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Mile End Institute

MEI Blog

'It is no good thinking there is no life left if one is not elected Pope': Rab Butler's failure to become Prime Minister in October 1963
3 November 2023

In the third part of his series on the Conservative Party's leadership 'selection' sixty years ago, Lee David Evans revisits the fall-out from Harold Macmillan's resignation and why his de facto deputy, Rab Butler, failed to reach the zenith of British politics.

The Tamworth by-election: A barometer for post-Brexit Britain and where the modern Conservative Party will be laid to rest?
18 October 2023

Ahead of tomorrow's Tamworth by-election, Jay Jackson looks back to Robert Peel's infamous 'Tamworth Manifesto' in December 1834 and asks where the Conservative Party's defining 'prudent adjustment' will take it next.

'Back to Basics': 30 years on
14 October 2023

30 years after John Major gave his infamous call to go 'Back to Basics' at the Conservative Party conference in Blackpool, Tom Chidwick revisits his speech and considers the similarities between Major's campaign for 'commonsense and competence' and Rishi Sunak's desire to make 'Long Term Decisions for a Brighter Future'. 

Consolidators versus Transformers: The New Dividing Line in Labour's Politics?
12 October 2023

Following the launch of our new pamphlet at the Labour Party's conference in Liverpool this week, Patrick Diamond reflects on Labour's image, its internal strategic disagreements, and how transformational the Party's programme for the next election will be.  

Our New Pamphlet: Governing in Hard Times
6 October 2023

Ahead of this year's Labour Party conference, which starts in Liverpool on Sunday, the Mile End Institute is publishing its new pamphlet on the urgent questions facing Labour and the wider centre-left. 

Drama at Party Conference (Blackpool, 1963)
4 October 2023

As this year's Conservative Party conference draws to a close, Lee David Evans looks back to the dramatic conclusion to one of its most consequential conferences - sixty years ago. 

How has the UK's agricultural policy changed since Brexit?
26 September 2023

In the next in a series of pieces from the European Journal of Public Policy's recent special edition on British Policymaking After BrexitWyn Grant and Alan Greer consider the extent to which the UK has developed a distinct agricultural policy since Brexit, after years of British politicians criticising the EU's Common Agricultural Policy. 

Why 'taking back control' of environmental policy is easier said than done
25 September 2023

In the next in a series of pieces from the European Journal of Public Policy's recent special edition on British Policymaking After BrexitViviane Gravey and Andy Jordan explore why 'de-Europeanising' Britain's environmental policy presents such a challenge and consider how the devolved administrations' approach has differed from that of the UK Government. 

How Brexit became an exercise in 'muddling through'
18 September 2023

In the first in a series of pieces from a recent special edition of the European Journal of Public Policy, Patrick Diamond considers how the British state's response to Brexit became an exercise in 'muddling through' and argues that our governing structures and processes are increasingly coming under strain.

Labour's cautiousness just won't cut it when it comes to 'Levelling Up'
7 September 2023

Lisa Nandy's replacement by Angela Rayner as Shadow Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities signals more caution from Keir Starmer's office. In this blog, Jack Newman and Dave Richards argue that 'Levelling Up' is an area where caution is potentially damaging, and real ambition is needed to deliver much-needed economic growth across England and the UK as a whole. 

Harold Macmillan's Controversial Resignation Honours
1 August 2023

In his first contribution to the MEI Blog, Lee David Evans explores the controversial resignation honours list that dogged a Conservative Prime Minister's last days in office - sixty years ago. 

Major Clean Bowled: the Maastricht Confidence Motion 30 Years On
24 July 2023

30 years ago today, John Major's government was trapped in a pincer movement orchestrated by Conservative rebels and the Labour Party's frontbench. David Ward explores how the Prime Minister decided to table a motion of confidence in his own government, the part that John Smith played in this dramatic episode in parliamentary history, and how it revealed the near ungovernable state of the Conservative Party.

Governing in Hard Times: Overcoming the obstacles to a Labour government
23 June 2023

Following our conference on the urgent political and policy questions facing the centre-left ahead of the next general election, Patrick Diamond considers the obstacles facing the Labour Party and how they might formulate viable political strategies to overcome them.

Urgent Questions for the British Centre-Left
12 June 2023

Ahead of our conference on the centre-left this Thursday, Colm Murphy maps out the formidable challenges that the Labour Party - and its potential governing partners - must overcome to prevail in the next election and successfully govern a divided country in a disorderly world. 

'Talent in high places': A prime ministerial friendship
10 June 2023

To mark the thirty-forth anniversary of the former Conservative Prime Minister's appearance on Channel 4's After Dark programme, Tom Chidwick chronicles Sir Edward Heath's friendship with the actor and UNICEF ambassador, Peter Ustinov.

