Lend Me Your Ear is a series of extended one-to-one interviews with economists, politicians and policy makers, conducted by Liam Halligan. Our guests range from leading academics to campaigners, opinion-formers and front-line lawmakers – all of whom share an interest in the interaction of economics and politics, that vital interface between ideas and vested interests where policy is made. In each episode, Liam leads an informal yet detailed discussion, a conversation designed to inform, illuminate and entertain. If you like what you hear, please subscribe – and encourage others to do the same. Lend Me Your Ear – Conversations Worth Hearing.
Elisabeth Schimpfossl – Author of Rich Russians
Elisabeth Schimpfössl is the author of “Rich Russians – from Oligarchs to Bourgeoise” – an eye-catching study of the new Russian business elite that’s emerged since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Originally from Austria, and now an academic at the UK’s Aston University, Schimpfössl enticed dozens of so-called “oligarchs” and “minigarchs” to discuss their personal stories, how they acquired wealth, their views on Western culture – and the future of East-West relations during what some now call “a New Cold War”.
“Schimpfössl’s book benefits from this long parade of interviews” says Foreign Affairs magazine, “which put a human face on her analysis”.
Her analysis is one of robber barons becoming gentlemen, of a rush to be seen as refined and bourgeoise, of “the man’s world” in post-Soviet Russia, but also of “powerful, unstoppable” Russian women.
James Barr – Historian of the Middle East
James Barr is the author of “A Line in the Sand” – a riveting book on how British and French diplomats re-made the map of the Middle East during and after the First World War.
This British historian tells a tale of hubris and political skulduggery, as two colonial powers cooked up the 1916 Sykes-Picot Agreement, dividing the region by drawing a line across Syria, from the Mediterranean to the Persian frontier.
Now Barr has written a follow-on book – Lords of the Desert – about the UK and America competing for influence across the Arab World during and after the Second World War.
“People have been fighting over Syria for as long as we have written records,” he says, during this wide-ranging discussion on post-colonialism and pipeline politics. Amidst today’s tragic Syrian conflict, with foreign powers still vying to control the region, Barr’s beautifully written books are of huge relevance.
Nomi Prins – Financial Analyst & Campaigner
Nomi Prins is a former senior banker with firms including Bear Stearns and Goldman Sachs. She left Wall Street in 2001 as “life was too short” and because of her “disgust at how citizens everywhere had become collateral damage, and later hostages, to the banking system”.
Since then, Prins has written countless articles and a string of books that are highly critical of the bankers, policy makers and regulators that control high finance. Her latest book – Collusion – takes aim at the controversial money-printing programme known as quantitative easing, or QE.
“What’s happened over the last 10 years in terms of QE is socialism for the banks,” Prins told me, when I met her in a coffee shop in London “Ridiculously,” she says, “the emergency period has lasted ten years, with QE driving inequality and creating a cloud of looming debt”.
An article based on this interview appeared on the website Unherd.com
Michael Jacobs – Economist & Political Scientist
Michael Jacobs is an economist and political scientist who is currently the Director of the Commission on Economic Justice at the UK’s Institute for Public Policy Research.
Among the UK’s leading left-wing thinkers, Michael was previously an economic advisor to Gordon Brown’s Labour government and a member of Britain’s Council of Economic Advisors.
Having just published the IPPR Commission’s 304-page report, Michael says the decline in UK living standards since the financial crisis has been “really quite remarkable” – and highlights the importance of company-level profit sharing in an increasingly automated economy.
A confidant of Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, Michael Jacobs says centrist thinkers in British politics have “lost their way” and the old categories of left and right are “now too simplistic”.
Peter Platzer – Space Entrepreneur
Peter Platzer is the Founder and CEO of Spire. Since 2012, Spire has built a constellation of almost 60 nano-satellites that collect observations under various headings and, in Platzer’s words, read the weather by looking at the refraction of GPS signals.
A trained physicist, who studied at CERN and the Max Planck Institute, Platzer hails from Austria and used to work on Wall street, but left to pursue his scientific and commercial dream – pioneering small-scale satellites.
