14 June 2007

Fifty ideas for Brown's Britain

The Charlemagne column in last week's edition of The Economist complained about the static intellectual debate in Brussels. The think tanks there are apparently too dependent on the Commission's funding to come up with bold, challenging ideas. That certainly isn't true about London, where think tanks churn out radical proposals which often make it to parties' election manifestos.

New Statesman magazine asked five influential left-wing institutions to put down 10 policy suggestions for Gordon Brown to pursue during his premiership. It is certainly worth a read.

Let me just list some of the most interesting ideas mentioned. Demos believes that retirees should be used as teaching assistants. This system is already being used in the USA, and I am personally a big fan. Not only it helps contain the unruly pupils, but it also gives the elderly a sense of participation and inclusion in the society. The Fabian Society (finally with a new website) urges Brown to sign up to the EU mini-treaty and to scrap the ID cards scheme. The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) calls for making voting compulsory. That would have to be accompanied by the introduction of proportional representation: "make citizens vote, but make votes count". Compass, a grass-roots Labour "renewal" movement, would solve Britain's housing crisis by taxing the land. It would also ban advertising to under-12s (how?) and "control media ownership" (how?). The Social Market Foundation would give up the British rebate in return for the abolition of the Common Agricultural Policy.

Talking about the think tanks, some more have gone blogging. The Brussels-based Centre for Economic Policy Research has just started its Vox blog, which is looking really good. Then there is the World Security Institute, Brussels blog and the blog of the Centre for European Politics at the Royal Holloway university in London. A new think tank the Atlantic Community encourages the readers to participate in the debate and shape the think tank's research.


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