Author Archives: rwfm201

Nothing new about Labour-unions relations being controversial

Professor Andrew Thorpe reviews the history of the relationship between Labour and the trade unions.

Ed Miliband’s proposals to reform Labour party funding have been big news this week.

Miliband is reacting to events in Falkirk, where the Unite union is alleged to have tried to fix the selection of the parliamentary candidate for the next general election. In a speech on Tuesday he outlined various proposals to reform the party-union link.

There is nothing new about Labour-union relations being controversial, especially where money is concerned. The Labour party was formed in 1900 as a federation of trade unions and socialist societies, but the crucial movers were the unions, who wanted the party as a defence against attempts to place legal restrictions on trade union activity. Since then, the unions collectively have always played a major role in the Labour party, because they represented a large part of the electorate that Labour saw it as its job to represent. But they were never the sum total, and they were never able simply to ‘dominate’. Indeed, ‘the unions’ are not a monolith and have always had varying interests and concerns.

In the 1990s the main unions tended to take the view that what was needed above all was a Labour government and they therefore confined themselves to very specific issues like statutory right to recognition, the national minimum wage, etc. This began to change once Labour came to power and as it became clearer that it was likely to stay there for some time, and as New Labour began to reform public services after 2001. The Rail, Maritime and Transport union, led by Bob Crow, left the party altogether in 2004.

Some New Labour people would have liked to end the union link but this was resisted ideologically and emotionally. It was also financially unthinkable once other sources of funding began to dry up after 2000.

It is always possible to talk about crises but actually the relationship has been reasonably amicable in recent years. Pictures of union domination are overdrawn. In terms of the selection of candidates, criticism of the behaviour of Unite has to be set against the parachuting in of celebrity candidates in other seats.

And in any case, what Unite and others have tried to do – enlist more union members as active members of the Labour party – is in itself a good thing for anyone who wants to see active political parties, representing a wide range of people, as an essential component of a lively democracy. A fundamental issue is the current historically low level of working-class people in parliament and more broadly the narrowing of the political class. While the Unite scheme may be open to criticism, it was at least trying to address this fundamental problem that our democracy currently faces.

Today Miliband faces a problem that has faced every leader from Ramsay MacDonald onwards – how to behave in relation to the unions. Unions are not always an easy ‘sell’ politically. They are easily portrayed as sectional, supportive of workplace inefficiency, and ‘left wing’. There are also many people in society who are opposed to their fundamental aim of enhancing the life chances of ‘ordinary’ working people. Therefore Labour leaders often run in fear of being ‘soft’ on unions, and this in turn can lead them into being trapped, or trapping themselves, into situations where they end up trying to take the unions on in order the get electoral credibility. This worked for Blair in 1995 when he abolished Labour’s commitment to nationalisation. It worked less well for Callaghan in the winter of 1978-79, or for Wilson ‘In Place of Strife’, his plans to reform union law, in 1969.

The danger for Miliband is that in trying to satisfy the anti-union agenda of his opponents he will lose control of the debate and also lose support within his party. The opportunity, perhaps, is that by being ‘tough’ he can win over new supporters. But those new supporters are unlikely to remain supporters for very long if this is all he has to offer. It is interesting that Lord Whitty has refused the invitation to oversee the changes – seeing them as ‘unworkable’. Whitty is no fool, having been the party’s general secretary at a time of considerable positive reform under Neil Kinnock in the 1980s.

It is also noteworthy that the man who has been portrayed as the victim of the planned reforms – Len McClusky of Unite – has himself refused to fall into a trap. Instead of fulfilling the media stereotype – and the hopes of some of Miliband’s advisors – by coming out against the reforms with all guns blazing, he has welcomed the prospect of real reform. Trade union leaders often are, and always have been, much cannier political operators than the stereotypes allow. It is one reason why more of their members need to be in parliament.

Talking Data South West 2013

On Thursday 20th June Select, together with the Exeter Initiative for Statistics and its Applications (ExIStA), hosted Talking Data South West, the region’s first conference aimed at showcasing all of the different data-related activities being undertaken within the South West. There was a fantastic response with over 100 delegates representing more than 50 organisations from around the region. The day consisted of a dozen presentations including our three keynote speakers, poster presentations as well as plenty of time to network.

Our first keynote speaker, Markus Gesmann from Lloyds of London, described what tools he uses to communicate to his colleagues ideas from his data analysis in order to initiate change and, most importantly, how to make playing with data fun! Alan Smith, Head of the Data Visualisation Unit at the Office for National Statistics explained how his team visualise data from the ONS. Whilst Alan pointed out that may not look like an exciting URL, he went on to demonstrate how his fantastic visualisations could really engage the public and help them understand their implications – the Census visualisations being a great example. Finally, David Arnold, Senior Statistician at Unilever discussed the importance of multivariate statistics in order to understand consumer preferences in order to ensure the long term success of Unilever brands.

In addition to our keynote speakers, we had a number of presentations from local organisations including Landmark Information Group, Westcountry Rivers Trust, Mango Solutions and the University of Exeter. The variety of topics covered was fantastic including the use of smart phones in improving agronomic decision making, visualising league tables, the growing use of R by commercial companies and using genetic data to identify causes of disease to name just a few.

The day was a great success, which was emphasised by the real-time feedback questionnaire collected and analysed by Paul Howarth from Akumen during the conference. The questionnaire indicated that as a result of the day delegates had gained new tools and techniques to analyse and visualise data and had particularly enjoyed the diversity of talks, which they found to be both inspiring and motivating. Steve Brooks, Director of both Select and ExIStA said “Talking Data South West has been a real success. It has provided a great opportunity for attendees to develop new skills and share expertise as well as the chance to meet with other regional organisations working with data.”

If you would like to see any of the slides and videos of the presentations from Talking Data South West these are available from the ExIStA website or directly from Select’s YouTube channel.

Labelling Failure -The Horsemeat Crisis and Needing to Know Our Food

PhD Researcher Rebecca Sandover discusses what food labelling tells us, and what it doesn’t.


