Friday, 8 August 2014

Britain is no longer a country for and says "Goodbye" to an old cultural economist called Alan Peacock

Alan, a leading free market economist whose expertise in 'cultural economics' involving the arts, heritage and broadcasting led to his becoming embroiled in some of the most controversial arts funding rows of the last 50 years, has died at the age of 92.

What you possibly didn't know about Alan, that he :

* was born in 1922 in the village of  Ryton-on-Tyne, outside Newcastle, the son of Alexander, who working as an entomologist in the Army Medical Corps had carried out ground breaking research into the louse-bound causes of trench fever during the First World War and took him, at the age of six, with the family to Dundee where was Chair of Natural History at the University.

* was educated at Grove Academy, Broughty Ferry and then at the fee paying, Dundee High School (left), where his later reminiscence of urinating over the school wall into the girls’ playground on the other side was rejected from a school publication on the grounds that it was 'pornographic'.

* left school and had his studies in economics at St Andrews University interrupted when he was called up, at the age of 20 in 1942 in the Second World War, to serve in the Royal Navy as an ordinary seaman on East Convoys then, because of his knowledge of German, as an officer of the 'Naval Y-service' which listened to and took direction-finding of enemy wireless transmissions.

* married Margaret Burt in 1944 and was on board the destroyer 'Limbourne', when in an attempt to sink the German blockade-runner, 'Munsterland' and after mistakes ashore and afloat, it was disabled when a German torpedo hit its forward magazine killing 40 crew and was one of the 100 survivors taken off.

 * was enlisted on Arctic convoys as a lieutenant in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve using highly-secret detection equipment to warn of attacks by U-boats and aircraft and continued his education by sending and receiving back marked essays to his War-time tutor, Walter Pigou, in Cambridge and benefited from his analytical rather than the St Andrews didactic and scholastic approach to economics.

* at the end of the War was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for services to Naval Intelligence, rejoined St Andrews and graduated with a first class degree at the age of 25 the in 1947, was appointed to a lectureship in Economics, and thought he got the job because the golfers in the political Science Department met on Wednesday and needed a non -golfer like him to cover.

* moved to the London School of Economics, where he taught and also conducted the Orchestra and became involved in politics as a Liberal, joining the party’s anti-statist, 'Unservile State Group', set up in 1953 echoing the words of Beveridge : 'Welfare Society not Welfare State'.

* in 1956 at the age of 34, became Professor of Economics at the University of Edinburgh, moved to a similar position at the University of York in 1962 and with Jack Wiseman, set out to create the 'York School' for the study of public economics.

* had a public falling out with the Liberal Party when it  began to shift leftwards from the old-fashioned liberalism of Jo Grimond (left), while he himself moved to the right and started to question the welfare state and promote policies such as education vouchers and the sale of council housing.

* in 1970, conducted an inquiry into 'orchestral provision' throughout the country, recommended that London should have only two fully-grant-aided orchestras, rather than four and precipitated, perhaps the noisiest row in the history of the British music profession, with the Arts Council, under the chairmanship of Lord Goodman, swiftly dissociating itself from his Report.

* adopted a non-partisan political stance and was seconded to and served as economic adviser to Tony Benn at the Department of Industry in the Labour Government in the mid-1970s, while he remained at the University of York where he founded the Department of Economics and remained until the age of 56 in 1978.

* moved to the University College of Buckingham where he became Professor of Economics then Principal in 1980, bypassed civil servants to work with the Minister of Education, Rhodes Boyson, to negotiate the Royal Charter which conferred it full university status and then served as Vice-Chancellor for a year in 1984.

* In 1985 he became joint founder and Executive Director of the ' David Hume Institute' in Edinburgh, which, independent of Government funding and free from constraints on research and to counter the 'metropolitan perspective of economic events' from the large number of research institutes in London, became an outpost of neoliberal thought and Thatcherite ideology in Scotland and was Chairman of the Scottish Arts Council from 1986 to 1992.

* in 1985, was appointed to Chair a Committee into the  Funding of the BBC, had a satellite dish put in the garden of his home in Edinburgh so that he could watch cable and satellite tv and saw his, 'Peacock Report', which recommended the retention of the licence fee but proposed a move to subscription funding as more tv and radio channels became available, rubbished by Downing Street, because it felt it had 'ducked the issue of advertising' as well as, the Labour Party, unions and ITV companies and the shadow Home Secretary Gerald Kaufman, who declared that it : “does not deserve even to go into a pigeon hole. It should go straight into the waste paper bin.”

* in the early 1990's published his first musical work, 'The Peacock Stanzas' for pianoforte having some years before studied composition with the Austrian Jewish composer, Han Gal (left), who had fled to Britain from the Nazis in the 1930s and taught at the University of Edinburgh with him back in the 1950s.

* saw his Report credited with reshaping the broadcasting policy landscape with Ofcom dubbed as the 'child of Peacock' in Richard Collins 2009 publication, 'Paradigm found : The Peacock Report and the genesis of a new model UK broadcasting policy'.

* in 1993, published 'Paying for the Piper' his autobiography as a cultural economist, in which he laid out his lifelong commitment of applying economics to understanding the arts and related to his own musical education, describing the importance of music in his life and considering the economic problems of contemporary composers of serious music

* in 2001 was presented with a 'Royal Gold Medal' by the Duke of Edinburgh for his outstanding contribution to Social Science and Public Policy, international distinction on fiscal issues, understanding in key issues in taxation and public expenditure.

* in 2008 published 'The Heritage Game' which examined heritage policies based on a background of growing demand and need to preserve and promote public access to historical buildings, sites and artistic treasures.

* in 2013 at the age of 91, published 'Defying Decrepitude', a light‑hearted memoir of old age, guiding readers through the tiresome 'healthspeak' of NHS bureaucrats and medicos and the tendency among some of them either to talk down to patients or to overload them with jargonese and an admirer the 17th century Duc de La Rochefoucauld, quoted :  'not many know how to be old' ; if we cannot find peace within ouself, it is 'useless to look for it elsewhere' 'age makes men both sillier and wiser'; we all come afresh to different stages of life and in each , we are 'inexperienced, no matter how old we are'.

* in 2013, a the age of 91, along with other surviving Second World War Arctic Convoy belatedly received the 'Arctic Star' in recognition of his naval service. 

* remained an unabashed admirer of beauty, who related being questioned by a 'gorgeous-looking' anaesthetist with a 'beautiful husky voice' who enquired if he "took any drugs ?" to which he admitted he did take one and, when asked what that might be, responded “alcohol”.

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