Progressive political economy and British politics
Since October 2016 I have been Director of the Commission on Economic Justice at the UK Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR). Comprising leading figures from business, trade unions, civil society and academia, the Commission is a major initiative to examine the challenges facing the UK economy and make practical recommendations for its reform. Over a period of two years it will undertake a wide-ranging programme of research, communications and engagement activity aimed at influencing UK policy and debate.
As Visiting Professor in the Department of Political Science and School of Public Policy at University College London, I have sought over the last five years to think through a progressive political response to the current economic crisis, trying to bring together social democratic and green political thought. Some of the fruits of this work are collected in a book I have edited with Mariana Mazzucato (Professor of Economics at Sussex University), Rethinking Capitalism: Economics and Policy for Sustainable and Inclusive Growth, published by Wiley Blackwell in August 2016.
I was from 2012-14 Co-Editor (with Tony Wright) of The Political Quarterly, a journal of political thought and analysis which prides itself on being written in plain English. I wrote a regular blog on the PQ website.
Having spent six years as a Special Adviser in the Labour Government from 2004-10 I have sought to reflect on that experience – both in terms of the political and policy legacy of New Labour and the structures and processes of policy making within government. Drawing on my experience in the energy and climate change field I wrote an academic paper with Neil Carter on radical policy change, published in Public Administration in 2013. I gave evidence to the 2012 House of Commons Public Administration Select Committee Enquiry on the role of Special Advisers and have contributed to a research project by the Constitution Unit at UCL on this.
I continue to make the odd appearance as a political commentator on BBC Radio 4 and 5 Live.
Although much of my writing has been on environmental issues, I’ve written and spoken publicly on and off for twenty years about wider political themes in progressive and social democratic politics. My 1996 book The Politics of the Real World (Earthscan) put some of it together in the particular context of that period. In 2003 my Fabian pamphlet Progressive Globalisation, written with Adam Lent and Kevin Watkins, attempted to set out my views on how social democracy could approach the regulation and management of modern capitalism.
During the mid-1990s, as part of my ESRC research fellowship, I studied the idea of ‘quality of life’ and non-material notions of wellbeing. My research included a series of focus groups on how people thought about their life satisfaction, particularly the relationship between private and public goods. This is still of particular fascination. I was and remain interested in the concepts of community and civility.
My earliest serious political essay (in 1989) was on the role of ideology in the public’s understanding of politics, a theme I returned to in an essay in Prospect magazine in 2002 and one which continues to interest me in what is widely assumed to be a post-ideological era. I am concerned by the decline of political commitment and public engagement in politics and attracted by notions of a more deliberative democracy in a networked age.
Recent writing and commentary
Rethinking Capitalism: Economics and Policy for Sustainable and Inclusive Growth
co-edited with Mariana Mazzucato
Wiley Blackwell August 2016
The industrial strategy acknowledges a fundamental truth about growth
New Statesman 23 January 2017
Out of shape: taking the pulse of the UK economy (with Alfie Stirling and Catherine Colebrook)
Institute for Public Policy Research report
If Theresa May is serious about inequality she'll ditch Osbornomics
(with Mariana Mazzucato)
Guardian 19 July 2016
A new politics: why we need collaboration between the Greens and Labour
Resurgence Nov-Dec 2013
(also published here)
Making sense of Snowden
Political Quarterly blog 17 October 2013
Reflections on One Nation Labour
Political Quarterly blog 22 September 2013
Housing, places and people: Labour and the fifth wave of social environmentalism
Essay in Green Social Democracy: Better Homes in Better Places, ed Matthew Spencer et al,
Green Alliance, September 2013
Explaining radical policy change: the case of climate change and energy policy under the British Labour Government 2006-10 (with Neil Carter)
Public Administration August 2013
Tax and spending (again)
Political Quarterly blog 8 May 2013 and
LSE Politics and Policy blog 14 May 2013
Beyond the social market: rethinking capitalism and public policy
Political Quarterly March 2013
Gove is all around: exams, public services and the EU single market
Political Quarterly blog 12 February 2013
Green social democracy
Fabian Review Winter 2012 (reprinted by the New Statesman 18 January 2013)
Healthy tensions in the machinery of power
Letter to The Times 17 January 2013 (reprinted here)
The politics of place and the greening of Labour
In One Nation Labour - Debating the Future ed Jon Cruddas, Labour List e-book January 2013 (and Labour List 12 November 2012)
Atheism, faith and promoting ethical values
Letter in The Guardian 19 December 2012
Politics and the planet
Political Quarterly Commentary
December 2012 (reprinted here)
The problem at No 10
Political Quarterly blog 21 November 2012
Obama's victory: non-lessons for Britain
Political Quarterly blog 7 November 2012
The Coalition's energy policy
Guardian and Political Quarterly blog
18 October 2012
Political Quarterly blog 11 October 2012
Ed Miliband's bravura performance
Political Quarterly blog 4 October 2012
Special advisers: part of the constitution The House Magazine 12 July 2012 (reprinted here)
Oral and written evidence given to the House of Commons Public Administration Select Committee Enquiry on the role of Special Advisers
May / June 2012
Leveson needed on financial crash
Letter in The Times 31 May 2012 (reprinted here)
Wellbeing: the challenge for Labour
Essay in 'The practical politics of wellbeing'
New Economics Foundation pamphlet