Taylor set to advise Blair

September 12, 2003

Think-tank chief Matthew Taylor has been recruited to give momentum to the Blair government as the new No. 10 policy adviser, as Labour begins trawling for ideas for its next election manifesto.

Courted unsuccessfully by Tony Blair after the 2001 election, Mr Taylor stayed on as director of the centre-left think-tank the Institute for Public Policy Research, a post he had held since 1999, helping steer it to an unrivalled position of power and influence.

But, despite its soubriquet of Blair's favourite think-tank, the IPPR under Mr Taylor has forged its reputation often by telling government and ministers what they would rather not hear.

Most recently, the IPPR has criticised government spin in response to the debacle over the death of government scientist David Kelly and the sale of UK Hawk jets to India despite the continued military tension between it and its neighbour Pakistan.

IPPR colleagues point to Mr Taylor's success in motivating staff in an organisation that is at once bound by principles such as promoting social justice and democracy, yet courts and supports the academic autonomy of the staff who write its papers.

A good example of the potency of this approach is embodied in the IPPR's 1999 paper Opportunity for Whom, written by IPPR fellows Wendy Piatt and Peter Robinson. The paper helped persuade the government of the need for top-up fees and a return to student grants, both of which were at the core of January's higher education white paper.

IPPR colleagues indicate that for all the free thinking and radical ideas from the IPPR, Mr Taylor has adhered to another guiding principle, which is that the institute's proposals should be workable and credible.

On a more personal note, the employee said: "Matthew is motivational and is very clear-minded. He tends to see people's strengths very quickly and effectively. He will be massively missed here."

His father Laurie Taylor, academic, writer, broadcaster and THES columnist, said of his son: "I think Matthew will push the progressive agenda while at No. 10. Though sometimes when he tells me this or that is a progressive policy I think it is middle-of-the-road. But then I am still a bit of a 1960s radical."

Nick Pearce returns to the IPPR after secondments at the Home Office and the Department for Education and Skills as acting director during Mr Taylor's one-year secondment.

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