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Making sense of Boris Johnson’s Conservative party, with Lara Spirit

Local elections are done but Boris Johnson’s fate is far from clear. Join reporter Lara Spirit to chew over what the results really mean for the Prime Minister — and who in his party might be compelled to move against him off the back of them.  editor and invited experts Lara SpiritReporter John McTernanPolitical Strategist; Former Political Secretary to Tony Blair Peter KellnerJournalist and Political Commentator


Foreign aid: Is 0.7 per cent virtue signalling or value for money?

This is a newsroom ThinkIn. In-person and digital-only tickets are available. The UK first hit the UN target of spending 0.7 per cent of Gross National Income on foreign aid in 2013. The UK Government cut this to 0.5 per cent in 2021 as a “temporary measure” to recover from the pandemic — about £4bn less. Sunak has stated that the full aid budget will return in 2024-25, but campaigning groups claim this isn’t fast enough. This has all happened against the backdrop of the FCO and DFID merger into the FCDO — a move argued by many to muddy humanitarian action with foreign interests such as the arms trade. Those against the cut argue that reducing annual aid expenditure diminishes the Government’s commitment to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, such as gender equality and poverty alleviation. But where does the UK’s foreign aid budget actually go? Does anyone really know? Are we giving money to the right places, and does it make any difference? Does aid genuinely help, or is it virtue signalling? editor and invited experts Lara Spirit Reporter Romilly Greenhill UK Director, ONE Campaign Saul Parker Founder, The Good Side


Are Labour’s foundations its biggest obstacles?

This is a newsroom ThinkIn. In-person and digital-only tickets are available. The Labour party was built by and for the working class and, as Ernie Bevin put it, the party “grew out of the bowels of the Trade Union Congress” to become one of the two main political parties in the UK today. Yet, since 1966, the Labour party has won only four elections. Trade Union membership has halved since its peak in the late 70’s and, today, the majority of Labour’s membership is considered ‘middle class’. What and who is the Labour party for in 2022? And why do they spend so much time on their own internal battles? Join us for a ThinkIn where we’ll discuss whether socialism, trade unions and the working class are in fact the obstacles to Labour’s success. editor and invited experts Lara Spirit Reporter Ayesha Hazarika former senior Labour adviser to Harriet Harman and Ed Miliband Denis MacShane Former Labour MP and Author of ‘Must Labour Always Lose?’ Nathan Yeowell Director, Progressive Britain; Editor, Rethinking Labour’s Past


The future of the BBC: in conversation with Lucy Powell

This is a newsroom ThinkIn. In-person and digital-only tickets are available. When Nadine Dorries tweeted that the most recent licence fee announcement “would be the last” it was seen as an indication that the TV licence model would be dropped in 2027. While she later rowed back on her statement, it reignited the debate about how a public service broadcaster should be funded in the subscription age. The voices calling for the abolition of the licence fee are getting louder. Is the BBC failing to make output that competes with other services, or is it just doing a bad job of making the case for public service broadcasting? When the discussion turns to choice, does the question around the licence fee become more about psychology, rather than cost? The BBC has an uncertain future. The culture secretary will play an important role in how the broadcaster changes going forward — but will this be in the capacity of cheerleader, guardian, critic, or nemesis? editor and invited experts James Harding Co-Founder and Editor Lucy Powell Shadow Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport


Who is Rishi Sunak?

This is a digital-only ThinkIn.Thanks to the pandemic, Rishi’s tenure as Chancellor has been higher profile than many of his predecessors. Many now consider Rishi the natural successor to Boris Johnson – and possibly soon. But what do we know about him? Apart from that awkward trip to Wagamama, he’s always presented a slick and polished media presence. He’s got the moves, the looks, a photogenic family, and last year he even got the new puppy. He’s been the no-nonsense Chancellor who’s not afraid to make tough decisions, but can he restore the reputation of the Tories and the office of No.10? He’s the bookie’s favourite – but what kind of Prime Minister could he be? editor and invited experts Lara SpiritEditor Adam BychawskiReporter, Open Democracy Alex ThomasDirector, Institute for Government


Dancing in Downing Street: Is the Gray report a moment of reckoning?

“Wait for the Sue Gray report” has been the standard response from the Prime Minister, Secretaries of State and backbench MPs when questioned about lockdown parties and breaking of covid rules. Due to be published this week, will Sue Gray’s report be a moment of reckoning for Boris Johnsons’s government? How was the investigation conducted and did everyone cooperate? Join us for a ThinkIn in which we take a considered look at the report, the investigation behind it, and what it means for Boris Johnson. editor and invited experts Giles Whittell Jill Rutter Director, Institute of Government John McTernan Political Strategist; former Political Secretary to Tony Blair


Keir & Angela: can the odd couple work together?

This is a digital-only ThinkIn. He blindsides her in a reshuffle while she claims not to know what’s going on. It’s no secret that Keir Starmer and Angela Rayner have a fractions working relationship. Almost but not quite reminiscent of the famously difficult Blair-Brown partnership. But this time the issue seems to be more personal than ideological. Rayner has political capital to burn, while Starmer struggles to make any waves. But if the Labour party is to stand any hope of re-election, then the Starmer-Rayner double act needs to convince the party and potential voters that they can work together. Could the Labour leadership emulate the Tortoise model of civilised disagreement, or can the two be reconciled… and if not – why? editor and invited experts Lara Spirit Editor Gaby Hinsliff Guardian columnist; Author, Half a Wife: The Working Family’s Guide to Getting a Life Back John McTernan Political Strategist; former Political Secretary to Tony Blair Michael Walker Contributing Editor, Novara Media


Open News Special Edition on Boris Johnson: what we’ve learnt, and what next?

This is a digital-only ThinkIn. For our last Open News meetings of the year, Tortoise journalists and members, with expert contributors who’ve worked with us throughout 2021, will come together to take stock of what our reporters have uncovered about what’s driven the news this year, and what it has told us about the forces that are shaping our world. What have we learned? What questions remain unanswered, and what new ones have arisen? At Tortoise, we always said that we would stay interested when the rest of the news media moves on.   Boris Johnson has had quite a year, not least with a national vaccine rollout; the G7, G20 and COP26; spats with Macron and the brush off from Biden; the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan; the spectre of Tory sleaze and the recent Owen Patterson fiasco – all the while looking over his shoulder at what Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss are up to.  And that’s without considering his personal life, including a secret marriage to Carrie, a controversial flat redecoration, another baby on the way, the Jennifer Acuri diaries and a visit to Peppa Pig World that captured more headlines than he probably expected. What’s going on? editor and invited experts James Harding Co-Founder and Editor Eleanor Margolis Journalist and columnist Matt d’Ancona Editor and Partner Phil Collins Journalist and speechwriter