Labour plans to beef up research rely on academic aid

April 5, 2002

Academics will be consulted widely under Labour Party plans to launch its own research centre.

David Triesman, party general secretary, this week confirmed the creation of Forethought, a centre designed to beef up the quality of research feeding into Labour's policy-making.

The centre is backed by party chairman Charles Clarke.

Mr Triesman, former general secretary of the Association of University Teachers, said that he envisaged Forethought drawing on a wide consultative community of academics and on experts from other organisations such as trade unions.

He said: "I do not want to give the impression that it will be an adjunct to the university sector but it would be silly not to have an understanding of what's going on in science, for instance."

The research centre will be based at Labour Party headquarters in London. But this would be a small team comprising party insiders. The bulk of the research will be farmed out to experts.

Mr Triesman expects the centre to be up and running late next month. He hopes it will produce about six major reports a year and a number of smaller pieces.

One of the first pieces of research will be into voter apathy and ways of re-engaging electorates. Mr Triesman is also keen to look into the latest science, such as the mapping of the human genome and its impact on society.

The centre would undertake research at the request of party bodies such as the National Policy Forum.

He stressed that the reports would not put forward policy recommendations but that they would remain pieces of "pure" research to inform the party's existing policy-making mechanism.

Mr Triesman said: "I want party members to feel that they are able to draw on quality research."

He denied that the party had lost its intellectual drive. But he said that there was an enthusiasm within the party for exploring avenues of new thinking.

Leader, page 12

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