How my first job shaped my life …..Monkeys, Mondism and LD50

I left school at 16 because my Mum, by then a single parent, simply could not afford for me to stay on to do A-levels. I needed to go out to work and earn a living.

It was 1969, and back then in the UK you could choose more or less what you wanted to do if you had any qualifications. I had 5 O-levels, which was enough for most jobs. You really only needed more if you wanted to do A-levels and go on to University. That wasn’t then an option for me. Or even a vague idea.

So I went to work for ICI Pharmaceuticals Ltd in Alderley Edge, Cheshire. I moved from my council house in the industrial working-class town of Barrow-in-Furness to the one of the most wealthy, leafy, areas of Britain. It was a shock.

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Christopher Pollitt RIP

ChristopherMy friend, mentor, critic and collaborator and great scholar Christopher Pollitt has died after a long illness. You will be hugely missed Christopher.

My thoughts go out to Hilkka and the extended family.

Christopher had a wonderfully dry sense of humour. When my wife Carole became pregnant with our son Alex (my first biological offspring), I emailed Christopher with the news. His response was typical: “don’t worry, the first 30 years is the worst”. Continue reading

Blogging as academic public policy engagement – a personal journey (Part 1 – 2009-2013)

ENGAGE Public Policy

Almost a decade ago, in 2009, I decided to experiment with blogging as a way of engaging with public policy and management debates.

It wasn’t easy.

I was an academic employed by Manchester Business School, University of Manchester.

I said I wanted to start a blog. They said – no you can’t. I asked why? They said, first we don’t know how to and second we don’t want you freelancing and possibly “damaging the brand”.

Let’s back-track a bit to see how I got to this point.

I am not a conventional academic. I left school at 16 with only 5 “O” Levels and went to work as a Lab Tech with what was then ICI Pharmaceuticals research in Alderley Edge.

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Some practical experience as an ‘expert’ adviser

[Because of my public profile I’ve had a number of ‘queries’ about my ‘qualifications’. I’ll address some of my political experience in another post, but I thought it might be useful to just give a small idea of what I’ve been doing over the past quarter century in my advisory work.]

Since becoming an academic I’ve had the privilege to be asked to advise a wide variety of Governments and public agencies. I know ‘expertise’ has been questioned recently, but I think most sensible people recognise it as important. So here’s a few examples….. Continue reading

Dover Harbour – illicit fishing

Time for a confession.

When I was about 10 years old I was already engaged in a risky criminal enterprise.

As you can see from the picture, Dover Harbour is really big. People fished in the harbour, off the beach and from the Harbour walls. But as you can see from this aerial picture there’s a vast expanse in the middle where no-one could fish. Except us. Continue reading

Notes on the attacks in Paris (and a personal dimension)

These are just some thoughts about the attacks in Paris. They’re not a thorough narrative or analysis, but things that have occurred to me as I have followed the story today.

For personal reasons this has been a particular concern, which I’ll explain at the end. Continue reading