Institute of Ideas

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Latest Podcast Episodes

What next for Brexit?
17 Mar 2017 @ 12:58 pm

Parliament has given the government the power to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty and the formal process of the UK’s departure from the EU should begin before the end of this month. What should British negotiators be seeking from the talks? What should any deal mean for immigration, trade and wider cooperation? Are the difficulties of getting out so great that we should reconsider our decision to leave?

Earlier this week, Rob Lyons was joined by Ian Dunt and Luke Gittos for a lively and passionate discussion of the issues. Ian Dunt is editor of and author of Brexit: what the hell happens now? Luke Gittos is law editor for spiked, an author and a regular speaker at the Battle of Ideas festival.

Tax wars and inequality
10 Mar 2017 @ 01:57 am

Arguments over tax and inequality have moved centre stage in politics in recent years. Erstwhile Democratic Party presidential candidate Bernie Sanders declared: ‘The issue of wealth and income inequality is the great moral issue of our time, it is the great economic issue of our time, and it is the great political issue of our time.’ The World Economic Forum argues ‘A growing body of research suggests that rising income inequality is the cause of economic and social ills, ranging from low consumption to social and political unrest, and is damaging to our future economic well-being.’

Then there’s the question of paying a ‘fair share’ of tax. The furore around the Panama Papers, which revealed the tax-avoiding strategies of many wealthy people, recalled Leona Helmsley’s infamous quote ‘We don’t pay taxes. Only the little people pay taxes.’

Should we be worried about inequality as well as poverty? Does inequality have effects on society that go beyond material disadvantage? Why have politicians become so keen on talking up inequality today? Is inequality inevitable – or even beneficial?


Daniel Ben-Ami
journalist and author, Ferraris for All: in defence of economic progress and Cowardly Capitalism

Dr Yaron Brook
executive director, Ayn Rand Institute; co-author, Equal is Unfair: America’s misguided fight against income inequality

Dr Faiza Shaheen
economist, writer, activist; director of CLASS (Centre for Labour and Social Studies); former head of inequality and sustainable development, Save the Children

Stefan Stern
director, High Pay Centre

Who are we? Identity politics dissected
3 Mar 2017 @ 04:30 am

Listen to the debate from the Battle of Ideas 2016.

In recent years, more and more political and cultural discussions have been conducted through the prism of identity. Who we are, rather than what we do or believe, has become ever more important. But why has this happened and what are the implications?

The shift from the idea of a universal human outlook, born in the Enlightenment, appears to have become badly degraded. This historical trend is the focus of The Academy 2017, the Institute’s residential weekend of study and debate on 15 & 16 July at Wyboston Lakes in Bedfordshire. Early Bird discounted tickets for the event are available until Monday 6 March. Find out more about the event and how to get tickets at The Academy 2017 page.

This Battle of Ideas debate from 2016 offers a flavour of some of the issues we’ll be discussing at The Academy.

Dr Julian Baggini
founding editor, the Philosophers’ Magazine; author, Freedom Regained: the possibility of free will and The Edge of Reason: A Rational Skeptic in an Irrational World

Ivan Hewett
chief music critic, Daily Telegraph; professor, Royal College of Music; broadcaster; author, Music: healing the rift

Sunder Katwala
director, British Future; former general secretary, Fabian Society

Professor Michele Moody-Adams
Joseph Strauss professor of political philosophy and legal theory, Columbia University; author, Fieldwork in Familiar Places: Morality, culture and philosophy

Immigration: what is the future of free movement?
24 Feb 2017 @ 01:47 am

Immigration was a key issue during Britain’s EU referendum. The success of the Leave campaign owed much to the belief that the UK has lost control over its borders. Many British citizens are resentful that their communities have undergone dramatic changes as a result of immigration policies about which they were not consulted. At the same time, there are humane, economic and political arguments for welcoming migrants. So why do we have borders at all? If the EU can manage with porous internal borders, why can’t the whole world? Do open borders really threaten the integrity of a democratic nation state?

executive director, Menzies Research Centre, Australia; columnist, The Australian

barrister; writer on legal issues; regular contributor to spiked

writer and broadcaster; author, The Quest for a Moral Compass: a global history of ethics and From Fatwa to Jihad

director, Institute of Ideas; panellist, BBC Radio 4’s Moral Maze; author, I Find That Offensive

Does Britain need an industrial strategy?
15 Feb 2017 @ 04:55 am

Rob Lyons talks to Patrick Hayes, director of the British Educational Suppliers Association, about the UK government’s recent consultation document on industrial strategy, why Brexit has focused the minds of politicians on economic growth and why we need to be far more ambitious about supporting research, innovation and wider development.

Podcast of Ideas: 10 February 2017
10 Feb 2017 @ 05:10 am

Rob Lyons is joined by Claire Fox and Alastair Donald to discuss the UK government’s housing strategy, John Bercow’s refusal to invite President Trump to address parliament and the protests against invited speakers on US campuses. The team also discuss a new Institute of Ideas initiative, Living Freedom.

The UK economy after Brexit: sink or swim?
27 Jan 2017 @ 04:31 am

This week, the latest GDP figures revealed that the UK economy continues to grow faster than expected, despite the vote to leave the European Union. In fact, in 2016, the UK economy grew faster than any of the other G7 industrialised countries.