Organic and local food products are valued for their ‘knowability’.

With the horsemeat scandal still unfolding, the central issue is do we know what we’re eating? The media narrative is one of distaste, disgust at eating hidden matter, complex food chains, uninformed moments of blame, as well as possible criminal actions. No matter what we think of eating horsemeat the central issue that is relevant in such an obscure, complicated market is that food labelling is central to our trust in the products we buy and consume. Without trust in the label, the food system as it is presently configured, fails.

Such complex food networks act as a veil shrouding the origins of our food. The distance between us as consumers and the spaces of food production are not only widening, but are becoming blurred and obscure. After the UK food scares of the 1980s- BSE, Salmonella in eggs and 2001 -Food and Mouth disease, the local food sector has arisen as an alternative to agro-food industries. The central device of organic and local food products is their ‘knowability’. Underlined through quality assurance schemes such as Red Tractor, Freedom Foods, Organic Certification etc., food bought can be understood as meeting a benchmark of quality. Not only is this good for us as consumers, it is a lifeline for farmers producing wildlife and welfare-friendly products.

However, there is a major flaw in seeing these schemes as the solution to the current crisis. The crisis exists in cheap, value range supermarket food where the costs have been shaved acutely. Such products are shipped between countries in order to find the cheapest mode of supply and construction, resulting in the use of degraded meat fillers and additives. The gulf between these products and those made by small-scale artisanal producers is huge. This encompasses a gulf in construction, freshness and proximity between consumers and producers but most importantly in convenience, cost and the transparency of production processes. They are so different from the value range burgers as can be, by intention. However by being so different they remain on only a margin of shoppers’ consumer radar. Many consumers have got used to buying cheap products, taking the descriptions on the front of packets on face value. Many commentators over the last few weeks have expressed how obvious it is that how such products are described cannot match their material reality.

It is true that many of these organic and local food products that ooze with vitality, are affordable. But only if you are in the know…In order to buy fresh, local vegetables that are no more expensive than supermarkets’, the consumer either has to source a weekly farmers’ market, or search out for a reliable veg box scheme. Or if you’re really in the know, you might grow your own veg and chickens – what could be a more transparent process? However, all of these processes require effort, added time or knowing that these options exist. Here the difference between affordable, traceable veg and meat is significant when it comes to price. Veg can be sourced affordably, if you know where, whereas meat comes at a cost. Meat eating is seen as a sustainability issue and there are campaigns to reduce its consumption, with the argument that by buying less a consumer may be able to afford better quality. It’s a great argument, but comes back to requiring the consumer to make a commitment to altering food habits, or having the means to alter them.

Such commitment to organic and local food products is still presently marginal. According to public health researchers those living in inner city areas with the least income have poor diets partly due to the local supply of convenience shops that sell no fresh produce. For such consumers a supermarket would increase their chances of eating healthily. Another obstacle for all sectors of society to eating fresh produce, is cooking skills. Without the basic ability to turn unprocessed food into tasty meals as urged by celebrity chefs etc., diets are limited to the processed, ready meal variety. So it’s to be welcomed that cooking is finally back on the school curriculum thanks to the work of many campaigners .

This post is about exploring the complexities of not only agro-food industrial supply chains, but at a more intimate level, our personal relationships to food. We cannot urge a blanket solution to the present food crises as the obvious one of eating only accredited food ignores the issues of accessing it for a wide section of society. Commitment to local food is a starting place for those with the means of not only money, time and knowledge, but also the confidence to transform such produce into enjoyable meals.

Presently Industry and government responses to this crisis are to investigate the DNA of food products, revealing further causes for concern. A recent report has found the fraudulent labelling of fish products in America. Trust will be further eroded, revealing how far we’ve come from knowing the food we eat. The alternatives require us as consumers committing to getting to know our food better. This process can take many forms from phone apps scanning QR codes, to getting our hands dirty with the wonky veg we’ve grown ourselves. However, this is a complex, deeply rooted problem that not only requires us getting to know our food better, but also requires government regulation and concern for the matter of our food, not just it’s profits.

Bowyer, Caraher et al. 2009- Shopping for Food Lessons from a London Borough, British Food Journal 111 (4-5)
Little et al. 2009- Gender, Consumption and the Relocalisation of Food:
A Research Agenda Sociologia Ruralis 49:3
School Food Plan (2013) Cooking on the Curriculum (online available at)
Huffington Post (2013) Seafood Fraud study by Oceana (online available at)

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Prime Ministers and their Chancellors

As the Government’s Autumn budget statement makes headlines, the Downing Street website featured this blog by History Professor Richard Toye. In it he examines the importance of the relationship between the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

The connection between Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer is probably the most important, and potentially the most problematic, of all ministerial relationships. Foreign Secretaries and Home Secretaries can be powerful figures, and yet they rarely have the capacity that a Chancellor does to define, or indeed to destabilise, a premiership. In the modern era, domestic economic management has generally been seen as the most important factor in determining electoral success. The Chancellor, charged with keeping the economy on track, therefore becomes a unique point of strength or weakness for a government and hence for the Prime Minister. If the relationship goes well and the economy thrives, the Prime Minister can feel fairly secure in 10 Downing Street. If it goes wrong – and economic problems will likely be a major factor in this – the consequences can rock a government to its foundations.

It was William Gladstone – four times Chancellor before he was four time Prime Minister – who developed the Exchequer into recognisably modern form. He did not envisage anything like today’s welfare state, being obsessed with ‘retrenchment’, the nineteenth-century term for cutting public expenditure. Rather, he saw the Treasury as a department that could be harnessed to great national purposes. He was not content merely to balance the books on a year-by-year basis but had a political programme and a vision of how to create prosperity, which put the Exchequer at the heart of domestic politics. ‘Finance is, as it were, the stomach of the country, from which all the other organs take their tone’, he commented in 1858.

