Robert Colvile Profile picture
Director of @CPSThinkTank, EIC of @CapX, columnist on @thesundaytimes, author of 'The Great Acceleration'. 'A #thinktanking #wonking #Megastar' - @trussliz
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13 Jun
Have written my column today on Britain's new foreign policy strategy, which is much more developed (and convincing) then many realise. But there's a big 'but'. (1/?)…
Our new approach is exactly the opposite of the EU's. It's to create and support the coalitions that are going to do the most on any issue. It's to be practical, flexible, fast and fluid.
In doing so, it's a philosophical - even theological - rebuke to the EU, both in terms of diplomacy and economics/regulation.
Read 7 tweets
7 Jun
I wrote my Sunday Times column yesterday about the problems Boris Johnson will have paying for education catch-up. No such problems in Scotland - because they've only put in £20m, or 1/155th of the amount. What's going on? A quick thread (1/?)…
The Johnson govt put £1.7bn into extra tuition last year, and £1.4bn this. The Scottish govt claims to have already spent £400m on 'education recovery'. On the face of it, given population size, this makes Scotland slightly more generous in terms of catch-up funding. Right?
Wrong! The £400m was spent primarily on ventilation in classrooms, to help children go back to school safely. Which is good! We all know the virus doesn’t like fresh air. But it’s stopping the slide, not repairing the damage…
Read 24 tweets
6 Jun
Have written on the catch-up row, and what it tells us about the (many) battles ahead. Quick summary below (1/?)…
Boris told the nation in April that after an “absolutely unimaginable year for... everybody in education”, his biggest priority was “the loss of learning for so many children and young people.” But when Sir Kevan Collins came up with a plan, he wouldn't fund it. How come?
First things first. As this @CPSThinkTank/@PublicFirst_PF report by @racheljanetwolf, @jonathansimons & @racheljanetwolf shows, catch-up is vitally necessary, as parents/public both recognise.…
Read 12 tweets
3 Jun
Today, @CPSThinkTank publishes a major report on education catch-up by @racheljanetwolf, @jonathansimons & @gabrielmilland. (Which given the news agenda today, has been a bit like wandering into No Man's Land on the first day of the Somme and asking 'Anyone for a picnic?'...)
The report has some really important findings, which speak to the concerns of those on all sides of the debate - not least one B Johnson, when he said that 'loss of learning' should be our 'biggest priority' and is 'the thing we've got to focus on now as a society'
We did multiple polls and focus groups. It's very clear that parents feel their children have been badly affected by lockdown (67% agree). Only 5% of voters said there was no need for catch-up.
Read 14 tweets
28 May
There is a point I haven't seen made on social care. The argument made by @Jeremy_Hunt and others was that you needed to make DfH a department of health and social care, to get it taken seriously. But the pandemic seems to show that when the chips are down, it always loses out.
The reason for the decanting of patients was because they were (legitimately) terrified of hospitals/the wider NHS falling over, and desperate to free up space. But that's sort of symbolic of our wider priorities on health, going back decades.
You can also see it re social care funding - a thorny problem that's just sort of sat there, with lots of solutions proposed (including by us!) but never quite reaching the top of the pile. Whereas NHS itself gets pretty much all the spare cash going, whoever's PM
Read 4 tweets
20 May
Worth flagging this @CPSThinkTank research showing that rail privatisation has been a noted success story - customer satisfaction with our trains is consistently among the highest in Europe, and we have more and more reliable trains…
Prices are high, but that's because we actually make people pay for the cost of their tickets, rather than disguising it with subsidy. And many of the problems, esp punctuality, are a symptom of using our track more efficiently than others, meaning less slack in the system
Obviously there are things to fix, many of which the Williams Review addresses. And obviously the pandemic has been shattering for the business model. But the narrative that this is a failed system in need of rescue just doesn't stand up to the facts.
Read 4 tweets
13 May
V rough rule of thumb calculations. UK GDP is £2 trillion. 2.1% growth in March £42bn. Vaccine programme cost £12bn. Obviously you can't credit it for the full rebound, but it's starting to look like the best investment UK govt ever made.
As ever @CPSThinkTank ahead of the curve on this, viz this by @JethroFElsden…
More on this from Ambrose E-P in the Telegraph today…
Read 4 tweets
13 May
This is a strong column from @iainmartin1 but the line about 'an entirely unnecessary stamp-duty holiday' is classic wisdom-of-hindsight stuff, and misses the point/success of the policy…
As our paper 'Help to Build' argued, the housebuilding sector is massively and dangerously cyclical - when recession hits, builders down tools. And due to the structure of the industry, housebuilding lags significantly behind the wider economy in the recovery.
This is a big reason why we consistently fail to hit housebuilding targets - because the sector is trapped in a cycle of boom and bust…
Read 12 tweets
9 May
This analysis piece summarising the results from the BBC is just gob-smacking. Here, in order, are their four big takeaways…
1) Time for Scottish independence
2) Incumbents did well
3) Labour still strong in cities
4) Aren’t the Greens great too?
The kindest possible interpretation is that whoever wrote this felt the ‘Tories do well, Labour collapse in heartlands’ narrative had got a bit stale. But someone should surely have thought ‘hang on a minute’...
Read 5 tweets
4 May
Given what's happening on Super Thursday, it is worth revisiting this @CPSThinkTank report by @mattwarman, and its extraordinary @DeltapollUK polling findings (1/?)…
The most obvious point is that no one likes or trusts government - with the disillusionment growing as you go from local to national
But the most interesting point in light of the elections is not the distrust but the ignorance. We asked people which layers of government they thought they were subject to, then matched that against their postcodes. The proportion who answered completely correctly was... 0%
Read 7 tweets
29 Apr
A quick follow-up to this tweet on household wealth. Much of the increase is house prices, but some is still savings - the savings ratio is at its highest since 1962 (1/?)
