Streets Ahead is the column from London Walks' Pen David Tucker…
A few notes from David's Old Westminster tour, Thursdays 2pm…
On my Old Westminster walk we take a good look at “the most important political salon in this country.”
It’s the house where the Anti-Appeasement Movement got started.
It’s the house where Thatcherism – or Globalisation if you prefer– got started. (You’re wondering what happened to your pension – it all goes back to what happened under that roof in that Westminster back street 35 years ago.)
More recently it was the house of the now disgraced Tory politician who was at the centre of one of the two biggest scandals to engulf the Conservatives at the end of the 20th century. But that’s another story. As is the one about bumping into his daughter one day when we were there and her confirming what I’d just been telling my group about her father’s sexual peccadillos. And for good measure here cheerfully pointing out her bedroom directly above where we were standing. Great moment as London Walks moments go, that one was.
But I’m thinking about the back stories – personal, international and London – the year the Anti-Appeasement Movement got started.
Contexting things if you will. Getting some perspective from the long view of our promontory in 2016.
1937 it was. Back we go.
That was the year Brendan Bracken – the Anti-Appeasement house was his house* and he was of course a charter member of that group, which met regularly under his roof – became Chairman of the Financial Times.
It was the year Neville Chamberlain became prime minister in the wake of Stanley Baldwin’s resignation.
It was the year of the Kellog Briand Pact. The Kellog Briand Pact was the first treaty to outlaw war. An exercise in futility if there ever was one, let alone the cruellest of ironies given what was just down the road.
It was the year television made its first appearance.
It was the year – well, one of the years – the Thames flooded. 14 people drowned.
We think our lives, our times are in a runaway cart hurtling down the side of a mountain.
All that going on – the dark clouds louring internationally – Churchill and the rest of the Anti-Appeasers and ordinary people as well of course must have felt much the same way about their day.
Their lives, their times were just as helter skelter as ours.
Connects us with them. And all the better when it’s there, right outside the door they all went through, there on the street, in that real place with real houses – rather than on a page.
Or a screen.
*And hey, it’s agreeable to know it’s a 15-room house and that it was sold** for £2,400,000 in 2001 and it’s now worth about £5 million more than that. Ever rocketing upwards London house prices – one of the wonders of the world.
**And indeed that God’s being overruled was instrumental in that fire sale. Though you’ll have to come on my walk – shameless plug here – to hear that tale.
A London Walk costs £10 – £8 concession. To join a London Walk, simply meet your guide at the designated tube station at the appointed time. Details of all London Walks can be found at www.walks.com.