ELF event: Growth and competitiveness in Europe

13 December 2013

At the 2013 ALDE conference the European Liberal Forum, with the support of CentreForum and LIPA hosted a fringe event to discuss, ‘Growth and Competitiveness in Europe: Mission Possible’, chaired by Iliya Lingorski, President of the Organising Committee of Vrana Economic Council. 

Smarter accountability in further education


CentreForum at the 2013 party conferences

27 September 2013

It has been another action packed conference season for CentreForum with a total of 35 fringe events at the three major conferences. Our activities were picked up by the GuardianDaily MailCity AMSunday Times and Times Higher amongst others. You can read our reaction piece to Nick Clegg's conference speech here in the Guardian.

A big thank you to our conference partners for their support. For information about our programme for spring and autumn 2014, including how to get involved, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .


Tomorrow's party

where next for Britain's ailing political tribes?

Tomorrow's party

Monday 25th November 2013  6:30-8:00pm

Boothroyd Room, Portcullis House, Westminster 

Since the 1950s, membership of Britain’s main political parties has fallen gradually from the millions to the hundreds of thousands, and continues to decline. Some reports have the Conservatives at less than 100,000 members, with Labour not faring much better and the Liberal Democrats at fewer than 50,000.

Meanwhile, the public’s trust in political parties has reached new lows. Two-thirds now believe parties are corrupt, while general levels of faith in politics, politicians and political institutions continue to plummet.

Faced with these and other existential threats, where next for Britain’s mainstream political parties?

This event brings together leading politicians and thinkers to discuss what can be done to remake parties in the image of the 21st rather than 19th century. The panel will explore new developments in party models, such as community organising, primaries, direct democracy, the Obama model and populist messaging.

The event marks the launch of a major programme of work by the Electoral Reform Society, focusing on how to close the growing divide between people and political parties.


Stella Creasy has been Labour & Co-operative MP for Walthamstow since 2010 and currently serves as a Shadow Minister for Competition and Consumer Affairs. Before entering the Commons, she was Deputy Director of the think tank Involve, which researches and campaigns on issues of democracy and public participation in politics.

Tim Farron is President of the Liberal Democrats and has been MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale since 2005. Since entering Parliament, Tim has served as Shadow Environment Secretary and PPS to the then party leader Menzies Campbell. Previously Tim worked at Lancaster University and St. Martin’s College, Ambleside.

Dr Sarah Wollaston is Conservative MP for Totnes. She was selected after an open primary. Before entering parliament, Sarah worked as a GP in the NHS. She is a member of the House of Commons Health Select Committee. 

Richard Harrington is Conservative MP for Watford. Before being elected in 2010, Richard ran a property development business. He also worked in hotel management and charity fund-raising. He was appointed the party’s Treasurer in 2008 and is now a Vice Chairman of the party.

Matthew Taylor has been Chief Executive of the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) since 2006. Before taking up this post, he was Chief Advisor on Political Strategy to the Prime Minister, after being appointed Head of Number 10’s Policy Unit by Tony Blair in 2005. From 1999 to 2003 he was Director of the Institute for Public Policy Research.

(Chair) Katie Ghose is Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society.  Katie has also worked as a barrister specialising in immigration and human rights law, and from 2005 was Director of the British Institute of Human Rights. She served as Commissioner on the Independent Asylum Commission from 2006 to 2008.


Five to Thrive



One day conference to launch 'Five to Thrive'
early years initiative

See video recordings of this event on the CentreForum Youtube Channel.

Tuesday 21 May 2013

In 2011 CentreForum published its report 'Parenting matters: early years and social mobility'. Building on the early intervention work by Graham Allen MP and others, the report called for a campaign using the 'five-a-day' structure to convey simple but crucial messages to parents that aid early child development.

Taking up this idea, Hertfordshire County Council and Kate Cairns Associates developed the 'Five to Thrive' early intervention initiative, providing both structured training for staff (in children's and health services) and accessible materials for parents. This programme has now been successfully trialled and evaluated and is in the process of being rolled out across Hertfordshire. 

This conference was an opportunity for senior local authority and health trust strategists and practitioners to learn about the national policy context behind such initiatives, including a keynote speech by the lead Trustee of the newly established Early Intervention Foundation, Graham Allen MP. It also marked the national launch of the 'Five to Thrive' programme by Kate Cairns Associates, opening up the initiative to local authorities across the country.


Graham Allen MPGraham Allen MP

Opening  the conference, Graham Allen pointed out that successful early intervention is fundamentally about the blending of politics, science, advice and advocacy.

Society should be aiming  to provide a social and emotional bedrock for every baby, child and young person. There are too many children whose life chances are affected by an intergenerational cycle of dysfunction.

Without strong social and emotional capabilities, life will always be a struggle.

Early intervention, however, is the antithesis of the “nanny state”. It is about giving people the ability ‘to fly on their own’

After spending 25 years as an MP in Nottingham the lack of social mobility has become all to clear.  Fundamental interventions at an early age in a child’s life  are needed in order to halt the lack of intergenerational social mobility.

This is not a party political point, either. It will save the country money! Our late intervention culture is costing the country millions of pounds needlessly. It is not good enough for one party to seize upon this idea as their own; we must all work together in this.

Since delivering two reports to government on the issue of early years intervention, the Early Years Foundation, an independent organisation, has been set up  which seeks to bring about this cultural change. This isn’t something that will be achieved by one foundation – it takes all of us  working together.

Chris Paterson

Chris Paterson's presentationPolicy makers now seem to understand the ‘why’ on early years intervention, yet they are still lacking the ‘how’.

That is where an organisation such as the Early Years Foundation, which Graham Allen MP has helped to set up, is doing vital work.

Policy-makers can appear a little uncomfortable with the idea of going into early years initiatives. However, the evidence of their importance is striking.

The Nobel Prize winner Professor James Heckman has shown how gaps in skills between more and less affluent children are already clear at an early stage in a child’s development, and only become wider. Moreover, the neuroscience is clear. For example, within the first four years a child from a professional background hears almost three times as many words as a child from the poorest background. When skills, such as language and vocabulary, are so important to later success, it is clear how these different starts could impact on a child’s development.

The All Party Parliamentary Group for Social Mobility agreed with us that the area of greatest leverage is the 0-3 years group, and thus we were tasked with coming up with an effective way of communicating simple messages, skills and information to all parents as a way of addressing these imbalances.

We came up with the idea of using the already established ‘5 a day’ message as a vehicle to convey key messages on child development, and it is, therefore, a great pleasure to see its detailed development and implementation by Kate Cairns Associates, Hertfordshire, Haringey and Hull City Councils, which has lifted it from the pages of a report and turned it into a policy which is acting to aid social mobility. 


The second half of the conference was taken by a range of practitioners working in health and CSF fields explaining how they were applying the ideas raised in the first section into their early years programmes.

Firstly Kate Cairns explained how she had taken the research and come up with practical applications, then Hertfordshire County Council, Hull City Health Care Partnership and finally the London Borough of Haringey.

Video's of these presentations are available below.

Kate Cairns  Hull 

Five to Thrive blocks-150


Kate Cairns Associates logoCentreForum is grateful to Kate Cairns Associates for supporting this conference.

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