Creating an Inclusive Education System for all
30 May 2023

Following a collaborative event, held in conjunction with the Disability Policy Centre last week, Lyndsey Jenkins considers how the voices and rights of disabled people can be put at the heart of the education system in England and the rest of the UK. 

Why do citizens petition Downing Street?
25 May 2023

Citizens have been petitioning Downing Street for well over a century. In this blog, Henry Miller explains why delivering petitions to Number 10 has been a popular campaign tactic - even though the prime minister rarely responds - and why, despite the rise of e-petitions and digital democracy, petitioners still knock on the famous black door. 

What does Dominic Raab's resignation tell us about the current state of Minister-Civil Servant relations?
22 April 2023

In the wake of Dominic Raab's resignation as Deputy Prime Minister after two claims that he bullied civil servants were upheld by an independent investigation, Patrick Diamond and Dave Richards consider what this saga can teach us about current relations between ministers and civil servants.

The Failure of Remain: the remarkable mobilisation and limited efficacy of the anti-Brexit movement
30 March 2023

Following the referendum in June 2016, there was a mass mobilisation of anti-Brexit activism across all parts of the UK. Based on their recently published book, The Failure of Remain, Stijn van Kessel and Adam Fagan examine this movement and the 'politicisation of Europe' by a grassroots social movement. 

Rebuilding the 'governing marriage' between Ministers and the Civil Service
17 March 2023

Following Moazzam Malik's revelatory article in The Guardian about the deteriorating relationship between Ministers and Civil Servants, Patrick Diamond reflects on the rise of political appointees in Whitehall and assesses how reforming the machinery of government can repair the 'governing marriage'. 

Budgets: The Local and the National
14 March 2023

Ahead of tomorrow's Spring Budget, Greg Stride from the Local Government Information Unit explores the state of local government funding, arguing that there is little evidence that Jeremy Hunt will make significant changes in England. 

The Return of Sue Gray
3 March 2023

After news broke yesterday that Sue Gray, the author of the 'Partygate' inquiry, has been appointed as Keir Starmer's new Chief of Staff, Max Stafford considers what Gray will bring to the Opposition, ACOBA, and Labour's transition to government.

Mission: Possible. Keir Starmer is preparing for Government
2 March 2023

After Keir Starmer unveiled his '5 Missions' last week, Wes Ball and Alan Wager consider the transition from opposition to government, the dangers of 'unforeseen policy gaps', and how to translate 'campaigning poetry' into 'Whitehall prose'.

'Return Taverne': 50 years on from the Lincoln by-election
1 March 2023

Fifty years ago today, Dick Taverne, the former Labour MP, won the Lincoln by-election for 'Democratic Labour'. In this blog, Tom Chidwick explores Taverne's 'local difficulties' and the consequences of one of the most significant by-elections of the last century.  

Showing Ambition: The challenge for Keir Starmer
24 February 2023

Keir Starmer has some big choices to make about the government he wants to lead. Karl Pike argues that whatever he decides, the Labour leader cannot afford to be unambitious. 

'The formidable and lasting power of multilateral partnerships': Ernest Bevin's continued relevance in 2023
6 February 2023

Despite rationing and hardship at home, working-class voters in postwar Britain understood the need to provide aid to Europe and beyond. Ryan Henson and Alice Palmer argue that Ernest Bevin, more than any other politician, was the reason why. 

Breaking the Glass Chamber: The Role of the Local in Shaping Women's Political Activism
3 February 2023

With just over a month to go until International Women's Day 2023, Micaela Panes reflects on last September's Breaking the Glass Chamber conference and highlights the important of 'the local' in women's political history. 

Labour's Commission on the UK's future: towards a 'new politics'?
24 January 2023

Following the publication of Labour's Commission on the UK's Future in December 2022, David Richards and Patrick Diamond reflect on the Report's recommendations, the need to tackle the UK's weak productivity and anaemic growth, and how Labour can maintain the momentum for constitutional reform. 

David Cameron's Bloomberg speech: 10 years on
20 January 2023

To mark the tenth anniversary of David Cameron's Bloomberg speech, Dr Karl Pike considers the 'pressures' Cameron faced, the consequences of his commitment to hold an In-Out referendum, and the importance of good judgement in government. 

A unique opportunity? How Keir Starmer can change the conversation on drugs
11 January 2023

Jay Jackson argues that Keir Starmer has a unique opportunity to seize the drug policy reform agenda and concludes that, as a former Director of Public Prosecutions, the Labour leader has the experience and credibility to bring the public with him. 

Brentry at 50: How postwar Britain joined the European Community and the implications for today
9 January 2023

Three years on from the 2019 Brexit election, debate over the UK's relationship with the European Union may have abated but shows no signs of disappearing. To mark the recent anniversary of the EU's 'first enlargement' (when Denmark, Ireland, and the UK all became members), Dr Daniel Furby revisits the circumstances that enabled post-war Britain to join the European Community and considers the prospects for re-accession. 

