Former Deputy Director of Policy at Number 10

Polly Mackenzie has enjoyed a highly successful career as a business journalist and Policy Advisor, most notably her tenure as the Deputy Prime Minister’s Director of Policy between 2010 and 2015.

Following her time in government, Polly served as the Chief Executive of the UK’s leading cross-party think tank, Demos. As one of the most experienced political strategists in Britian, Polly has earned her the nickname ‘Policy’ on the Times’ weekly podcast ‘How To Win An Election’, where she sits alongside Peter Mandelson and Daniel Finkelstein. She is currently the Chief Social Purpose Officer at the University of the Arts London.

In the latest of our series of breakfasts, Polly talked to us about Cool Britannia 2.0: creative industries, the upcoming 2024 general election, and the jobs of the future. Her experience serving in the coalition, and think tanks, has led Polly to see how integral and innate to UK identity creative industries are. She commented on how this was best understood by the government at the time of the Olympics in 2012, but how today, where there seems less emphasis on creative industries, we must ensure there is an environment to make apprenticeships more viable, for longer term growth in this sector. Polly linked this to the UK’s soft power on the world stage, something which South Korea has recently utilised, meaning that South Korean music is now played worldwide, and most of us have kimchi in our fridges! She understood that obtaining this kind of support in the creative industries is difficult in the current government but hopes that the next government can transform the existing system and invest in this kind of growth. Right now, there are flaws in the system, with short contracts, a lack of employers, meaning that only people with social and financial capital are willing to take the risk, something Polly sees clearly due to her work at UAL.

Polly also talked about the importance of diversity of voices in government, highlighting the importance of pluralism. She advocated for a participatory government, as well as explaining how important cities are in order to create more cultural hubs in the UK. She proposed a culture-led regeneration, improving infrastructure and pathways for the creative industries. Furthermore, Polly wants to expand production experiences for others through collaborative, or even prescribed, creative activity to re-think the creative industries.

It was a pleasure to listen to Polly speak and heartening to hear her rally around the cause of the creative industries. At the Jobs Foundation we unite around the importance of business, like those of which Polly so eloquently spoke.