• THINK 2021

As the first signs of spring and summer get stronger so the hope grows that the pandemic is finally starting to ebb, at least in the UK. Slowly and cautiously the government is lifting controls and looking to take the UK’s economy and society out of the deep freeze it has been confined to since the late autumn. Here at the IEA, we have continued our activity and output, as we have throughout the past year.

Last week we launched this year’s competition for the Dorian Fisher Memorial Prize for A-level and equivalent students, with full details available on the IEA website here. The number of foreign entries has grown considerably in recent years and we hope this trend will continue. One of the questions deals with the highly topical subject of systemic or existential risk, another relates to the importance of 'innovation'. 

We have also launched this year’s THINK conference, returning after a year's absence as a hybrid event that can be attended both physically and virtually – it will take place on Saturday, 12th June. Further details below.

Meanwhile, I had the pleasure of conducting an in conversation discussion with Imran Ahmad Khan, the Conservative MP for Wakefield and the Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Foreign Affairs, on the way that Britain now has the opportunity to restore a free trade policy to its once central place in the UK's development, economic, and security policy. This is the second in a series of discussions on approaching international relations and security policy from a classical liberal perspective – you can watch it here on the IEA YouTube channel.

Many, though, will be thinking about the return to normality and what we can expect. The government, more than ever, will have to balance possible costs and risks against potential benefits, particularly where questions such as foreign travel are concerned, and there is the series question of civil liberties around proposals for measures such as ‘Covid Passports’ – which Victoria Hewson, Head of Regulatory Affairs at the IEA has commented on in an article for The Telegraph. We may, though, be cautiously optimistic that, once again, the flexibility and adaptiveness of a free society is winning the fight.

Dr Steve Davies
Head of Education, Institute of Economic Affairs


The pandemic has thrown Britain's high streets into crisis, with more than 17,500 chain outlets disappearing over the last year. Non-essential shops may have reopened this week, but will this be enough to prevent a "retail apocalypse"?

In an article for CapX, IEA Editorial and Research Fellow Professor Len Shackleton warned that the prospects are grim. Len argued that the damage the pandemic has reaped on our high streets and shopping malls may not be repaired any time soon, if ever.

Len noted that in the short term there will be little to tempt shoppers back due to continued Covid-related restrictions and that, in any case, consumers' habits have almost certainly changed for good – not least with the rise of home-working and the growth of online shopping among the over-65s.

But speaking to talkRadio, our Director of Communications Annabel Denham took a more positive view, arguing that government can implement smart policies to prevent the high street from becoming another Covid casualty.

And in a debate column for 1828, IEA Head of Public Affairs Emma Revell argued against restricting Sunday opening hours in order to give the high street a necessary boost.

Len also wrote for 1828 on youth unemployment, following the release of a report by the Resolution Foundation that found young people, especially young black people, have been disproportionately hit by job losses over the course of the pandemic.

While many may still be in education, Len argued that expensive 'job creation' programmes are ineffective, and that the government should instead focus on making it cheaper and easier for businesses to take on younger employees. Read here.

Fat lot of good... It was revealed this week that health chiefs are planning to force pubs to display calorie counts on alcoholic beverages. 

In an article for The Telegraph, IEA Director of Communications Annabel Denham argued that the plans are just the "next round in the interminable game of paternalistic policy whack-a-mole". 

Mission creep... It's not just politicians who have pushed for greater nanny state interference during the pandemic. Celebrity chefs such as Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall are turning their attention to anti-obesity advocacy, lobbying government for tougher laws on food deemed high in salt, sugar and fat.

As IEA Head of Lifestyle Economics Christopher Snowdon argues in The Spectator, "where others see a temporary expansion of state power as the lesser of two evils during a pandemic, Fearnley-Whittingstall sees 'potential'."

Short-lived... IEA Head of Political Economy Dr Kristian Niemietz also wrote for The Spectator, on what London can learn from Berlin's failed rent control experiment, which was struck down this week as "unconstitutional" by Germany’s Federal Constitutional Court. Kristian argued that without this "constitutional ambiguity", a UK version of a rent freeze would, if anything, be even worse.

The View... Annabel appeared on Sky News The View with to review the day's top comment pages, where she discussed the Greensill lobbying controversy and the government's roadmap out of lockdown.
THINK 2021

We are thrilled to announce our next guest speaker for the THINK conference this year: Dr Matthew Mccaffrey. Matthew will be giving a talk on the Economics of Video Games and Virtual Worlds.

