Chuka’s Think Tank Running Out of Cash

Progressive Centre UK – the Think Tank Chuka Umunna chairs for £5,000 a month – appears to be in danger of going bust, putting Chuka’s very quality of life at risk. How can a man be expected to survive on a mere £80,000 MP wage…

According to their most recent annual report, the think tank is now worth less than £2,500 – with just £1,337 ‘cash at bank and in hand’. Perhaps the donors have tired of funding what is effectively Chuka’s own fan club. Three recent exciting events have all featured Chuka; at LibDem conference there was a chance to hear an interview with Chuka, listen to Chuka on “the causes of Brexit” and learn from him about being “progressive”. All reminiscent of Gordon Brown’s personal think tank, the John Smith Institute. There are however no upcoming events planned.

The centrist dad of the think tank world has faced criticism they’ve u-turned on their promise to publish their annual list of donors, supporters and partners. Normally this secrecy would raise eyebrows, but by the looks of things, Progressive Centre don’t actually have any donors…

Boris is Bringing Back Big State Conservativism

The manifestos are being finalised and Guido has bad news, they are all offering a bigger state, more spending and more government borrowing. All the signs are that the Tories plan to win Labour heartlands by outbidding Labour’s 2017 manifesto when it comes to spending. The scale of the planned spending splurge is unprecedented. This bear in mind is after Sajid Javid has already increased spending by 4.1% in real terms for 2020-21 relative to 2019-20. That is the biggest jump in spending since Gordon Brown in 2002 was released from his 1997 manifesto promise to stick to Ken Clarke’s spending envelope.

Resolution Foundation’s analysis of commitments, made before more free stuff is promised in the Tory manifesto, reminds us that:

  • Total Managed Expenditure by the state is on an upward trajectory once again, despite the (rising) deficit. Spending is set to rise to 40.6% of GDP; higher than it was under Chancellor Gordon Brown.
  • This is before an expected surge in infrastructure spending by the state. The Tories are hinting there will be a £100 billion splurge.
  • Increased spending on the NHS will take government spending up to 42% by 2023
  • Welfare spending has been increased at the expense of national defence
  • On this trend demographics alone will drive the state to spending 50% of GDP by the middle of this century

Without a fiscal framework and firm intention to resist the growth of the state, the Tories will end up being a party of big government, permanent deficit spending and high taxes. Sajid Javid has a portrait of Margaret Thatcher on the wall in his office looking down on him, her era now risks becoming an aberration in Conservative Party governance…

Wonk Watch: October Edition

With an election just 43 days away, it’s not just political parties that are beefing up. The Westminster think tank scene is seeing changes too, with Policy Exchange in particular kicking back against the great wonk brain drain caused by Number 10’s think tank hiring spree.

Guido can reveal that PX is beefing up its domestic policy team by hiring Kwasi Kwarteng’s former BEIS SpAd Iain Mansfield to be their new Head of Education, Skills, Science and Innovation. Readers might remember Mansfield as the Cambridge physicist turned star civil servant who won the IEA’s coveted €100,000 Brexit Prize back in 2014. It’s a good time for Brexiteers in wonkland…

Mansfield joins former Hancock SpAd Richard Sloggett, who has joined the think tank as a Senior Fellow working on health policy, including social care. Policy Exchange have also announced that Guido alumnus and Telegraph columnist Juliet Samuel as well as the broadcaster Trevor Phillips, will be joining as Senior Fellows. On the flip side Guido understands that PX now have ten alumni in Government, including Number 10’s Munira Mirza, Chief Secretary Rishi Sunak, and Lords Leader Baroness Evans…

Meanwhile, the Adam Smith Institute has snapped up Charlotte Kude as their new Head of Government Affairs. Kude formerly worked for staunch Brexiteer MEP David Campbell-Bannerman in the European Parliament and Salmond slaying Colin Clark in the House of Commons. Welcome to Westminster’s Wonkland…

Over at the Taxpayers’ Alliance, Sam Packer has joined to beef up the media team. Sam joins from doing PR at Grayling, after working on campaigns in UK and US. Darwin Friend has been hired as a researcher. Formerly a research assistant in Parliament, Darwin will now be applying his forensic eye to ramping up TPA FOI programme. Recent Nottingham grad and part-time ballet dancer Freya Stear has joined as Operations Assistant.

Wonk Watch: October Edition

As the dust settles around the new Government and its wide-ranging appointment of wonks there have been a smattering of new appointments and promotions.

