Skip to main content
School of Politics and International Relations

Governing in Hard Times: Urgent Questions for the British Centre-Left

When: Thursday, June 15, 2023, 8:45 AM - 6:00 PM
Where: The Aldersgate Room, Central Hall Westminster, Storey's Gate, SW1H 9HN


This major conference, hosted by the Mile End Institute, will discuss the urgent questions that the British centre-left must address, not only to win power at the next election, but to devise a credible governing strategy for the decade ahead.

After a particularly challenging decade, the centre-left is once again perceived as a plausible governing force across much of Europe and the Americas. Bringing together a host of influential politicians, policymakers, think-tank researchers and academics, this conference is an essential opportunity to assess the current state of thinking on the UK centre-left and to identify the key questions that the main parties must confront in the period ahead. We will consider what needs to be done to transform the productive capacity of the UK economy, to bring about the green transition, to revitalise our public services, and to restore basic standards of propriety and accountability in public life.

While it has been suggested that we are approaching an electoral sea-change in British politics akin to 1945, 1979 or 1997, the next government is likely to be confronted by extraordinarily formidable challenges and constraints including the economic fall-out from Brexit, growing fiscal pressures, the fraught politics of migration, the climate emergency, the long-term legacy of under-investment in public services, the crisis of under-funding in childcare and social care, alongside falling real wages and living standards. Likewise, any new administration will need to overcome the perceived lack of economic and electoral ‘credibility’ that have bedevilled previous governments and continue to trouble the contemporary centre-left in Europe and North America. It is striking that despite announcing a long list of policies—most notably on the ‘green transition’ and tackling serious crime—the Labour Party is frequently criticised for not having an overarching or transformative ‘vision’ for the United Kingdom. Each of the sessions at this conference will address how a future government can develop a strategy for governing in particularly hard times.


Governing in Hard Times will be held at Central Hall Westminster on 15 June 2023 from 8.45am to 6pm.

We are delighted to be joined by Nick Thomas-Symonds MP (Shadow Secretary of State for International Trade) who will deliver an opening address on the immediate challenges and obstacles that a centre-left government would face after the next election. 

Across four thematic panels, we will then be considering the urgent questions facing a future government on the UK Economy, the Green Transition, Public Services, and Standards in Public Life. 

Doors will open at 8.45am and the first panel will begin at 9.15am.

Panel 1: Constraints and Strategy

This introductory session will explore what a new government's inheritance would be, what immediate challenges and obstacles it would face, and different strategies that an incoming administration might use to navigate its first months in office.


Panel 2: The UK Economy

This session will explore how a centre-left government could maintain macroeconomic credibility, while also achieving its policy goals. It will also consider what institutional and political relationships it would have to renew - with trade unions, organised business, the City, and others - and how 'A New Deal for Working People' might be implemented.


Panel 3: The Green Transition

In light of the ongoing Climate Emergency, this session will consider what a centre-left government's top priorities should be, how it might minimise the political and economic blowback to the disruptions of the green transition, and explore what role the private sector should - or be encouraged - to play. 


  • Dr James Meadway (Former Director of the Progressive Economy Forum and host of Macrodose) 
  • Holly Rowden (Policy Adviser at Green Alliance)
  • Councillor Ryan Jude (Programme Director at the Green Finance Institute and Cabinet Member for Climate Action and Biodiversity at City of Westminster Council) 

Panel 4: Public Services

With increasing dysfunction in public services and education, this session will consider how a new administration might solve the staffing and employment crisis in schools, nurseries, hospitals and carehomes. It will also explore how a Labour administration would reform the NHS, whether a new government should adopt the Dilnot proposals for social care, and what the future holds for Higher Education. 


Panel 5: Standards in Public Life

The final thematic panel of the day will ask what can be done to restore higher standards in public life. It will ask how a new administration could ensure that the Seven Principles are better enforced, whether a single overarching 'ethics committee' would prevent misconduct in public office, and what the future holds for ACOBA, a decade after the Lobbying Act came into force.


  • Lord Butler of Brockwell (Former Cabinet Secretary and Head of the Civil Service)
  • Sir Chris Bryant MP (Chair of the House of Commons Committee on Standards)
  • Dr Hannah White OBE (Director of the Institute for Government)

Panel 6: Final Reflections

In this concluding session, we will draw together the most urgent questions facing any new administration and reflect on the possible solutions that the centre-left might adopt to the most pressing problems facing the UK. 


Back to top