Meghnad Desai, Baron Desai

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The Lord Desai
Official portrait of Lord Desai crop 2.jpg
Meghnad Jagdishchandra Desai

(1940-07-10) 10 July 1940 (age 79)
CitizenshipUnited Kingdom
Alma materRamnarain Ruia College
University of Mumbai
University of Pennsylvania
OccupationEconomist, politician
Political partyLabour
Spouse(s)Kishwar Desai

Meghnad Jagdishchandra Desai, Baron Desai (born 10 July 1940), is a British economist and Labour politician. He stood unsuccessfully for the position of Lord Speaker in the British House of Lords in 2011,[1] the first ever non-UK born candidate to do so. He has been awarded the Padma Bhushan, the third highest civilian award in the Republic of India, in 2008.[2]

Early life[edit]

Born in Vadodara, Gujarat, India, Desai grew up with two brothers and one sister. He is said to have gone to secondary school at age seven and matriculated at 14. He secured a bachelor's degree in Economics from Ramnarain Ruia College and then pursued a master's degree in Economics from the University of Mumbai, after which he won a scholarship to University of Pennsylvania in August 1960. He completed his PhD in Economics at Pennsylvania in 1963.

Academic career[edit]

Currently, he is chairman of the Official Monetary and Financial Institutions Forum (OMFIF) Advisory Board, an independent membership-driven research network. It focuses on global policy and investment themes for off the record public and private sector engagement and analysis. He is the current chairman of the Meghnad Desai Academy of Economics, a post graduation institute in Mumbai.

Previously, he has worked as an Associate Specialist in the Department of Agricultural Economics, University of California, Berkeley, California. He then became a lecturer at the London School of Economics in 1965. At the LSE, he taught econometrics, macroeconomics, Marxian economics and development economics over the years.

He wrote his first book Marxian Economic Theory in 1973 followed by Applied Econometrics in 1976 and Marxian Economics, a revised edition of his 1973 book in 1979. He wrote Testing Monetarism, a critique of monetarism, in 1981.

In the 1970s, he taught an idiosyncratic version of economic principles to freshers at the LSE (starting with Piero Sraffa).

Desai has written extensively publishing over 200 articles in academic journals and had a regular column in the British radical weekly Tribune during 1985–1994, in the Indian business daily Business Standard (1995–2001) and in Indian Express and Financial Express. From 1984 to 1991, he was co-editor of the Journal of Applied Econometrics. A selection of his academic papers was published in two volumes as The Selected Essays of Meghnad Desai in 1995.

He has been active in the British Labour Party, becoming chairman between 1986 and 1992, and was made Honorary Lifetime and President of Islington South and Finsbury Constituency Labour Party in London. He was made a life peer as Baron Desai, of St Clement Danes in the City of Westminster, in April 1991. He is a member of Labour Friends of Israel.[3]

Meghnad Desai with Bill Clinton in 2001

In 2002, Desai's book Marx's Revenge: The Resurgence of Capitalism and the Death of Statist Socialism stated that globalisation would tend toward the revival of socialism. Desai analyses some of Marx's lesser known writings and argues that his theories enhance our understanding of modern capitalism and globalization. His work was well received, with The Guardian stating 'If only socialists had studied Marx properly, they would have known all along that capitalism would triumph. Meghnad Desai gets behind the slogans in Marx's Revenge'.

He published a biography of Indian film star Dilip Kumar entitled Nehru's Hero: Dilip Kumar in the life of India (Roli, 2004). He has described the book as his "greatest achievement". Examining Kumar's films – some of which Desai has seen more than 15 times – he discovers parallels between the socio-political arena in India and its reflection on screen. He discusses issues as varied as censorship, the iconic values of Indian machismo, cultural identity and secularism, and analyses how the films portrayed a changing India at that time.

In 2003, he retired as Director of the Centre for the Study of global governance, which he founded in 1992 at the London School of Economics (LSE), where he is now Professor Emeritus. He was Chairman of the Trustee's Board for Training for Life, Chairman of the Management Board of City Roads and on the Board of Tribune magazine. Lord Desai was also a founding member of the Development Studies Institute (DESTIN) at the LSE in 1990.

Desai retired from the LSE in 2003. Since then he has published Rethinking Islamism: Ideology of the New Terror (2006), The Route to All Evil: The Political Economy of Ezra Pound (2007), a novel Dead on Time, (2009) and The Rediscovery of India (2009).

Lord Desai serves as the founder chairman of the Meghnad Desai Academy of Economics in Mumbai (MDAE).[4] MDAE offers a one-year post-graduate diploma in economics, offered jointly with Department of Economics (Autonomous), University of Mumbai. MDAE focuses on applied learning and case studies rather than on rote learning. Students will participate in workshops and seminars with top economics and finance professionals from around the world.[5]

Saif Al-Gaddafi thesis[edit]

In 2007 Desai was asked by the University of London to serve with Tony McGrew of the University of Southampton as one of the two examiners of the PhD thesis of Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, the son of the then leader of Libya. They did not immediately accept the thesis, as it was found to be weak. The candidate was subjected to an oral examination for two and a half hours and Gaddafi was asked to revise and re-submit it.[6] The revised version was subsequently accepted.

As Desai had already retired from the LSE he had no involvement with the donation from Saif Gaddafi's charity to the LSE.[7] Learning from the press of these links between LSE and Libya, Desai demanded that the money be returned to the people of Libya.[8] He expressed disappointment at a speech Saif Gaddafi subsequently made on Libyan state television declaring the Gaddafi family's willingness to "fight to the last bullet", observing that "he was not behaving as if he had had an LSE education."[9]

Lord (Meghnad) Desai is Chairman of the Official Monetary and Financial Institutions Forum (OMFIF) Advisory Board, an independent financial think tank which serves as a neutral, non-lobbying platform for exchanges among official institutions and private sector counterparties worldwide.

Personal life[edit]

In 1970, he married his LSE colleague Gail Wilson, his first wife. She was the daughter of George Ambler Wilson, CBE. They had three children.[10]

During the course of writing Nehru's Hero, he met Kishwar Ahluwalia (now Kishwar Desai), his second wife who worked as an editor for this book. On 20 July 2004 the couple married. Desai and 47-year-old Ahluwalia were both divorced and married at a registrar's office in London.[11]

Desai is an atheist.[12] He is an Honorary Associate of the National Secular Society.


  • 1975, "The Phillips Curve: A Revisionist Interpretation". Economica, February 1975.
  • 1980, The Keynesian Theory of Investment: A Critique and a Reformulation, AUTE Conference, Durham, 1980.
  • 1994, "Equilibrium, Expectations and Knowledge", in J. Birner & R. van Zijp, Hayek, Co-ordination and Evolution; His Legacy in Philosophy, Politics, Economics, and the History of Ideas, Routledge 1994.
  • 2002, Marx’s Revenge: The Resurgence of Capitalism and the Death of Statist Socialism, Verso Books
  • 2004, Nehru's Hero: Dilip Kumar in the Life of India, Lotus Collection
  • 2006, The Route of All Evil: The Political Economy of Ezra Pound, Faber & Faber
  • 2009, Dead on Time, Beautiful Books Limited (UK).
  • 2015, Hubris: Why Economists Failed to Predict the Crisis and How to Avoid the Next One


  1. ^, Result
  2. ^ "LN Mittal, Ratan Tata, Narayana Murthy get Padma Vibhushan". The Times of India. 26 January 2008. Retrieved 26 January 2008.
  3. ^ "LFI Supporters in Parliament". Labour Friends of Israel. Retrieved 8 September 2019.
  4. ^
  5. ^ "Post graduate Diploma in Economics | Meghnad Desai Academy Of Economics". Meghnad Desai Academy Of Economics. 27 April 2015. Retrieved 30 October 2017.
  6. ^ Desai, Meghnad (4 March 2011). "LSE is paying a heavy price for Saif Gaddafi's PhD". The Guardian.
  7. ^ "LSE director Sir Howard Davies resigns over Libya links". BBC News. 4 March 2011.
  8. ^ "Libya unrest: Send back the blood money, says Meghnad Desai". The Times of India. 6 March 2011.
  9. ^ London Evening Standard, 22 February 2011 "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 25 February 2011. Retrieved 25 February 2011.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) (accessed 25 February 2011).
  10. ^
  11. ^ "Lord Meghnad weds his lady love". The Times of India. 20 July 2004.
  12. ^ "Lord Desai:Lords Hansard, 4 Jun 1998: Column 481 (accessed 24 April 2008).

External links[edit] LSE Biography]