Interviews

Ken Clarke says the Tories are "too right-wing" to win elections.
Featured, Interviews | 17th April 2015

Ken Clarke interview: “The iron of the Treasury has entered my soul”

Ken Clarke has a pint in his hand, a blue rosette on his chest and a copy of the Times under his arm. He is waiting for me at the bar of a breezy pub in his constituency called the Stratford Haven. An etching of Shakespeare peers out from its sign, squinting as the sun shines over Nottinghamshire.

The Tory MP for Rushcliffe is best known for serving as Chancellor under John Major in 1993-97, but his government career has spanned three different cabinets – those of Major, Margaret Thatcher and David Cameron – and he has served as Home Secretary and Health Secretary. He has been an MP for 45 years, and is running again this time round – but for the last time, he expects – at the age of 74.

Clarke is a self-confessed “political anorak”, which is why he’s running again, although he has now retired from frontbench politics. By the time he left cabinet during Cameron’s reshuffle last summer, he had served in government far longer than anyone else there.

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Lucy Heller runs ARK Schools, arguably the most successful academy chain in the country.
Featured, Features, Interviews | 27th October 2014

"What I want to see is peace": When will Labour stop opposing academies?

At the start of his book on education, the Labour peer and former minister Andrew Adonis recounts one “drizzling autumn morning in 2000” when he visited the “deserted, dilapidated and vandalised” ruins of Hackney Downs School.

The visit was one of Adonis’ first since launching a new policy late in Tony Blair’s first term. The idea was to rid Britain of inner-city comprehensives like Hackney Downs and replace them with a new type of school: “academies”.

Adonis ended up spending the next eight years shepherding the project through the obfuscation and objection of teaching unions, many local education authorities, and parts of the civil service.

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Fox: "We have principle-light political parties."
Features, Interviews | 7th October 2014

Claire Fox: "I’m not sectarian enough to say 'I’m not going to say that because he’s a Tory’"

“The public aren’t some fixed thing…”, Claire Fox tells me, half-way through our interview in the box-filled back room of a slightly dilapidated office block on Farringdon Road. “Why can’t politics be ‘The public think this, that’s a very bad thing to think – as far I’m concerned politically – so I’m going to go out and win an argument with them!’”

Fox welcomes conflict. A former teacher and Trotskyist, she is the founder and director of the Institute of Ideas, a discussion forum about to celebrate its fifteenth year.

It runs an annual festival at the Barbican, where participants spends a few days arguing over often binary choices. “State vs. market: is there a way forward?” “Technology and sustainability: kill or cure?”

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"I think a lot of politicians are quite practical people with not that many ideas in their heads."
Featured, Features, Interviews | 30th September 2014

Alain de Botton: "If our leaders get a little more imaginative they are shot from every angle"

“Look I think you have to try and change the world…”, Alain de Botton begins, as I meet him in his flat on a sunny Friday afternoon in leafy Belsize Park. He is brisk before the interview starts and once it is over, but charming, and a willing talker.

De Botton’s calls for change are not new. He has spent the past two decades challenging the way we love, read and think. At 23 he stumbled out of academia – double first, history; masters, philosophy – and onto a global bestseller.

The vulnerable Essays in Love made him a publishing star. Four years later, as Tony Blair came to power, he followed it with How Proust Can Change Your Life, the first of what has become many attempts to make grand philosophical ideas relevant to people’s everyday lives.

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