Behind Gladstone’s efforts at cheese-paring lay a great populist agenda: the reduction of taxation on items consumed by the masses. In a celebrated controversy in 1860 this brought him into conflict with Lord Palmerston, the Prime Minister. Gladstone wanted to abolish duties on paper, the last of the so-called ‘taxes on knowledge’ and a barrier to the production of cheap newspapers. But the very idea of a mass popular press struck many in the political establishment as potentially subversive, and Palmerston and many other ministers were opposed. Gladstone recorded in his diary that in one Cabinet meeting ‘Lord P spoke ¾ hour… [against] Paper Duties Bill!’ The legislation went ahead anyway and passed through the Commons, but Palmerston wrote to Queen Victoria that the House of Lords ‘would perform a good public service’ if it rejected the Bill. The Lords did in fact do so, and Lady Palmerston was ostentatiously pleased. It was Gladstone who had the last laugh, though. The following year he made abolition of the duties part of his Budget, thereby forcing his colleagues and the Lords to swallow it. It clearly helped that he was promoting a cause likely to have strong popular support.

But being the darling of the people is no guarantee of success when manoeuvring against a Prime Minister. Lord Randolph Churchill, father of Winston Churchill, learned this during his brief Chancellorship, to his permanent cost. A brilliantly witty speaker and the rabble-rousing delight of the Conservative grassroots, Lord Randolph turned himself into a force that the Tory leaders were unable to ignore. Appointed to the Treasury by Lord Salisbury while still in his thirties, he proved himself a mercurial colleague who was all-but impossible to work with. Salisbury noted drily that ‘the qualities for which he is most conspicuous have not usually kept men for any length of time at the head of affairs’.

This young meteor soon overplayed his hand, and at the end of 1886, after only a few months in office, he threatened resignation over what he saw as excessive spending on the armed forces. Salisbury called his bluff and accepted. Lord Randolph – who died early a few years later – never held office again.

Lord Randolph was ambitious, and though his own tactics backfired, plenty of his successors used the office of Chancellor to promote their own careers. Of Queen Victoria’s ten Prime Ministers, only Gladstone and Disraeli used the Chancellorship as a step upon the ladder. Of the twenty-one Prime Ministers since her death, ten served at the Treasury at some point before entering Number 10. By contrast, only five had served as Foreign Secretary, and two of these had also been Chancellor. So, when choosing Chancellors, twentieth-century Prime Ministers needed to watch their backs. On the other hand, it was no good simply appointing an unthreatening non-entity as Chancellor. In a more media conscious age, Chancellors needed to be heavyweights who could take the heat and demonstrate a bit of political showmanship.

David Lloyd George epitomised this new kind of Chancellor. He immediately ran afoul of Margot Asquith, the new Prime Minister’s wife, who suspected him of leaking a list of Cabinet appointments to the press. Asquith himself, though, was fairly relaxed about Lloyd George’s activities, even when his radical Liberal policies helped provoke a constitutional crisis. Lloyd George’s tax-raising ‘People’s Budget’ of 1909 marked a new kind of populism, based on public spending rather than retrenchment, and was a foundational moment in the birth of the welfare state. During the battle with the House of Lords that followed, Asquith sometimes distanced himself from his Chancellor’s wilder rhetorical excesses, but did little to actively rein him in. Although Lloyd George did eventually displace Asquith as Prime Minister during the First World War, the peacetime relationship between the two men was handled by both with considerable skill.

In the interwar years, Winston Churchill stands out as the most colourful Chancellor, serving a Prime Minister, Baldwin, who was even more laid-back than Asquith. Baldwin took little hand in what was arguably the biggest economic decision taken on his watch – the return to the gold standard in 1925 – leaving the question to Churchill and his advisers. Neville Chamberlain, Chancellor successively to MacDonald and Baldwin in the 1930s, came to feel that ‘I am more and more carrying this government on my back’.

Baldwin’s supposed laziness was to some extent a pose, but it also represented one of the final gasps of an older style of government in which the Prime Minister merely presided, and left detailed initiatives to his colleagues.

After 1945, the continued expansion of the state and the growing demands of the media required of Prime Ministers a more activist stance on economic policy. This was a time when the state was committed to a new goal, the maintenance of full employment, whilst Britain’s loss of great power status and relative economic decline generated a narrative of failure against which governments constantly struggled. In 1958, Harold Macmillan’s entire team of Treasury ministers resigned in protest at the Prime Minister’s unwillingness to implement spending cuts that the Chancellor, Peter Thorneycroft, thought necessary to battle inflation. The way in which Macmillan succeeded in shrugging this off as ‘little local difficulty’ became a legendary example of his ‘unflappability’. But when he sacked another Chancellor, Selwyn Lloyd, during the so-called the Night of the Long Knives, it was widely seen as a sign of panic in the face of political and economic bad news. Macmillan’s days in Downing Street were numbered.

In spite of the short-lived experiment of the Department of Economic Affairs (DEA) under Harold Wilson in the 1960s, the Treasury retained its primacy and power in Whitehall. Callaghan showed remarkable skill in keeping all his ministers on board during the International Monetary Fund crisis of 1976, but his successors generally moved away from collective Cabinet government to work bilaterally with the key players. For Thatcher, this technique was for a long time a source of strength, but it was not an infallible one, as demonstrated by the breakdown of her relationship with her second Chancellor, Nigel Lawson in 1989. When her personal economic adviser, Alan Walters, published a newspaper article that clashed with Lawson’s views, the Chancellor demanded she sack Walters. Thatcher refused; Lawson resigned; Walters then resigned as well; and by the end of the following year the Prime Minister herself had been forced from office. It was a sign that even a government committed to ‘rolling back the frontiers of the state’ could not escape intense scrutiny both of its economic management and of the personal relationships of those responsible for it.

Above all, it proved once again that getting rid of a Chancellor is no panacea for a Prime Minister in trouble. The same was true for Major when he dislodged Norman Lamont in the aftermath of ‘Black Wednesday’. Paradoxically, Blair found himself powerless to move against Gordon Brown at a time when the economy seemed to be performing well, despite a problematic relationship between the two which Blair recalled as being like that of ‘some quarrelling, married couple’.

