Policy Exchange Pinch SpAd to Head Relaunch

Guido hears Gavin Williamson’s SpAd Rupert Oldham-Reid is departing to become Policy Exchange’s new director of research and strategy. PX is relaunching its domestic policy work after spending the last couple of years focusing on extremism, counter-terrorism and foreign policy. Oldham-Reid has been with the Chief Whip for the past year, before which he was a wonk at the Charity Commission and Centre for Social Justice. There is obviously a policy vacuum on the centre-right at the moment, it has often been said that Theresa May doesn’t have a think tank and the ideas currently exciting voters are coming from the left. Polling today revealing widespread public support for mass nationalisation shows the work that needs to be done. PX is talking up its relationship with Theresa May, whether she is bold enough to embrace new vote-winning policies is another question…

Online Extremism Report Too Extreme

The Policy Exchange report on online extremism released this morning is getting a huge amount of pick-up. It concludes:

“The government should consider stronger action to try and limit the demand side of the extremism equation. One potential vehicle for this would be the creation of new legislative offences against the aggravated possession and persistent consumption of extremist material.”

A call for more regulation and a new quango with a helping of censorship on top. Ostensibly, the report focuses on online content that incites terror. The polling, however, canvassed public support for the removal of many different kinds of content. What exactly would the removal of “extreme politics” content involve? Likewise, pornography? Where is the line drawn and by whom?

Ironically, the report confirms that the public think extremist preachers in places of worship are actually a bigger problem than online extremist content:

Nothing proposed by Policy Exchange will stop determined terrorists communicating. Even if terrorist propaganda is driven off mainstream platforms it will still be found on elsewhere on the internet. That is the inherent nature of the internet, unless you want to go down the Chinese commanded and controlled internet path.

Meanwhile, the Electoral Commission is suggesting ‘banning internet trolls from voting’ for making negative comments online. That’s right, the voting regulator is seriously proposing disenfranchising citizens as a punitive measure designed to police their behaviour. This is near totalitarian hysteria…

SMR Mini-Nuclear Plants Could Produce Cheap Energy

This morning Policy Exchange hosted an event about small modular reactors (SMRs) – the technology is derived from nuclear-powered submarine systems. A consortium led by Rolls Royce is pushing the idea of using new nuclear technology scaled down to a fraction of the size of older plant designs. The mini-plants would be made in factories to be re-assembled on site much more quickly and cheaply than large-scale projects like HinkleyRolls-Royce reckons the global export market could be worth as much as £400 billion for the made-in-Britain technology.

The report claims that the mini-plants would produce power at £60/MWh, which is far more competitive than the £92/MWh strike price guaranteed to Hinkley by George Osborne. It is clear that as old power stations are decommissioned Britain is going to need to replace them – wind is too intermittent to make up for the loss of capacity – nuclear is going to have to be part of the energy supply mix. Hinkley type technology is just too expensive.

Download the report Small Modular Reactors.

Ireland Needs to Consider Leaving EU

Irexit is becoming more of a mainstream idea in Ireland. UK think-tank Policy Exchange has this morning published a paper by Ray Bassett, an experienced Irish diplomat who retired as an ambassador last year. The Irish Diplomatic Service has for decades been in awe of and subservient to the EU. Now the reality of Brexit is making even some diplomats question this fundamental tenet of Irish foreign policy in the face of increased hostility from the European Commission. The financial crisis of 2008 confirmed that a small country on the Western periphery of Europe will never be a priority of the European Central Bank. Membership of the Eurozone has cost Ireland dearly for little benefit, most of Ireland’s external trade is in sterling and dollars…

Bassett warns that whatever the outcome of the Brexit negotiations, “there will be a price to pay. For Ireland, there is really no upside to Brexit,” he says. “The question to be raised is what price is Ireland willing to pay to stand in solidarity with the remaining 26 EU countries?”

The paper argues sitting on the sidelines and allowing the EU to negotiate for Ireland is untenable. The first duty of the EU negotiators is to act on behalf of the EU as an institution. This is prioritised in their European Council approved guidelines. However the type of deal that Ireland’s interests requires, including free trade with the UK, is directly in contradiction with the EU negotiators’ mandate that anything relating to Ireland and her border which emerges from the Brexit negotiations must “maintain the integrity the Union’s Legal Order” – with no exceptions to the customs union. Bassett argues therefore that Ireland must give serious consideration to Irexit.

Irish politicians are by nature transactional, for decades Ireland was a net beneficiary of EU largesse, she is now a new contributor, a situation which will worsen after Brexit takes billions out of the EU budget. It’s like the Eurovision Song Contest – Ireland used to be a regular winner, now Eastern Europe has joined, they rarely win.

The Irish political establishment is extremely wary of Irexit and will want to see signs that Britain has first made a success of Brexit. Once the UK concludes a free-trade deal with the US the pressure on Ireland – which would be geographically in the middle of a North Atlantic Free Trade Area yet not a member – will become immense. The illogical situation of being in a currency and trading bloc when most of your trade is not in the bloc or the currency will make Irexit inevitable… 

Osborne Jokes About Leadership Coup

The Chancellor has been caught joking about bringing down the PM.

Steady on Gideon…

George Osborne and Charles Moore in Conversation at Policy Exchange Event

Sponsored Post

Leading think tank, Policy Exchange, is delighted to welcome The Rt. Hon. George Osborne MP, Chancellor of the Exchequer, to an event on the evening of Thursday 15th October. To mark the official launch of his latest book, Margaret Thatcher: The Authorised Biography Volume Two: Everything She Wants, official Thatcher biographer, Charles Moore, will be in conversation with the Chancellor.

This event is expected to be extremely popular. To apply for a ticket email events@policyexchange.org.uk.

The event will also be live streamed.

Digital Government Boss Regrets Lack of Women

mike bracken

The biggest mistake Government Digital Service has made in recent years is failing to hire more women according to Mike Bracken, the head of GDS. Speaking to an audience at Policy Exchange yesterday, Bracken repeatedly refused to say what GDS should have done differently during his four year tenure other than to have diversified its workforce more.

“I regret not putting forward more stridently a generation of women in GDS at the start, and then in the technology profession. I regret not starting actively on that sooner, because while you’ve got a few great emerging leaders there’s not enough.”

Techno is a fan of the GDS and, of course, an ardent supporter of women in tech, up to a point. It seems Mike Bracken has forgotten about GDS’s failure to meet even half of its targets for online services, or how they borked the Home Office Visa and Immigration site, or how they fell way short of the mark with the Verify program and failed to turn around the disastrous rural payments system. Yet the biggest problem is that ‘only’ about 40% of GDS employees are women? What is the primary mission of the GDS? Gender equality or getting things to work?



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No prizes for guessing who Andrea Leadsom is talking about:

“As you said last week, Mr Speaker, we have a responsibility to safeguard the rights of this House and as Leader of the House I seek to do exactly that, treating all members of parliament with courtesy and respect. I hope and expect all Honourable and Right Honourable members to do likewise.”

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