You’ve heard of big data, Platzer is a pioneer of celestial even extra-celestial data – a frontier issue of vast commercial, strategic, moral and perhaps philosophical importance.
Helen Thomas – “Blonde Money” Founder
Helen Thomas is the British analyst and businesswoman who founded the financial consultancy “Blonde Money”. A former advisor to Chancellor George Osborne, Thomas is a genuine political insider. Yet unusually, she combines her political smarts with financial expertise, as a former currency trader and CFA charterholder.
In this discussion, in a City of London pub close to Blonde Money’s offices, Thomas explains the damage done by quantitative easing and why developed markets are becoming more like emerging markets. In her view, the biggest systemic market risk is now posed by ETFs – those ubiquitous Exchange Traded Funds.
Ray Bassett – Former Irish Ambassador
Ray Bassett is a Former Irish Ambassador who served as a senior Advisor to successive Irish Prime Ministers. Originally from Dublin, he has a PhD in Biochemistry but spent almost his entire career in the Irish civil service. A key back-room figure during the Good Friday Agreement negotiations, he knows the UK – and British politics – well.
While disappointed that the UK voted for Brexit, since retiring from the civil service in 2016, Bassett has been alarmed by the stance his government and country have taken – particularly towards the Irish border. In this interview, he explains why the Irish government should “just sit down with the British and solve this issue” – and if that means breaking a few EU rules, so be it.
Roberto Azevedo – WTO Director General
Roberto Azevedo is the Director General of the World Trade Organisation. He is the world’s most important trade diplomat – and runs arguably the most important economic multilateral organisation on earth. In this rare interview, conducted at the WTO’s Geneva Headquarters, Brazillian-born Azevedo discusses Donald Trump and the threat of global protectionism and the future of multi-lateral trade deals.
Azevedo also weighs in on Brexit – and the prospect of the UK trading under WTO rules with the rest of the EU, once Britain leaves in March 2019. Trading under WTO rules is often presented as “a disaster for the UK”. Azevedo, in contrast, says such an arrangement would be “perfectly manageable” and “not the end of the world”.
Professor Amartya Sen – Nobel Laureate
Professor Amartya Sen is arguably the world’s most celebrated living economist. Growing up in “British India” in the 1930s, or modern day Bangladesh, Sen witnessed famine and religious conflict as a boy. After studying economics at Cambridge, and fired by injustice, he became a prolific writer, speaker and advisor to many governments -promoting policies focused on poverty-alleviation and the functioning of democratic institutions across the developing world.
Now a Professor at Harvard, and a Nobel Laureate, Sen is often labeled “the conscience of the economics profession”. In this podcast, Amartya Sen and Liam Halligan discuss, Trump, Brexit and Sen’s memories of taking tea with EM Forster.
A write-up of this interview appeared in The Spectator:
Professor Stephanie Kelton – Advisor to Bernie Sanders
Professor Stephanie Kelton is one of America’s leading economists. Until recently she was Chief Economist to the US Senate Budget Committee, before quitting her job to become the lead economic advisor to Bernie Sanders during his Democrat Party Nomination Campaign.
In this interview, which took place during the annual Kilkenomics festival in Ireland, where Professor Kelton is a highly-regarded regular, she talks about Donald Trump’s victory, her wish to see the “insane spending sequester” repealed, how “all bets are off when it comes to America’s deficit” and why the incoming President’s “wall between America and Mexico” won’t be built.
Currently chairing the Economics Department at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, Professor Kelton gives her views on why Hillary Clinton lost and why Bernie Sanders will continue to be “a fighter”.
Gillian Caldwell – CEO, Global Witness
Gillian Caldwell is CEO of Global Witness, one of the world’s most widely-respected and influential campaigning NGOs.
Global Witness boasts a 23-year trade record of working to expose and break the links between natural resource exploitation and poverty, corruption and environmental and human rights abuses worldwide.
