Monday, August 20, 2018

Wanted: big ideas for troubled times

While Brexit has been the all absorbing policy challenge that seems to have proved too much for the very people who campaigned for it, for the rest of us, life goes on.

In pursuit of this, the third edition of our magazine of ideas and provocation has rolled off the presses in time for the new term and the party conference season.

Usually this is a time where fresh ideas are debated and new policies get an airing. We can but hope this time, but the chances are it'll be more fractious back-biting.

When I joined Manchester Metropolitan University I was keen for the MetroPolis think-tank to project good work as effectively as possible. One way of doing that is to find a platform to shout about our achievements. I still think a well-designed magazine is a great way to do that.

The magazine, featuring Trump, first confronted the notion that truth and evidence was whatever suited you. the second, with crayons, that a visionary politician was drawing the outline, but there's an opportunity to colour the detail.  The third was imbued with the spirit of Emmeline Pankurst, who worked in the building where MetroPolis is based.

Putting this third edition together was a real eye-opener and a reminder of what the team have achieved in a short time. Seminars with MPs of the calibre of Liz Kendall, Angela Rayner, Jim McMahon, Jake Berry and Mike Kane. It's all here. Our first The Challenge Of… lecture series,  where Sir Andrew Cahn forecast that the United Kingdom will be asking for a pick and mix approach in the final deal separating out issues like fishing, aviation and financial services that would be unlikely to commend itself to our negotiating partners.

But also in a year of milestones there are frequent reminders of the profound social shifts taking place all around us. Take the upheaval on Britain’s High Streets, where pubs and shops are closing at a time when demand for land for housing and for social spaces is growing. Or the 70th anniversary of the formation of the NHS, where a system designed for one era is struggling to resource itself and organise itself in an era of wider public knowledge, experience of conditions and the very fact that people live longer. Or the centenary of women achieving the vote.

There will soon be a statue of Emmeline Pankhurst in the centre of Manchester, just a short walk to the site of the Peterloo massacre. Remembering these dates and everything they represent is enormously important, but even more vital is the challenge we all face to do things in a more inclusive, open and participatory way. There’s a huge sensitivity for policy makers to address people’s lives as they are lived, where they are lived and not directed as a social solution for the activists and campaigners. Devolution presents the opportunity to do something other than create more "layers of they".

We hope this magazine provides some stimulus and a showcase of the work we’re involved in and are very excited by. Drop me a message if you'd like to talk about what we do, see a magazine, or come to one of our future events.

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