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Thursday, 20th March, 2008

How has Britain done in the last decade? How well has the Government performed? What are the big choices that face us in the next decade?These questions were addressed at a recent conference in Nuffield College, Oxford to mark the start of ‘Options for Britain II’ - the the latest project to be funded by the Programme. It aims to provide an independent, rigorous audit of the Britain’s economic, social and constitutional progress and future options. Taking into account what has worked, what hasn’t, why and for whom, the project will set out key choices, both for the electorate and a potential incoming government. Participants have been drawn from across the political spectrum – including those who will draft their Parties’ next manifestos. 

The gulf between the academic research community and the world of Westminster remains large. Those who make policy often find themselves frustrated at the lack of relevance or political savvy of the experts and, in their turn, the experts find it difficult to identify which areas of policy are genuinely open to influence or where and when to intervene. ‘Options for Britain II’ seeks to fill this academic-policy void.

The current research follows its intellectual predecessor, the original ‘Options for Britain’, from 1995. At that time, 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 country. 

A decade on and the British political world is very different. Much of the original analysis has become accepted wisdom, and many of the policy proposals have become reality. But there is also a sense of déjà vu because the Labour government has been in power for a decade and the legacy of their own decisions has built up. It is in these historical moments that outside thinking can have a decisive influence, helping to inform the public and key commentators, and provides a source of ideas for incoming policy-makers. 

More details will follow soon… Or you can check out the project’s own website