Mark Littlewood is the former LibDem head-of-spin who has become the chief wonk at the venerable Institute of Economic Affairs, the directorship of which comes with a (big for wonkland) £100,000 pay package. There will be organic champagne corks popping in Cowley Street, because as an educational charity the trustees of the IEA insist on staff severing party political links. Littlewood until now led the Orange Book pressure group Liberal Vision, a classical liberal thorn in the side of social democrats within the LibDems. Mark will also have to tear up his LibDem party membership card before he starts at the IEA in December.
Chain-smoking Littlewood’s CV includes time campaigning at Liberty and co-founding NO2ID. He is an across the board libertarian on social and economic issues. The board of the IEA clearly wanted someone who could raise the media profile of the original Westminster think-tank. With a change of government coming, the call for dusty policy papers read only in academia to be replaced with agenda setting policy ideas became widespread amongst IEA donors. The centre-right think-tank sector is more widely enjoying a burst of increased funding and activity as the expectation that their ideas will be sympathetically received in government increases. The IEA’s revival will make the market for ideas for the next government more exciting than at any time since the early 80s.