The broader lesson to be drawn from the history of Prime Ministers and their Chancellors over the past 150 years is that, although difficulties may arise in part because of failed personal chemistry, how these problems play out is affected by the economic environment, the nature of the state, and public expectations about the types of issues that governments are expected to solve. In addition, the rise of the mass media has increasingly meant that personal differences between Chancellors and Prime Ministers are played out in the full glare of publicity. If Gladstone had not insisted on abolishing the Paper Duties, it might all have been very different.

Further reading

  • Edmund Dell, The Chancellors: A History of the Chancellors of the Exchequer, 1945–90 (HarperCollins, London, 1997)
  • Roy Jenkins, The Chancellors (Macmillan, London, 1998)
  • Nigel Lawson, The View from No.11: Memoirs of a Tory Radical (Bantam Press, London, 1992)
  • Alistair Darling, Back from the Brink: 1000 Days at Number 11 (Atlantic Books, London, 2011)

Richard Toye is Professor of Modern History at the University of Exeter. His books include The Labour Party and the Planned Economy, 1931–1951 (2003), Lloyd George and Churchill: Rivals for Greatness (2007), and Churchill’s Empire: The World That Made Him and the World He Made (2010). In 2007 he won the Times Higher Education Young Academic Author of the Year award. He is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and a member of the History & Policy editorial advisory group.

Robin Williams reports on his Paralympics experience

This summer current University of Exeter student Robin Williams (PhD. Statistics) competed for Team GB in the blind five-a-side football event at the 2012 Paralympic games. Robin reports on his rollercoaster experience at the ‘Greatest show on Earth’.

Robin Williams - London 2012

Robin Williams (right) competed for Team GB in the 5-a-side (blind) football tournament at London 2012

I competed in the London Paralympics as a member of the GB 5-a-side (blind) football team. After two years of dedication to the sport, training both here in Exeter where three Team GB members are based, and travelling to GB squad training on a frequent basis, my selection for the Paralympics was confirmed in April. We had targeted a medal for the games, an ambitious target given that we were yet to win a major trophy and came third in the European Championships last year. However, we felt there was enough potential in the team to realise this ambition, and it would be a matter of whether that potential could be harnessed in time for London.

After drawing our first game with Spain in a fairly disappointing performance (not least from myself), we took a point from Argentina for the first time in the sixteen years that international blind football has existed. The Argentina game was my best performance in the group stage; I got some joy running at them without ever really threatening the goal. These results meant that we had to win our next game against Iran by two clear goals to make the semi-finals. Sadly we played as though this was the case, the first half was a very nervy affair, we conceded several fouls and Iran capitalised, scoring from a long penalty. We dominated the second half, hitting the woodwork twice and forcing an outstanding performance from the Iranian keeper, but sadly couldn’t find the net. In a cruel twist of fate, having been a game away from a shot at a medal, we found ourselves playing the 2008 silver medallists China in a match for the minor placings. China themselves were expected to make the semi-finals, and after an exciting 1-1 draw (probably our best team performance) we lost on penalties – as you can only expect from a GB team! In the 7-8 place play offs we beat Turkey convincingly 2-0, in a match where I enjoyed my best performance.

Brazil were worthy tournament winners, their number 10, Ricardo Steinmetz Alves is probably the best player in the world and lit up the final with a fantastic display. He is certainly something for me to aspire to.

I left the Paralympics with mixed feelings over my personal performance. I had played some of my best and worst football throughout the tournament, an inconsistency that I feel is a result of being fairly new to the game. Playing at international level was also a real challenge. There is a domestic league in this country, but the step up to international level is so large that it’s almost like playing a different sport. I have a lot to work on, not least my game awareness, speed of thought, and of course the constant drive to improve skill.

Our support throughout the games was superb; the 3,500 River Bank Stadium was full for all of our group games, and nearing capacity for the 7th place playoff. All our games were shown live on the Channel4 network, I believe three were shown on Channel4 itself with the others on a temporary Sky channel. London 2012 has raised the profile of the blind 5-a-side football no end, hopefully we will reap the rewards of this by encouraging young players for future.

Stepping outside of our football bubble, it was a fantastic privilege to be a part of the London 2012, which were certainly the best games ever and pushed Paralympic sport far beyond anything previously, both in terms of profile and sporting ability. I hope to compete in Rio2016.

Depression: A Global Crisis

Prof Ed Watkins

Professor Edward Watkins, Co-founder and Director of Mood Disorders Centre and Sir Henry Wellcome Building for Mood Disorders Research

10 October 2012 is World Mental Health Day, an annual event sponsored by the World Health Organisation (WHO), and designed to raise public awareness about mental health issues.  This year will focus on depression, which is quickly becoming one of the greatest threats to public health.  350 million people worldwide suffer from depression with 10% of the UK population suffering from depression or anxiety at any one point in time.  WHO predicts that depression will become the second-highest disease in terms of disease burden amongst all general health problems by 2020.

Beyond the individual distress and suffering they cause, mood disorders have severe consequences including impaired social and occupational functioning, ill health, increased mortality and suicide. There are enormous associated economic costs through the expenses of public services and output lost from time off sick and non-employment.  In the UK, depression and anxiety are estimated to cost the economy £17 billion in lost output and direct health care costs annually, with a £9 billion impact on the Exchequer through benefit payments and lost tax receipts. Therefore, research that increases our understanding of mood disorders and leads to more effective and accessible interventions is a priority for improving human health.

The Mood Disorders Centre (MDC) at the University of Exeter works to advance such understanding and treatment of mood disorders through experimental research and clinical trial research.  The MDC provides integrated research across the translational spectrum from experiment through to treatment development and evaluation all the way through to dissemination and health services organisation.  In parallel with the MDC, our Clinical Education Development and Research group (CEDAR) has led the way in developing and providing high-quality training programmes for clinical practitioners, with a focus on disseminating evidence-based psychological treatments.