The Challenge for Keir Starmer's Labour
18 December 2022

In this blog, Professor Patrick Diamond marks the publication of The Challenge Ahead for Starmer's Labour, considers how Labour could move beyond 'tackling short-term crises' in government, and argues that it must articulate 'a compelling story' about Britain's future.

The Leader's Lynchpin: Starmer's need for a Chief of Staff
14 December 2022

With the Labour Party seeking a new Chief of Staff, Max Stafford considers the challenge facing whoever manages the Leader of the Opposition's office and how they might contribute to Keir Starmer's transition to Downing Street. 

The UK's productivity-governance puzzle, from On Productivity
5 December 2022

The UK's productivity issue is often framed as an issue driven purely by economic outcomes. In this blog, Professors Dave Richards and Patrick Diamond and Dr Anna Sanders outline how government policy in the UK is too centralised and 'top down', and has created a structure that is inherently dismissive of local needs and circumstances. 

Rishi Sunak's 'Major Dilemma'
21 November 2022

Following last week's Autumn Statement, David Ward considers the political considerations guiding Jeremy Hunt's economic measures, the parallels between the Conservatives' strategy in 1992 and today, and the 'very tough' choices facing Keir Starmer and Rachel Reeves. 

'Youth is no guarantee of brilliance': Assessing Joe Biden's appeal
20 November 2022

As President Biden celebrates his 80th birthday, Tom Chidwick considers the major achievements of the first two years of his presidency, his continued political appeal as an octogenarian, and the value of 'knowhow'. 

Autumn Statement: Reunions and Dilemmas
18 November 2022

In our latest piece of analysis on yesterday's Autumn Statement, Dr Colm Murphy charts the 'staggering incoherence' that led to Kwasi Kwarteng's 'Mini Budget', the return of austerity, and the dilemma facing Rachel Reeves and Keir Starmer when devising Labour's fiscal policy.

Autumn Statement: After Truss, back to Conservatism?
18 November 2022

Following yesterday's Autumn Statement, Dr Karl Pike considers what Jeremy Hunt's economic plan says about the difference between Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak's political projects. 

Dashing to the 'political centre': Patrick Diamond's reflections on the 2022 Autumn Statement
18 November 2022

Following yesterday's Autumn Statement, Professor Patrick Diamond reflects on Jeremy Hunt's efforts to rebuild the Government's economic credibility, the parallels with 1992, and the scale of the economic and political challenge facing the Labour Party in the run-up to the next general election. 

'Talking to politicians about drugs doesn't work, it just makes things worse ...'
14 October 2022

Following this summer's Drug Possession White Paper, Jay Jackson argues that the Government needs to adopt a multi-departmental approach to tackle the 88 per cent increase in drug deaths in the UK since 2010. 

It's David Cameron, stupid ...
26 August 2022

In our latest entry on this summer's Conservative party leadership election to determine whether Liz Truss or Rishi Sunak will become Prime Minister, JayJackson argues that, contrary to the prevailing narrative, this contest is all about David Cameron's legacy rather than Margaret Thatcher's.

Party members choosing Prime Ministers - a constitutional concern?
12 August 2022

With just under a month to go until the Conservative Party announces its new leader, and Britain's next Prime Minister, David Klempererer considers how the Party chooses its leaders and the extent to which this process should be independently regulated. 

Making Downing Street Work
22 July 2022

As Conservative Party members decide who will be the next Prime Minister, Dr Max Stafford considers the organisational challenges facing the next occupant of Number 10 Downing Street and the fate of Boris Johnson's commitment to establish an Office of the Prime Minister. 

'Some sort of beer': Remembering John Smith
17 July 2022

To mark the 30th anniversary of John Smith's election as Leader of the Labour Party, Tom Chidwick considers Smith's personality and politics and suggests that more of our elected representatives should seek to emulate his 'undemonstrative Presbyterian approach to public life'.

John Smith and the mythology of 'One More Heave'
17 July 2022

To mark the 30th anniversary of John Smith's election as Leader of the Labour Party, David Ward reassesses Smith's short tenure as Leader of the Opposition and his impact on the Party's 'modernisation. 

Many Croydons: Labour's Challenge in South London
25 May 2022

Reflecting on this month's local elections, Dr Daniel Frost considers the significance of the Conservatives' victory in Croydon's first direct mayoral elections and explores the differing interpretations of London's southernmost borough in 2022. 

Radically shrinking the State? Boris Johnson's Government and the Civil Service
18 May 2022

In light of the Government's announcement that it intends to cut 91,000 jobs in the Civil Service, Dr Patrick Diamond explores how such a radical shrinking of the State would affect the Government's crisis management capacity and its ability to 'level up'.

