Around the world, the Great Lockdowns will accelerate new ideals about how we live. The philosophy of the ’15 minute world’ is one of the most important. Here in Britain, it’s a movement the West Midlands should lead. Not only is it the right thing to do, it offers us an enticing chance to reclaim and rekindle one of our greatest gifts to Britain: the Art & Crafts movement and its child, the urban village.

Popularised by Parisian politician, Anne Hildago, the “15-minute” world is suddenly very fashionable. Theorised by Professor Carlos Moreno at the Sorbonne as “la ville du quart d’heure” it’s an idea that promises to change the way we live, with a world like the medieval city, where the daily urban necessities — work, shops, entertainment, education and healthcare — are no more than a 15-minute reach on foot or by bike.

Mayors around the world are excited. Milan’s Giuseppe Sala declared in April that his city would become the latest to “rethink the rhythms” of the Lombard capital. Portland promotes 20-minute…


Liam Byrne, Chair of the Parliamentary Network for the World Bank and International Monetary Fund and the IMF’s Ceyla Pazarbasioglu at this week’s Spring Meetings

Reflections on this year’s World Bank — IMF Spring Meetings

“We have had to perform at one and the same time the tasks appropriate to the economist, to the financier, to the politician, to the journalist, to the propagandist, to the lawyer, to the statesman-even, I think, to the prophet and to the soothsayer’ — Lord Keynes at the founding of the IMF and World Bank

The pandemic is not over but a panorama on life after lockdown is now a little clearer. This week, the chaos wreaked by Covid to the world economy was lit up at the Spring meetings of the IMF and World Bank and from the debates has emerged the five card trick politicians must now perform to get us up the hill ahead.

There is at least some good news. A more rapid global economic recovery is now forecast. The sheer speed and scale of the economic shock this last year was cataclysmic; an economic contraction three times deeper and two times faster than the great financial…


There’s an old truth in politics that the prizes go to those who own the future. Broadly speaking, oppositions win when they’ve proved three things; (1) they’ve changed from the last time they were voted out of office, (2) their opponents – the government of the day – are venal and incompetent and (3) they have the best account of the future and the best answers to the challenges ahead. This truth is born of the simple reality that all elections are a choice between ‘steady as we go go’ versus ‘time for a change’. To this question voters all sorts of emotions, but two prevail; fear which makes us cautious, and hope which gives us energy.

As we emerge from Covid, these questions of the future will now loom large not least because we’re grappling with with not one, but three earthquakes; Covid, Climate Emergency and Brexit. This is indeed a proverbial ‘Hill of difficulty’ to climb. So where’s the hope to be found?

The American economist Robert Gordon once argued that economic growth could prove ‘a one-time thing centred on 1750–2050', and that today, ‘The process of innovation may be battering its head against the wall of diminishing returns’. After the great breakthroughs of the first three industrial revolutions that brought us steam and railroads…


The precise history of milk chocolate’s origins is not an uncontroversial subject and deep in the Cadbury archives in Bournville, lies a cache of papers, letters and lectures detailing Cadbury Brothers exploration of the question in 1926, including recorded recollections from JH Palmer, one of the the Dairy Milk production team.

The ‘firm’s view’ was captured for the record in the Bournville Works Magazine in April 1955, to mark the Jubilee of ‘C.D.M.’ The origins of milk chocolate, it argued, lay with Sir Hans Sloan who popularised the idea of mixing milk and chocolate before handing the recipe to the White family from who Cadbury’s Brothers bought it.

Sloan’s recipe however was for drinking chocolate. The first to actually pioneer milk chocolate itself, certainly for industrial production was Daniel Peter, a manufacturer near Lausanne who began serious production — and export to Britain — in 1895. Its popularity encouraged serious research…


There’s a old line from Ernest Hemingway about the definition of courage; ‘grace under pressure’ he called it. And right now I can’t think of many people with more courage than the nurses in our hospitals and care homes.

Lindsay Meeks is the Regional Director of the Royal College of Nurses and on Thursday morning she brought together some of her frontline members to brief Jack Dromey and me on the realities of life saving lives in the city’s hospitals.

‘I’ve never seen so much death’ said one critical care nurse in tears. A few days ago, she’d lost three…


“I can’t believe it, said the young activist running the board, ‘why on earth would they vote against their own class interest?’

We were on one of the most run down estates in Dudley. Boarded up homes on one side of the street. Wonderful, proud flag-flying homes on the other. A burst of freezing rain had pulverised the canvass sheets to paper-mache, and our little band of wind-burnt veterans were taking it with both barrels from working class voters, each balefully recorded on what was left of our sheets as very firmly ‘Against’.

Such was the demonisation of Jeremy Corbyn, that one man told me he saw our leader as a ‘Communist terrorist sympathizer’ who wouldn’t push the nuclear button, sing the…


Over the course of this week, protests and discussions have continued about the crisis in Jammu and Kashmir, which is now suffering from a month-long lockdown. Many MP’s, including myself, are supporting constituents desperate to hear news of loved ones suffering under the curfew.

But many, are rightly asking: why is the British government doing so little, and continuing to insist, on very questionable legal grounds, that the crisis is a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan, when it is clear that the bilateral approach to resolving this dispute has failed?

First, let’s look at the legal question. When Britain introduced the Indian Independence Act, in 1947, it restored sovereignty to the 580 or so princely states that had signed subsidiary alliances with the British. Each was given the choice of joining the Dominion of India, or joining the Dominion of Pakistan, through an Instrument of Accession.

As such these Instruments of Accession were like a treaty between two sovereign countries. What’s more, when the Maharaja in Jammu and Kashmir signed the Instrument of Accession on October 26, 1947, he appended a Schedule which made it clear that the Indian Parliament…


“Recovery is possible.”

Sometimes, in our darkest hours, when a twist of fate has knocked-us into a world of perdition, its hard to believe. But here in Midland Heart’s base, The Snowhill, a stone’s throw from St Chads Cathedral, there’s plenty of good folk who’ve found a port in the storm, a new home, a sense of family and a new foundation on which to rebuild a life.

Midland Heart is one of the largest housing associations in the midlands and here in the centre of Britain’s second city, its tall building rises over a welcoming foyer, full of light…


In the fabric of our city, there’s not much to mark the extraordinary George Dawson anymore. So on the anniversary of our city flag today, it feels appropriate to celebrate the life of someone who was, all at once, a Radical sage, society- builder and city-shaper. Our city would not be what it is without him.

Dawson’s family is little known and little studied. They hailed from Portsmouth, working around the dockyards. …


“If you found yourself homeless tomorrow what kind of help would you want?”

It’s a blunt question. And it brings a moment of hush to the crowded hall in the City Mission Church up in Ladywood.

I’m here at the Bethel Homeless Ministries conference on homelessness. Here, packed around the tables, with flipcharts, pens, blutack and a tonne of compassionate experience are good people determined to end the moral emergency that scars our city. Here is the Bishop of Bethel United UK, along with faith leaders, charity leaders, volunteers, faith groups, and businesses who engage with homeless people.

Their goal…

Liam Byrne MP

Shadow Mayor of the West Midlands. Chair, Parliamentary Network on the World Bank & IMF. MP for Birmingham Hodge Hill. Gwilyn Gibbon Fellow, Nuffield College.

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