Matthew is a Fellow of the Mises Institute and Assistant Professor of Enterprise in the Alliance Manchester Business School at the University of Manchester. His research focuses on the social and economic role of entrepreneurship, and the influence of institutions on entrepreneurial behaviour. His published work covers topics such as entrepreneurial decision making, judgement strategy, and the history of entrepreneurial ideas.

THINK 2021 will take place on Saturday, 12th June and is free to attend on Zoom – you can register here.

For more information, please visit THINKIEA.com or email the IEA's Education, Outreach, and Programmes Manager Brittany Davis at [email protected]. We hope you can join us!

*Live with Littlewood

In this week's episode, host and IEA Director General Mark Littlewood was joined by a star panel of guests: Mark Harper MP, Chair of the Covid Recovery Group; trade expert Allie Renison; Telegraph leader writer Tim Stanley; talkRadio host Kevin O'Sullivan; and IEA Economics Fellow Julian Jessop.

They discussed the easing of lockdown, whether the Brexit bounce-back has begun, and whether the wealthy are to blame for climate change. You can catch up on the show here.

*In Conversation with... Matthew Syed

This week, in the latest of our In Conversation series, IEA Head of Lifestyle Economics Christopher Snowdon interviewed journalist, author, and former table tennis player Matthew Syed. They discussed the nature and erosion of personal responsibility, what we can learn from the pandemic, and the role of experts. You can catch up on the IEA YouTube channel here

*Levelling Up and the Left...

The IEA and the John Mills Institute for Prosperity recently co-hosted a live event with Brendan Chilton, Ashford Councillor and CEO of Labour Future; Professor Philip Booth, Director of the Vinson Centre for the Public Understanding of Economics and Entrepreneurship and IEA Senior Academic Fellow; talkRadio host Patrick Christys; Chair of the Institute for Prosperity Caroline Flint; and entrepreneur and businessman John Mills.

The panel explored why successive governments have failed to deliver prosperity to "left-behind Britain", what innovative policies could turbocharge those areas, and whether we are hearing the right noises from the current administration. You can catch up on the discussion on the IEA YouTube channel here

The Dorian Fisher Memorial Prize is an essay competition open to all A-Level and IB students, with the chance of winning a first prize of £500 and £250 each for three runners up. The top 20 entries will also all be invited to a special one-day event at the IEA in the autumn term.

The prize for this competition is named after Dorian Fisher, the wife of Sir Antony Fisher, founder of the IEA, who was a long-time supporter of the Institute and its work. You can find out more details on the IEA website here.

Please send you entry to [email protected], clearly stating your name and school. The final deadline for this year’s competition is Friday 30 July.


*Eastern Promise: the Future of UK-India Trade

On Thursday 22nd April, from 1-2pm, the IEA will host a panel discussion to mark the launch of our forthcoming research paper, titled 'Eastern Promise: Assessing the Future of UK-India Trade'.

Authored by IEA Academic Fellow Shanker Singham, the new research will be published shortly before the Prime Minister’s trip to India. It explores the opportunities for a UK-India partnership including a trade deal, access to market for food and drink and other exports, and prospects for a new geopolitical ally in Asia. It examines the main challenges, and progress to date.

The discussion will take place on Zoom, and will be live streamed on the IEA London YouTube Channel here. If you would like to attend and take part in the Q&A on Zoom, please register here

*In Conversation with... the Rt Hon Steve Barclay MP

On Monday, 26th April, from 6-7pm, the IEA will be hosting the Rt Hon Steve Barclay MP, Chief Secretary to the Treasury.

Steve was elected as Conservative MP for North East Cambridgeshire in 2010 and during his time in Parliament has served as Economic Secretary to the Treasury, Health Minister, and Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union. He was appointed as Chief Secretary to the Treasury in February 2020.

The conversation will focus on the current economic crisis facing Britain, how Brexit could change the UK, and the general political climate in 2021. The event will be live-streamed on our YouTube channel here.

*Debating Democracy

Is there such a thing as too much democracy? Join us on Tuesday, 27th April, from 1-2pm, for a virtual debate to mark the launch of our latest primer 'An Introduction to Democracy' authored by Dr Eamonn Butler, Director of the Adam Smith Institute.

Eamonn will be joined on the panel by Garett Jones, Associate Professor of Economics at George Mason University and author of '10% Less Democracy: Why You Should Trust the Elites a Little More'. The event will be chaired by IEA Director of EPICENTER, Adam Bartha

You can watch the debate live on the IEA YouTube channel here.

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