As keen observers of Guido’s SpAd list will have seen, former CCHQ media monitoring guru, Afghanistan veteran, and CPS Head of Digital Gareth Milner has been snapped up by DExEU to become a special adviser. Gareth is a popular fixture in Westminster and will be missed by wonk world. Congrats on the appointment!

As Gareth leaves the CPS, his former #TeamSaj colleague Nick King is returning to the organisation after taking a leave of absence for a stint working on the now-chancellor’s leadership campaign. Over at the IEA, former James Heappey staffer Emily Carver is joining as Media Manager, and Emma Revell has been promoted to head of communications at the institute. Emma joined the organisation from the CPS to become Comms Manager in April. Well deserved promotion… 

The CPS has bolstered its ranks by taking on the Vote Leave veteran, who was Number 10’s former Political Secretary, the recently ennobled Stephen Parkinson and the New Schools Network founder and former Number 10 policy unit’s Rachel Wolf. Both have become CPS Research Fellows and members of its Advisory Council. Congratulations!

As always, keep up to date with the full list of Government Special Advisers here

Email any additions to…

Cummings’ Westminster Wonk Brain Drain

The clear out of advisers in government as Dominic Cummings banishes the non-believers, dead wood and less than effective, has seen him turn to the Westminster think tanks for talent. The wonk brain drain as Cummings hoovers dysons up some of the best and the brightest is noticeable. This has had a knock-on effect, with vacancies at many of the think tanks. It is a good time to be a recent graduate with free market leanings if you want a job in Westminster…

The Taxpayers’ Alliance has three vacancies, the Institute of Economic Affairs has two, the Centre for Policy Studies has a vacancy, and Policy Exchange does too. Across SW1 the picture is the same…

On the campaigns front the key skill in demand is the ability to edit video for social media, the party HQs are really switching – finally – heavily towards digital campaigning. So invest some time in mastering video editing software and you could be hired in a gif-y…

SpAd Update: Think Tank Rank

As Guido revealed on the SpAd List at the end of last week, think tank supremos Emma Barr and Rupert Reid have started working for Grant Shapps at Transport, moving from the Centre for Policy Studies and Policy Exchange respectively. Policy Exchange is now giving the TPA a real run for its money in Guido’s alumni chart…

Guido can also reveal that legal boffin Rajiv Shah has joined experienced SpAd Peter Cardwell in the MoJ too. Timothy era May veteran Chris Brannigan has joined the team in Number 10 too, and former Parliamentary assistant to Scottish Secretary Alister Jack, William Saunders has been promoted to become his Special Adviser.

UPDATE: Tees Valley Metro Mayor’s SpAd, Cameron Brown, has been hired as Jake Berry’s new advisor, and former Theresa May adviser Sara Rajeswaran has been hired by Theresa Villiers at DEFRA. Keep up with the continuously updated list here:

Email any additions to…

Government of the Wonks: Think Tanks Take Over Government

Following last week’s dream Cabinet reshuffle, the good news for free marketeers and lovers of liberty has kept coming as new SpAd appointments have gradually trickled out. Free market think tanks are now very handsomely represented in Government. So far Guido has pinpointed the following former citizens of wonkland who are now helping to run the show:

  • Sophie Jarvis: Adam Smith Institute -> DIT
  • Danny Kruger: Centre for Policy Studies, Legatum Institute -> No 10
  • Nerissa Chesterfield: Institute of Economic Affairs -> DIT
  • Steph Lis: Institute of Economic Affairs -> DExEU
  • Katherine Howell: New Schools Network -> House of Lords
  • Henry Newman: Open Europe -> Cabinet Office
  • Munira Mirza: Policy Exchange -> No 10
  • Blair Gibbs: TaxPayers’ Alliance, Policy Exchange, VolteFace -> No 10
  • Sonia Khan: TaxPayers’ Alliance -> HMT
  • Robert Oxley: TaxPayers’ Alliance -> No 10
  • James Price: TaxPayers’ Alliance -> House of Lords
  • Alex Wild: TaxPayers’ Alliance -> Home Office
  • Chloe Westley: TaxPayers’ Alliance -> No 10
  • Eamonn Butler: Adam Smith Institute -> Freeports Advisory Panel
  • Tom Clougherty: ASI, Centre for Policy Studies -> Freeports Advisory Panel

(n.b. some of these are historic, many SpAds have done other things in between.)

