Think Tanks With the Most Wonks and Influence in Whitehall

Zoe Williams has a column in the Guardian in which she complains that Liz Truss has brought a load of think tank wonks into government, and doesn’t understand what motivates people to work them: “What would propel a person, who is probably paid quite modestly by super-rich standards, to endlessly push the cause of their wealthy overlords?” Demonstrating a fundamental incomprehension.

It just does not occur to Zoe that believers in free markets and free enterprise think they are the best engines for raising living standards, spreading prosperity and providing a foundation for individual liberty. The young people toiling away in think tanks are, as she says, not doing it for the money, they would obviously make far more working in the City. They’re doing it because they’re idealists, and they believe in advancing the cause of freedom for the greater good.

Zoe does raise a question: which tanks have got the most wonks into Whitehall and Downing Street? Guido’s crunched the numbers:

  • The Centre for Policy Studies has lost half-a-dozen wonks to Whitehall: Callum Price, Lauren Maher, James Heywood, Robyn Staveley, Caroline Elsom, Adam Memon all slaved in Tufton Street for the Thatcher-founded think tank before moving into government.
  • Policy Exchange alumni include Jack Airey (DELUC), John Bew (No 10) Ruth Porter (No 10), Guy Miscampbell (No 10), Ross Kempsell (No 10/CCHQ) and Jan Zeber (PAd, DWP). Dean Godson points out that his predecessor as PX boss, Neil O’Brien MP, is a minister at Health. In addition other former PX staff members in parliament include Nus Ghani, minister at BEIS, Alex Burghart, minister at DWP, Jesse Norman is a minister at the Foreign Office plus Anthony Browne is on the Tory backbench. Guido is not counting the elected politicians, so is still giving PX a count of six wonks in Whitehall.
  • Near neighbours the Taxpayers’ Alliance are a feeder school for Whitehall SpAds. Callum Price worked there too, as did Danielle Boxall, Matthew Sinclair, Alex Wild and James Price. Chloe Westley and Rob Oxley, meanwhile, have recently left government for the private sector.
  • Three alumni of the Guido Fawkes newsroom are in Downing Street: Ross Kempsell, Hugh Bennett and Sophie Jarvis.
  • Sophie is also the Adam Smith Institute’s sole alumna in government.
  • Former staff members of the Institute for Economic Affairs now in government include Oliver Legard, Ruth Porter and Victoria Hewson. Callum Price also once interned there. He really did get about.
  • The Henry Jackson Society counts Oliver Legard and John Bew as alumni.

Guido is pretty certain that the Centre for Social Justice, Onward and the Social Market Foundation must have people in government. Surely the Institute for Big Government has one alumnus in government – or do they only have influence with broadsheet columnists? Other think tanks feeling missed off should get in touch with amendments team@order-order.com.

The IEA’s director general, Mark Littlewood, tells Guido he has invited Zoe Williams to come and speak to them at an event. It will give her a chance to increase her understanding by finding out what makes wonks tick… 

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