A key component within the development of better approaches to mood disorders is a focus on the development and dissemination of effective psychological treatments. Whilst antidepressant medication is a moderately effective intervention for depression, and very commonly used, it has its limitations. Many patients want an alternative to taking medication and want to feel that they are contributing to their own wellbeing. Furthermore, rates of adherence to medication are low, with a substantial proportion of patients stopping their medication within 6 weeks, often because of unwanted side effects. Moreover, antidepressant medications are only effective as long as they continue to be taken – once they are discontinued, their benefits rapidly fade.   For all these reasons, good alternative interventions to medications are required to provide patients with a choice between effective treatment options.

In addition, psychological approaches to depression play a critical role in addressing depression because of their potential to increase resilience and prevent subsequent depression. Critically, depression is a chronic and recurrent condition: 50% of people who have had one episode of depression will go on to have further episodes of depression.  The only way medication can prevent future episodes is for it to be continued indefinitely, which is both expensive and at odds with what most patients want. In contrast, there is evidence that some psychological treatments, such as cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT), can continue to reduce risk for future episodes after a relatively brief treatment period (16-20 sessions) has finished. For example, clinical trials in the MDC have found that training people with a history of depression in mindfulness meditation coupled with CBT can significantly reduce their risk for future episodes of depression. It appears that psychological treatments such as CBT may help to protect individuals from future depression by teaching them coping skills to manage stressful situations better and by helping them to find ways to resolve difficulties in their lives. This ability of psychological interventions to improve coping skills and resilience makes them an integral part of any comprehensive and long-term treatment approach to depression.

The ability of psychological treatments to increase resilience is particularly pertinent when we consider the extremely high prevalence rates of depression. Its high frequency means that focusing on treating the acute symptoms of depression alone is never going to significantly reduce the overall rates of depression. Just as one person is successfully treated, there will be new onsets of depression and recurrences in those with a history of depression. Therefore, in order to significantly reduce the global burden of depression, treatment for people with depression needs to be combined with preventive interventions that stop vulnerable individuals from developing depression. An ounce of prevention will definitely be better than a pound of treatment because of the chronic and relapsing nature of depression. Prevention requires the identification of individuals at risk for later depression and then providing them with better coping skills and enhanced resilience. A psychological approach is extremely well-placed to do this in a way that pharmacotherapy is not. Research in the MDC has already identified patterns of thinking and behaviour, such as the habit of repeatedly dwelling on and worrying about difficulties or a tendency towards avoidance, that predict increased risk for depression and anxiety. Our research has begun to look at ways to then effectively target these risk factors through psychological treatments. Moreover, there is a growing evidence-base that psychological interventions can be effective at preventing the onset of depression in high-risk groups, such as the children of parents with depression or adolescents with elevated symptoms of depression. The development and evaluation of psychological interventions to prevent the onset and relapse into depression is a major priority of work within the MDC, including the use of internet-based interventions that can be widely accessible to large numbers of people.

Another important issue is whether individuals with depression are able to easily access effective psychological treatments. Because of the scale of the problem, there is insufficient evidence-based psychological therapy available, leaving many people unsupported and lacking access to recommended treatments.  In response to this treatment gap, in 2008, the NHS began the Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) programme, dedicated to spending over £700 million on psychological therapies between 2008 and 2014. At the heart of this programme was the implementation of a new evidence-based approach to treatment alongside training a new workforce to deliver these treatments.  By 2013/14, IAPT will deliver 6000 newly trained therapists nationally and increase access to treatment for 2 million more people.

The research conducted by the Mood Disorders Centre has influenced the provision, nature and content of therapy training and provision.  CEDAR has had lead roles in the design, delivery and quality assurance of the training for the IAPT national programme.  In 2008 we were awarded a contract from the South West Strategic Health Authority to begin training the new IAPT workforce.  Since then we have trained over 300 practitioners.  In recognition of our psychological treatment expertise, CEDAR is now the sole commissioned provider of IAPT training in the South West.   CEDAR has just been awarded a contract to provide Child IAPT, which aims at early treatment and prevention of mood disorders and will be working alongside Young Devon to promote mental health at an early age.

By conducting research addressing how to improve psychological treatments, how to develop better interventions to prevent the initial onset and recurrence of depression, and how to make treatment more available to more people, and by training the next generation of therapists and clinical leaders, the MDC’s vision is to make significant inroads into reducing the global burden of depression.

Shakespeare and the Body in the Carpark

Philip Schwyzer

Professor Philip Schwyzer, Professor of Renaissance Literature in the Department of English.

Philip Schwyzer is Professor of Renaissance Literature in the Department of English. His book, Shakespeare and the Remains of Richard III, will be published by Oxford University Press next year. Here he asks how the mystery regarding the fate of Richard’s body may have sparked Shakespeare’s imagination.

Though we still await the results of DNA testing, it’s hard to imagine that the remains found under a carpark in Leicester this summer could belong to anyone other than Richard III. The skeleton is not only in the right place – the choir of the church of the Leicester Greyfriars, where Richard is known to have been buried in 1485 – but, with an arrow embedded in its spine and a massive wound to the cranium, it fits what we know about the king’s death on Bosworth Field. As the near-contemporary Song of the Lady Bessiye reports, “they struck his bascinet [helmet] to his head/ until his brains came out with blood.” Most striking and persuasive of all is the severe spinal curvature which would have given the living body precisely the appearance described by the chronicler John Rous: “small of stature, with a short face and unequal shoulders, the right higher and the left lower.”

The story of the Leicester dig, initiated by members of the Richard III Society, could be mistaken for something from the career of Heinrich Schliemann, if not Indiana Jones. As Richard Buckley, who led the excavation, acknowledges, “in archaeology you aren’t supposed to look for famous people.” Much less do you expect to find them. Yet if the fantastically successful result of the Greyfriars Project seems like something out of a film, it is appropriate to its object. The small man with a short face has always seemed larger than life – even before William Shakespeare got hold of him.

