Wonk Watch : Who’s Backing Who

Propeller-Head Wonk Watch: All the leading think-tanks claim to be independent because of their charitable status. But in a political leadership battle the young interns and staff are often seconded to campaign teams. Ditto for the various pressure groups, where personnel disappear off to help their candidate. The right is strong in wonk-land and some of the think-tanks have informally aligned themselves with Davis or Cameron. We can ignore the location of early campaign speeches made by Davis at the left-of-centre IPPR and Cameron at the Foreign Policy Centre respectively as not significant tribally or ideologically.

The two think-tanks which are most closely aligned with the candidates are Reform and Policy Exchange. Reform, the former berth of Nick Herbert MP, provides the backbone of the Davis campaign. Nick set-up Basher’s ModernConservatives.Com website and helped conceive his Growth Rule. Reform also did the number crunching for the £38 billion of tax cuts formula as well as provide the policy substance for Davis.

Policy Exchange, the former berth of party chairman Francis Maude, is not so much setting Cameron’s policies, but his tone. The ex-Portillistas of Policy Exhange are not interchangeable with the Notting Hill set, but Michael Gove is common to both. If Cameron wins Policy Exchange will have the ear of the leadership.The Institute of Economic Affairs is the daddy of right-wing wonkery and personnel have links to the Davis camp. The Adam Smith Institute hosted a Davis reception and Madsen Pirie, the doyen of London wonks, is a Davis supporter. The Centre for Policy Studies has provided a platform for Fox, Clarke, Davis and Cameron, so can be said to have been neutral. The less influential Civitas and Politeia have said little, but Guido suspects lean towards Davis. The up and coming Globalisation Institute is openly backing Cameron’s approach to development. Tim Montgomerie’s IDS-fronted Centre for Social Justice has not backed anybody, but his ConservativeHome.Com website has played a crucial role in the spin-cycle, particularly in the early knockout stage of the leadership election, backing first Fox now Davis, in fact anyone but Cameron.

Basically the wonk establishment is backing Davis, but in many cases their younger staff are actually backing Cameron. Only the two youngest think-tanks on the right, Policy Exchange and the Globalisation Institute could be said to be really backing Cameron. These things are remembered by politicians.




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