has won friends and influenced people as an adviser to prime ministers and chancellors and a leader writer and popular columnist for the Times. He was ennobled in 2013.
Huw Spanner found him logged on on 25 August 2021.
Your mother was sent to Bergen-Belsen by the Nazis when she was 10, and your father was deported to Kazakhstan on Stalin’s orders when he was nine. What was it like to grow up in the shadow of that kind of trauma?
You’re right, my parents’ story is traumatic, but what’s so extraordinary is that there really wasn’t a shadow over our family. It was very marked – almost to the point of being enigmatic. My parents were lovely people with a gentle sense of humour and a very optimistic outlook. They took the view that almost nothing could be as bad as what they had experienced, and as a result they had an extremely good sense of proportion. As I’ve put it before, they would never have an argument with a neighbour about a hedge.
Did they talk to you about what they had been through?
In fact, they spoke about it quite freely – and that’s a very fortunate thing. It led to, you know, a great openness in the house – there wasn’t a big secret, which I think some families have. All of us – my brother, my sister and myself – have gone into public life,1His older brother, Anthony, is professor of software systems engineering at UCL and the Government’s chief scientific adviser for national security; his younger sister, Tamara, is Permanent Secretary at the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. and talking about those experiences and their impact has been important in forming our careers and our ideologies.
I must admit I was surprised you had grown up such a humorous and optimistic person.
It’s very interesting, this – you do end up wondering about the role of genetics and culture. I never knew my maternal grandfather, Alfred Wiener2hmd.org.uk/dr-alfred-wiener and yet my politics is amazingly closely aligned with his. When I revisit the different disputes that he was dealing with and think, ‘Which side would I have been on?’, it’s almost always the same one.
And he was also known to approach everything with somewhat of an entrepreneurial spirit and a great sense of humour, and all three of us siblings are a bit like that. It may just be because my mother was like that [and] it passed through her into the culture of the family – or it may be that these things are kind of more hardwired than that.
Was your family religious?
Neither my mother’s nor my father’s family were what you would call ‘fully assimilated’, but, certainly on my father’s side and I think also on my mother’s, they didn’t keep kosher; and we didn’t, either.
I certainly gain some inspiration from Judaism, and talking about Jewish ethics was a part of my upbringing. A very strong part of my moral instinct, I think, is a kind of courtesy towards other people
Neither of my grandfathers was a Zionist. My grandfather on my father’s side was a Jewish representative on the [Lviv] city council, where he represented a very Jewish district. My grandfather on my mother’s side was a considerable Jewish scholar, though his PhD was in Arabic literature. (One of his objections to the creation of a Jewish state before the war was simply his concern about the sensibilities of the Arab populations of the Middle East.) My father was extremely influenced by his intellectual interests and himself became a considerable Jewish scholar – he had a specialism in the progressive rabbinate of 19th-century Warsaw.
Reading Everything in Moderation, your selection of your columns in the Times,3Published by William Collins in 2020 I thought that you don’t often speak in overtly moral terms but do implicitly appeal to what we might call ‘decency’. Where do you go to for your sense of why people ought to behave a certain way?
Now, that’s interesting. I certainly gain some inspiration from Judaism, and talking about Jewish ethics was a part of my upbringing. My father’s [other particular interest] was the prophets and their talk of social justice, and that’s certainly a strong element of where my ideas come from. But a very strong part of my moral instinct, I think, is a kind of courtesy towards other people, that recognises that you’re not the only person in any situation and so your own experiences, your own desires, are only a part of the picture.
It does let you down a bit, because there are limits to your imagination. One of the things that fascinates me so much about the so-called woke movement – which I’m certainly not wholly opposed to – is people’s attempt to extend their sensitivity to almost infinite lengths, to the point where perhaps they lose their sense of proportion.
I wonder sometimes where the dividing line is between ‘wokeness’ and good manners…
That’s a very good question!
You’ve said that, for obvious reasons, your parents rejected extremism of both the right and the left. I can see that there’s little to choose between Hitler and Stalin, but when the media talk about ‘the far right’ and ‘the far left’ in Britain today, do you see them as comparable?
Well, I think they are comparable, but they’re not the same. Just to be clear, I think the far right in this country is a much narrower force than the Nazis were, and it doesn’t contain the same kind of mad ideologues and intellectuals.
