Welcome to Comment is Freed
What’s the idea?
This will be a place for Sam and Lawrence Freedman to share ideas and reactions to events. We both write for other publications and will continue to do so but we see this an opportunity to develop themes more consistently than can be done in occasional commissioned pieces.
Sam will mainly write about UK policy and politics – ranging pretty widely. This could include rapid analyses of white papers and announcements; thematic pieces on trends (there’ll be one in the first month looking into the disturbing decline in children’s mental health); and some political analysis. He will also use policy issues to explore his interests in behavioural psychology; rationalism and forecasting. The first post later this week will be on changing your mind. There’ll be one at some point soon on making sense of the deluge of sometimes conflicting covid data (and what it can tell us about the kinds of sources of information to trust more generally).
Lawrence will focus on foreign affairs, focusing on the background history and strategic judgements lying behind international news stories. For instance what is Putin up to by putting so many Russian troops on the Ukrainian border and how should we assess his demands for a new European security order? What are the consequences of the decline of American influence in the Middle East? What are the implications if China it can no longer sustain the economic growth that has propelled it to a top position in the international hierarchy? He will sometimes write on the UK too. He will, for example, be watching the Covid Inquiry closely from his perspective as a member of the Chilcot Inquiry on Iraq.
What’s the deal?
Everyone signing up will get at least one free post a month. Paid subscribers will get at least three additional pieces. Beyond that we’re going to keep it pretty fluid. There won’t be a set day when pieces are published – they might come in bursts in a particularly busy news week. Sam will write the majority of posts but if there is a major international incident going on then Lawrence might write more during that period.
We’ve set the price at the lowest substack allows – just £3.50 a month – the price of a cup of coffee (at least in London). We appreciate that this disaggregated form of comment could get pretty expensive if you want to sign up to a few different writers, and that many people won’t have tried substack before and will be taking a bit of a punt. We’ll review this in a few months depending on how much time we’re putting into it (and how much of an audience we have).
You can also get an annual subscription for £35 – and obviously if you do that it’s locked in for a year. If you’re feeling really generous and want to be encouraging there’s a founder member rate set at £100 – though you can use it to pay anything between the £35 minimum and £100. We can’t offer you much extra for being a founding member, beyond gratitude and the opportunity to suggest post topics.
Who are we?
Sam is a Senior Adviser to Ark Schools, and a Senior Fellow at the Institute for Government. He’s spent his whole career in education policy. From 2010-2013 he was a Senior Policy Adviser to Michael Gove at the DfE. After that he worked at Teach First, ending up as the Executive Director in charge of recruitment and teacher training. In 2018 he became CEO of Education Partnerships Group – an international charity providing policy support to Governments in sub-Saharan Africa. Following an extended stay in hospital in Spring 2021 (which you can read about here) he stepped down from that role and is now doing a range of advisory/consultancy work and a lot more writing.
Lawrence is Sam’s Dad. But in addition to that he is Emeritus Professor of War Studies at King’s College London, and former Vice-Principal. He is the author of numerous books including the bestselling Strategy: A History, The Future of War: A History, the two-volume Official History of the Falklands War. He was a member of the Chilcot Inquiry into the Iraq War, was knighted 2003 and appointed to the Privy Council in 2009. He is currently finishing a book called “Command: The Politics of Military Operations from Korea to Afghanistan” which will be released later this year.