I feel rather guilty. Not only am I writing my blog at 10.00 in the evening, but I've just agreed to do some punditry tomorrow morning on the poltical options for the Government in responding to the economic crisis.
I've written about this before, some time ago, but I always find these invitations present a dilemma. On the one hand, I hope I've got something useful to say informed by my own experience as a political strategist. On the other hand, I don't want to do anything to undermine the political neutrality of the RSA and incur the wrath not just of the likes of Guido Fawkes but, much more importantly, our Fellows.
The aim is to be seen as a commentator not an advocate, someone who understands politicians' dilemmas but not seeking to defend a particular perspective. But however scrupulous I think I may have been, there are always people who think have erred one way of another. That I get a pretty equal level of criticism from my old comrades (John Prescott, for example) as from critics from the right is small comfort. Yet the RSA, as one of the country's leading platforms for public debate, ought to be the kind of organisation that has interesting things to say about important issues, including the content of current political debates.
This is one reason I look forward to Luke Johnson becoming RSA Chairman (although I will of course miss the fantastic support of Gerry Acher). As readers of his excellent FT column will know, Luke is an independent thinker who doesn't try to hide the way he sees the world; pro free enterprise, sceptical about the state, for example. I don't pretend to have Luke's status as a commentator, but I like to think my position is a mirror reflection; independently minded but with a broadly left of centre orientation.
This might mean the RSA is balanced only in the sense of having 'a chip on both shoulders' but hopefully it helps position us as a place not just of interesting ideas but of lively debate.
Public services, commercial corporations and spontaneous social movements: what's the power they all lack? How might public service reform not flounder through shoehorning dynamism into a universalist and planned approach? How might businesses become genuinely socially responsible rather than merely intoning fine sounding rhetoric?