Neil O'Brien

Neil O'Brien

Related Publications

Northern Lights: Public policy and the geography of political attitudes in Britain today

Is there a north-south divide political divide? A major study into public attitudes – Northern Lights – examines the new political and social geography of England. The research finds that the way people vote is less and less determined by their social class, and more by how they think the government is performing and their attitudes to controversial issues like migration and crime.

Tackling the Causes of Poverty: Replacing the child poverty target with a multi-dimensional set of causal indicators

Tackling the Causes of Poverty is Policy Exchange's response to the government's child poverty consultation. It recommends replacing the current, income-based, measures of poverty with new, wider, measures that reflect the multi-dimensional and complex causes of poverty for both adults and children.

Just Deserts? Attitudes to Fairness, Poverty and Welfare Reform

Just Deserts? examines public attitudes towards fairness, poverty and welfare reform. What do we think “fairness” is? Extensive new research finds British voters believe that fairness is about getting what you deserve, not about equality.

At a Rate of Knots: Improving public transport on the River Thames

At a Rate of Knots argues that we can make much more of the river Thames for very little cost, producing a new, integrated and expanded service which will offer a great new option for many of London’s commuters. The river is a core part of London’s identity yet it is cut off from its transport network. This report sets out how to correct this.

Tax and Spending: Views of the British Public

This report surveyed a 3,000 strong sample of the British population on their attitudes towards multiple aspects of tax and spending, including: The balance of tax and spending Attitudes to different tax rises Attitudes to current tax levels Support for higher or lower pay in the public sector Support for cuts by specific programme Rules to control government borrowing The report also conducted a comparison with the British Social Attitudes […]

Controlling Public Spending: The Scale of the Challenge

Government spending is growing far more quickly than in other countries, and faster than in previous recessions. This report finds that the surge in spending is not being driven by the recession.

Related Blogs

The great divide

Neil O'Brien, Policy Exchange's Director, discusses the failure to close the North/South divide, arguing that both Westminster politicians and Northern council leaders fail to understand the nature of the problems the North faces. He makes recommendations which would help boost the Northern economy, including welcoming successful academy chains, local pay bargaining and planning reform.

Margaret Thatcher, uber-moderniser

Neil O'Brien, Director at Policy Exchange, shows how faded memories have meant that Margaret Thatcher's modernising moves, such as trying to appeal to minority, female and naturally anti-Tory voters, have been forgotten.

Why the Government is right to want to improve the poverty target

Policy Exchange's Director, Neil O'Brien, argues that the government's announcement to include additional factors to the child poverty target reflects a recommendation set out in 2011 Policy Exchange report Tackling the Causes of Poverty,which suggested replacing the income-based child poverty target with a set of multi-dimensional causal indicators, including unemployment and education.

The north's economy needs a radical new approach if it's going to catch up with the south

Neil O'Brien, Director of Policy Exchange, argues that the North's economy needs a radical new approach to catch up with the South. Neil shows how previous Policy Exchange research on local pay bargaining and planning reform could attract private sector investment and jobs.

Is Britain 'coming apart' as cultural inequality increases?

Neil O'Brien, Policy Exchange's Director, discusses cultural inequality, arguing that there are huge changes going on in Britain that the political and media bubble is not aware of.

Unlike America we don't elect a President. So let's never have presidential style debates again.

Neil O'Brien, Policy Exchange's Director, argues against the import of US election style leader debates in Britain. Having given in to the presidential debate format for the 2010 elections, the UK should not continue the practice in 2015, he argues.

The remarkable rise of mental illness in Britain

Neil O'Brien, Policy Exchange's Director, discusses the dramatic increase in mental illness in Britain, arguing that it is one of the biggest challenges facing the welfare state, and one which is only now starting to be explored.

The Conservatives can be the new workers' party

Policy Exchange Director Neil O'Brien argues that the Prime Minister must ignore calls from some of his backbenchers to lurch to the right and instead focus on building a narrative that focuses on Blue Collar modernisation. He says that the Tories must start appealing to low income earners and ethnic minority voters.

The challenge for the Tories is to find their own version of Blairism

Policy Exchange Director Neil O'Brien argues that the challenge facing the Tories is to find their own version of Blairism. Neil suggests that the Conservatives need to do more to win over voters in the North and in the Midlands, and argues that the Tories need to show they are not just a party for the rich.

Scottish Labour tries to start an honest conversation about public spending

Policy Exchange Director Neil O'Brien argues in support of new Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont's drive to address public spending in Scotland and end the 'something for nothing culture'.

'Concreting over the countryside'? Actually we're building less than ever

Policy Exchange Director Neil O'Brien argues that the government needs to adopt a fresh approach to the housing problem, stressing that stringent planning regulations are preventing empty offices and buildings being converted into residential properties.

'Predistribution' is an interesting idea. But what exactly is Ed Miliband going to do about it?

Policy Exchange Director Neil O'Brien examines the concept of 'predistribution' and how it could be implemented in the real world. Neil suggests that tying predistribution to housing would be an effective start in helping the poor.

