Brain gain for Blair

May 31, 1996

Nexus, the new left of centre policy group, is hoping to create a network of up to 500 academics and others with an interest in policy issues.

The group grew out of a seminar held earlier this year by Renewal magazine, which was attended by Labour leader Tony Blair. Nexus will be an independent body, but the founders make no secret of their Blairite sympathies, and the Labour leader has clearly signalled his interest in the group.

"We want a two-way exchange. We want to know which issues are interesting Blair, the shadow cabinet and their advisers. He has shown himself to be unusually open to ideas by comparison with most senior politicians," said David Halpern, who lectures in strategic policy at Cambridge University.

Dr Halpern, 29, believes there are a large number of young academics with policy ideas who want to make a contribution to developing left of centre policies, but are uncertain how to plug into the policy process. Nexus aims to help them do this, and bring together people with similar interests from different regions and disciplines.

He cites the possible reaction of the City to a range of centre-left policies as a typical example of an issue that Nexus might examine: "We would want to bring in political scientists as well as economists - one of the problems researchers often have is making contact with people with similar interests who are working in different disciplines."

Nexus may do some publishing, particularly in electronic form. But the group says it aims to do much of its publishing in partnership with sympathetic journals like Prospect and Renewal or papers with a specialist interest in the policy area covered.

Dr Halpern said the group was being financed by anonymous donors and expects to secure fresh funding sources in the near future.

Other members of the Nexus steering group are Stewart Wood, research fellow in politics at St John's College, Oxford; Neal Lawson, a former aide to shadow chancellor Gordon Brown who now works for lobbyists Lowe Bell; and Tony Wright, MP for Cannock and Burntwood and former senior lecturer in politics at Birmingham University.

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