I think Fascism and Communism were more similar, probably, than the far right and the far left are now; but both have a desire to fight each other – with me in the middle, as it were, and everyone else who just wants to live a civilised, humane life.
To be against the far right, as a liberal, is fairly unexceptional, I find – most people in my social or political milieu rather naturally have that instinct. I find [that] my horror of the far left is more unusual – I’m a bit more neuralgic about them than is usual. Most people probably don’t take them as seriously as I do, and maybe they’re right and I’m not; but I do have a sort of serious problem with the far-left alternatives to liberal democracy, which I think would be much more oppressive than people think.
Some people see disturbing parallels between what is happening today in Britain and what happened in Germany in the early Thirties. Do you share that sense at all?
I do, actually. One needs to be careful not to exaggerate, but, yes, I think that when loose talk becomes standard about ‘the metropolitan elite’ and the need to ‘sweep away the political class’, those are worrying things. I think it would be wrong to go further than that, but they are worrying things.
You form political coalitions in order to edge the world in a better direction, and we all make compromises and sacrifices to do that. You have to take the rough with the smooth in politics
When Alfred Wiener returned from the First World War, one thing he noticed was the incredible increase in really quite mad conspiracy theories and he predicted that this was going to lead to violence against Jews. And if you read his examples, you think: Well, it’s not quite the same now, but there are certainly some similar elements. The sheer irrationality of some of the anti-vax movements, for example, do remind me a bit of that sort of mad – I shouldn’t use the word ‘mad’, it’s insensitive – that sort of, you know, off-the-rails political thinking.
Do you see any such tendencies in the present government? The Home Secretary is seeking increasingly draconian police powers against protest,4independent.co.uk/police-bill-academics-letter and powers that Roma people say would present an existential threat to their way of life.5theguardian.com/gypsy-leader-warns-patel Some people see these, too, as warning signs.
OK, well, so, I mean, I do disapprove strongly of parts of the [Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill] that concern themselves with the Romani community, and should there be an opportunity I’ll vote against them. But I don’t think the same is true of other parts of the Bill that concern themselves with protests, most of which seem to me to be reasonably proportionate. So, we’ll just have a disagreement about that. I certainly think it’s absurd to suggest that those, you know, have a sort of semi-Fascist overtone.
But I do worry about democratic norms. I was very angry about the proroguing of Parliament [in September 2019].6See commonslibrary.parliament.uk. I think that was a very destabilising moment, actually, because parliamentary democracy was finding it difficult to cope with the consequences of the referendum, when previously our political system had been able to cope quite well with whatever has been thrown at it.
I mean, some people decided [that Parliament was] going to stop Brexit despite the fact that we’d had a referendum and some people thought Parliament had no role to play in determining what sort of Brexit we had because only those who were in favour of Brexit could say what it was. I totally disagreed with both those views – and as they clashed with each other, I just sort of wondered where to put myself a lot of the time.
Your parents voted Labour when you were young and you joined the Social Democrats.7britannica.com Why did you switch your allegiance to the Tories in 1992? Had your own principles and perceptions changed, or do you think the parties had moved ground?
Mainly the latter. The SDP simply failed. It was a coalition but not that wide a coalition and that was both the great comfort of it – you could expect to broadly agree with almost everybody in it – but it was also the problem with it: it just wasn’t a large enough group of people. You’re almost bound to feel uncomfortable with members of a political coalition that is big enough to actually win power. I was forced to choose between not having a party at all or choosing another one – it was as simple as that – and I didn’t believe the Liberal Party was a serious political force.
At the same time, I’d become increasingly aware that, while I’d initially thought of myself as being on the centre left, I really was more on the centre right. Both those [terms] are important: you know, I regard myself as liberal and moderate, but my views on nuclear disarmament, on the Miners’ Strike, my view by that point of market exchange, my view of the fundamentally flawed nature of socialism made the Conservative Party the obvious choice.
That doesn’t mean that I share the same views as every other member of the party. There’s a compact in which I’m willing to support Jacob Rees-Mogg8Currently Leader of the House of Commons and Lord President of the Council, sometimes referred to humorously as ‘the Honourable Member for the 18th Century’ and he’s willing to support me, even though both of us are aware there are vast gulfs of social background and political attitude between us.
You’ve said that you’re ‘mystified’ by political tribalism. Could you ever imagine switching party again?
