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. Matthew Lesh, Research Fellow at Australia’s Institute of Public Affairs, is moving over to become the ASI’s Head of Research. Matthew published his first book this year and is a regular talking head on Australian TV. G’day mate! 

Former head of research Sam Dumitriu moved on in October after two and a half years at the ASI to become Research Director at The Entrepreneurs NetworkSophie Jarvis has also joined the Adam Smith Institute full time, becoming the organisation’s Head of Government Affairs. Sophie is well connected and liked around Parliament, a smart hire. Congratulations to all…

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.

It is a fact of life that people in the private sector prefer to be in the private sector and tick the ‘no publicity’ box. Who can blame them? They would otherwise be on the receiving end of pretty nasty campaigns, potential commercial boycotts and the unwelcome attention of social media’s resident idiots. Look at the ‘class war’ harassment of Jacob Rees-Mogg’s children, or just some of the horrendous replies to tweets by the IEA’s Kate Andrews, the Taxpayers’ Alliance’s Chloe Westley, the Adam Smith Institute’s Sophie Jarvis, or the CPS’s Ems Barr whenever they appear on TV. Why would you volunteer for that abuse?

Right-of-centre organisations tend in consequence to be less transparent about their funding, allowing those who donate to make decisions regarding their own privacy. The charitable trusts and foundations that fund them do generally allow their support to be publicised, businesses and individuals often prefer not. That is not an ideal state of affairs. It lets the left paint them as funded by scary sounding “dark money”, rather than generous civic minded individuals who just prefer to remain anonymous in the circumstances. The IEA is trying to go some way to answering the question as to who funds them by breaking it down into categories. Full marks for rebutting allegations of “dark money” with a dark infographic bordering on trolling…

If it helps set the ball rolling, Guido would like to answer the question of “Who funds the IEA?” by saying that, in a very tiny way, he does. Other donors should be proud to say they do as well…

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. Good luck to whoever replaces him…

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. Congratulations.

Westmonster reporter Steven Edginton is moving on to become the new Digital Campaign Manager for the Taxpayers’ Alliance. Big job for 19 year-old Edginton, who has already made an impressive splash in SW1.

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.

So it was this morning as the news presenter on Radio 4 reported on a press release from the think tank run by Ed Miliband’s former policy adviser:

Then as if by magic in the next news bulletin;

 

Victory! They suffixed the Resolution Foundation as “left-leaning”.

The serious point is that this framing by the BBC is uneven. The BBC clearly thinks that viewers and listeners are too stupid to know where guests are coming from politically. Guido thinks they should let the audience judge for themselves and so long as there are guests from across the spectrum, balance will be maintained. If they won’t do that perhaps they should let guests self-identify…

Mogg: Green Belt is a Corset

Speaking last night at the IEA’s £50,000 Breakthrough Prize awards ceremony, Jacob Rees Mogg launched a blistering attack on the green belt, describing it as a “corset” that restricts “our housing market to breathe by at least 25%.” For an MP whose seat is largely green belt land to say this shows that one of Britain’s sacred political cows might be beginning to become a bit less sacred.

The prize was won by Ben Clements, who proposed a Land Purchase Act – a market-based policy that centres on how swathes of public land can be made available for people to build homes according to their own choice and preference. Individuals building houses on the bits of the green belt that are state-owned seems preferable to corporations building unimaginative estates. It is also an easier political sell to NIMBYs…

IPPR Proposes Taxing Christmas & Birthday Presents

The IPPR Commission’s Plan for the New Economy report repeats the Resolution Foundation’s loopy call for all 25 year-olds to be given a cash handout of £10,000 each. This would, they say, cost £186 billion and come partly from a massive hike on inheritance tax. The government is over a trillion in debt, this would more than triple the deficit.

The IPPR’s new inheritance tax replacement would be a ‘lifetime gifts tax’ to get around the seven-year inheritance rule. How taxing all gifts between family members is in any way moral is anyone’s guess. The IPPR says vaguely that “gifts worth a small amount will be exempt”.  

If the IPPR’s proposal becomes policy when the parents stump up your deposit for a house as a wedding gift, that will now come with a tax bill. Grandma’s wedding ring for the bride? HMRC will send you a tax bill for that too.

