. Our views of historical figures can change: we have seen that recently, with massive reassessments of western countries’ colonial legacies. But those changes also show how re-evaluation can too easily become vilification as complicated or once admired figures are defined only by their sins. Virtue is not now found in the admiration of heroes but in the condemnation of villains. As theologian Alec Ryrie argues, the most compelling moral character of our age is, perversely, Hitler. That commentators, politicians, novelists, and filmmakers are debating Chamberlain shows that he can neither be easily condemned nor admired. Even if it took Netflix to draw it out, we are experiencing a rare outbreak of nuance. May it last longer than the Munich Agreement did.


The United States has ordered the families of staff at its Ukrainian embassy to leave. The State Department has already given permission for non-essential staff to leave amid fears Russia is on the brink of launching an invasion of Ukraine.

10 Downing Street has this morning launched an inquiry into claims made by MP Nusrat Ghani of Islamophobia and racism within government. Ghani says she had been told her status as a Muslim woman was a reason for her losing her position as a junior minister in 2020.

The Royal Navy has seized around £15m-worth of drugs in a bust on the Arabian Sea. A team based from HMS Montrose confiscated drugs, weighing 2.4 tonnes in total, including heroin and hashish.

Business and economy

Planned redundancies have dropped 86% from a peak in the third quarter of 2020. According to a survey by law firm GQ Littler, in the third quarter of 2021, planned redundancies by UK businesses stood at 40,061.

The UK government’s aviation minister, Robert Courts, has signalled airlines will have to hand back landing slots at British airports if they use them less than 70% of the time. The rise, up from 50%, shows the UK government expects a rapid rise in air travel this summer. (£)

A report has called on the UK to increase policing of major fraud. The paper by Spotlight on Corruption claims the UK loses £100bn in money laundering and £190bn every year while spending £852m each year on the budgets of national level agencies that fight economic crime. This, the report claims, leaves the UK “overstretched and outgunned” on financial crime. (£)

Columns of note

Many, if not most, Conservative MPs seem to recognise Boris Johnson’s premiership is a busted flush yet only a few have moved to oust him. What’s stopping the rest? In the Observer, Andrew Rawnsley looks at all the things Tory parliamentarians are waiting for – the Sue Gray report, the local elections, a change of heart at No10 – and concludes that there is no time like the present to remove Johnson. As long as he remains, Rawnsley argues, Tory MPs are complicit in the damage to their own party.

Who wants pain? After two years of pandemic, the answer may appear to be lower than it usually is. In The Times, however, Clare Foges argues being clear about painful decisions is what Sir Keir Starmer needs to do if he is to become a credible statesman. Amid the current government scandals, the Labour party will find it easy to slip back into the “same old Tories” arguments before announcing a spending spree ahead of elections. If, however, they want to seem more like a viable government, Foges suggests they have to be clearer on costs and tough decisions. (£)


The week ahead

Sue Gray’s report into the alleged parties at No10 Downing Street during lockdown is expected this week; though a specific date has not yet been set. In England, almost all remaining Covid restrictions are being removed today. Also today, restrictions on indoor gatherings in Scotland are easing.

Italy’s parliament will begin the process of electing a new president on Monday. The current frontrunner is prime minister Mario Draghi. If Draghi is elected, a replacement prime minister will have to be sought. In Portugal, a general election will take place on Sunday.

In the US, the Federal Open Market Committee is expected to give a decision on rates rises. This is expected to be a holding announcement before rises in March. Ericsson will announce results on Tuesday and H&M will publish full-year sales on Friday. Apple is reporting quarterly results on Thursday.

What’s happening today?

Trading announcement

did you know?

Of the world’s 50 busiest railway stations, all but five are located in Japan.

Parliamentary highlights

House of Commons

Oral questions
Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities

Remaining Stages of the Leasehold Reform (Ground Rent) Bill [Lords]

House of Lords 

Oral questions

Northern Ireland (Ministers, Elections, and Petitions of Concern) Bill – third reading
Health and Care Bill – committee stage (day 5)

Orders and regulations
Train Driving Licences and Certificates (Amendment) Regulations 2022

Scottish parliament 

No business scheduled

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