What Kind of Liberal Waters the Beer?

How they can describe themselves as “liberal” sometimes baffles Guido. Responding to Nick Clegg’s announcement today that the LibDems will support a minimum price on the sale of alcohol, Progressive Vision – the properly liberal think tank run by Mark Littlewood, ex-head of spin for the LibDems – has rightly called the proposals “nannying, patronising and regressive”.

In the press release, sent by Littlewood, Progressive Vision says “If Nick Clegg wants to stop supermarkets providing low-price alcohol, will he also clamp down on events at LibDem conferences providing free alcohol as an inducement for LibDem activists to attend? If he is so concerned about cheap booze causing binge-drinking, free booze must be even more of a worry.”

Quite, imagine the dangers of boozed up LibDem MPs going on violent rampages…

"The Plan"

Last night Guido infiltrated a gathering of a clique of wonks determined to take over Britain and implement what they call The Plan“. Dan Hannan MEP and Douglas Carswell MP are the authors of The Plan“. Guido hasn’t read it yet. Supposedly it is a blend of Thatcherite quango bashing and localism on steroids. Gove said some nice words by way of introduction, Dan referred to the EU as the “mother quango”.

Not convinced that quangos are reformable or that they can be effectively democratised. Most people are just not interested in getting involved, only busy body types are so motivated. Quite sensibly the rest of us just want to get on with our lives. Most quangos could be simply abolished. Trying to reform them is not worth the effort, the bureaucratic inertia is just too great. When does a bureaucracy ever recommend cutting its own budget or reducing the scope or size of the bureaucratic organisation? The Cameronians go on about the “post-bureaucratic age”, it remains to be seen if there will be hard manifesto commitments to do something about it. Don’t hold your breath.

Exclusive : Neil O’Brien to Head Policy Exchange

Neil O’Brien is to be the new director of Policy Exchange. Currently the 29 year-old is the director of Open Europe, the leading think-tank working on liberal reforms of the European Union. Open Europe has a reputation as the best connected, least head-banging, media-savvy euro-sceptic group. They were behind the I Want a Referendum campaign.

Neil launched Open Europe in 2005 with a heavyweight board, having made his name with the successful “No to the Euro” campaign. He has good relations with the media and knows how to shape an agenda.

With a budget of £2 million Policy Exchange is aiming to be a Washington style policy powerhouse, this appointment should bring some stability after the recent churn at the top. Nic Boles left to run for London Mayor, his successor Anthony Browne’s tenure saw embarrassments (not of his making) with faked evidence used in one report exposed on Newsnight and a second clumsily spun report was seized on by Labour to paint Cameron as anti-Northerner – resulting in Dave describing the report as “insane”.

Going forward the Policy Exchange board wants to be a critical friend rather than “Cameron’s favourite think tank”. Although Neil’s politics are liberal conservative, he is not a Cameroon or active within the Conservative Party and this was apparently a factor in his appointment.

New Policy Exchange Director Announced Today

Who has arguably the most sought after job in Westminster’s wonk-land will be known today. Policy Exchange staff will be told who the new director is at 1pm.

Guido has talked to people who were in the running. The selection of the new director has been conducted by Charles Moore like the search for the next pope. The interviews were conducted off site. The board was consciously seeking a non-Cameroon. Speculation on CentreRight that George Bridges or Danny Finkelstein were in the running was wide of the mark. Bridges, the expectant father of twins, couldn’t take the pay-cut and Danny did not apply.

+++ Come back at 1pm for the result. +++

"We Are All In Relative Poverty" According to Osborne

Guido popped down this morning to the Demos Ikea showroom / think tank to hear what the 18th (to be) Baronet of Ballintaylor in the County of Tipperary and heir to a fortune had to say on “fairness”. George Osborne’s pamphlet is here and the speech echoed the charges that inequality has increased under New Labour. Strangely Guido thinks that New Labour is too afraid to defend itself on this issue.

