My dad died suddenly on 3 April, at the age of 71. He was a Professor of Government at the University of Manchester, and later a part-time professor in the Business School. He was a leading authority on British government, public policy and political economy.
Since his death we’ve been very touched to receive so many emails and other messages, from both academics and non-academics, paying tribute to my dad not just as a scholar and teacher but as a person. So we thought it might be nice to have a web page, like this one, where anyone could post comments.
If you’d like to leave a message about my dad, just write it in ‘leave a reply’ at the bottom of the page. (According to the site settings I may have to approve it before it’s published, but I will do this as soon as I can and won’t edit the entries.)
If you have a longish tribute, it might be better to cut and paste it in from elsewhere. (To paste text in to the box, press Ctrl + v, or Cmd + v if you’re using a Mac.) Or, if you prefer, you can email me your tribute (email@example.com) and I’ll put it up for you.
16 thoughts on “Memories of Mick Moran, 1946-2018”
This is Matthew Reisz’s obituary in Times Higher Education, 26 April.
A leading authority on British government and public policy has died.
Michael Moran was born in Birmingham in April 1946 but spent most of his childhood in County Clare, Ireland. He was raised in rural poverty and, when the family returned to Birmingham in 1959, attended a secondary modern school (for those who had not been selected for grammar schools). Nonetheless, he secured a place among the first cohort of students at Lancaster University in 1964 and went on to a PhD at the University of Essex – another new university – where his thesis analysed how the British Union of Post Office Workers determined its goals (1967-70).
This led to Professor Moran’s first job as a lecturer and then senior lecturer in the Department of Social Science at Manchester Polytechnic, now Manchester Metropolitan University (1970-79). He later moved across to the Victoria University of Manchester, which became the University of Manchester, first in the government department (1979-2011) – from 1990 as W. J. M. Mackenzie professor of government – and then part-time at the Alliance Manchester Business School. He was preparing a new MBA course at the time of his death.
A highly compelling speaker to whose lectures students would often bring friends and housemates along, Professor Moran was also a prolific and wide-ranging writer on politics and policy issues. The Politics of the Financial Services Revolution: The USA, the UK and Japan (1991) provides a standard account of the deregulatory process known as the Big Bang. The British Regulatory State: High Modernism and Hyper-Innovation (2003) uses a range of historical and philosophical sources rare for a political scientist, while his most recent monograph, The End of British Politics? (2017), offers many timely insights into the possible break-up of the UK. Equally significant were his co-written textbook, Politics UK, which went through six editions between 1990 and 2006, and the solo-authored Politics and Governance in the UK (2005; third edition: 2015).
Karel Williams, professor of accounting and political economy at the Alliance Manchester Business School, described Professor Moran as a man of “exceptional commitment, modesty and fundamental decency” whose “life shows what a child of migrants could achieve under the post-war settlement”. The last of Professor Moran’s books, The Foundational Economy: The Infrastructure of Everyday Life, is forthcoming in September 2018, according to Professor Williams, who noted: “Appropriately, it is about the citizens’ right to collective goods and services, whose provision in 1960s Britain gave Mick his start in academic life.”
Professor Moran died of a heart attack on 3 April 2018 and is survived by his wife Winifred; two sons, Liam and Joe; and two grandchildren.
Mick Moran 13th April 1946 -3rd April, 2018: An Appreciation
by Bill Jones
I was just one of the hundreds of mourners at the funeral, last Friday of Mick Moran, Professor of Politics and Government at Manchester University. I first met Mick in the 1980s when I used to organise sixth form Politics A level conferences in the northwest. Mick quickly became a favourite speaker of teachers and pupils and over the years I got to know this immensely likeable guy well. Originating in County Clare, Ireland, he surprisingly, had never passed an 11 + exam and attended a secondary modern school where he excelled and was moved to a grammar and thence to Lancaster University. He began his teaching career at Manchester Polytechnic but soon moved up Oxford road to a post at the University. His seven major monographs on British politics earned him a national (and international) reputation as well as membership of the British Academy.
Always full of physical and intellectual energy he was a wonderful companion and attracted a legion of friends who, with so many others, admired his original and deeply thoughtful work. He used to introduce an introductory A level sixth form conference with a lecture on The ‘Nature of British Politics’. Given such an anodyne title he could have offered a discursive ramble around the institutions and ideas but he always eschewed the easy route and produced a penetrating series of insights in a fashion which engaged directly with his audience’s A level minds. He lectured with great vigour, pacing the stage, peppering his points with witty asides and giving a master-class in communication skills. A lesser academic, I’m thinking of myself here, might have just recycled his initial lecture in successive years, but he always produced a totally new lecture with brand new insights.
He was also a very good friend to me and so many others: meticulous at keeping in touch with us, taking a close interest in our lives and offering encouragement with their projects. I used to email him any draft of a new article or idea I had had an his replies were always prompt and enthusiastic. He was, moreover, a very self effacing and humble person, never one to snipe and criticise like so many of us in academe. I shall miss his advice grievously, as I will his friendship. It was spectacularly clear at his funeral how much he was loved and cherished by his immediate and extended family.
Mick was a very fine academic and an even finer husband, father, as well as to me and hundreds of others, friend. So sad his life was cut short at 72 (same age as myself) when he deserved so many more years to enjoy his family and they him. I’ll never forget him.
It’s the autumn of 1984. I’m sitting in a large lecture theatre at the University of Manchester awaiting the latest instalment of Government 1. A slightly dishevelled man in a leather jacket shuffles in stage right and proceeds to talk about the Conservative Party. It is the first time we have seen him in this first term. It proves to be the stand-out lecture of the whole course, performed apparently without notes and featuring several very funny lines, including a masterpiece of self-deprecation that references David Bowie. Two years later, I’m assigned to the lecturer’s seminar group for the final year compulsory course ‘Contemporary Political Analysis’. There are eight or nine of us in the group. We fit easily into his office, which is lined with thousands of books, filed – I note approvingly – alphabetically by author. In the first session he tells us that this is the first time he has taught this class and that he will be learning with us. As if. I learn more in those sessions than in any other single class. We are guided through the classics. We read them all – Dahl, Lukes, Moore, Skocpol, Winch, Popper, Kuhn. And he is a subtle, constructive guide. There’s no grandstanding, no-mini lectures, simply gentle questions that probe us to think more deeply, to make connections and to become more confident users of our newly acquired conceptual vocabulary. He is teaching us to be political scientists – the best kind of political scientists: open-minded, inquisitive, interested in how theory helps us to grasp political problems, never afraid of learning new tricks and reading new work that emanates from outside of our comfort zones. He’s teaching us to be like him.
Mick Moran is one of 2-3 teachers and mentors who inspired me to do what I do today. Aside from being a truly marvellous teacher, Mick was one of the UK’s best scholars of politics. He was a political economist, rooted in the comparative tradition who never stopped being insightful and essential. His late interventions on post-crisis UK and Brexit, including his late tour de force ‘The End of British Politics?’, should top the reading list of anyone who wants to make sense of the current sorry state of affairs.
And he was a truly lovely bloke – the nicest academic you will ever meet.
Professor of Political Science
University of Copenhagen
I only knew Mick fairly briefly as he was arriving at the Department of Government in Dover Street, when I was shortly to leave for a new post at Newcastle-upon-Tyne. I met him through my close friendship with Martin Burch, also recently and very sadly missed. I subsequently kept up with Mick’s academic career as one of the admiring readers of his work. I shamelessly borrowed some of his insights and phrases in presenting a short TV series on politics that Bill Jones created and guided through production. My enduring impression of Mick was of a generous spirited, modest and fundamentally decent man who was also remarkably gifted and clever. He embodied the art which conceals the art; making it look easy and leaving us all wondering why more people can’t be like that. He was one of nature’s role models.
I met Mick in 1990 when I was appointed to a one-year temporary lectureship in the Department of Government, University of Manchester. He soon became Head of Department and Faculty Dean.
The Department in those days was a fabulous place, filled with titans of the profession, yet immensely warm and collegial. Alongside my two great buddies, Martin Burch and Norman Geras, Mick was a truly supportive colleague and friend. In recent years all three have passed away at little more than 70.
Mick was a great scholar of British politics, and a legendary teacher. With Ian Carter I once went along to a Government I lecture to see what all the fuss was about. He cheerfully called us out for arriving late and for, as he had it, making him finish early. In between he gave a masterclass in mass teaching.
In the late 1990s, when Paul Wilding was back from the second of two visiting years at City University of Hong Kong and helping them identify job candidates, Mick mentioned my name. (I didn’t know this until after his death.) I’ve now been in Hong Kong for almost 20 years.
Mick came out to CityU for a week in the early 2000s and delivered a public lecture attended by the Secretary for Health and Welfare. He was always a member of the hiking group that assembled in Derbyshire on my periodic visits home. Throughout he was immensely good company and, as others have said, a genuinely decent bloke. In the past couple of years he, more than anyone, kept me in touch with Martin Burch as Parkinson’s took an ever tighter grip.
Mick was a model academic, a generous friend, and a positive force in very many lives. I’m sad he and his family were denied the lengthy retirement he would have handled so well.
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I joined the department of government at Manchester University in September 1997 and worked with your dad until he retired. He was the model academic: smart, witty, and consummately professional. He was also a mentor and a role model. We all learnt a huge amount from, and were greatly enriched by him.
I met Mick through Karel. Karel had helped me and some of my fellow students write a report criticising the state of economics education at Manchester University. After that Karel roped me in to help him and Sukhdev on their work with Enfield in the summer before my final year. When I went back to Manchester after the summer I agreed with Karel that I would do my dissertation on the possibilities of and prospects for re-municipalisation UK drawing on my work in Enfield. At that point Karel persuaded Mick to be my supervisor. This was in the autumn of 2013.
We met for the first time in Aardvark Café (now sadly closed). Over the year it was the only place we ever met to discuss my thesis and he would always insist on buying me a coffee and sometimes cake. Once sitting down we would chat. He showed great interest in my life and what was going on with the Post-Crash Economics Society at the time. He would tell me about what he was working on or thinking about. Through these leisurely conversations over coffee, ensconced in a window seat, invariably looking through the window at the rain pouring down on Oxford Road, I like to think that we became friends. But later I came to realise that the warmth and interest Mick showed to me, he showed to everyone, and that they were one of his defining features.
After all that we would finally get on to talking about my dissertation. Of all pieces of work I did at university my dissertation was the most formative – I feel that I learnt so much from doing it and gained an enormous amount of confidence. Maybe that is to be expected, it is after all the most in-depth, but actually I attribute its impact on me in large part to Mick’s tutelage.
He was so confident in my ability and my work it was infectious. It wasn’t a complacent or egotistical confidence it was a quiet, strong-willed and deep confidence (which in many ways reflected Mick’s personality). And it meant that I never doubted myself and could always enjoy the intellectual process of formulating, researching and then writing my thesis. Mick never needed to be the centre of attention or prove to you that he was cleverer than you because he had this bedrock of self-belief and self-understanding and I feel that over the course of that year he gave me some of that.
He was also a simply outstanding teacher. I remember a few particular moments: one where he drummed into me the need to get a full draft of my thesis as early as I could so that I would have as much time as possible to rewrite. Almost every teacher I have ever had has told me this but it was Mick who got me to do it. The other was when I was drafting my methods section. I had drawn on four or five different academics to construct a marvellously complex and academic sounding theoretical framework which I was sure would get me a first. Mick took one look at it and told me to cut it out keeping only the barest of theoretical bones. He reminded me to keep my language simple, to keep my focus and to engage with the question at hand in order to avoid getting lost in elaborate theorising. He lent me a copy of one of his books, the Regulatory State (which I still have and return to often). I read and cited it in my thesis and felt privileged to have a supervisor who could produce a book like that.
Later when we came to write The Econocracy Mick and Karel were our editors. I know that my co-authors Zach and Cahal both share my gratitude and love for Mick. Again, he showed so much wisdom and skill in guiding us through the two year writing process and I genuinely don’t think we would have finished that book without their belief and support.
I always remember Mick quoting Hegel in the conclusion of the Regulatory State: “The owl of Minerva spreads its wings only with the falling of the dusk.” And in the same way it is only now that Mick is gone that I realise what a profound impact on my life he has had. Although you are gone now Mick you have influenced me and others who you taught in the deepest of ways. And I like to think that you are watching over us somewhere drinking coffee in a café like Aardvark or out walking on mountains like those surrounding Glossop. Goodbye Mick and thank you for everything.
I only worked with Mick for 4 years in the late nineties, when I was politics editor at Manchester University Press. He was an astute thinker, a great adviser and the best support I could’ve hoped for. He was wonderfully low-key and I don’t know if he ever realised how good he was, or how much he was valued. I was very sorry that after leaving MUP, I was publishing economics and we could no longer work together.
