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Our next PM should be a potter, not a PPE grad

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he past five British prime ministers have studied Law, History, PPE, Geography and Classics. I look forward to the day when we are led by a potter or a painter.

Because Britain needs creativity. Our economy depends on our capacity to innovate. And big challenges, like climate change, will require imaginative thinking to solve.

It’s good news, then, that according to QS, the top two creative institutions in the world, UAL and the Royal College of Art, are in London. It proves what Londoners already know to be true: this city is the most creative on the planet, and a crucible of international knowledge and culture.

Creativity is, after all, a capacity to see the old and familiar in new ways. The consultancy McKinsey reckons more creative companies outperform their rivals. One in 10 UAL graduates, meanwhile, start their own businesses — a higher proportion than Oxford. If politicians agreed with businesses, we’d have a much better politics. Because the skills creative institutions teach are the skills Westminster needs.

The best politicians, after all, create a compelling vision of the future. Art has its place in politics. Just think of the best campaigns in recent years, like Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign. The stencilled “Hope” portrait of the president, designed by the artist Shepard Fairey, is one of the most recognisable in the world. So too was his victorious slogan “Yes We Can”. It isn’t for nothing we call politics “the art of the possible”.

When they get into office, politicians need creative skills, too. They collaborate with others to turn their vision into a plan for the future. Creative graduates call this process “prototyping”. Politicians call it the policy process.

And finally, if a vision is compelling, politicians transform a country’s culture. This is an aspiration shared by all great artists. The work of artists like UAL’s Sonia Boyce and Antony Gormley have shaped our thinking about issues like race and climate change.

Britain needs more creative minds, not less. We need people capable, not only of imagining a better future, but shaping it into being. Which is why the next generation of politicians should come from creative institutions, like UAL. Next time you meet a young potter or painter, you could be meeting our future prime minister.

James Purnell is President and Vice-Chancellor, University of the Arts London

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