Contrary to the Twitterati narrative that a conspiracy of think tanks clustered in Tufton Street wields the most influence in wonk world, it’s actually the centre-left think tanks that have the most money and manpower. Guido’s crunched the numbers.
The Tony Blair Institute, Resolution Foundation, New Economics Foundation, Institute for Government and the Institute for Public Policy Research have a combined headcount of 497. This compares to Tufton Street’s more modest headcount of 116.
The top 5 centre-left think tanks had a combined turnover of £79,814,431 last year. In comparison, their top 5 right-of-centre rivals – the Centre for Policy Studies, Institute of Economic Affairs, Centre for Social Justice, Onward and Policy Exchange – had a combined turnover of a mere £9,032,646. The high media profile of the right-of-centre wonks is to their credit given by how much they are outnumbered and out-gunned in everything except the persuasiveness of their arguments. Nevertheless, the myth of the insidious influence of “Tufton Street” lives rent-free in the minds of conspiracy theorists.
It should be noted that the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change (TBI) alone has a whopping 337 staff, with an eye-watering turnover of £65,247,459. Arguably the TBI is a do-tank, and consulting for foreign governments is a big source of revenue which allows it to nurture the next generation of Labour SpAds and future Labour Party MPs. One senior New Labour source reckons that the TBI is about selling Larry Ellison’s Oracle databases to African developing countries – Ellison has given Blair’s institute over $80 million in recent years. Blair has known Ellison since his time in Downing Street, when Oracle became a significant supplier of software to the government.