As things stand it’s the Taxpayers’ Alliance at the head of the leaderboard with six* alumni now in government. The SpAd List is starting to take shape although there are many positions still to be filled. Get in touch with updates as they happen…

UPDATE: The TaxPayers’ Alliance moves from five to six as Alex Wild joins Priti Patel’s team.

Adam Smith Institute Most Recognised UK Think Tank

Despite 60% of Brits knowing what a think tank is, just 3.74% can name one according to new wonk-focused research by ‘We are Flint’. The Adam Smith Institute comes up trumps as the only think tank with to secure more than 1% recognition. Their meme-filled Twitter account must be paying dividends, they’ve already updated their bio to reflect the findings. They tell Guido:

“The Adam Smith Institute has stood consistently and unashamedly by its principles for over four decades—we’re happy to see that means more people know us than any other research outfit.

“It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the New Economics Foundation (ranking: 19), that we expect our dinner, but from regards to our own crucial work.

“We might all be guided by the invisible hand but we’d be lying if we said we don’t love being a little more visible than everyone else.”

Despite reaching the heady heights of 1.44% recognition, significantly ahead of runners-up the Fabian Society on just 0.85%, the ASI will be less pleased to hear that the margin of error of the 2,000 person poll is +/- 2.2%. Meaning it’s still entirely possible that literally nobody cares outside of SW1…

Tax Thresholds Have Not Kept Up With Middle Class Earnings

Boris Johnson is proposing raising the threshold for paying higher rate income tax to £80,000. It is currently at £50,000. This means that income tax on earnings between £50,000 and £80,000 will fall from 40% to 20%. Because the national insurance thresholds would rise too, the total income tax and employee national insurance on earned income will fall from 42% to 32%. This represents a much needed tax cut for millions of middle class taxpayers.

In 2018-19, the higher rate threshold was £46,350. This was increased to £50,000 for 2019-20. According to research from the Taxpayers’ Alliance if governments since Blair in 1997 had increased the threshold in line with earnings, it would have been £58,895 by next year. If governments had increased the threshold in line with earnings since Margaret Thatcher’s last budget in 1988-89, it would have been £73,268 by next year. The higher rate was never designed to be paid by millions of what Corbyn’s 2017 manifesto called “ordinary households”…

Fiscal drag is real and has dragged millions of middle class families into a tax bracket that was only ever intended to be paid by the rich. For Conservative candidates to oppose a much needed reset of the thresholds to keep up with inflation and earnings increases is incomprehensible. These are the middle class voters that have to be won back from the Labour and Brexit parties…

ASI’s Sophie Jarvis Moves to George Osborne

The Adam Smith Institute’s famously laid back neoliberal star, Sophie Jarvis, last seen on Politics Live last week taking politicians to task over the Porn Laws, environmental policy, and the future of tax, has been snapped up by George Osborne’s Evening Standard. Sophie will start working on the Londoner’s Diary from Tuesday next week…

Who Defunds You? Taxpayers’ Alliance Victory Over Town Hall Fat Cat Pay-Offs

The TaxPayers’ Alliance (TPA) is celebrating a huge policy victory, with the Government finally implementing a £95,000 cap on pay-outs in the public sector, a measure that was promised by George Osborne and only now implemented.

The TPA has campaigned for curbs on golden goodbyes in the public sector, with the Public Sector Rich List and also the annual Town Hall Rich List. Yesterday the TPA’s 2019 Town Hall Rich List revealed there were at least 2,454 council employees who received total remuneration in excess of £100,000 in 2017-18. That’s 148 more than in the year before…

John O’Connell, Chief Executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, tells Guido:

“Senior bureaucrats are already rewarded with pension schemes that ordinary Brits could only dream of, so it’s only fair to place a cap on exit payments. Bar some understandable exemptions for soldiers and spies, golden goodbyes will finally come to an end. The average council tax bill has gone up by more than £900 and the tax burden is at a 49-year high, so this announcement is an important step in the right direction.”

Taxpayers will be breathing a sigh of relief, defunding over-generous pay-outs for the public sector top brass will save an estimated £100 million-a-year. Long-term this will save taxpayers billions – what a great policy win!