My first encounters with Mick were when he was Dean of his Faculty. He undertook the job because that was the kind of thing senior academics did for the common good. He worked closely with Laurie Knox, his highly experienced and able Faculty Secretary. Our first meeting was revelatory. Mick said virtually nothing, just listening quietly and asking the occasional question. As he left he thanked me for my time and advice adding I will trouble you as little as possible. Of course, he was true to his word. He fought for his Faculty when he needed to do so. It was never Mick’s style to fight every battle. Like his predecessor, Stan Metcalfe, he knew too much about politics to dissipate his time on trivia and needless point scoring. He saved his energy for the battles that mattered and made sure he won them. He was always reasonable and won universal respect for his common sense, collegiality, wit and willingness to listen to a contrary point of view. He was a fine human being who I admired more and more as I got to know him better. Later when retirement gave me the opportunity to read his books I realised what an accomplished academic author he was. The last time I saw him was at the funeral of Katharine Perera in October 2016, another outstanding contributor to the old Victoria University of Manchester. How much we miss their intellect, integrity and selflessness.
I knew Mick for many years, not as well as would have like to, but that was to do with us not often being in the same place; at least as far as I was concerned. The crucial thing about Mick for me was that he was not only a first class academic, but also a first class person and there are too few of those, both in academia and beyond. Talking to Mick always gave me ideas, but those talks were always also constructive and fun. The last time I met him was in Australia, as I have been off the UK circuit and the last time I was in touch was when I asked for a favour – responded to positively without any reservations.
He will be massively missed.
What is there to say about Mick that hasn’t already been said in this lovely thread of comments? Of course he was a world-leading scholar who in his prime could have had his choice of jobs (but I suspect his love of Manchester and Glossop was a pull). I never had the pleasure of watching him teach, though I did attend a number of his seminars and he was undoubtedly a superb teacher; he was also the best impromptu speaker at departmental events. He was a great academic leader who could so easily have gone to the top had he wanted to, but clearly research and teaching were his first loves; for him administrative leadership was a duty. He was the most wonderfully supportive of senior colleagues for those of us who followed him in the managerial role – a wise, subtle counsel whose advice was always spot on. And he was the loveliest of persons to spend time with, whether hiking around Derbyshire (as Ian has noted), or at one of those many departmental soirees, or just sitting quietly together in a Glossop pub.
The Department of Government was a remarkable place to ‘grow up’ in as an aspiring academic. It combined academic brilliance with a very deliberate culture of courtesy and collegiality. There were, in my time, a number of colleagues who set the tone that the rest of us sought to follow: I’m going to be unfair and list some of the names that first spring to mind – Martin Burch, Norm Geras, Ursula Vogel, Stephen Young, and right up there with them, Mick Moran. I feel so lucky to have known him, and so sorry to have to remember him in the past tense.
In 1964, Mick and I were among the first undergraduates at Lancaster University, where we both worked on the John O’Gauntlet student newspaper.
Last September, when we celebrated the 50th anniversary of our graduation, I was delighted to see him – and Wynne – again after so many years.
He touched many, many lives, and my sympathy and condolences go to Wynne, the rest of his family, and to all who will miss him.
Joe – I was so sad to hear of your Dad’s passing. I arrived in Dover Street in September 1979 to do an MA in Public Policy. I was standing on my own at the wine reception feeling a little out of place when this guy in a worn leather jacket came across and said he was Mick and it was his first day as well. He was such an inspiring teacher to learn from – both in terms of academic knowledge and beer – Mick, dear Martin Burch and a few of us used to visit the unforgettable Lloyd’s arms on a regular basis. We kept in touch over the years and he was the first person I looked out for at conferences. Great bloke, wonderful açademic – he was a massive influence on me.
Condolences to you and your family.
Professor of Politics
I came across this by chance. I was one of Mick Moran’s students when I was a spotty undergraduate at Manchester Polytechnic, 1972 – 1975. I remember him as an able and articulate lecturer in politics. Saddened to hear of his passing.
Michael Moran, a remembrance, by Patrick Joyce, September 2018.