Relative poverty has increased only because we have generally got richer. Absolute poverty has not increased. The problem for those who put equality before liberty is that they are too embarrassed to say that whilst we have all in aggregate got richer, some have got even richer, even faster. So What? Essentially if you believe in the conceptual value of the idea of “relative poverty” you believe that if Warren Buffet moved to London poverty would increase. Britons would after all now be relatively poorer compared to the average. If George when he becomes Chancellor succeeds in driving rich, non-domiciles away from British shores he will be able to claim he has reduced relative poverty. Not one single poor person’s absolute circumstances will have changed (apart perhaps from a few more unemployed domestic staff ). Splendid, Polly Toynbee will be pleased.

There was a moment of comedy when an extremely bedraggled looking Derek Draper piped up with a question from the back. Osborne congratulated him “on his new role as psychological consultant to the PM. Good luck with that.” Osborne was also quizzed about the ideological incoherency of all this cross-party triangulation on poverty and social justice. He said something wonkish about there being a continuum of political thinking from himself through Alan Milburn to Brown with the same long term goal.

Osborne took the opportunity to praise Alan Milburn. Mischievously saying, to much laughter, that he also shared with Milburn “his short term goals”

Herr Doktor Hartwich Says "Auf Wiedersehen"

Oliver Marc Hartwich is moving to Australia after humbly suggesting people move South (though not that far South) in his parting Cities Unlimited pamphlet for Policy Exchange.
Labour and John Prescott in particular enjoyed painting it as Cameron’s favourite think tank “slagging off the North”. Iain Dale pointed out that Oliver’s collaborator on the report, Dr Tim Leunig, is a LibDem insider and adviser. Oliver himself once worked for the LibDem’s Lord Oakeshott, however he is actually a libertarian. He mistakenly thought the LibDems would be like the German FDP – who are a right of centre liberal party – though that seems to be the direction Clegg has in mind.

Oliver writes for Die Achse des Guten (“The Axis of the Good”) the leading libertarian leaning political commentary blog in Germany. If people thought his griping about London and antipathy to the North was irritating, wait till they find out what his new book is about. The title is “England – Nachruf auf ein großartiges Land”, translated: “England – an obituary for a great country”…

+++ Wilf Stevenson Resigns From Smith Institute ++++++ Lord Haskel Resigns Chairmanship of Trustees +++

Guido has learnt that following the condemnation by the Charity Commission of the trustees of the Smith Institute, Lord Haskel has resigned as chairman of the trustees, Wilf Stevenson has also resigned as director after the unprecedented criticism of the charity for partisanship.

Paul Hackett, a wonk who has written some pamphlets for the Sith, is the “acting director”. The offices are closed and Guido has confirmed that the Smith Institute will no longer be based at the New Statesman’s offices. The rumour in wonk-land has it that the IPPR has taken pity on them and will be giving them space at their offices.

Mission accomplished, Sith in disarray. Guido won.
Don’t forget we also have the prospect of an Electoral Commission investigation into illegal undeclared “donations in kind” by the Smith Institute to Gordon Brown.

Policy Exchange Hires Katy

Katy Taylor-Richards is leaving the Daily Express bunker to take over media relations for Policy Exchange under James Bethell. Both will be joining the growing think tank at the end of the month.

No news as yet as to who will be taking over from ex-boss Anthony Browne now he is off to do policy for Team Boris…

Right’s Think Tanks Enjoying Revival

Propeller-Head Wonk Watch: James Purnell’s “workfare” proposals are being warmly welcomed by Chris Grayling his Tory welfare shadow. “Much of today’s package is a straight lift from our Green Paper in January… Because these are Conservative proposals we will support

[…]

+ READ MORE +

+++ Policy Exchange Boss Joins Team Boris +++

So what is arguably currently the top job in wonkland is now up for grabs…

Via CoffeeHouse

[…]

+ READ MORE +

Radically Opaque

Propeller-Head Wonk Watch: The troubled Demos think tank is officially saying “no comment” this morning but there are reports that the new director of Demos, Catherine Fieschi, has already abandoned ship. It seems to be something of habit for

[…]

+ READ MORE +

New Labour Guilty as Charged

Propeller-Head Wonk Watch: Maurice Saatchi’s Enemy of the People published today by the re-energised Centre for Policy Studies (IEA trustees take note) is brilliant. Written in the form of an indictment it succinctly lists the chief charges of

[…]

+ READ MORE +



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