Better health for all? Lifelong Health in East London
17 May 2022

In our latest Blog, Joanna Brown explores how QMUL's groundbreaking Lifelong Health team is using the School of Medicine and Dentistry's expertise to benefit people living in the East End of London and considers the effect of the Levelling Up White Paper on their work. 

Abortion and the Perils of Judicial Supremacy
11 May 2022

Following the publication of a leaked Supreme Court majority opinion, which would overturn women's right to an abortion across the United States, Dr Richard Johnson considers the implications of the Court's actions and explores how the US Congress could legalise abortion. 

Solving Labour's Electoral Dilemma
6 May 2022

To mark the twenty-fifth anniversary of New Labour's historic landslide in May 1997, Anthony Broxton reflects on the significance of Tony Blair's 'mythological grip on the party' and considers what Labour can learn from 1997 in 2022. 

Between the Obsolete and the Utopian: How to understand the 1997 "Project"
6 May 2022

In this excerpt from his Keynote Address to the MEI's New Labour, New Britain? conference, David Miliband reflects on the 1997 election and New Labour's impact on the landscape of British politics. 

The Road to 1997
3 May 2022

To mark the 25th anniversary of New Labour's landslide victory in the 1997 general election, Dr Patrick Diamond charts the 'Road to 1997', explores how New Labour built on Neil Kinnock's 'modernisation' programme, and considers the lessons from the long road to victory in 1997. 

If the Conservatives change leader, what political project will emerge?
19 April 2022

In our latest entry, the MEI's Deputy Director, Dr Karl Pike, explores the fallout from 'Partygate' and considers what the Conservative Party's next 'ideological project' might look like. 

'Assuming full and direct responsibility': 50 years of the Northern Ireland Office
30 March 2022

To mark the fiftieth anniversary of 'Direct Rule' in Northern Ireland coming into force, Dr David Torrance explores the advent of The Troubles, the foundations of 'Direct Rule', the dissolution of the old Stormont Parliament and the creation of the Northern Ireland Office. 

Long Read: 'All say Yes or Tinkerbell will die': The 1979 Scottish Referendum
1 March 2022

In the second 'Long Read' to mark the 43rd anniversary of the first referendum on the creation of a Scottish Assembly, Tom Chidwick explores the various 'Yes' and 'No' factions formed within the Labour Party and reflects on the famous devolution debate at the Oxford Union in February 1979. 

Long Read: 'Come Referendum Day': The 1979 Scottish Referendum
1 March 2022

In the final entry in our series of 'Long Reads' to mark the 43rd anniversary of the first referendum on the creation of a Scottish Assembly, Tom Chidwick explores the result and considers how significant the referendum was in the fall of James Callaghan's government. 

Long Read: 'A Kingdom on the Brink': The 1979 Scottish Referendum
28 February 2022

In the first of a three part series of 'Long Reads' to mark the 43rd anniversary of the first referendum on the creation of a Scottish Assembly, Tom Chidwick takes a deep dive into the events leading up to 1 March 1979 and charts the state of Scottish politics in the 1970s. 

Who can Stop the War? The British Left, NATO, and Russia
28 February 2022

With Russia's invasion of Ukraine launching the biggest groundwar in mainland Europe since 1945, the MEI's Deputy Director, Dr Colm Murphy, explores the British Left's divisions over NATO and an 'ethical' foreign policy and concludes that it is 'not inconceivable that it could shape British foreign policy' in the years ahead. 


Levelling-up London? What it would take to fix the damage the pandemic has done in the Covid Triangle
11 February 2022

In our latest entry on the Levelling Up White Paper, Farah Hussain argues that the Government has not fully acknowledged the scale of the socioeconomic challenges facing Londoners and stresses that it should stop thinking of London as a 'homogenous monolith'. 

Levelling Up: 'Nothing More Than A Rhetorical Device'?
7 February 2022

Following the publication of the Government's Levelling Up White Paper last week, Dr Paul Copeland concludes that, without greater regional autonomy across England and the UK as a whole, the promise of the Levelling Up agenda will remain unfulfilled. 

'Talking a Good Game': Levelling Up and Localism in England
3 February 2022

Following the publication of the Government's Levelling Up White Paper this week, Dr Patrick Diamond argues that Downing Street and Whitehall need to be 'more strategic, more enabling and less controlling' if English localism and Levelling Up is to succeed in future. 

'A Medieval Court': Reforming Number 10
2 February 2022

Following the Prime Minister's 'knee-jerk' commitment to undertake wholesale structural reform of Number Ten, Dr Patrick Diamond argues that the creation of a Prime Minister's Department could make Whitehall 'less able to evolve as new governance challenges emerge'.

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