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…

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…

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. Open Europe rightly argue:

“The UK is strongly services dominated (around 80% of our economy) – we cannot simply be a rule-taker in key industries such as financial services. The approach on services therefore should be about managing divergence.”

The second section of the report calls for Brexiters to compromise on goods:

“The Single Market in goods is far more developed than services and was a significant achievement of British EU membership. We believe it makes sense broadly to maintain alignment with its rules. The EU is our most important goods’ market and the most highly-regulated sectors – electrical, automobiles, and chemicals – are the areas which we trade most with the EU and are growing the fastest. Although there might be some benefit from regulatory divergence, we judge that the Government should commit to maintaining the acquis on goods.”

Making the case for more compromise from Brexiteers, Open Europe director Henry Newman, a former Gove adviser, argues: “Open Europe’s blueprint recognises that the UK is too big an economy to be a rule-taker in areas like financial services, while accepting that we can get a very good degree of access in goods by giving up a limited amount control.” To Guido this almost seems a compromise too far. Brexiters have already demonstrated huge pragmatism over the last two years. They do not need to give up more control…

Ruth and Gove Blast ‘Dour, Joyless, Pessimistic, Unhappy, Authoritarian’ Tories

Some choice quotes from the keynote speakers at the launch of the Osbornite / Mayite / centrist think tank Onward last night. Ruth Davidson left the sweaty Churchill Room in parliament in no doubt as to who she was talking about here:

“Sometimes as Tories we just look a bit dour. We look a bit joyless, to be fair. A bit authoritarian, sometimes. We don’t get to win if we start hectoring the people that we need to vote for us… We’ve got to learn to be a bit more joyful… It’s not just what you say but it’s what you can show people… when you do it with a smile, they actually get behind you.”

Bet that went down well in Number 10.

Her attack on Labour was punchy too:

“If you look at Jeremy Corbyn, actually I feel sad. I feel sad at how far a once important, integral, sensible, solid party has fallen. And I then look at John McDonnell, and the shock troops, and the troll factories, and the conspiracy theories and their envy and their fake news and their Skwawkbox and their Canary and the rest of it, and I think that this Labour Party has about the same amount of moral authority as Sepp Blatter putting a fiver on Russia getting the World Cup. I genuinely think to myself, when I look at the Nationalists or the Corbynistas, what I see is a movement that works in its own way to break up our country. That’s what they want. They want to tear it apart.”

A woke Michael Gove said of Ruth: “In the future when think tanks ask, ‘Can we get the pregnant lesbian to speak?’, they will ask: ‘Which pregnant lesbian?’”. Less woke Gove made two comparisons between himself and Ruth, first as Ike and Tina Turner, the second between Sonny and Cher. Perhaps might have thought that through.

His musical call for the Tories to pursue a Fleetwood Mac / Pharrell Williams strategy was more successful: ‘Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow’ and ‘Happy’ would certainly be a change of tone. Gove echoed Ruth in calling for optimism, though his call could have easily applied to Remainers as well:

“Sometimes in the past the Tories have been pessimistic and unhappy, uncomfortable that we seem to be living in the 21st century, when the 1950s would be far more attractive, and what a pity that the 19th century isn’t an option. Indeed when I heard today that Club 18-30 was at last closing, I thought that must be a group of Conservative modernisers looking forward to that year as some glorious future to which they can aspire.”

The evening was also notable for Neil O’Brien’s Macron style speech, which several in the audience saw as the beginnings of a leadership bid. The theme of the night certainly that the Tories should be more bold, interesting, positive and happy than what is currently on offer…

£10,000 Bribe For 25 Year-Olds Would Cost £8 Billion Per Year

The Resolution Foundation’s call for millennials to be given a £10,000 handout from the state on their 25th birthday has to be one of the daftest ideas from wonk land in a while. The Institute of Economic Affairs tell Guido that, while the number of people turning 25 will vary each year, on average it’s around 800,000 people a year. That means the policy will cost an estimated £8 billion a year. Which is roughly equal to the total annual income tax paid by one million average earners…

The IEA’s Kate Andrews is right:

“Why should the salary of a 40 year old person, earning the minimum wage, be redistributed to top-up a 25 year old, earning double or triple the average national income? There is nothing progressive about cash transfers that are based on age. This proposal stands in opposition to the fundamental principle of welfare safety nets: that resources are redistributed to those who are most in need.”

Not to mention the fact that a £10,000 handout doesn’t pay off a 25 year-old’s tuition fees or get them on the housing ladder, let alone address any of the reasons why the Resolution Foundation thinks they need the money in the first place. Bonkers.

Bastani Not Going to IPPR

Last week Red Roar reported that Corbynista firebrand Aaron Bastani had been offered a job at the IPPR think tank. The potential move caused consternation and horror in moderate Labour circles, as well as much mockery of the once influential New Labour wonk shop on Twitter, and, Guido hears, protests from the IPPR boardroom. Guido can now reveal that any plans the IPPR had to hire Bastani have alas fallen through. In a phone call just now, Bastani declined multiple opportunities to deny that the IPPR had withdrawn their offer to him. IPPR sources say he now won’t be coming on board. Following the dissolution of his company, presumably this means jobless Aaron is free to spend more time making his videos

“Dangerously Left-Wing” Hayek Hatchet Job

Angela Eagle and Imran Ahmed’s new book The New Serfdom“, a 400-page hatchet job on the great liberal thinker Friedrich Hayek, is being lauded with praise in Labour circles, most effusively from Nick Cohen. Guido must come to Hayek’s defence in the face of their rewriting of history.