But will these good times last? Earlier this month, the prime minister, Theresa May, announced that she intended to leave both the EU’s single market and customs union. It was just such a scenario that led to some of the bleakest economic forecasts before the referendum vote. However, economists who argued for a vote to leave the EU are generally sanguine about the future, believing the EU had become a barrier to further economic growth. What should the UK look for in negotiations with the remaining member states of the EU?

In any event, are things really so rosy? At a time when all the major economies are struggling, are the latest growth figures a sign of a robust economy or do they simply leave the UK as, temporarily at least, the strongest of an increasingly feeble bunch? Are there more fundamental questions to be asked about the possibilities for creating wealth for everyone in the future, like questioning the poor productivity of the UK economy? Are questions about our relationship with Europe really just a sideshow to more deep-rooted problems?


Daniel Moylan
former deputy chairman of Transport for London; Conservative Councillor; co-chairman, Urban Design London

Phil Mullan
economist and business manager; author, <em>Creative Destruction: How to start an economic renaissance</em> (forthcoming)

Merryn Somerset Webb
Editor in Chief, <em>MoneyWeek</em>

Andreas Wesemann
partner, Ashcombe Advisers LLP; author, The Abolition of Deposit Insurance

Podcast of Ideas: 20 January 2017
20 Jan 2017 @ 06:13 am

Rob Lyons is joined by Claire Fox and Geoff Kidder to discuss Donald Trump’s inauguration, the attitude of liberals and the media to Trump’s supporters and offer their thoughts on Theresa May’s Brexit speech.

The new populism
6 Jan 2017 @ 12:02 pm

Britain’s vote to leave the EU, the election of Donald Trump and the high opinion poll ratings of Marine Le Pen’s Front National have led to anxious debate about the rise of populism, inspired by what many regard as a rogues’ gallery of demagogic leaders of rising anti-immigrant and anti-Islamic movements throughout Europe and the US. The declining appeal of traditional parties of both left and right has been apparent for a generation, and now seems to have reached a head, to the consternation of those who see the new populism as a rejection of common sense. At the height of the referendum campaign, the Guardian’s Martin Kettle articulated the exasperation of the political establishment at the evident disaffection of the masses when he described support for Brexit as ‘part bloody-mindedness, part frivolity, part panic, part bad temper, part prejudice’.

Almost invariably, the concept of populism is used in a pejorative way. It is often preceded by the implicitly disparaging adjective ‘right-wing’ and directly linked to notions such as racism, ‘xenophobia’ or ‘Islamophobia’. Yet in the past, populist movements have as commonly had a left-wing as a right-wing character. They have often expressed an inchoate animosity towards a corrupt elite. Such movements are inherently unstable and tend to evolve, according to circumstances, in either a radical or reactionary direction. Recent political phenomena such as Syriza in Greece, Podemos in Spain, the Five Star Movement in Italy, and the successes of Bernie Sanders in the USA and Jeremy Corbyn in the UK, show the complexity of the popular movements that have emerged to fill the vacuum left by the decay of the old politics.

Mainstream politicians and commentators fear the polarisation resulting from the rise of populist movements, but seem unable to engage the public through open debate. Others argue that the upsurge of popular discontent with the stagnant political order points the way towards the revival of democratic politics, and is worth celebrating even if it unleashes uncomfortable sentiments. Are populist movements merely ‘morbid symptoms’ of a decadent political order, or harbingers of a democratic renewal?


Nick Cater
executive director, Menzies Research Centre, Australia; columnist, The Australian

Ian Dunt
editor,; political editor, Erotic Review

Ivan Krastev
chairman of the Centre for Liberal Strategies in Sofia; permanent fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna

Jill Rutter
programme director, Institute for Government

Bruno Waterfield
Brussels correspondent, The Times; co-author, No Means No

Is utopian thinking dead?
6 Jan 2017 @ 01:17 am

As a new year begins, thoughts turn to the future. But how do we see the year - or the decade - ahead? Do we think that things will get better, that our lives will improve, or will we be stuck in a gloomy mind-set that suggests that the world is going to hell in a handcart? Can we imagine a truly prosperous world where everyone lives in peace - a true utopia?

Does the concept of utopia represent an unattainable ideal – or the kind of idealistic ambition that can promote change in the real world? Debates about technological progress seem to vacillate wildly between utopianism and dystopianism. At a time when innovation is universally celebrated and culturally validated, it also appears to be in a constant state of crisis. Utopian optimism seems destined to remain divorced from practical applications, useful only in terms of blue-sky thinking. But are the constraints on innovation a matter largely of investment and official focus, or are there cultural and intellectual issues too?

This Battle of Ideas debate offered a chance to explore our attitudes to the future.


Dr Yaron Brook
executive director, Ayn Rand Institute; co-author, Equal is Unfair: America’s misguided fight against income inequality

Dr Eliane Glaser
writer, lecturer and radio producer

Dr Norman Lewis
director (innovation), PwC; co-author, Big Potatoes: the London manifesto for innovation

Karl Sharro
architect; writer; Middle East commentator; co-author, Manifesto: Towards a New Humanism in Architecture

Kirsty Styles
talent and skills programme lead, Tech North