Grey power is growing – and it can make Britain a better place

Policy Exchange Director Neil O'Brien examines the politics of having an increasingly aged population and argues that we need to learn to use the capabilities older people have to cope with the aging population.

No one has a right to live in Kensington at taxpayers' expense: it's time to start recycling social housing

Policy Exchange Director Neil O'Brien writes advocating recommendations from new report Ending Expensive Social Tenancies that expensive social housing should be sold and the proceeds used to build more social housing.

The Olympics teach us (among other things) that Britain isn't meritocratic enough

Policy Exchange Director Neil O'Brien draws six lessons from the Olympic Games, including that Britain actually can successfully conduct big projects, should focus on 'victory through specialisation' and embrace elitism and meritocracy.

Is London sucking the life out of Yorkshire?

Policy Exchange Director Neil O'Brien looks at the problems facing Yorkshire and gives examples on how it could improve itself to counteract the gravitational pull of London on graduates and industry. Suggestions include growing Leeds using lessons from Manchester, luring the best academy school chains, reforming the planning system and changing national pay bargaining to a more local level.

Can we make the economy grow faster?

Policy Exchange Director Neil O'Brien calls for reform of the planning system to boost the economy. He argues that reforms suggested in report Cities for Growth and More Homes: Fewer Empty Buildings would create a more flexible planning system, reduce the cost of housing, and provide a huge boost to the economy.

It was the best of recessions, it was the worst of recessions

Policy Exchange Director Neil O'Brien's latest blog for The Telegraph compares the recent recession to those in previous decades and argues that despite the relatively good labour market performance our public finances remain in a bad state.

Work and education, not benefits, are the keys to social mobility

In his latest blog for The Telegraph, Policy Exchange Director Neil O'Brien praises a speech recently made by Nick Boles MP. Neil agrees with his message and says the government should redirect resources from benifits to children towards helping parents to earn more.

We still don't know what Labour's alternative is

Policy Exchange Director Neil O'Brien writes a response in The New Statesman blog The Staggers to an article by Labour MP John Denham. Neil argues that Labour need to identify where their spending commitments are going to come from if voters are going to trust them on the economy.

What is Milibandism?

In the New Statesman Policy Exchange Director Neil O'Brien examines what policies Ed Miliband might implement if he were to be elected as Prime Minister.

The public is more than ready to see benefits made fair

Policy Exchange Director Neil O'Brien calls for the re-establishment of the contributory principle in the welfare system. He praises the government for strengthening jobsearch requirements but says that more needs to be done to target those furthest away from the labour market and tailor support towards their specific needs.

Why we should change the child poverty target

Policy Exchange Director Neil O'Brien shows why we should change the Child Poverty Target – which currently only measures inequality rather than actual poverty – to one which measures a range of indicators including unemployment and education.

How can we help children in care? Should we be sending them to boarding school?

Policy Exchange Director Neil O'Brien highlights the fact that, despite legal provisions giving children in care top priority for schools admissions, they are more likely to be in failing schools than other children. He then examines a scheme previously implemented by Andrew Adonis which placed children in care in boarding schools and the positive effects this had.

Bend the twig to shape the tree – that’s the key to social mobility

Policy Exchange Director Neil O'Brien writes arguing that only a radical rethink of pre-school education will improve the life chances for some of the poorest in society.

Like father like son: how unemployment in one generation turns up again in the next

Policy Exchange Director Neil O'Brien highlights academic research showing that sons of unemployed fathers are up to 25% more likely to be unemployed for a year than the sons of working fathers.

How can we get childcare to be cheaper and better?

Policy Exchange Director Neil O'Brien shows how heavy, and often crude, regulation is driving up the cost of childcare. He highlights some particularly bizarre Ofsted childcare regulations.

Is the north really dependent on public sector jobs? Actually, it's not so simple

Policy Exchange Director Neil O'Brien uses ONS data to show that the public/private sector job divide isn’t simply split by North and South but is actually spread more evenly than people assume. He argues that the biggest challenge for the government is to reduce the overall levels of local unemployment, especially outside the South East.

Fifteen years on incapacity benefit, then told you are fit to work. It's a very big moment

With new figures revealing that huge numbers of people previously claiming Incapacity Benefit are now being deemed capable of some form of work Policy Exchange Director Neil O'Brien points out that this new influx of newly capable workers will be a big shock to jobcentres and the welfare system.

Benefits: the disabled and deserving?

Policy Exchange Director Neil O'Brien makes the case for a carefully thought out reform of disability benefits. Neil stresses the importance of getting the tone of the reforms right in order to prevent those claiming DLA being seen as "spongers".

Liam Byrne is right about Labour's pains

Policy Exchange Director Neil O'Brien shows that polling results from Policy Exchange report Northern Lights back the beliefs of Labour's Shadow Secretary of State for Work & Pensions Liam Byrne that voters are angry about welfare dependency and that political parties need to take a stronger line on welfarism.

Rich children and poor children are living in different worlds. What can we do about it?

Policy Exchange Director Neil O'Brien sets out some thoughts on how the government could narrow the gap between rich and poor children through pre-school education.

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