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

Putin, Trump and Cyber Warfare – Sir David Omand’s dramatic warning

Prof. Colin Talbot, Research Associate, University of Cambridge

Sir David Omand, former Director of GCHQ and former Security and Intelligence Co-ordinator for the Government, is to issue a strongly worded warning about threats of external subversion and internal sedition being enhanced by cyber-warfare techniques.

untitledIn a lengthy article published in the Journal of Cyber Policy,* Omand warns that the Russian government is continuing in the tradition of the Soviet Union in engaging in ‘hybrid warfare’ and ‘active measures’ (aktivinyye meropriatia) to subvert European and American governments.

(*Which I was given pre-publication access to by Sir David, for which thanks).

These can include highly targeted propaganda and misinformation; attacks on ‘critical national infrastructure’ and increasingly extending into the ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT) – all assisted or enabled by cyber-space. Continue reading

Nationalisation vs Privatisation (Part 93….)

With the Party conference season behind us the big idea back on the agenda is, apparently, socialism versus free-markets. Stirring speeches about the return to socialism rang out from Labour in Brighton, to be met by counter-blasts of free market rhetoric from the Tories in Manchester. It was all quite nostalgia inducing for some of us – forward to the 1980s! And, of course, thoroughly specious from both camps.

In reality the debate quickly descended from the lofty heights of imaginary alternative social systems – neither socialism nor free markets have ever existed and are ever likely to – to a rather more prosaic debate about nationalization versus privatization as almost as devoid of serious thinking as it was the first time around in the 1980s. Continue reading

It Wasn’t The Cough That Carried Her Off…..

I have been thinking about THAT SPEECH by Theresa May all day today. Why?

Well, on a very personal level, first I have a cough problem. Not a “here today gone tomorrow” cough problem. I’ve had it chronically since 2009 on and off before that. I’m receiving treatment at a specialist and experimental cough clinic. I recently discovered it may go back to an industrial accident I had in 1970!

Be that as it may, I therefore have some sympathy with anyone caught out by an uncontrollable cough in public speaking situations. I have had them. I have had lectures where I’ve collapsed into fits of coughing so alarming the students got worried I was about to expire. I have had to leave meetings. I have had to decline live radio and TV on days when I knew I was at risk.

So, I understand.

Which is why I am totally and utterly dumfounded by the sycophantic drivel being spouted about “poor Theresa”. Continue reading

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

Cambridge Policy Lab

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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Universal Credit: chronicle of a death foretold

This blog post was first published on Nov 11, 2010, in reaction to the Universal Credit ‘White Paper’. It’s normal to say “I hate to say it ….”. I don’t hate to say it – I was right.

Welfare Reform: it’s the implementation, stupid

It has entered popular mythology that in the 1992 US Presidential election Bill Clinton’s adviser James Carville hung a notice over Clinton’s desk that said “it’s the economy, stupid”. (It didn’t quite happen like that, but it’s close enough.) Continue reading

The Soft Brexit Solution Struggling to get out?

There is a majority in Parliament – in both Houses – for some form the ‘soft’ Brexit. The question is, can it get out?

Let’s be clear – the Brexiteers are right about one thing: the majority of MPs stood on manifestos committing us to leaving the EU. But they did not commit themselves to any old Brexit Theresa May and David Davis decide we’ll get. Labour’s manifesto was ambiguous and many individual candidates entered their own local caveats.

The majority in the House of Commons would probably now vote for something like this:

We formally leave the EU in April 2019.

We agree an “interim” deal to remain in the EEA or EFTA (or both) and the customs union pending further negotiations.

Such a deal could satisfy soft Leavers and Remainers. For now. Continue reading