A trained lawyer, Caldwell moved from her native America to London in 2015, in order to lead Global Witness. In this extended interview, she discusses the dangers faced by her staff when working in some of the world’s most politically unstable countries, while giving her thoughts on Brexit and the increasing reliance of media organisations on investigative NGOs.
An Amnesty International activist since the age of 12, Caldwell doesn’t shy away from identifying “our own hypocrisy and inconsistency in diplomatic relationships”, pointing to the role of Western nations in “enabling corruption elsewhere” and the determination of Global Witness to “follow the dollars back home”.
Referring to her fondness of the UK, she also relays her experiences of navigating the “sometimes substantial cultural differences” between British and American culture.
Jeremy Browne – City of London Special Representative to the EU
The son of diplomat, Jeremy Browne rose from being a Liberal Democrat press office to being elected as MP for Taunton Deane – and then Minister of State at both the Foreign Office and the Home Office under the Tory-Lib Dem coalition. He is now the City of London’s “Special Representative” to the European Union – which puts him at the heart of the UK’s negotiations on Brexit.
A genuine political insider, though no longer bound by the constraints of office, Jeremy gives us his response to the Brexit vote. Drawing on his book “Race Plan: an authentic Liberal plan to prepare Britain for the global race”, he shares his vision of how the UK, and in particular the City, can thrive outside the EU.
Professor Richard Thaler – Nobel Laureate
“How about if I call you an undismal scientist?”, Liam Halligan asks Professor Richard Thaler. “Well, I used to be called ‘That Jerk’,” Thaler replies. The world’s leading behavioural economist, Thaler is President of the American Economics Association and the 2017 Economics Nobel Laureate. In 2008, he co-authored his best-selling book “Nudge”.
By combining economics with other disciplines, particularly psychology, the “behavioural school” has had a huge policy impact, upending the dismal science. Its most influential proponent, Thaler is an economist with a huge personality and an wide range of interests.
A write-up of this interview appeared in The Spectator: https://www.spectator.co.uk/2016/06/id-have-said-lets-not-do-this-what-osborne-never-asked-his-nudge-guru/
Rt Hon Lord David Owen – Former Foreign Secretary
In this May 2016 edition of Lend Me Your Ear, I talk to Rt Hon Lord David Owen about Brexit.
A Former Labour Foreign Secretary, and prolific author, Lord Owen is among the UK’s best-known and widely respected politicians. Having campaigned for a Yes vote in the 1975 referendum on Europe, Owen famously left the Labour party in the early 1980s and was one of the four founders, and then leader of the SDP.
Now David Owen is backing Vote Leave and calling for Britain to quit the European Union, which he says has become over-bearing, undemocratic and dangerous.
Fereidoun Ghasemzadeh – CEO of Afr@Net – Iranian ISP/telecoms giant
Fereidoun Ghasemzadeh is Founder and CEO of Afr@Net, the largest internet service provider in Iran. Among the country’s most influential business leaders, he is also a confidante of President Rouhani.
“Put you money in Iran – and your investments will fly”, he says, in the wake of elections in March 2016, in which Rouhani’s pro-reform “Coalition of Hope” made significant gains. Yet Ghasemzadeh is also frank about the political realities facing those doing business in this nation of 80m people, and the on-going role of religious hardliners. LMYE conducted this exclusive interview in Tehran.
Rt Hon David Davis MP – Brexit Secretary
David Davis MP talks about the UK’s upcoming Brexit debate, and the role he thinks he will play during the European Union referendum campaign and beyond. In a 40-minute conversation, the Former Europe Minister and Conservative Leadership candidate lacerates the EU, the UK Foreign Office and Prime Minister David Cameron’s negotiating tactics.
Michael Lewis – Author
An extended interview with author Michael Lewis – described by Bloomberg News as the “America’s most important living writer” – on the US Presidential elections, the state of financial journalism, the euro, America’s place in the world, and the newly-released movie of his book “The Big Short”.
A write-up of this interview appeared in The Spectator: