So what was it doing last night? Any claim that the speech given by Jacqui Smith was non-political and made in her capacity as a government minister should be dismissed. Guido understands that senior civil servants ruled that it was a political speech – hence it was not reported or distributed via the official Government News Network or spun by civil service press officers. Quite correct and proper, she was after all making the case for a politically controversial policy.
So the speech was distributed only by the Labour Party’s press office. Which raises the question – what was the legally non-partisan Smith Institute doing getting involved in this controversial area a few days ahead of a close run vote, which theoretically could turn into a confidence vote for Gordon Brown? Another example of blatantly partisan politicking from the Smith Institute.
The Smith Institute is supposed to be an independent charitable think tank, set up “to undertake research and education in issues that flow from the changing relationship between social values and economic imperatives”. The Smith Institute during the first (2001) investigation by the Charity Commission undertook to stick to its charitable objectives – education in social and economic issues. The second investigation, now into year two, is yet to report.
How does the Home Secretary pushing government security policy in this controversial government policy area constitute “education”? Her speech is on “How can the state adapt its traditional security approach to manage a new and wider range of threats?” “Lock people up for 42 days without trial” will, Guido suspects, be the answer.
This is not even in the charity’s remit and is completely incompatible with the Smith Institute’s charitable status and stated aims. It is merely a politically convenient platform provided for Jacqui Smith when no respectable think-tank would touch the issue…
Gordon has fallen out with Bob Shrum, the unrivalled adviser to 8 losing Democratic Party presidential campaigns. Shrum was last seen at Heathrow, fleeing the country after a bollocking from an ungrateful Brown.
Still, the payments he picked up via the Smith Institute during his time as an adviser to Brown will cushion his hurt…
So an insurer does not like risk – is he in the right business? He suggests shifting the risk off insurers onto taxpayers. Of course he wants the industry to be able to offer attractive low premiums by having the insurance industry state subsidised.
Guido expects big business with naked self interest to beg favours from big government, protectionism is the easy way to profits. But shouldn’t an “independent” think tank question the propriety of such an arrangement? Who benefits from this apart from shareholders in insurance companies?
Guido called the Smith Institute to find out how much they were paid by the ABI to produce the report. The public charity refused to answer the question. Guido contacted the ABI’s Jonathan French to ask the same, he has as yet not responded. Guido understands that the Smith Institute got a five-figure sum from the ABI. Would that compromise their independence or integrity?
UPDATE 16:00 : The ABI’s Jonathan French has got back to Guido with the promise of an answer and a request to spell his name correctly.
The Smith Institute was used as a slush fund for the Brownies. It functioned effectively as Gordon’s policy and political secretariat in his long putsch for the premiership. Once Gordon Brown was installed in No. 10, Konrad Caulkett moved seamlessly from his executive position at the Smith Institute to become a Special Adviser in Downing Street. During Konrad’s time at the supposedly non-political charity he assisted Ed Ball’s 2005 election campaign in his Normanton constituency whilst still drawing a salary from the charity.
For some strange reason Ed Balls failed to properly declare his income from the Smith Institute or get the necessary Treasury clearance required for a Special Adviser before taking the sinecure. The rules were designed to prevent conflicts of interest. It also turned out that the Treasury had made undeclared payments to the Smith Institute, by mistake of course, which were only discovered when Guido succeeded in pushing the Charity Commissioners to investigate. They were the result of a mix-up according to yet another Smith Institute trustee Paul Myners, one of Gordon’s favourite businessman who only remembered (during the week the investigation was announced) that he was himself supposed to make good the payment, some two years later.
Of course the Smith Institute received free advice and polling data from another trustee, Deborah Mattinson, whose firm coincidentally won government contracts for which they charged the Treasury £3 million. Do you think there is a strong piscine smell here?
Eric Pickles MP, Tory local government shadow didn’t hold back, he laid into the Smith Institute today – “the public will be alarmed that Gordon Brown’s advisers and favoured think-tank are calling for a toxic cocktail of local income taxes and a new national property tax.”
The Charity Commission is still investigating the Smith Institute for engaging in illegal political activity. Obviously these new policies are just a tad politically contentious…
He says the Smith Institute refused to say where it originally planned to have the meeting – despite it stating clearly in the original invitation that it was being held “with the kind permission of the Chancellor of the Exchequer”.[…]
Ed Miliband, the Cabinet Office minister and frequent attendee of Smith Institute events at 11 Downing Street in the past, now reckons “Charities should be free to participate in appropriate ways in political activities.[…]