Dear Members and Friends,
Clearly a sobering week given Wednesday’s events in Westminster, in particular for the many MPs, ministers and civil servants we deal with here week-in, week-out. Anyone who regularly visits the Houses of Parliament, as we do and is shepherded through security by the Police will have felt a sense of shock and great sadness for PC Keith Palmer and the other victims but also, I’m sure, the spirit of determination to ensure we carry on as normal. And its in that spirit that we offer our usual weekly update.
British Foreign Policy Group is a separate, not-for-profit research initiative Strategy International has backed, which is led by Tom Cargill and has been explained in earlier newsletters. BFPG this week had a round table of some 20 supporters from Whitehall, the regions, academia, journalism and business. Ann Cormack from Rolls-Royce kindly chaired it. It was a stimulating discussion as to where BFPG can best deliver its initial efforts in its mission to generate greater public understanding and debate about the UK’s foreign policy choices. The insights around the room were incredibly helpful and I rather wish we could have bottled the spirit and quality of discussion and sent it to Boris.
A key BFPG theme is a strong focus on the UK’s regions and cities and relating their trade and investment ambitions to UK foreign policy, so we were delighted to hear that Liverpool is joining as a D Group member, adding to a growing number of regional powerhouses in membership. Staff also attended a stimulating launch event for the Liverpool-led International Festival of Business 2018. We look forward to helping Liverpool and SIL members connect and cooperate on this major international business event.
Anthony Seldon’s discussion at D Group on the future of the UK university sector was, as expected, a challenging tour de force from this leading educationalist, biographer of Prime Ministers and generally, all-round renaissance man. There was much debate on a lot of the themes aired but pretty well near unanimity on two. On the negative effects of the overarching dedication of secondary education to passing exams, rather than on learning and on the need for HMG to embrace the thirst for UK higher education amongst foreign students as a key contributor to a successful and outward looking ‘Global Britain’ and to reduce the focus on their contribution to net immigration targets.
At BEI, Ruari Cahill has been in Luanda this week completing delivery of BEI’s Prosperity program and we look forward to hearing next week about how UK Export Finance, another valuable item in ‘UK inc’s’ toolkit to win business for Britain, is seeking to help convert an incredibly wide range of opportunities into successfully funded projects. UKEF CEO, Louis Taylor is here on Monday.
Finally, whilst jollity is not the right sentiment this week, perhaps a bit of a bit of a lift is not inappropriate. For those inclined to view headmasters and academics as rather serious types I invite you to click through to a video starring the aforementioned Sir Anthony and put together before he left Wellington College to take up his position as Vice Chancellor at The University of Buckingham.
Peter O'Kane - Executive Chairman, Strategy International