Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Fabian futures

I have today told friends and colleagues at the Fabian Society that I've given notice to take on a new role, so thought I would confirm the news to a wider audience through the blog too.

I have very much enjoyed leading the Fabians - which is one of the reasons I’ve been doing the job for over seven years now – and working with brilliant colleagues on the staff team and across the Fabian Society.

I’m also proud that we have record Fabian membership at any time in our history, which reflects the efforts of those involved in the thriving voluntary sections at every level.

I am excited about my next role, which will be as Director of a new organisation, which has the (provisional) working title Social Justice Communications Agency. This is being created with the support of several foundations and trusts, particularly involved in migration issues.

Its core mission will be to challenge and shift hostile public attitudes towards migrants and immigration. That may not necessarily be the easiest of public arguments to win, but it is a vital agenda and it connects several issues – identity and integration, fairness and economics, domestic and global social justice issues – which regular readers will know are particular interests of mine.

Some of my current thinking about those issues was reflected in my recent speech in Barcelona on integration and immigration across the EU.

I will be at the Fabians this Spring, and the Fabian Society website will have details within the next week or so of the open recruitment process for my successor - and we will flag those up on the blog when they are published. I’ll miss the job – but will look forward to keeping in contact with many Fabian friends, and to the Society thriving under new leadership.


donpaskini said...

Congratulations and best of luck in the new job :)

Anthony Z said...

Great news, and the new organisation is badly needed. Congratulations!

Tim said...

Congratulations on the new job Sunder!

Sunny said...

Congrats! You'd be very good for this.

Though of course you stole my idea from 2005 (I'd like to think) when we first had that coffee!


JEMills said...

Congrats and best of luck Sunder!

Sciamachy said...

Best of luck, Sunder. You don't need it saying but I'll say it anyway: you've been brilliant for the Fabians & they'll be the poorer without you, though I daresay your legacy there will carry on. Hopefully you can do as much good in your new position.

Stuart White said...

Sunder: all the very best for the new role. You have been terrific at the Fabians. There are too many merits to list, but not least is your blogging: humane, informed, witty, full of integrity that comes from having deeply-held values, refusing bullshit, never nasty. Fabianism at its best!

giroscoper said...

Very best of luck in the new role Sunder - Next Left has been one of the best blogs out there over the last few years and a huge credit to you, Tim Horton and the rest of the team for making it so good.

Alex C-D said...

Congratulations. Very much want to echo Stuart's and giroscope's comments. What will become of Next Left?

Sunder Katwala said...

Thanks so much for everybody's good wishes. Touched by Stuart, schiamachy and girscoper's comments.

And I can't give Sunny Hundal the credit, not least as the new project was not my personal initiative; I am sure he is one of many people to spot an important need.

I'll be here until the end of June, and expect to have one or two things to say before then. What happens to Next Left will depend on my colleagues, successor and other Fabians and friends. I hope it will continue, but we may want some new writers!

Newmania said...

To be honest that sounds like a step down Sunder which is a shame .I enjoy your work and think of you as a vastly more interesting left wing voice than most.
I also weep a little when a man whose feeling for this country are obviously conflicted and resentful takes on a role like this
Do we need another brown man complaining that everyone is nasty except him? I would have said that supplies remained buoyant

Still better than work eh ..

Sunder Katwala said...


Its always good to hear from you, and not unusual for you to be a discordant voice. And I realise we don't see eye to eye on issues of identity, integration, economics, or perhaps anything else.

But you are projecting a whole set of stereotypes.

I am certainly not going to start complaining that everybody is nasty but me, having never ever done that.

My views about this country are certainly neither resentful, nor conflicted - and certainly not any more conflicted, and perhaps less!, than those of my hero George Orwell. The post-Powellite far right are a lot more conflicted of course - having to argue that we destroyed our society 70 years ago ("national suicide" said Powell: very conflicted, pretty resentful, but I am sure he was wrong, and in 2011 that view and vision offers us nothing except a tragic nihilism) and so can't be proud of the society we have become. As are that small number super-cosmopolitan Guardianista left (who reject the idea of national identity, Britishness, Englishness, etc). I imagine some in both of those camps will in their different ways be resentful, conflicted and moaning hen the rest of us are proud that we are hosting the Olympics (because, as it happens, because we told a story about London's diversity which resonated much more than the Parisian pitch): I won't be!

A core principle of a liberal society is that we should take seriously people's own views about their personal identity. I don't self-identify with your somewhat pejorative description a "brown man" - and I reject the idea that these issues are of specific and segmented interest. I am British and English, and mixed race.

Of course there is no conflict between those things. (I know you like to challenge my account of Englishness - and of course there are many plural accounts and resonances in any large nation - but I can't see how or on what grounds you could possibly seek to deny me an equal claim to that identity, or to having a voice in the conversation about what we want to make of it, on which I expect I've been as engaged as just about anybody else). My parents are from India and Ireland. I find that an interesting personal and historic link. I could never credibly claim to be Irish or Indian, as is very obvious to me generally, and if I go to those countries,

Mil said...

Very glad you're leaving for the very best of reasons. It might feel like tilting at windmills - but these are windmills that definitely need a bit of wind taking out of them. I find singular identities surprising and limiting - especially since I come from an English atheist and Croatian Catholic background. With a start like that ...


Hope you continue to blog somewhere though. Prolific and thoughtful is not always easy to find.

Newmania said...

Ok well personally I think a better message is sent by your engagement in wide range of issues but good luck with it.
Brown man ... by the way I picked up from Sunny Hundal I thought it was ok ?
Incidentally "Newmania" is retired my name is Paul Newman

Sunder Katwala said...


Thank you for your reply.

(As ever, there are different views. I don't like the term "brown", don't personally self-identify with it, and can't immediately think of circumstances where I would personally choose to use it descriptively about others, unless perhaps quoting somebody directly.

Sunny Hundal may disagree, and/or does perhaps personally identify with that term. I know that he has a rather stronger identification with being British Asian than I do, eg having run a number of projects with a specifically British Asian focus, such as Pickled Politics and Asians in media. My background is more mixed - this may partly reflect my Irish heritage! So I do use both "mixed race" and "non-white" descriptively about myself, if the occasion demands it, though both are a bit clunky.

To the extent that "brown" is used by people themselves as an self-identity label, my general impression is that is both rarer and more contentious than "black" and than "Asian", which different people use. But as I have argued before (for example, about Obama), a good liberal principle is to try to let people choose for themselves how they wish to be identified.

There are of course limits to how hung up we should all get about all of this. I regard a focus on a common citizenship as more important than ethnic origin.

holgate said...

Very best wishes for the new role, Sunder: you've provided the Fabians with a strong and distinctive voice at the top, at a time when the left needed those kinds of voices -- and for very different reasons now than seven years ago.

Renu said...

Great Good luck although Fabians you have done a great job, this new role will be ideal to have world attentions, some one has to do it as looking at all around the world political un settlements etc,Tory immigration policy would damage economy. Economic migration is a feature of a successful trading nation in the 21st century. Migrant introduce new skills, and it is important for all Citizens to appreciate the benefits of overseas talent. Stay in touch! Renu #Queenphoenix