Your first car from dad when you go to college? Annual road tax plus IPPR’s gift tax. If the grandparents help with your college fees or pay off your £50,000 of student debts when you graduate. John McDonnell will send you a tax bill on top of that…

The reason family gifts are exempt is because they are gifts, they are often a material expression of love. If John McDonnell wants to tax love…

IEA Staff Changes

Wonk world transfer news: the Institute of Economic Affairs is making some staff changes. Nerissa Chesterfield is being promoted to the role of Head of Comms from the role as Comms Officer following Steph Lis moving to work for Dominic Raab. Nerissa previously worked at Vote Leave and Business for Britain. Kate Andrews has been appointed as the IEA’s Associate Director, overseeing communications, digital outreach, public affairs, and the FREER initiative. Kate has served as News Editor of the IEA for the past two and a half years.  Big promotion for 28 year-old Kate Andrews…

Euroman Mayer to IEA

Andy Mayer is joining the senior management at the Institute of Economic Affairs as Chief Operating Officer. Andy joins the IEA after 7 years doing public affairs for BASF plc. What will confuse remainiac conspiracy theorists even more is that Andy previously worked for the European Movement, voted Remain and is a former LibDem activist. Evidence of his hard commitment to the EU can be seen in these decades old pictures…

BBC: 13 Nobel Laureate Writers Have ‘Limited Expertise’ Gaffe

Newsnight’s Chris Cook comparing the IFS, Kings Fund and the Institute for Government accused the Institute of Economic Affairs of being in a category of think tank that was “more likely to employ and publish people with more limited expertise.”

Let’s check out that ‘limited experience’…

  • Published 13 Nobel Laureates.
  • Research team includes 7 PhDs and 2 Professors.
  • Books and briefings that in the past year alone have been translated 23 times.
  • Credited with changing the approach to monetary management to defeat inflation.

Can BBC Newsnight boast anything close to that quality?

Cook praised the young Institute for Government, which is an establishment packed, civil service friendly talking shop which may have some interesting output but has no plans to shake up the world. It is the latest political play thing for billionaire centrist Lord Sainsbury of Turville, who previously has funded such outfits as the Social Market Foundation and Progress. Guido has searched in vain for one single nobel prize winning writer on their books…

Jolyon Maugham on Anonymous Donors: Then and Now

 

Twitter lawyer Maugham has stuck his foot in it again with his spectacularly dog in the manger attitude to donor privacy. Back in May, Maugham was telling his followers what “good news” it was that an anonymous donor had agreed to give £100,000 to fund his campaign against Brexit. This weekend, Maugham demanded anonymous “puppetmasters” who donate to right-of-centre think tanks are identified and said “the BBC shouldn’t give them a platform until we know for whom they speak”. Jolyon’s anonymous donors: good, everyone else’s: bad.

Do Corbyn’s Core Voters Really Want to Pay More Tax?

The TPA’s Chloe Westley asked Corbyn’s core voters in his Islington constituency whether they would like to pay more tax. Then she gave them the chance to put their money where their mouth is…

Public ‘Has No Faith At All in MPs to Do the Right Thing’

Politicians trying to overturn the referendum result – or break pairing arrangements and then lie about it – should take a look at this Centre for Policy Studies poll on public faith in democracy. Their report ‘Who Governs Britain?‘, by Tory MP Matt Warman, commissioned a wide-ranging survey on confidence in the various democratic institutions in Britain. 40% of those polled said they had “no faith at all” in their MP to do the right thing if they had reason to contact them with an issue. This was the most common answer, and more than any other democratic institution surveyed. 74% said they had had no contact with their MP in any way in the last 12 months. Those numbers are already dangerously high – have to wonder what they would reach if Soubry, Grieve and the Lords got their way…

In his report, Warman suggests a series of new laws to improve accountability, including the right to know which elected official is ultimately responsible for a decision in any public-sector body. He concludes: “Our polling shows us the public do not feel elected officials truly represent them, and worse still if they do there’s no confidence that politicians would act in the best interest of their communities.”

An aside: only a small minority aren’t following Brexit at all. And Remainers are more likely to get this one wrong, despite their ‘superior’ education…

Truss: Fund Spending Plans With Cuts Not Taxes

The Truss / Gove banter last night has been blown out of all proportion, with one headline about the story actually reading: “Tory Cabinet Falls Into Open Warfare”. It was a joke about Gove rhyming with stove. Believe it or not, there are more important Cabinet splits than this one…

The row has distracted from the more interesting contents of the Truss speech, which was as sound an intervention as you are ever going to get from a minister in a Theresa May government. You can read it in full here. One interesting line was her endorsement for the Centre for Policy Studies’ campaign to fund the government’s spending plans with cuts rather than tax rises. She wants MPs to attend a series of meetings to make proposals for cuts to waste and low value areas of spending, to be published by the CPS at Tory party conference.

