Bad in theory, fine in practice: an insider account of the Energy Price Cap

Around midnight one October I found myself in a Manchester hotel room, facing a furious Chancellor (in black tie) and his aides (more slovenly), waving a draft PM conference speech containing an unexpected retail energy cap. Perhaps he should not have been surprised – it was a manifesto commitment, after all. But “it’s in theContinue reading “Bad in theory, fine in practice: an insider account of the Energy Price Cap”

Who the hell put you in charge? On Spads and management.

How to manage the abrupt disconnection of a 45 year commercial relationship? Why not “stick randomly appointed political hacks atop various departments, and shout at them to write lists”?   Spads did not really exist fifty years ago, and those that did had little power. They sound rather more important now, if insider gossip about NoContinue reading “Who the hell put you in charge? On Spads and management.”

Is weak demand a conspiracy of the scheming rich?

Paul Krugman has kicked off a meandering blogosphere discussion of why hard money policies are so stoutly defended, despite overwhelming evidence of the damage they are causing (see Martin Wolf on Europe today). As Wolf says, this is not just sad, it’s dangerous.  He is right: it is difficult to imagine an important agenda thatContinue reading “Is weak demand a conspiracy of the scheming rich?”

Dramatic assault on Leviathan, not many dead

Forgive me for the lack of warning: alongside my excellent co-writer Stian Westlake, I have a pamphlet-length publication out, brazenly titled “The End of the Treasury”, and calling for the mother of all “machinery of government” changes.  Stian has blogged on it here, The Economist has a short piece in their print edition which canContinue reading “Dramatic assault on Leviathan, not many dead”

Surprising discoveries in the Jenkins biography

As a rather late LibDem, I needed to study the excellent John Campbell biography of Roy Jenkins, “A well rounded life” more than most.  It has given me a schooling in foundational Party history that I sorely lacked.  Thank you to Matt Turner, commenting here, for the recommendation. If I’d read it on Kindle, theseContinue reading “Surprising discoveries in the Jenkins biography”

New article up on the FT: don’t mourn our missing tech billionaires

I have another article up in the FT.  You surely subscribe? You should.  Here it is. I could add many thoughts to this piece.  Even with the help of great sub editors it is difficult to capture every nuance. (None of what follows is in the FT piece.  Please subscribe and click …) Essentially, theContinue reading “New article up on the FT: don’t mourn our missing tech billionaires”

Much more on the on scheming Spads

I’m enjoying the pleasant reaction to my mild defence of the Mandarins; thanks for the retweets and often violent agreement. I have much more of this coming out in the Autumn with the Institute for Government, inspired in my last few weeks by the excellent pamphlet by Nick Hillman called “In Defence of Special Advisers”Continue reading “Much more on the on scheming Spads”

Don’t blame the mandarins

I cannot easily recall a really excellent, well thought through, politically cleared idea that was stopped because of the machinations of civil servants. I can think of plenty which were stopped because they were impractical, illegal, in conflict with other stated aims of the government, impossible to deliver on to the parliamentary timescale, unaffordable, unwittingly badContinue reading “Don’t blame the mandarins”

Freethinking Economist

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