I certainly couldn’t say that could never happen – you could hit up against some issue of principle that simply made continuation with your current allies impossible. I think in those circumstances it would be vastly more likely that I wouldn’t join any other party.
Occasionally on Twitter somebody says something and you’re about to reply quite tartly and you think to yourself: Well, it’s not a stupid view. I can totally see why an intelligent person takes it
But I do believe, you know, that you form political coalitions in order to change things for the better, to edge the world in a better direction, and we all make compromises and sacrifices to do that. You have to take the rough with the smooth in politics.
I think about it quite often and I think fundamentally I am in the right place.
It’s often said that people tend to drift to the right as they get older. Has that happened to you?
First of all, I’m not sure that that’s true. I was just reading about the Wannsee Conference,9wikipedia.org/Wannsee_Conference at which the Final Solution was agreed, and what’s remarkable about the group around the table is that almost everybody was under the age of 40. It isn’t actually true that young people are left-wing and older people are right-wing. What I think happens is that you start with more radical political views and they tend to moderate.
It’s also true, of course, that people vote for their self-interest, if one’s being completely honest about where one’s politics comes from. (That’s true of everyone, by the way, not just of me.) So, at the moment we’ve got a situation where younger people tend to vote for a party that intends to abolish tuition fees and older people are voting for a party that is increasing the [state] pension with a triple lock.10bbc.co.uk/news
Do you regard yourself as a democrat?
Yes, but I would [qualify that]. I certainly believe that, broadly speaking, political decisions should be taken with public consent, and the best way of obtaining that consent is with some sort of majoritarian system. I also believe that that needs to be constrained in certain ways. The most important is the protection of the rights of the individual against capricious or oppressive majority decisions, and so I strongly believe in human rights and I’m a supporter of the Human Rights Act.
Secondly, I’m not a purist. The system’s got to be able to work in order to produce decent outcomes for most people. That is to say, you’ve got to be careful that the system isn’t so unwieldy you can never make a decision about anything.
That is the argument, actually, for [our] first-past-the-post electoral system. In my teens and twenties, I was a strong supporter of proportional representation. That definitely represented partly the self-interest of someone in the SDP – and being against it definitely represents partly the self-interest of someone not in the SDP, right? But the other thing [being against it] represents is the experience of non-majority government [in 2017–19], which I think was pretty miserable and ended up with nobody being able to make a decision about anything.
I suppose the third thing is, I think that respect for traditional institutions is important. Stability is very important. I think you’ve got to be careful in a democracy not to blow away years of experience on sort of gusts of enthusiasm. So, I am, for example, a supporter of the Monarchy.
A while ago, in an article about New Zealand’s experience of PR, someone remarked that it had made their politics ‘more grown-up’.11news.bbc.co.uk British politics has always seemed to me to be the very opposite of mature.
What’s interesting about that comment is that they might be right – and this, I think, is a very important part of my politics that has definitely developed more. There are a whole host of things where I do have a decided view – I don’t have a problem deciding what I think – but there’s a very strong case the other way.
I think lots of political issues are like that. Occasionally on Twitter somebody says something and you’re about to reply quite tartly and you think to yourself: Well, it’s not a stupid view, that. It doesn’t happen to be my view, but I can totally see why an intelligent person takes it. Indeed, millions of intelligent people do take it.
I’ve spent hours and hours and hours thinking and reading about the left. I’m absolutely fascinated by it. I’m riveted by the challenge it represents to capitalism
In a column on exercising while you work, you quipped: ‘I enjoy the House of Lords because I can sit in it without running or standing for office.’12‘Fidget in the Office to Beat the Fat’ Besides (obviously) being chuffed by the honour, I wonder whether you were embarrassed to be made a peer?
Was I embarrassed by it? If you know me, you’ll realise that I’ve got quite a well-developed sense of the ridiculous, and nobody can be called ‘Daniel William Baron Finkelstein of Pinner’ without feeling faintly ridiculous.
I haven’t ever made the mistake of thinking: There’s nobody else who could have been appointed to that role who’s more appropriate than me.
But what right do you think you have to be a legislator, unelected?
I think there are serious problems with the composition of the House of Lords, only tempered by the fact that every time someone proposes an alternative, it sounds to me as though it will be worse.
Those thoughts did go through my head as I thought about whether to accept it, but I also thought: Stop being such a pompous idiot! You’ve just been offered an effing peerage!
