Cobden Centre, London – Week 5 – Farewell Elizabeth

Benjamin Thomas

It’s somewhat of a bittersweet experience leaving London. On one hand, I’m looking forward to seeing my friends and family again, returning to decent weather, and living somewhere that doesn’t cost me one of my kidneys. On the other, I’ve made some fond memories and met some great people. I don’t regret the way I’ve spent my time, I have seen so much, and yet I feel as if there is still so much left to see.

Earlier this week I was lucky enough to attend Intelligence Squared’s event “Blame liberals for the rise of populism”. The event was a debate between four panellists: the author Matthew Goodwin, Daniel Hannan, Turkish author Elif Shafak, and BBC’s John Simpson. Naturally, with this sort of event, the topic was danced around, with panellists instead arguing more about the definition of liberalism and Brexit.

When discussing possible solutions to populism, Daniel Hannan said decentralising power would make populist politicians less of a threat. The panel largely brushed it off, John Simpson remarked: “bah, good luck”. The response, or lack thereof, really annoyed me. Is it really so unrealistic to transfer some authority to local governments? Populism quite often boils down to a vocal majority trying to throw their weight around; if local governments were able to set some of their own policies this would be less of an issue. I acknowledge that this would require a significant amount of effort in ensuring power weren’t to creep back to the central government after such a change, but I don’t think it’s too farfetched.

The day following the event I was asked to write a report on Blockchain’s impact of global supply chains and what this could mean for global trade. Like environmentalism, blockchain technology is something I find quite interesting. Prior to writing the report, I was fairly confident in my knowledge on the topic, but after trying to explain how it works in simple terms, I felt significantly less confident. Whilst researching I found out that the IMF considers inadequate supply chains a larger global impediment to trade than tariffs and quotas. It’s an issue too few are familiar with and I feel it deserves more attention in policy discussions.

To finish off my final week, I bestowed upon the office some traditional Australian gifts. An AFL football and a very large jar of Vegemite. I usually take great joy in watching peoples visible disgust as they eat it, but to my disappointment they rather liked it. After some fond farewells, I have now officially completed my internship. None of this would have been possible without Mannkal or its ambassadors, and I am truly grateful.