Beware pseudoscience

‘The whole aim of practical politics,’ wrote H.L. Mencken, ‘is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.’ Newspapers, politicians and pressure groups have been moving smoothly for decades from one forecast apocalypse to another (nuclear power, acid rain, the ozone layer, mad cow disease, nanotechnology, genetically modified crops, the millennium bug…) without waiting to be proved right or wrong. Increasingly, in a crowded market for alarm, it becomes necessary to make the scares up. More and more headlines about medical or environmental panics are based on published scientific papers, but ones

Justin Welby’s plan for solving inequality wouldn’t work

Ronald Reagan famously proclaimed that the nine most terrifying words in the English language are “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.” With the ‘most terrifying’ words already attributed, the pledge of a commission to transform the economy through increased intervention and higher taxes will simply have to be chalked up to misguidance and bad policy. The IPPR’s Commission on Economic Justice, released this week, puts forward 73 recommendations for ‘better and more sustainable growth’. Yet a look through the proposals suggests that the commissions members – including the Archbishop of Canterbury and trade union reps – are more interested in tackling perceived issues around inequality than they are

The IPPR is simply trying to create anti-Brexit noise, and it has succeeded

How much more desperate can the Remain lobby’s propaganda become?    Having had its predictions of instant economic doom comprehensively disproved by events, it is dreaming up ever more devious ways of trying the hector the country into thinking that it made a huge mistake on 24 June. Today, the Institute of Public Policy Research, a think tank closely associated with the Blair-era Labour party, publishes a report trying to predict what life in Britain will be like in the 2020s. It was eagerly lapped up by the BBC and the Guardian, who seem to favour this sort of stuff over reporting genuine, good, economic news. Needless to say, neither picked

Will 2014 be the year of the populist party?

With Ukip widely expected to win big in May’s elections, 2014 may well be the year of the populist party. Not easily categorised as left or right wing, populist parties across Europe pit the good, honest, ordinary voter against the out of touch, liberal, mainstream political elite. The populists claim to represent the former against the latter, an authentic and honest voice in a world of spin and self-interest. Nigel Farage is not the only one to be surfing the wave of widespread disillusionment, with politics in general and politicians in particular. In Italy, Beppe Grillo straddles both left and right. The popular comedian and blogger ran on a vehemently

The North of England needs its own Boris Johnson

Could the north of England do with its own Boris Johnson? In a new report out today, the IPPR think tank argues that a ‘northern voice’ is needed to lobby the government on the region’s priorities. The Mayor of London has shown himself proficient at making the case for London’s transport and budgeting needs. Although the IPPR may be right, that there’s plenty of work needed to rebalance the economy, better national representation for the North isn’t a new problem. In fact, the North has previously said no to several possible solutions. A decade ago, John Prescott’s plan for regional assemblies was overwhelmingly rejected by a northern referendum. Instead of

The government must prevent young people from falling into the benefits trap

Despite promises to be ‘tougher than the Tories’ with regards the welfare bill, shadow work and pensions secretary Rachel Reeves MP was today batting away headlines suggesting that Labour was considering plans to scrap benefits for the under-25s. Reeves’s insistence that neither she, nor the party, support a worthwhile report from the influential, left-of-centre think tank, the IPPR, should raise concern. Not least because the IPPR raised similar points to those of the Prime Minister in his speech at this year’s party conference. In it he outlined plans for an ‘earn or learn’ scheme and recommended that young people are taken out of the welfare system altogether. This is disappointing from a Labour

VIDEO: Chris Bryant tries to defuse row with a fat woman joke

Following this morning’s car crash radio interview, this is how Chris Bryant tried to win over the audience at the start of his speech on immigration to the IPPR… Come back Les Dawson, all is forgiven. PS: The full speech is here. The Telegraph’s Matt Holehouse has compared the pre-briefing and the delivered speech. As expected, the sections about Tesco and Next have been substantially rewritten. Yet to no avail; the damage has been done. Will Bryant survive Ed Miliband’s reshuffle?  

