Professor Iain McLean has been awarded funding for his Options for Britain II project.
In 1995, a leading group of academics and policy experts came together to assess the key economic, social and constitutional policy options for Britain. The Conservative government had been in power for over 15 years, and thinkers on both left and right felt the need for an independent review of issues and options facing the UK. The project began with a three-day residential event at Nuffield College, with papers presented by leading academics, with two high profile discussants for each. Political representatives from both left (David Miliband) and right (David Willetts) were involved. Three further follow-up events were held, with extensive analysis and support provided by four Research Fellows. The conclusions were published as the acclaimed Options for Britain: a strategic policy review (Dartmouth, 1996).
A decade on, much of the analysis in Options has become accepted wisdom, and many of the policy proposals have become reality. But there is also a sense of déjà vu. The Labour government has been in power for over a decade. Governments always find it difficult to refresh themselves in power, as the legacy of their own decisions build up; and oppositions do not have the research capacity to do so. It is in these historical moments that outside thinking can have a decisive influence, helping to inform the public and key commentators, and to provide a source of ideas for incoming policy-makers to mine. Options for Britain II is planned to be that mine. It will conduct an overarching review of UK economic, social and constitutional policy, by marshalling the best expertise from across the academic and policy-research community. The methodological approach will run along similar lines to the previous Options for Britain project, updated for the current context. As in 1995, representatives from the political parties will be invited to participate. While academic rigour will be strictly maintained, the project timing and active involvement of the policy-making community will be aimed at maximising impact, with media involvement in key events to ensure wider coverage.