I imagine you don’t believe that everyone’s opinion or judgement should have equal weight. Do you think everyone’s interests should count equally?
Yeah, I do, actually. I do think that. I think you’ve got to balance all sorts of things – people’s expressed interests, the wider national interest in terms of prosperity or peace…
I think that democracies are quite susceptible to capture by activists who are willing to spend almost infinite amounts of time to ensure that their own interests are confused with the interests of everyone else. It’s immensely important to try to listen to and understand the interests of the wider public, who may not express political views or engage politically.
You wrote a column in which you allocated the hours remaining in your likely lifespan, and you said you would give two minutes to reading the New Statesman ‘in order to discover what the Left is thinking’.13‘Hours Not to Reason Why (or How I’m Pushed for Times)’ I know that was a joke, but it seemed to express quite an extreme disdain for the left.
I said in [my introduction to] the book that I put in [some] columns even though some of the things in [them] made me wince, and that was one. It’s totally untrue. I’ve actually spent hours and hours and hours thinking and reading about the left, and have done since college. I’m absolutely fascinated by it. I’m riveted by the ideas of the fertile left, the challenge that it represents to capitalism.
In another column, you draw attention to Jeremy Corbyn’s (in your view, extreme) commitment to democracy. You give the example that in a war, he’d said, ‘the deployment of nuclear weapons will be subject to the agreement of the “wider community”, whatever that means.’14‘Corbyn’s Grand Plan Is to Subvert Parliament’
Isn’t that preferable to what Kennedy did in the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, when he took the world to the brink of nuclear war and all but gambled our future on the toss of a coin?15According to the US political analyst Graham Allison in 2012: ‘During the standoff, US President John F Kennedy thought the chance of escalation to war was “between one in three and even,” and what we have learned in later decades has done nothing to lengthen those odds. … The resulting war might have led to the deaths of 100 million Americans and over 100 million Russians’ (foreignaffairs.com/articles). Others involved in the crisis, on both sides, were equally pessimistic.
I must admit, the probabilities of nuclear war worry me a lot. Nothing has a zero probability, and when you multiply even the tiniest probability of nuclear war (and I think the probability must be greater than tiny) against the human cost of it, the burden becomes really, you know, overwhelming. It’s just that I don’t quite know what to do about it, because you can’t uninvent those things and I regard it as more dangerous only to have them on one side than it is to have them on two sides, because ultimately having them on two sides is why we ended up with nobody using them.
If you talk to anybody who’s ever received political advice from me, they’ll tell you that I literally always begin: ‘Let’s start with what you think is the right thing to do and take it from there’
But these things are very, very difficult. You’re not wrong to look at it and think: These calculations are insane.
Is it possible for a party in power to govern in the interests of everyone, or will it always tend to promote the interests of the coalition that elected it?
Any political party definitely caters – you know, does consider the political coalition that elected it, or that it will need in order to be re-elected, even though it may try to show a broader understanding of the national interest. That is natural and unavoidable. It’s one of the reasons why it’s so important to place constraints on the executive so that that power isn’t abused. It’s one of the reasons why the most important function of democracy is the smooth transfer of power.
What tensions did that create for you as an adviser on policy?
Well, a perfect example is pensions policy. As a writer on the Times, I’m completely opposed to the triple lock, because I think it’s leading to an unsustainable shift in resources from younger people to older people. The case seems to me clear. However, in any given election I wouldn’t ever propose removing it.
The difficulty is that in the long run I think the triple lock will be a serious problem for the Conservative Party, because it will become the party for older people, and younger people will vote against it in increasing numbers. So, I think it’s short-sighted politically – but when you’re fighting an election, short-sighted is fine if it wins the campaign.
Were there tensions for you when you were writing political commentary for the Times but were also a close friend of the then Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne?
The way that I’ve proceeded – because I’ve had this slightly odd career of both being intimate with leading politicians and having my advice sought by them and also being a columnist and a leader writer – is that I say the same things in both places. If you talk to anybody who’s ever received political advice from me, they’ll tell you that I literally always begin: ‘Let’s start with what you think is the right thing to do and then take it from there.’ And that’s what I try to do in the Times, too.
As a policy wonk, I imagine that there have been many policies that have seemed to you eminently sensible and pragmatic that can’t be implemented because the public ‘won’t wear them’. As a journalist, I wonder how you regard the fact that often what the public will or won’t ‘wear’ is shaped by the press.