The chronicles Shakespeare would have consulted in writing his play are still among our main sources today for the events following Richard’s death at Bosworth. They describe how Richard’s body was mocked and abused on the battlefield, slung naked on the back of a horse and carried into Leicester. According to Thomas More, the king was “harried on horseback dead, his hair in despite torn and tugged like a cur dog.” As the body was carried over Bow Bridge, its head was reportedly allowed to slam against a protruding stone, fulfilling a prophecy made by an old woman that where his heel struck in the morning, his head should strike that same night.

Richard’s naked and battered body was put on display for two days before receiving burial at the fairly obscure Greyfriars priory. Some ten years later Henry VII’s government made a small payment for the construction of an alabaster tomb (complete with an epitaph in which Richard is made to confess his crimes and express gratitude to Henry for treating his remains so mercifully). When the infamous Cardinal Wolsey died and was buried at another Leicester monastery in 1530, a joke circulated that the city had become “The Tyrant’s Sepulchre.” Not long after this, the Greyfriars was dissolved, and Richard’s body disappeared from the historical record. Different stories soon circulated about its fate, the most famous claiming that his remains had been dug up, dragged through the streets, and thrown in the river Soar. Until the eighteenth century, a medieval sarcophagus said to have contained Richard’s body was on display at a Leicester tavern, where it doubled as a trough.

Shakespeare’s response to the traditions surrounding the fate of Richard’s corpse is enigmatic. Following his death in battle, Richard’s body is left lying on the stage, with no stage direction calling for its removal before the end of the play. Although the victorious Richmond gives directions for the burial of others who have fallen on both sides, nothing is said about Richard. Richmond may ignore his fallen foe, but the audience, typically, cannot. In the recent production starring Kevin Spacey, Richard’s body was winched up by the heels to hang upside down above Richmond’s head as he delivered his final speech. (Even as a lifeless corpse, Richard tends to steal the show.)

Did Shakespeare know the story of Richard’s rude deposition in the river Soar? This might help explain why the play is so stuffed with images of watery burial. In his first soliloquy, Richard declares that “all the clouds that lowered upon our house [are]/ In the deep bosom of the ocean buried.” Later on, his brother Clarence reports a vivid nightmare involving corpses on the ocean bed: “Methought I saw a thousand fearful wrecks;/ Ten thousand men that fishes gnaw’d upon…/ All scatter’d in the bottom of the sea.” The fascination with watery burial which runs throughout Shakespeare’s plays, down to Ariel’s famous “sea-change” song in The Tempest, has its origins in Richard III. Though we can now be fairly certain that Richard’s body was never subjected to this fate, the popularity of the story tells us something about the early modern imagination, its preoccupations and its fears. Perhaps it tells us even more about Shakespeare’s personal nightmares.

While we await the results of DNA tests, discussion is shifting to the future of the Greyfriars remains.  Leicester Cathedral, which already contains a memorial to the fallen king, has staked a strong claim. Some commentators, however, have called for Richard to be interred with full royal honours alongside his relations (and reputed victims) in Westminster Abbey. As a northerner at heart, Richard himself might have preferred burial in York Minster, a cathedral to which he showed much favour in his reign.

Though the discovery of the body is in many ways a cause for wonder and celebration, it has its melancholy aspect. The bones from Greyfriars cannot help but speak to us of mortality, of great suffering, and of wasted dreams. They humanise Richard III, and can make us pity him, even if we still believe him to have been guilty of at least some of the crimes laid at his door. Richard – who in Shakespeare’s play is called a devil, a cacodemon, a dog, hedgehog, and a bloody boar – was a human being after all. And someone made a great hole in his head.

In becoming more human, does Richard become less potent as a symbol? I would argue that the fact that Richard for so long had no known resting place contributed to the potency of his myth; it helped Shakespeare create a character who strikes us as unnervingly present, unfailingly contemporary and terrifyingly alive. Paradoxically, knowing just where Richard is may make him seem less rather than more present, leaving him less free to roam the cultural imagination. Yet Shakespeare’s play, the most frequently performed of all his works, will undoubtedly remain as popular as ever. And there will now be another image of Richard to hold in memory alongside the stage villain – one so much smaller and frailer than Shakespeare’s hunchbacked cacodemon, and so much more real.

What is rehabilitation?

In challenging economic times, Jo Cursley an academic from the Marchmont Observatory, argues the case for investment in prisoner rehabilitation.

A group of prisoners work together to put on a concert in Italy: for the first time two of them have begun to come out of their cells for activities. In the Netherlands, a narrator begins the play, a man who has found it difficult to relate to others but who is now part of the group. In Portugal, a group of prisoners perform a routine with chairs which they pick up and which suddenly seem to become heavy. We watch in silence as the symbolism of their guilt and anxiety becomes apparent. There are cathartic tears on the stage.

Female prisoners in Portugal

Female prisoners in Portugal

So what is rehabilitation? On a board outside every prison’s gate is a notice which reads: “Her Majesty’s Prison Service serves the public by keeping in custody those committed by the courts. Our duty is to look after them with humanity and help them lead law-abiding and useful lives in custody and after release.”

The idea of rehabilitation here is linked to the phrase “help them lead law abiding and useful lives in custody and after release.” The implication is that prior to prison they lacked the skills to do this.. Rehabilitation in all its forms is thus seen as providing an intervention which seeks to repair this lack of skills; that somehow, rehabilitation will provide the route which will make them behave in a more socially acceptable way in the future.

However, I argue that having a rehabilitative model which only focuses on improving social skills misses the point. To make a rehabilitative step change there needs to be self-belief, a feeling that something significant has changed which will lead to a better future for them. As those in prisons often have deep rooted issues with their self- esteem, the rehabilitative intervention has to ensure it provides space for the possibilities for this to happen. My research and that of others strongly indicates that any programme should be focused on the personal growth of the prisoner which enables them to re-vision their future; a future that doesn’t include prison. While this sounds like it might be expensive, surely it is cheaper than sending prisoners out unchanged and wringing one’s hands when they appear again through that revolving door a short time later.