Give profit-making schools a chance

Rick Muir, an associate director of the IPPR, published a paper this week called ‘Not For Profit: the role of the private sector in England’s schools’ in which he argues against allowing commercial companies to play a greater role in the delivery of taxpayer-funded education. As a contributor to a recent book published by the IEA called ‘The Profit Motive in Education: Continuing the Revolution’ — which takes the opposite view — I feel duty bound to respond. The first thing to be said is that Muir is not a rabid opponent of education reform. He’s pro-academy and pro-free school. Indeed, it’s hard to find anything of substance that Michael

Another voice: How ministers are gaming the net migration target

International students are currently the largest single category of immigrants who count in the net migration figures, which cover all those intending to stay more than a year. In the most recent figures (the year to June 2011) there were 242,000 such students — making up 40 per cent of so-called ‘long term’ immigration. However, as a new report by IPPR sets out, international students are not really ‘long term’ immigrants at all. They are far more likely to return home after a few years than the other main immigration categories of work and family: the evidence suggests only around 15 per cent stay permanently. Clearly, it would be wrong

Immigration to fall in 2012 — but still not on track to hit the Tory target

Immigration will remain at the heart of political debate in 2012. Economic downturns tend to heighten concerns about migrants competing for jobs and depressing wages, and spending cuts tend to sharpen resentment over migrants claiming benefits or adding to pressure on public services. The latest e-petition to garner a hundred thousand signatures will get its reward of a day in parliament, debating the effects of immigration on Britain’s growing population. And while Labour and the Liberal Democrats might be reluctant to talk about immigration, the Tory leadership clearly see it as useful in handling those on the right who are unhappy with life in coalition — commentators as well as

Another voice: Why the strike is right

If I were a teacher, I’d be on strike today. Public sector workers are being asked — in what is now a well-rehearsed soundbite — to work longer, receive less, and pay more. In these austere times, with deficit reduction a necessity,  two of those three aims might be reasonable. But doing all three at once, and conflating the package with the spurious notion that public sector pensions are ‘unsustainable’, justifies the direct action being taken today.   The rise in contribution rates — in effect a three per cent tax rise — will be especially hard to bear for those on modest salaries who are already facing a prolonged

Another voice: Five lessons from Conservative party conference

Here’s the latest in our Another Voice series of posts, which give prominence to viewpoints outside the normal Coffee House fold. This time it’s the IPPR’s Associate Director, Will Straw, with his five-point take on the fringe events of Tory conference, and the lessons that might be learned from them: 1. The Tories know that winning a working majority in 2015 is no easy task. The most popular fringe event according to Fringelist.com was ConservativeHome’s event on ‘How the Conservatives can win the next election.’ Reflecting his remarks from the panel, YouGov’s Stephan Shakespeare wrote yesterday that, “today’s electoral maths makes an overall a majority a mountain to climb”.  

Right to reply: Why do so many “new jobs” go to foreigners?

On Monday, we published a post on George Osborne’s “jobless recovery” — the point being that 90 per cent of the recent rise in employment can be accounted for by foreign nationals. Here’s a counterpunch to it from the IPPR’s Matt Cavanagh, who should already be familiar to CoffeeHousers from his previous posts and articles for us on matters military. We’re hoping that this will be the first of a new series of “Right to reply” posts, giving outside writers the opportunity to take on your loyal baristas in mortal combat. Here goes: One of the most frequently recycled statistics of recent years is the percentage of “new jobs going

British jobs for whom? | 28 August 2011

“More than 400,000 people have been out of work for more than two years, according to analysis of the latest Government data by think tank IPPR.” So runs its press release today, trailed in the Sunday press and the wires. I hope the IPPR didn’t spend too much of their donors’ money on this research, as the figure is updated quarterly and freely available from the DWP website (click here). Add up only three categories: lone parents, jobseekers allowance and incapacity benefit the figure stands at 2.4 million, certainly “more than 400,000”. Worse, at the peak of the boom (Feb07), this figure was even higher at 2.5 million. And yes, it’s

Think Tank Clash: The Future of Political Debate

I am pleased to report that the New Deal of the Mind Think Tank Clash at the Soutbank Centre on Tuesday went down a storm. The event sold out the Purcell Room, which suggests that there is an audience for ideas out there.   We wanted to have a series of quickfire debates (two minutes per speaker) on the pressing issues of the between the directors of Britain’s think tanks. Each think tank was then asked to produce a star witness to bank up its argument. So the bouts were as follows: Progress v ResPublica on Red Toryism; Fabians v Reform on Equality; Demos v RSA on Character and IPPR