I think it’s vastly more the other way. Take the Times’s position on Brexit, right? [That] partly emerged out of our internal debates and the editor’s instincts and judgement, but it was definitely partly a response to who reads the Times and what sort of newspaper they wanted to read and what sort of critique that would allow us to offer.
And that’s true of all newspapers. Sure, there’s a bit of a feedback loop, but that’s much more the influence of the readers on the newspapers than the other way around, in my opinion.
The Daily Mail only has to find a few hundred ‘benefit scroungers’, let’s say, to have a story about ‘scroungers’ on its front page every day of the year; but you know that a few hundred is a drop in the ocean if that’s all there is.
Now, that’s a very astute point. There’s no question that newspapers are not necessarily very statistically aware, and –
Or they are but they ignore the statistics because…
No, I don’t think that – well, OK, that’s interesting. I’m not sure…
The critique that suggests that this country has often behaved oppressively is definitely correct, and it’s correct that we still do those things; but we’re learning all the time to do better
Isn’t it said that Lord Northcliffe, when asked for the secret of the Mail’s success, said: ‘I give my readers a daily hate’?
But that’s a slightly different point.
My view is that journalism leads you to try to write about the unusual and the remarkable, the thing that doesn’t happen very often – because things that are going on all the time are not news. And that can distort [the public’s] understanding of how common things are. There’s no question that that does have an influence on people’s political sensibilities, yes.
What do you see as the distinctive virtues of the British?
Well… I don’t think biologically we’re any different to anyone else, which means that it’s highly unlikely that any of these characteristics are exclusive to people who live in the British Isles. But there are some values that have become the habit of the British, [such as] a continuous, stable, liberal-democratic tradition which moves towards the light. So, the critique that suggests that this country has often behaved oppressively, either to people in this society or to people beyond our shores, is definitely correct, and it’s correct [to say] that we still do those things; but we’re learning all the time to do things better.
As a result of that, I would say, there has emerged a tradition of toleration, of acceptance of the eccentricity of others and of social stability, all of which allow us to become better people all the time (without necessarily having been perfected).
What do you see as our distinctive vices or weaknesses?
I think we do have a longstanding problem of productivity. We’ve got a lot of inventiveness in Britain but it hasn’t necessarily led to us performing economically as well as we might be able to. And the richer we are as a country, the better we’ll be able to deal with a lot of social problems, so I think that’s a problem.
Secondly, we’ve still got a long way to go [to be] a society that is equal but diverse. We’re still very sexist. You know, we’re identifying new groups all the time who’ve had to live with oppression and are still very discriminated against – transgender people are an example.
I’m hoping that those are weaknesses we can reduce in my lifetime.
You’re an enthusiast for consumer capitalism. Can you say why?
Consumer capitalism represents a system of exchange where people pass decentralised pieces of information to each other about what they want and what they are able to provide, and it doesn’t require any central force to co-ordinate what people are prepared to offer each other. Its record has been an almost unbroken one everywhere of rising living standards for everybody, scientific progress, greater tolerance, much greater freedom.
That record has been the most extraordinary thing in human history, and you have to have a pretty strong reason to want to move away from it. If someone said to me: We need to have very large-scale redistribution, we need big public-service provision, we need a universal basic income – all of those are coherent additions to a consumer-capitalist economy and I understand them, I’m often sympathetic to them, often support them. We have a progressive tax system, we have very large public spending already.
What I don’t understand is when someone says, ‘We should abolish capitalism,’ because I don’t understand what it is precisely they’re proposing as the alternative. The example I usually use is what I call ‘the Twix question’: in a socialist economy, who is it that works in the human-resources department of the firm who makes the ink for Twix wrappers?
I can tell you what I think we should do about climate change. … It’s obvious how you would do it within a consumer-capitalist framework
An obvious critique of consumer capitalism is that once it has provided us with all we need, it then has to get us to buy a lot of things we don’t need –
What do you mean by ‘don’t need’?
Well, Twix, for example.
So, who are you to decide that people don’t need a Twix? If your answer to [my question] is that we’re going to decide centrally what form of chocolate bar we’re allowed to have, I would gently argue that it’s not surprising that those kind of systems end up in dictatorships.
Something that isn’t mentioned in Everything in Moderation is climate change, and the impending breakdown of quite a number of the planetary systems we depend on. There is an argument, surely, that consumer capitalism has taken us a long way, for sure – but it is now taking us too far.