Letwin’s Rousing Eurosceptic Pamphlet

Guido has got his hands on a Eurosceptic pamphlet written by Brexiteers Liam Fox, Nigel Evans, Elanor Laing, Desmond Swayne, and… anti-Brexit Prime-Minister-in-all-but-name Oliver Letwin. The pamphlet entitled ‘Battle For Britain’, dates from 1999 and warns of the creeping federalisation of the European Union, taking more and more power from the United Kingdom. The pamphlet explicitly states “We believe that Britain should govern itself”…

It tears into the EU for undoing Thatcher’s legacy…

“All the competitive advantages that we built up in the 1980s – trades union reform, labour market flexibility and deregulation – are now being eroded by back door European socialism that we have no power to prevent.”

It couldn’t be clearer on immigration…

“It has always been a cornerstone of Conservative policy that a sovereign nation should have control over who crosses its borders… We believe that – in order to maintain law and order, protect the taxpayer, but above all to preserve Britain’s excellent race relations – it is we, and we alone who should have the right to determine who enters the United Kingdom”

And is rounded off with this rousing defence of sovereignty…

“In the end, it becomes a matter of purely academic interest how we organise our own affairs if real power – the power to make decision that affect our everyday lives, that govern the prosperity of our economy and that determine our relationships with the rest of the world – rests elsewhere. If the Conservative Party stands for anything, it stands for resisting that destruction of our nationhood”

Guido much prefers his earlier work…

12-Point Plan to Turbocharge Economy After No Deal

The Centre for Policy Studies have launched a new report setting out a 12-point plan for how to turbocharge the economy after a no deal Brexit. The plan includes numerous business-boosting measures including significant tax cuts for small businesses and ordinary workers, while lowering corporation tax to increase the incentives for larger businesses to invest. Tariffs are cut dramatically and free ports given the go-ahead.  A council tax freeze will also go down very well with voters…

The only question is how it’s all going to be paid for. The CPS say it can all be financed with a small short-term increase in deficit spending, keeping public sector net borrowing under the level of 4.5% of GDP it was at in 2014/15. As a leading German financial institute predicted just this week, if the UK handles no deal sensibly and slashes tariffs it can actually do better out of it relative to the EU…

Think Tank Demands Unicorn Policy

Remainers accuse Brexiteers of chasing mythical unicorns with unattainable policies. Now a right-of-centre think-tank is actually advocatingHerding Unicorns. The Centre for Policy Studies wants to boost the tech sector of the economy to help ensure Britain (already the tech unicorn capital of Europe) produces even more tech unicorns – high-growth tech companies valued more than £1 billion.[…] Read the rest


Hezbollah Ban is Win for Blair

The official Labour Party position was that Corbyn’s friends should not be banned, on the basis of a specious argument that the political wing is not connected to the military wing.[…] Read the rest


Wonk Watch: ASI Goes Global

The Adam Smith Institute is undergoing a Christmas shakeup with two new recruits. American Morgan Schondelmeier joins the ASI after a year at the Institute of Economic Affairs. Morgan is a graduate of both the University of Tampa and King’s College London. […] Read the rest


Revealed: Who Funds the Institute of Economic Affairs

There is currently a concerted campaign by a coalition of left-wing groups, green zealots, remainers and left-wing journalists to delegitimise right-of-centre campaigns and think tanks. Any right-of-centre voice is to be shouted down. It is a tribute to the effectiveness of the Institute of Economic Affairs that they are currently the primary target.[…] Read the rest


Progress Director Resigns

Richard Angell, director of the Blairite factional organisation Progress has announced he is resigning after four years in the role. His resignation letter isn’t the chirpiest read, bluntly stating that “the next decade is going to be challenging for social democrats in the Labour Party.”

Angell’s period as head of the organisation charged with keeping the Blairite flame alight has seen the take-over of the Labour Party by the hard left and a financial crisis for the organisation as billionaire-backer Lord Sainsbury switched his funding to his think tanks; the Institute for Government and the Centre for Progressive Policy.[…] Read the rest


Wonk Watch: Christmas Moves

Think Tanks are shuffling staff this festive season. Dr Jamie Whyte, is standing down as the Director of Research at the Institute of Economic Affairs after two years at the organisation. The Henry Jackson Society’s Emma Webb is taking up a new role at Civitas.[…] Read the rest


Small Victory for Guido’s Think Tank Transparency Campaign

Followers of Guido on Twitter will be aware of his long-running campaign against the BBC prefixing introductions that frame the think tank guest for the listener or viewer. It always seems to Guido that centrist think tanks are described as “respected” as in “the respected IFS”, right-of-centre think tanks are described as “right-wing” [boo, hiss], left-wing think tanks tend to get no framing.[…] Read the rest


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