If a focus on raising self esteem, and also providing offenders with the space for a re-consideration of their future selves is needed in order for offenders to have any chance of a crime free future, then how should this be provided? An international prison project I have been involved with seems to have the answers. The project, based around arts performances using the SEPE (Supporting Employability and Personal Effectiveness) award, has been developed by the University of Exeter and accredited through Edexcel. Working with Superact, a not for profit organisation, Exeter University laid the foundations for a training pack which has been used by Superact who have trained artists and performers in each country to deliver the project. The all important feedback the prisoners receive as a result of participating in the programme is based on their employability skills; ability to communicate, work in a team, focus on a task, solve problems. The resulting increased self-awareness has led to their re-considering the possibilities of using their newly awakened social capital in their future lives, post prison.

As a result of this project I have seen remarkable rehabilitative transformations in those taking part. I have seen groups of men and women in prisons in Portugal, the Netherlands and Italy learning to trust each other and understanding their own importance in the group situation, becoming reliable, persevering, discussing instead of shouting and using their fists, finding commonality with other members of the group they formerly despised. As Bruna Scarcello, a Head of Education in an Italian prison, said at the beginning of the concert which marks the end of each programme: “Other courses teach them how to do; this course teaches them how to be.”

While the assessment results showed that the prisoner participants improved their employability skills, and as such therefore meant that they are more work ready than before the project, surely rehabilitation is about other profound factors as well. Those in authority are good at saying what should be done to prisoners to improve their rehabilitation, but giving the prisoners themselves a voice is important because who better to judge what help is best to give? I have interviewed focus groups of prisoners in each of the countries where the performances have taken place. They were very eager to tell me all about their projects. A selection of the comments from prisoners in Portugal, the Netherlands and Italy who took part in the SEPE projects is below:

  • “I had never been able to work with others before but this has taught me to listen and work together, not to just to follow my own ideas.” [Prisoner Focus Group, Portugal, 16th Feb 2012]
  • “I’m ready to face up my life outside the prison with more self confidence and belief according to the legality value of our society.” [Italian Prisoner Questionnaire, 28th July 2011]
  • “Now I express my feelings and I talk much more with the others; before I write about my emotions … now I share everything.” [Italian Prisoner Questionnaire, 28th July 2011]
  • “I have learnt to trust.” [Dutch Prisoner Focus Group, 5th July 2011]

These results show rehabilitation in action. The possibility of this project to awaken, settle, and prepare offenders for their future lives has been recognised by Portugal and the Netherlands in particular. In both cases the projects have been brought to people in government to see the performances and to discuss the benefits. Indeed in Portugal , the Government representative was so impressed it is now going to be taken to perform to the whole of the Portuguese Parliament. Yet the link with rehabilitation and the Arts are uneasy bedfellows in Britain, where the British press derides them as wasting money on “fun”. Indeed the Arts were not mentioned by the Ministry of Justice’s Report “Breaking the Cycle” (2010), yet the profundity of development in these offender participants indicates that this is just what this project is likely to do.

Carbon: departing from a station near you, soon

The ‘Carbon train’ has already left the station and businesses across the South West had better be prepared for the challenges ahead, argues Simon Ramsay, Associate Research Fellow at the Business School.


Curtis Mayfield. For details of the carbon footprint of nylon trousers, please click the picture and use our Show Me The Carbon tool.

There’s an old and widely-covered Curtis Mayfield song that starts: “People get ready – there’s a train a-comin’…” Originally attributed with heralding increased Afro-American civil rights, the same lyrics may also hold a more contemporary twist: a general feeling that there is some impending revolution heading towards us which, although undefined, feels unavoidable. I’m not referring to the government’s spending cuts, or to the various-letters-of-the-alphabet-shaped recession, but to “carbon” – the word that has been transformed from representing a chemical element talked about in our school classes to a concept that now seems to permeate most things in our lives, from our news headlines to our supermarket shelves.

During the last decade, the threat of climate change and the scientific consensus around the need for significant reductions on greenhouse gas (carbon) emissions have grown sufficiently to now be directly informing and influencing public policy at several levels. The setting up of The Carbon Trust in 2001 signalled the start of a more direct attempt by the government to promote a transition towards a ‘low carbon economy’. Since then, the UK has been committed to a long-term, legally binding framework for emissions reductions (with the Climate Change Act in 2008), with a target of an 80% reduction in emissions by 2050. The last few years have seen a relentless, carbon-focused policy activity, with the election of the coalition government further increasing the pressure when David Cameron pledged to build ‘the greenest government ever’. More recently, the Government has launched its Green Deal Energy Strategy; the Carbon Reduction Commitment’s league tables were published and the southwest region was designated as a Marine Energy Park.

The changes have not only taken place at a wider policy level, but have also impacted on how the private sector operates. Last year, several leading industry firms (including Pepsico, The Co-operative, Microsoft, BT, AXA and Aviva) started a petition for signatures to urge the government to announce a firm commitment to mandatory carbon reporting. Behind this concerted action was the recognition of the rewards the move could bring to companies taking a lead in the green economy, its role in supporting investors’ decision-making and, above all, the urgent need for clarity and a level playing field for the private sector. A recent report by Defra found that businesses which have been voluntarily measuring and reporting their emissions have been achieving cost savings and better relationships with investors and customers. Mandatory carbon reporting seems, then, only a question of time.

The fact is that markets have already started moving towards making carbon reductions. Growing public awareness to climate change, public policy developments and consumer trends are all likely to have contributed, but so have market mechanisms and simple bottom-line business sense, as energy prices steadily increase and the supply of commodities becomes less predictable. Big businesses are now not only looking at just their own emissions, but also expecting reciprocity from their suppliers. In the UK, most of the major retailers are announcing ambitious carbon reduction targets for their supply chains. Tesco has declared an aim to achieve a 30% carbon reduction in its supply chain by 2020 – the company, carbon footprinted over 1,000 products and labelled over 500 in UK stores in 2011. Walmart (owner of ASDA) announced the intention to eliminate 20 million tonnes of carbon emissions from its global supply chain by the end of 2015. Sainsbury’s is committed to reducing its operational carbon emissions, by 30% absolute and 65% relative, by 2020 compared with 2005 – part of their broader target of an absolute carbon reduction of 50% by 2030. Whilst Marks & Spencer’s revised Plan A now includes a dedicated section focused specifically on the reduction of its suppliers’ carbon footprint, listing 33 separate commitments, from energy efficiency targets in its food suppliers to changes in logistics and operations.