Well, naturally – well –
Does consumer capitalism have a response to that?
I can tell you what I think we should do about climate change. It’s clear that we have to have, you know, a lot of regulation about resource allocation and we also have to put a huge drive into the scientific methods of combatting climate change, right? It’s obvious how you would do that within a consumer-capitalist framework: the use of taxation, the use of law…
But in order for me to be persuaded that an alternative would be sensible, I have to understand what that is.
|⇑1||His older brother, Anthony, is professor of software systems engineering at UCL and the Government’s chief scientific adviser for national security; his younger sister, Tamara, is Permanent Secretary at the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.|
|⇑3||Published by William Collins in 2020|
|⇑8||Currently Leader of the House of Commons and Lord President of the Council, sometimes referred to humorously as ‘the Honourable Member for the 18th Century’|
|⇑12||‘Fidget in the Office to Beat the Fat’|
|⇑13||‘Hours Not to Reason Why (or How I’m Pushed for Times)’|
|⇑14||‘Corbyn’s Grand Plan Is to Subvert Parliament’|
|⇑15||According to the US political analyst Graham Allison in 2012: ‘During the standoff, US President John F Kennedy thought the chance of escalation to war was “between one in three and even,” and what we have learned in later decades has done nothing to lengthen those odds. … The resulting war might have led to the deaths of 100 million Americans and over 100 million Russians’ (foreignaffairs.com/articles). Others involved in the crisis, on both sides, were equally pessimistic.|
Daniel Finkelstein was born in Hendon in 1962 and educated at University College School in Hampstead. He read economics at the London School of Economics and Political Science and gained a master’s in computer systems analysis and design at the City University (now City, University of London) in 1986.
The following year, he embarked on a career in journalism, working for the computing magazine Network. From 1990 to ’92, he was editor of Connexion, Britain’s first online newspaper. He was associate editor of the magazine New Moon from 1990 to 1997.
He was recruited by the Times as a leader writer in 2001 and edited the paper’s comment pages from 2004 to 2008, when he was appointed chief leader writer, a role he played until 2013. He has been an associate editor of the paper since 2001, except for a term as executive editor in 2010–13. He has contributed a weekly political column since 2005 (and a football-statistics column, titled ‘The Fink Tank’, since 2002), and has edited the Times’s blog Comment Central since 2006.
He was named ‘political commentator of the year’ at the Editorial Intelligence Comment Awards in 2010, 2011 and 2013, and ‘journalist of the year’ by the Political Studies Association in 2011 and the Royal Statistical Society in 2013.
He has also had a regular column in the Jewish Chronicle since 2004.
An anthology of his Times columns, Everything in Moderation, was published in 2020. It also includes his Isaiah Berlin Lecture given at the Hampstead Synagogue in 2016.
Having joined the Social Democratic Party in 1981, he became chair of the Young Social Democrats during the 1983 general election campaign and was selected as that party’s parliamentary candidate for Brent East in ’87, winning 14.5% of the vote in that year’s general election. He sat on the party’s national committee from 1986 to 1990 – he opposed the merger with the Liberal Party in 1988 that produced the Social and Liberal Democrats – and was an adviser to its leader, David Owen, from 1986 to 1991.
He was founding chair of Enterprise Europe from 1990 to ’95 and director of the Social Market Foundation from 1992 to ’95.
He joined the Conservative Party in 1992. In the 2001 general election, he stood unsuccessfully for the Tories in Harrow West.
He was then appointed director of the Conservative Research Department, in which capacity he advised the then Prime Minister, John Major and attended some Cabinet meetings; and was one of the authors of the 1997 Conservative election manifesto. From 1999 to 2001 he was political adviser to William Hague, then Leader of the Opposition, and with George Osborne was joint secretary to the Shadow Cabinet.
He was director of Policy Exchange from 2011 to 2015 (and its non-executive chair until 2014). He sat on the board of Gatestone Institute from 2014 to 2018, the year he became chair of the new centre-right thinktank Onward. He was a governor of the Institute for Government from 2014 to 2017.
He has an honorary doctorate from City. He was made an OBE in 1997, and was created Baron Finkelstein of Pinner in the County of Middlesex in 2013.
He has been a vice president of the Jewish Leadership Council since 2016.
He married in 1993 and has three sons.
Up-to-date as at 1 September 2021