“The more government spends, the higher taxes have to be… higher tax means less money for me to decide when to go on holiday or buy a new car… there are many ageing countries with advanced economies that do not have high tax and spend… Canada, after the misconceived expansionist years in the 1960s, when they raised taxes and nationalised businesses…rescued their economy in the 90s by cutting spending and balancing the budget… All across the world, countries are addressing their problems not simply by raising tax and spend, but by reshaping and reinventing themselves… Some of my colleagues are not being clear about the tax implications of their proposed higher spending… I want to take a zero-based, zero-tolerance approach to wasteful spend. We need to take a look at ourselves and think “what is the best way to use the money entrusted to us?” We have to make every pound pull its weight. We have to make every pound pull its weight.”

It is all too rare these days that any Tory makes these noises. It is the polar opposite of Number 10’s approach, and far more interesting than the Gove bluster. At least one leadership candidate will be backing lower taxes next time round…

Heaven Sent: Spec’s Will to PX

Guido hears the Spectator’s managing editor Will Heaven is leaving for wonk world – he’s off to be the new Director of Policy at Policy Exchange this summer. Brainbox Will was the first person to use the phrase dementia tax in an article during the election, so safe to say he has a keener eye for policy than many. Learned his trade under Gove and Truss at the MoJ, it’s a coup for PX to steal him from the Spec, where he will still be writing from time to time. Congratulations…

Onward to Higher Taxes

The government currently has no idea how it wants to raise taxes to pay for the £20 billion-a-year funding increase for the NHS. Step forward Tory MP Neil O’Brien, the former Osborne SpAd who recently co-founded the Onward think tank, with a proposal: freezing the personal allowance for two years. His plan to effectively hike taxes for all voters will raise £4 billion a year, which still leaves a huge black hole.

Labour’s policy is to whack the super-rich with new taxes. This Tory plan proposes to stop low earners, middle class voters and everyone else from keeping more of the money they earn. Which one do they think the public are going to vote for? The Tories are shifting the Overton window way to the left, fighting on Corbyn’s territory, and leaving people with no reason to vote Conservative. This madness is only going to make it more likely Corbyn gets into Number 10…

TPA Joins Think Tank Revival

The TaxPayers’ Alliance is joining the think tank revival and ramping up its presence in Westminster with two new hires this afternoon. Lynton Crosby protege James Roberts will join as Political Director from CTF. His job will be to make sure the TPA’s campaigning on the ground is reaching the corridors of power. He’s already in with plenty of MPs.

Also coming on board is Phil Basey as Editorial Director. Basey was responsible for whipping the UKIP 2015 manifesto into shape – he will be overseeing the research team. The TPA has been doing well recently, with Chloe Westley emerging as a rising star on Question Time and James Price touring the studios fighting for taxpayers. At a time when the statist Tories in Number 10 are backing new taxes, the TPA’s voice is more needed than ever…

CPS Warns May Against NHS Tax Rise

Following Guido’s report that Number 10 is considering a possible NHS tax or general tax rise to fund new health spending, the Centre for Policy Studies has written to Tory MPs warning them against the idea. The CPS is calling for reform rather than throwing money at the problem, and funding through economic growth not tax rises:

Depressing that this even has to be said. There is not much conservative about the Conservatives at the moment.

IEA Unveils New Star Signings

Guido can reveal two big new hires for the Institute of Economic Affairs. Congratulations to rising star Darren Grimes, the Brexit hero who set up the successful BeLeave campaign before writing for BrexitCentral. Darren was in much demand, is one of the most effective right-leaning millennials on Twitter and is a very astute hire for the IEA as their new Digital Manager.

The IEA has also appointed Jon Moynihan to its board. The venture capitalist was another important Brexit figure, who chaired the Vote Leave Finance Committee and was the first chair of its Campaign Committee. Carole Cadwalladr could get a whole flowchart out of these two…

Open Europe Report Rejects Hammond’s Services Sellout

A report published by the Open Europe think tank this morning rejects Philip Hammond’s plan to sell out the City and keep close ties with the EU for financial services. Hammond is embroiled in a row with the Bank of England after attempts by the Treasury to give up control of regulations and make the City a rule-taker.[…] Read the rest

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Tobias Ellwood tells LBC…

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