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 team@order-order.com…

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.

  • By introducing ‘Unicorn Visas’ to help bring in talent to address UK skills gap.
  • With an ambitious skills and mentoring programme to nurture homegrown tech experts.
  • A major skills review led by UK tech companies to address skills gap in this country.

The “Unicorn Visas” will please little Miss Fawkes immensely…

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. Tony Blair’s Institute has been lobbying hard for a UK ban on the Iranian-backed terrorists Hezbollah. Entirely coincidentally the former Tony Blair got paid $12 million by Iran’s bitter rivals and his own client, the Saudi regime. Fancy that…

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.[…] Read the rest

+ READ MORE +

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Boris as Hulk…

‘Banner might be bound in manacles, but when provoked he would explode out of them. Hulk always escaped, no matter how tightly bound in he seemed to be – and that is the case for this country. We will come out on October 31 and we will get it done.’

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