Discussion at the Academy of Ideas Economy Forum on Tuesday 4 May 2021.

Love it or loathe it, the UK’s Special Relationship with the USA has been around since Churchill coined the phrase in 1946. And as the first nation to leave the European Union, the UK’s ongoing relationship with the EU is, at the very least, ‘special’ by definition.

In his presentation, Jonathan Grant will offer a perspective on these two unquestionably special relationships: one with the EU that has only recently been formed, and that with the USA, particularly how that might change under the new Biden-Harris administration.

Jonathan Grant is a London-based chartered accountant specialising in serving global clients with operations in the UK. He deals extensively with people and businesses across both the USA and the EU; away from the office, he is an independent arts critic.

BOOK CLUB: Klara and the Sun is a thrilling book that offers a look at our changing world through the eyes of an unforgettable narrator, and one that explores the fundamental question: what does it mean to love? Ella Whelan, journalist and author of What Women Want, gives the introduction.

Welcome to this special sports edition of Podcast of Ideas. Alastair Donald is joined by Academy of Ideas colleagues, Geoff Kidder and Rob Lyons, along with Hilary Salt and Simon McKeon, two regular speakers and session producers at the annual Battle of Ideas festival.
Over the past week, football has hogged the headlines on the front as well as the back pages as the plan for a new European Super League emerged and then collapsed, almost in the blink of an eye.

The headlines claimed this has been the 'biggest fiasco in football history', the 'defeat of greed' and that elites sports has suffered its 'most astounding humiliation.

• Why did the European Super League has suddenly emerge now? 
• What were the main problems with this initiative?
• Why did pushing through the ESL run up against the buffers? 
• Can we read anything deeper into this, culturally or even politically?
• What are the ramifications of the ESL's collapse and what about the future – for fans, football, football governance and politics?

April 13, 2021

What is Bidenomics?

Academy of Ideas Economy Forum discussion, 13 April 2021.

Joe Biden became the 46th president of the United States on 20 January 2021. But what does Biden stand for and what will his administration aim to achieve?

Most notably, his first major move was the American Rescue Plan Act, a package of stimulus, welfare and other measures that will cost $1.9 trillion. The act provides for a round of $1,400 stimulus checks for individuals making less than $75,000 a year and for married couples earning under $150,000, plus the extension of federal supplements to state unemployment benefits. There is extra provision for coronavirus measures, including vaccination programmes, improving ventilation in schools and more. There is also a boost to federal subsidies for health insurance.

But what does Biden stand for beyond this? What measures will be taken to move the economy out of its long-term lethargy, particularly in the face of competition from China?


James Matthews
New York-based management consultant; commentator on the US economy and business; former economic forecaster

LOCKDOWN DEBATE: Whether you’re a cyclist, driver, pedestrian or all three, the real question is: why, at a time when little political scrutiny is available in a pandemic, have councils and the government felt comfortable instituting such drastic changes? Have some underestimated the drastic effect of restricting car access on people’s lives and routines? Should we take advantage of the benefits of lower activity in cities and learn a lesson about what life could be like without cars? Are groups like Extinction Rebellion right that drastic action is necessary, even if it means making sacrifices? Or is this another example of green activism side-stepping democracy by putting the planet before people? Who should decide what happens in our neighbourhoods – in short, who owns our streets Rita Krishna, Daniel Moylan, Rebekah Kelly, Emma Richman, Niall Crowley and Ella Whelan discuss.

SCOTLAND SALON: What do the revelations of the past few weeks mean for the independence campaign and for the devolved Scottish Government? Have we seen nothing more than political opportunism on behalf of opposition MSPs, or have the hopes for IndyRef2 been dashed? Is faith in Scottish independence inextricably linked to faith in the SNP? And, more broadly, is there something rotten in the democratic settlement for the people of Scotland? What next for Scottish independence? Jim Sillars, Iain Macwhirter, Alastair Donald and Michelle Ballantyne MSP discuss.

BOOK LAUNCH In his latest book, Free Speech and Why It Matters, Writer and comedian Andrew Doyle looks at the most common concerns of free-speech sceptics and offers a robust defence of this most foundational of principles. Andrew spoke to Academy of Ideas associate director Alastair Donald for this book launch of Free Speech and Why It Matters.

ARTS & SOCIETY FORUM: The Swiss-French architect Le Corbusier (1887 –1965) is strongly associated with post-war mass housing projects; his name is often used as shorthand for their failings. He was arguably the most talented architect of the twentieth century and but he is popularly known for his association with the technocrat aspects of modern planning. Architecture lecturer, Penny Lewis 'visits' two of Le Corbusier’s most influential buildings the Villa Roche in Paris (1923) and the Unité d’habitation in Marseille (1952) to compare his innovative pre-war and expressive post-war work. 

Debate hosted by the Academy of Ideas Education Forum on 4 March 2021.


A large survey undertaken by the NHS in July 2020 found that a staggering one in six children now have a ‘probable mental health disorder’. Since that report we have had another school lockdown. Anne Longfield, the outgoing Children’s Commissioner for England, argued that ‘damage to children’s mental health caused by the Covid crisis could last for years without a large-scale increase for children’s mental health services’.

It is widely accepted that lockdown and school closures have had a detrimental effect on young people, but what does that really mean? Some argue that a year of severe disruption to schooling has limited children’s educational, social and intellectual development, with the likelihood of knock-on effects on the future university and career prospects of GCSE and A Level students.

But are the NHS, Children’s Commissioner and others unnecessarily catastrophising the state of children’s mental health? Have the kids really been messed up by lockdown? Or might they be more resilient than may adults give them credit for?

At what point does missing your school friends transform from disappointment, sadness and frustration to mental illness? Is there now a danger that we stretch the definition of mental health so far that it encompasses many of the normal travails and anxieties of normal teenage life and growing up?

On the other hand, kids missing out on seeing their peers and grown-up role models such as grandparents and teachers is no trivial matter. Is it not bound to limit their emotional and social cognition and lead to serious problems? As schools get set to reopen, this latest online Education Forum debate will explore the impact of lockdown on the mental health of young people.


Molly Kingsley co-founder, UsForThem

Dr Ken McLaughlin senior lecturer in Social Care and Social Work, Manchester Metropolitan University

Sarah Standish school counsellor at a Harrow school

LOCKDOWN DEBATE: What is it like to fall in love in today, when there seems to be so many more factors involved in intimacy than the feelings of two people? Is the isolation and atomisation of love (or lack of it) in lockdown new, or merely an extreme catalysing of a familiar trend in modern dating? How do we balance the desire to right the wrongs of the past, with an understanding that the intimate encounters we often cherish the most are the ones that took us by surprise? As John Fowles wrote in The French Lieutenant’s Woman, while it’s often futile to be nostalgic, was love and intimacy more hopeful when we were less concerned with controlling the outcome, when ‘strangers were strange, and sometimes with an exciting, beautiful strangeness’? Or are we stuck in an arcane view of how love works – should we be open to a new definition which ditches a reliance on uncontrollable feelings like butterflies in your stomach or sweat on your brow? How risky is it to fall in love today – and what does love and intimacy mean in an increasingly risk-averse society? Claire Fox, Samantha Davies, Ralph Leonard, Emily Hill and Ella Whelan discuss.

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