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In Conversation with Jamie Martin

Last week, we hosted an In Conversation podcast with Jamie Martin - former Special Advisor to Michael Gove while he was Secretary of State for Education.

He also worked as a management consultant, focused on the public sector, in the UK and Middle East. He has also run EdTech startups based in South Africa, and now India.

In Conversation with Jamie Martin

Antonio started the conversation with asking Jamie what public services mean to him? 

Jamie’s reply focuses on a desired outcome as a society that the market (private sector) fails to deliver. He uses the police and army as examples of services that are paid and provided for and rightly so, in his opinion. He compares this to other public services such as health or education where some may feel the government should pay but may not provide. He then goes on to raise the third sector contributing too where he cites Germany as an example as using it in healthcare.


The conversation comes round to what first, the market or the state? Jamie answers with his own view of the world; perhaps it’s down to a minimalist view of public services? And that there could be quite bold outcomes of a new way of working. Using the NHS as an example - after 1945, Britain wanted a very different outcome to universal healthcare than what it had before, and it succeeded. 


Jamie and Antonio discuss rhetoric versus reality in the Thatcher era versus Rishi Sunak’s current challenge. Jamie summarises that cutting public spend is proving even more difficult with the make-up of the pie. He then goes on to challenge the difference between cutting as an absolute or as a percentage. He uses David Cameron’s example of a formula for sharing the proceeds of growth (public service spending versus tax cuts). 


The conversation moves onto theory and trailblazers within the conservative party history. Jamie shares Hayek and Friedman as big thinkers in this area with a focus on goals and priorities. Jamie also reminds us that it was Butler’s Education Act in 1944, a Conservative’s idea and a lot of the thinking in 1945 about public services was done by Conservatives too. 


Can public services contribute to economic growth? 


Jamie thinks they can but we need to adapt the way we think of and deploy them - much less one dimensionally. He goes on to share his views of why the UK economy is not growing fast enough, talking about infrastructure, housing, people out of or unable to work and skills gaps.


Jamie shares an idea of a universal safety net that can be supportive of entrepreneurship because you lose your health care benefit if you start your own business which is a barrier for people with families especially, starting their own business. 


Jamie goes on to share other countries that are exceeding the UK in these areas: Narendra Modi on infrastructure in India. Vietnam and their work in Education. All of which have invested in these areas and reaped the benefits of economic growth.  


To reform or not to reform…


What kind of reforms would Jamie like to see in the future? 

Jamie starts with where he believes we excel, education. But he admits there is room for improvement. His bold vision is the public services having a role in education from zero to 25. But he also admits what isn’t in great shape, childcare. Jamie alludes to a big announcement coming on this. 


Jamie then reflects on the university sector needing a radical shake up - he argues that Oxbridge is great but not to be carbon copied up and down the country and that a flexible approach would be better suited. With a rumoured announcement of British baccalaureate coming, Jamie highlights the challenges this system represents. The biggest being the supply of teachers to deliver a wider range of subjects and the lack of STEM engagement. 


What do you want to hear from the conservative party?


Jamie highlights the current government are missing a demograph, the under 45’s. They are suffering from more expensive house prices, childcare and bad inflation.


He suggests childcare, housing, a skills package and skilled immigration are the areas in which a conservative government should focus on.  


Jamie’s company, English Quest are democratising access to English in India and on the lookout for investors. 

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