A lot of people are expecting/hoping for that cash to come sluicing back into the economy, juicing the recovery. But I'm afraid @CPSThinkTank can offer a warning from history...
As @JethroFElsden showed in his paper 'History Repeating?', on the postwar recovery, the boom in the US wasn't fuelled by people winding down the savings they'd amassed in wartime (because there was nothing to buy/they were in the military)
Read 7 tweets
25 Apr
I've written my column, inevitably, on Gotterdommerung - and how utterly misguided it was for the PM to pick this particular fight…
As I point out, one of the best reasons to worry that Dom would go nuclear is that he has *literally done this before*. After eight months as IDS's director of strategy, he wrote this for the Telegraph
And any idea that he would be loyal enough to the Tory party to stay his hand is probably dispelled by the par that follows (…)
Read 6 tweets
23 Apr
For strategic, diplomatic, economic and above all humanitarian reasons, the UK and other Western countries should be sending vaccines to India by the bucketload. The US alone has huge stockpiles of AZ & J&J it hasn’t authorised.
And yes India has very significant vaccine supply capacity of its own. But it is a vast country and every little helps.
And crucially the US needs to lift its ban on the export of the components India needs to actually make them.
Read 4 tweets
15 Apr
Really interesting and important new report today from Alex Morton, our housing guru at @CPSThinkTank. A quick thread/summary (1/?)…
We want and need to build more houses. Cameron-era planning reforms focused on land supply, by pushing for more planning permissions to be granted. But this only translated partially/weakly into more houses being built.
It's often claimed that land banking by the big housebuilders is the culprit. And as Alex shows, they have certainly built up v significant reserves - the biggest housebuilders now have plots equivalent to the five-year land supply for England.
Read 11 tweets
4 Apr
Have written today about the EU's pandemic screw-ups, and the alarming picture they paint (1/?)…
The most obvious thing to say (as I do in the column) is that Britain has no high ground on this - stones, glass houses, etc. But the vaccine debacle fits with a worryingly familiar pattern.
As one Brussels veteran says, it's the same pattern as the migrant crisis. Bad thing happens -> cries that the only way to solve it is more Europe -> Commission takes over -> everyone feels virtuous about the European model -> Commission fucks it up -> rats in a sack time
Read 7 tweets
3 Apr
V g from @lukemcgee on how Putin is exploiting the EU’s vaccine failure…
Aside from the fact that it’s Vlad Putin, the fact that Europe with its world-class pharma industry should be asking a second-rater like Russia for help shows just how badly they’ve screwed this up
In fact, just to stress this, the EU was responsible for approx 60% of global pharma exports in 2018. If anywhere should have got this done...…
Read 4 tweets
31 Mar
The ethnic disparity report is now online here, and well worth looking at (if you have a spare few hours). A few quick thoughts (1/?)…
Whatever you think of the conclusions, this is clearly a serious piece of work. They have clearly sifted through a mountain of evidence and the final report is pretty darn hefty.
We're used to reports like this saying 'X is a disgrace and we will fix it' or 'this is how we will improve things'. But the central message of this one is basically 'it's a bit more complicated than that' - which obviously makes it harder to land.
Read 10 tweets
17 Mar
This Uber announcement is fascinating - a big test of how well Britain's new 'worker' status (which AFAIK is still unique) plays out, in which you're not a pure contractor, but not employed either 1/?…
As I pointed out in a thread just the other day, one of the really weird things about the debate on the gig economy is that it ignores the fact that most people in it are there by choice (and that actually full-time work has been going up not down...)
See for example this academic study of Uber's own drivers - which involved Uber's co-operation, but was done by some pretty respectable academics -…
Read 8 tweets
15 Mar
Quick thread on why I can't understand EU decisions on Oxford/AZ, based on this illuminating contribution from @olivernmoody
Oliver cites German concerns about cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST) - apparently 7 cases in the 1.6 million people jabbed (vs background rate of 3-4/year, or possibly 15/year by another method)
The IFR of Covid in developed countries is roughly 1% (as of August, may have changed since). Germany has approx 9,000 infections per day.
Read 7 tweets
15 Mar
This is a good piece by @jessicaelgot on how Covid ripped through Whitehall. But the quote at the end from @JonAshworth has induced a minor paroxysm of nerd-rage. Brief thread follows…
Whether or not you think sick pay rules affected the spread of Covid, the claim at the end that we've 'built an economy characterised by zero hours contracts, temporary work' is just not true. In fact, it's complete and utter bollocks, no matter how many times Labour say it.
Here are the @ONS figures for employment growth over the last five years. Until Covid hits, most jobs created are very clearly full time rather than part time.
Read 11 tweets
14 Mar
In my column today, I try to get to grips with one of the big puzzles of the pandemic - how can the same state that is doing the vaccine rollout so well have done testing & tracing so badly? (1/?)…
If you listen to the Left, it’s simple. The Tories bunged £37 billion to Serco and their private-sector mates, who screwed everything up. Here’s Jezza, for example
Leaving aside the fact that ‘Track and Trace’ is what the Royal Mail do to parcels (I made that mistake SO often while writing), the whole £37bn figure is a great example of Twyman’s Law - which holds that the more interesting a figure is, the more likely it is to be wrong.
Read 13 tweets