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The year in policy interviews: The best of Spotlight in 2020

Over the course of the year, the New Statesman's award-winning supplement asked leading figures about key policy issues, from Covid-19 to the climate crisis.

 

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This year, as the Covid-19 pandemic engulfed the world, governments, business and civil society contemplated the impossible, tearing up decades of policy consensus in the process. 2020 was a year in which we learned what can be done in times of crisis, and the true scale of the challenges posed by inequality and discrimination were revealed. 

Throughout the year, before and after the pandemic changed everything, the New Statesman's Spotlight supplement spoke to leading policy figures about the burning issues of 2020 – from the Covid-19 response to Brexit, sustainability to education, racism to housing. Below is a selection of our best coverage of the year, reflecting these key policy debates.  

Tony Blair on extremism: “You’ve got to destroy the ideas” 

By Alona Ferber

In January, the former prime minister spoke to Spotlight about the role of education in fighting extremism, how Remainers lost the argument over Brexit, and the future of the left.  

Michael Heseltine: “Where do you put me in this great intellectual debate?”

By Jonny Ball

The following month, the former deputy prime minister and Tory grandee told us why devolution is key to northern prosperity, and spoke about his own brand of Conservatism.

Julia Gillard: Everybody should be calling out “gendered moments” in politics

By Alona Ferber

The former Australian prime minister and chair of the Global Partnership for Education discussed making the world a more equal place for men and women, from school to the workplace.

Andrew Adonis: Apprenticeships should pay more to make them “credible”

By Rohan Banerjee

The New Labour education guru and former minister outlined his support for apprenticeships and alternatives to university. 

Stay-at-home orders have exposed just how poor housing is, says Leilani Farha

By Samir Jeraj

The former UN housing rapporteur explained how the Covid-19 pandemic has revealed the stark housing issues people face worldwide. 

Why mental health is a human right

By Alona Ferber

The former UN special rapporteur on the right to health, Dainius Puras, spoke to Spotlight about how the coronavirus pandemic is a chance to rethink the strategy on mental health. 

Carl Benedikt Frey: Covid-19 will accelerate automation

By Oscar Williams

 The Oxford economist explained how the pandemic has reshaped labour markets and his scepticism of Universal Basic Income.

Ed Davey on the climate crisis: “we have got no time to waste”

By Alona Ferber

The​ Liberal Democrat leader spoke about the scale of the climate challenge and this government's record on the environment.

John Bird: “I have never lived through anything else like this – and no one else has”

By Samir Jeraj

The Big Issue founder outlined his efforts to push government to take action to prevent large-scale homelessness and unemployment in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

 Stella Creasy: “Coronavirus is like a magnifying lens on inequalities”

By Alona Ferber

The MP for Walthamstow drew attention to the challenges facing women in lockdown, from work, to childcare to domestic violence. 

Florence Eshalomi: “Covid has shone a spotlight on what needs to change” 

By Rohan Banerjee

The MP for Vauxall discussed systemic racism and succeeding the Brexiteer Labour veteran Kate Hoey. 

Frances O'Grady: "You can't put the demand for flexibility back in its box"

By Alona Ferber

The general secretary of the Trades Union Congress spoke about workers' rights in the coronavirus era. 

Why Covid-19 is more than a public health crisis

By Samir Jeraj

The president of the Association of Directors of Public Health, Jeanelle de Gruchy, examined ​the response of central government to the pandemic, and how tackling inequality is key to the pandemic response. 

“Matt Hancock doesn’t ride in on a shining horse”: Donna Kinnair on nurses fighting Covid-19​

By Alona Ferber

The head of the Royal College of Nursing highlighted the challenges facing frontline healthcare workers, particularly those from an ethnic minority background.

GCHQ’s cyber chief on why a Biden presidency won’t change Huawei’s fate in the UK​

By Oscar Williams

The National Cyber Security Centre’s technical director, Ian Levy, reflected on rising cybercrime, protecting vaccinologists, and government policy towards the Chinese telecommunications firm. 

You can download all of the Spotlight supplements published in 2020 here