Recent Blogs

A lesson from Vienna in countering Islamist extremism

A lesson from Vienna in countering Islamist extremism

Austria (with which I should declare I have family ties) is perhaps more widely known for Apfelstrudel, the Salzburg Festival, alpine resorts and Conchita Würst than as a European policy leader. It’s been a while since Bruno Kreisky’s edgy Middle East activism or Vienna’s early – and highly effective – engagement with conflict issues in the former Yugoslavia. On most issues, the country has largely been content to position itself in the middle of the EU pack. All perfectly sensible.

Farming is key to a UK-US trade deal, whoever is president

Farming is key to a UK-US trade deal, whoever is president

Later this month, the UK and the US will conduct the third round of talks on a new trade agreement. The successful conclusion of a deal with the US will be challenging but would provide a major strategic prize for the UK, as I explain in a new report for Policy Exchange released today, “The art of a UK-US trade deal”. The paper looks at the challenges and opportunities facing negotiators over the coming months.

Why universities had to be challenged

Why universities had to be challenged

It is now official. The helter skelter expansion of UK higher education ushered in 21 years ago by Tony Blair’s pledge to send half of school leavers to university is now at an end.

And the announcement by the education secretary, Gavin Williamson, came not a moment too soon. The headlong rush into mass academic higher education, leapfrogging even the US, happened faster in the UK than in most other comparable countries and it seemed to happen on automatic pilot, with remarkably little thought given to the economic or social consequences. The only serious debate we ever had was on tuition fees.

Scrapping the scrappage scheme

Scrapping the scrappage scheme

It is welcome news that UK Government has dismissed reports that it was considering a scrappage scheme for petrol and diesel cars as a short-term economic stimulus measure. In a typical scrappage scheme, the government would pay car owners to scrap their current vehicle in return for credit against a new one, thereby stimulating the manufacturing sector. However, scrappage schemes are generally not a desirable policy, because they tend to be an inefficient use of public funds, work against the grain of transport decarbonisation, and send mixed price signals alongside Electric Vehicle subsidies.

Facts vs feelings in the BLM debate

Facts vs feelings in the BLM debate

George Floyd’s appalling murder and the global outrage it triggered has evolved into a broader protest about black disadvantage and racism in western countries.

Many people of goodwill, including many white people, have joined marches in the UK. Young friends of mine who have been on the marches tell me I should tread carefully writing about the issue because I cannot know what it feels like to be black in Britain.

Electricity markets under pressure

Electricity markets under pressure

The Coronavirus has challenged all sectors of the UK economy, and electricity markets have been no exception. Electricity demand is down by as much as 20%, causing periods of negative electricity prices and unprecedented strain on the Electricity System Operator (ESO), run by National Grid. The ESO is responsible for ensuring that the system can respond to lightning strikes and faults at power stations, and that power lines don’t become overloaded. To do this, the ESO takes “balancing actions”, paying to turn down some generators and paying to turn up others.

Technology and the NHS: A framework for digital ‘lock in’

Technology and the NHS: A framework for digital ‘lock in’

I recently gave evidence to the Public Services Committee in the House of Lords on how the coronavirus pandemic will affect the future role, priorities and shape of public services.

A number of key themes and issues were raised during the session that will be important in the months and years ahead. Many of these reflected the findings from our report Ending the Divide which provided some early insights into the impact of the pandemic on the Government’s health and social care agenda.

Performative allyship is deadly – here’s what to do instead

Performative allyship is deadly – here’s what to do instead

On May 25, George Floyd was murdered by a Minneapolis police officer who kneeled on his neck for more than eight minutes as Floyd gasped, “I can’t breathe.” On March 13, Breonna Taylor was shot dead by police who stormed her home as she slept. On February 25, Ahmaud Arbery was killed in the middle of the day by two white men, a retired policeman and his son. They got in their car, tailed him, and shot him twice.

What the Government’s Command Paper on Northern Ireland means

What the Government’s Command Paper on Northern Ireland means

The Government this week published a Command Paper, setting out its approach to implementing the Northern Ireland Protocol in the UK-EU Withdrawal Agreement.

The Protocol gives Northern Ireland a special economic status – within the UK’s customs territory, but in regulatory alignment with the EU single market for goods. The Protocol also requires provisions to be put in place to ensure that goods “at risk” of entering the EU single market via the land border with the Republic of Ireland are subject to the correct checks and controls. The continuation of the Protocol is subject to the ongoing consent of the Northern Ireland Assembly after four years.

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