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I’m excited that tonight Lucy Ward and I will be at the Royal Festival Hall to see “Imagining Ireland” – a concert exploring the strong musical ties between the UK and Ireland, and specifically the impact of Irish artists, tunes and ballads on British popular music. This is a subject close to my heart.

During the 70s and 80s, growing up in London, I was well aware that relations between the UK and the Republic were extremely fraught. The newspapers and TV news bulletins, which I followed avidly, were full of hunger strikes, tit-for-tat killings and “the Troubles”. Those of us with strong Irish backgrounds, Irish names and features were often unpopular in London. We experienced prejudice – on top of the usual British class barriers. Name-calling, casual racism, blatant exclusion – stuff that these days directed at an immigrant community would cause outrage – were the norm.

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I’ve been away all weekend on a rugby tour with my son Ned and have just read about the very sad death of Maurice Peston – a leading academic economist, advisor to Labour governments from the 1960s onwards and father of Robert Peston.

Robert and I worked together at The Financial Times in the late-1990s, when he led a superb Parliamentary reporting team. But I met his father long before that, in 1986, while studying for my A-levels at The John Lyon School.

John Lyon has close connections with Harrow School – and a few JL boys were allowed to attend Harrow’s Pigou Society, which attracted big-name economics speakers. When I heard Maurice Peston was coming, I was keen to meet him – having read his seminal textbook on the UK economy, published in the early 1980s.

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