I miss him, “Mick”, but always, he told me, Michael to his mother, just as I was always “Patrick” to mine, not “Pat”. Our paths in life coincided; I knew him almost 40 years, since we both as young men joined the University of Manchester, he in politics, me in history. We fell out for a while, over politics, the Falklands (Mick was right), but then we fell in again, after too long, thankfully anyway for I knew the friendship would eventually hold, for that was Mick, clever, most often right, unassuming, kind, the sort of person you could not fall out with for long, the kind of person you wanted to hold on to.
In latter days we took to walking the hills around Glossop, for we not only came to Manchester around the same time, but, coincidentally, came to much the same place, a few miles separating us and our young families. We talked of history and politics as we walked, Mick in full flow, because he loved to talk and did it well, through stories, just as his parents would have in rural Ireland. I followed the talk, and I followed the walk, as Mick skipped ahead. Skipped as a boy would do, for there always seemed to me something of the boy about him. His looks, his size, if he would not mind me saying so, his enthusiasm, his optimism, so why should he be taken when it was me who had the heart condition and he looked the very picture of health, a 70-year-old cherub, but nonetheless there we were, Mick and Pat, the Little and Large of Glossopdale, me 6’4” and him nearer five than six, as he proudly averred.
Our paths coincided in other ways, for we were both the children of Irish immigrants, just as his wife Wynne was of Lithuanian ones, and my wife was an Irish immigrant herself. So we always were up for the underdog, and suspicious of those in authority. He was the child of Scattery Island in County Clare, in the mouth of the Shannon estuary, and so essentially a child of the wild Atlantic. My father came from Connemara, where the wind blows scarcely less strong than on Scattery. We were also both the children of England, he of the “council” estate in the West Midlands, in Irish Smethwick, me of the tenements of Paddington and Notting Hill, in Irish West London. All this stuck with both of us, and stuck hard.
Mick was not just enthusiastic about his work but deeply committed to it, for he knew, as I did, that man is a political animal, and that s/he should be aware of it, if he had anything to do with it anyway. Man is an historical animal too, and Mick was always a terrific historian. His last book testifies to this, and is in several senses I think a fitting testament to him. If Mick was optimistic it was not about the future of British politics, for the question mark in the title of the final, single-authored book, The End of British Politics?, carries to me anyway as much a negative as a positive charge. This was because he knew more intimately than most of us the endless stupidities and pretensions of those in charge of us, our masters the politicians. The military too, for Mick is very good on a subject that is often neglected, namely the powerful militarism present in British public life today.
It was a book Mick felt he had to write, and unlike the man himself it is an angry book, anger lending power and eloquence to his language, his scholarly scrupulousness undermining the shallowness and deceptions the book confronts. Mick wrote as well as spoke well then, although whether the bibliographies of his work will contain one item is doubtful, even though fate sometimes has some wonderful twists: the work in question is an as yet unpublished “crimmy” set in Glossop, for Mick seemed almost as addicted to crimmies, and to Glossop, as to politics. Of his speaking in teaching and presenting his work others have written who are better qualified than me to judge, but as this is what I call a “remembrance”, a single note whose sound might bring back something of him, it is the note of Mick’s public voice that I remember now as much as the substance, for when he got a good head of steam up I could not but smile as Smethwick crept back into his voice, minute by minute. But it is the note of his voice as I hear it now that I remember best, as we walked, me trailing along behind him, he all words and well with the world. I miss him.
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I just read the sad news of Mick’s passing, he is referred to as “the late Mick Moran” in today’s Guardian.
I was at Manchester University from 92 to 95. As a consequence of a startling lack of imagination, I was studying Accounting & Finance. Manchester approached this by making it part of a wider Economics & Social Stutdies course, and in particular the first year featured a decent grounding in a number of subjects, many with little relevance to accounting, and all the better for it.
It says something that all these years later there are only two lecturers from my three years at Manchester whose names I can still bring to mind without resorting to Google – Prof Karel Williams, and Prof Mick Moran.
I used to hugely look forward to my hour or two with Mick every Wednesday. He was standing in front of a gargantuan lecture theatre full of aspirational accountants wondering why they were learning about politics, and he held the room without fail. His lectures were insightful, entertaining, thought provoking, and never ever dull.
Unfortunately I remained hell bent on my deeply predictable career path, and I didn’t encounter Mick again in my time at Dover Street. Much to my regret.
So, I am very sad to hear of his passing earlier this year. It is people like Mick that we need to be sitting our young students in front of as much as possible, to wake them up to the possibilities of the world out there in a way that the schools career advisor will never achieve.