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.