So what does all this mean to the mainly rural businesses and communities of the southwest? Well, Mayfield’s song only got it half right on this one: “You don’t need no baggage, you just get on board…” The ripples of the change being produced in the public and private sectors are bound to touch everyone so we are all on board this particular train, whether we like it or not. Sooner or later someone will demand to know about your carbon credentials, if not a regulator than a business client or individual customer. When that happens you will need your best carbon trolley case and, packed inside it, the knowledge, skills and capacity to demonstrate that you can engage in the dialogue and address the challenges expected from you. This train has already left the station, and we had all better catch up because, in the words of Mr. Mayfield again: “there ain’t no room for the hopeless sinner…”.

Clear About Carbon

Financed by the European Social Fund Convergence Programme for delivery in Cornwall, Clear About Carbon is a four-year project that aims to find new ways to increase carbon literacy within businesses and the public sector.

Clear About Carbon works closely with a number of Cornish SMEs and other organisations to determine the most effective methods of communicating the business issues of climate change and the opportunities that a low carbon economy can offer. Delivery of the project is being carried out by a quartet of local organisations: the University of Exeter Business School, Cornwall Development Company, Eden Project and Duchy College Rural Business School.

By delivering outreach and training programmes to staff within the county, Clear About Carbon draws valuable conclusions from its work with practitioners. Using these insights, along with qualitative and quantitative research, the project’s findings will be summarised in a report which will aim to inform future policy making at both UK and European levels.

Royal Successions: The Importance of Poetry

Andrew McRae is Professor of Renaissance Studies in the Department of English.

Andrew McRae is Professor of Renaissance Studies in the Department of English.

Poet laureates earn their allowances at times like these, says Professor Andrew McRae.

In May this year, when we celebrate the Diamond Jubilee, Carol Ann Duffy will publish an edited volume, Jubilee Lines, including sixty new poems by sixty poets, each concerned with a year of Elizabeth II’s reign. This represents a neat variation on a theme that can be traced back through British history. But what does such literature achieve? What might it tell us about the monarchs and the ways in which they were perceived? And how might it reflect upon the changing values of monarchy?

While such questions might be asked of any poem devoted to a king or queen, they assume genuine urgency in literature published at moments of succession. Sixty years ago, John Masefield, who fits the laureate category of a man equally long serving and poorly regarded by literary history, seized upon the pastoral mode for his modest poem to welcome Elizabeth to the throne. ‘This lady whom we crown was born,’ he wrote, ‘When buds were green upon the thorn / And earliest cowslips showed.’ ‘Cowslips’, an Old English word, not only lends the poem a native touch, but recalls Edmund Spenser’s seminal poem in praise of Elizabeth I in The Shepheardes Calendar. And throughout, as must have seemed equally appropriate for the post-War British nation, the resources of pastoral allowed him to link the succession to hopes for a second Elizabethan regeneration. ‘May this old land revive and be’, he writes, ‘Again a star set in the sea, / A Kingdom fit for such as She / With glories yet undreamt.’

If there is something polite and stylised about Masefield’s poem, that may say as much about the age he inhabited as about the poet himself. But this was not always so. What if we turn our attention to the most politically turbulent English century of all, the seventeenth? What might a study of the succession literature of the Stuart dynasty – of the years 1603, 1625, 1660, 1685, 1689 and 1702 – tell us about both literary and political cultures of the time?

These dates were moments of intense anxiety and anticipation. The 1603 succession was itself neither obvious nor uncontested, the 1660 succession required a collective act of will to re-establish monarchy as the nation’s natural state, the crowning of William and Mary in 1689 was more the result of a coup than an orderly succession, and so forth. And literature of all kinds poured from the nation’s presses at each moment: poems of all kinds, pamphlets, news-sheets, histories and genealogies, accounts of royal entries, and so on. Much of the resulting output has been considered over the years as mere panegyric; however, even poetry of praise, as the example of Masefield’s poem suggests, can bear subtle meaning, and in the hands of a master it can equally be used to shape expectations of ruler and ruled alike.

Ben Jonson, for instance, fashioned himself as the poet laureate at a time when there was in fact no such role, and from the moment of James I’s arrival in England he cleaved to the throne and sought to define its values. But there were risks attached to this strategy, in this most risky of centuries for the public poet. Edmund Waller, for instance, wrote a ‘Panegyric to my Lord Protector’, celebrating Oliver Cromwell at the height of his powers, as he increasingly sought to drape his protectorate with the trappings of monarchy. Just five years later he welcomed Charles II with a poem ‘To the King, Upon His Majesty’s Happy Return’. When Charles judged that the poem to Cromwell was the better of the two pieces, Waller observed: ‘we poets never succeed so well in writing truth as in fiction’.

We know too little about the succession literature of the Stuart era. That’s why, in a major project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, researchers at the universities of Exeter and Oxford are attempting to bring it to light, making sense of it for the first time. We will catalogue all publications from the years immediately following a succession that engage in any meaningful way with the matter. And then we will work to interpret these works, asking questions about the perception and representation of monarchy, and revisiting through this lens some critical questions about changes in political values and culture through the course of the Stuart era. In the process, we aim to revitalize debates about the politics of literature, and the values of politics, in this pivotal era of British history.

One wonders finally, against the weight of this rich history of royal writing, how the poems in Duffy’s collection will negotiate the relation between monarchy and history in the twentieth century. And one wonders also how Duffy might respond if she is still in her position at the moment, sometime in the future, when poets are called upon to celebrate a third Caroline succession.