The New Serfdom is a reminder that, even as the relatively moderate challenger to Corbyn, Eagle is still a liberty-hating socialist who opposes free markets and fundamentally values the state over the freedom of the individual. Even Ed Miliband’s office warned that Ahmed was “dangerously left-wing” when he became a Shadow Cabinet adviser. Their book condemns the “veneration of markets”, the “infiltration of marketisation” into the public sector, capitalism’s promotion of competition, the “toxic culture” of admiring those who succeed, and calls for a Labour government to create an “empowered state… pursuing a reinvigorated democratic socialism”. It wants to sweep back Thatcher’s trade union reforms, regulate the food and drink industry to the hilt and put taxes through the roof. It offers a depressing view of Britain today, talking the country down as “divided and resentful”, dismisses capitalist liberal democracy as a “con”, calls Hayek a “liar” with “extreme views” who inspired Thatcher and her “successor” Trump, and claims Brexit is evidence of “the extreme right on the march”. According to the respected academic Chris Hanretty, Eagle’s Wallasley seat voted 53% to Leave…

The history of the last century comprehensively proved correct Hayek’s central assertion that socialism morphs into totalitarianism. He was proved right when the Keynesian post-war consensus collapsed and Thatcher used his ideas – “this is what we believe” – to turn the economy around. The New Serfdom is an unashamedly socialist critique of the last forty years of British political life, and so is as dangerous and wrong as you would expect. The key question for Eagle and Ahmed: if they truly believe in their socialist vision for Britain, why did they try to stop Corbyn becoming Prime Minister?

Adam Spliff Institute Celebrates 420

Today, April 20, is ‘Weed Day‘. A day celebrated by stoners around the world. The neo-liberal think tank the Adam Smith Institute is staying true to its libertarian ideals by taking a leaf out of Peter Hitchens’ mocking term for them and embracing the charge that they are the “Adam Spliff Institute”. Now we know how they think the unthinkable. It is a sunny day, why not head out after work this evening into your garden and celebrate the day in a haze of mind altering smoke…

Onward to PX2

Invitations are going out this week for the launch party of Onward, the new Tory think tank promising to come up with ‘retail’ policies to win back under-45 voters. Onward was the brainchild of Tory MP and former Osborne SpAd and Policy Exchange director Neil O’Brien, with Nick Faith, the former PX comms chief who now runs WPI Strategy with Sean Worth. So is it just Policy Exchange Mark II?

Onward’s main aim seems to be to bring the Cameroon and May brands of Tory party politics together. Last summer O’Brien and Faith organised a dinner at the home of Tory donor David Meller (don’t mention the President’s Club), who hosted Nick Timothy and JoJo Penn from May’s inner circle, top Cameroon Nick Boles (a former PX director) and a number of younger ambitious MPs. Onward’s director will be former May adviser Will Tanner, its chair is Osborne confidant Danny Finkelstein (former PX chairman), and its board members include former Cameron advisers Kate Rock and Kate Fall, ex-Osborne aide Eleanor Wolfson, and Craig Elder, who co-ran Cameron’s digital campaigns in 2015 and the referendum. Their main financial backer is Martyn Rose, who ran Cameron’s National Citizens Service.

The plan is to create a party-oriented think tank for MPs rather than wonks, which combines Timothy’s statist agenda with the more liberal politics of the Cameroons, and has both Remainers and Brexiters on board. They have signed up MPs from the left and centre-right of the party, from Ruth Davidson and Tom Tugendhat to Michael Gove and Kemi Badenoch. It will have some external authors but most of the reports will be written by MPs.

The danger for Onward is it goes down the road of expensive, interventionist, big-state policies which mean higher taxes, more spending and more borrowing – social democracy with a blue-wash. A May-Osborne fusion could mean more cumbersome policies like the energy price cap, HS2 and ever-creeping vice taxes. Guido also fears the instinctively more liberal, small-state, low tax MPs may fail to resist the temptation to drift leftwards as they seek wider support ahead of the next leadership contest. Number 10’s hopeless lack of a domestic agenda means the Tories are crying out for post-Brexit polices, or, perish the thought, policies that could actually be implemented while Brexit is taking place. They won’t beat Corbyn with lite versions of his policies…

Stella v Kate Andrews on Gender Pay

This Sky debate between Stella Creasy and the IEA’s Kate Andrews, and the ensuing Twitter spat, is quite something. Kate noted that conflating equal pay with the gender pay gap is problematic, and criticised the attempt to piggyback on the #MeToo campaign. Stella did not take it well, wrongly demanding Kate apologise for “misquoting” the ONS:

Kate responded, proving her own claims and debunking Stella’s:

With no meaningful comeback, Stella instead blocked Kate, going on to tweet that she had been “brainwashed” and, bizarrely, that Kate had mocked her disability (she hadn’t). As anyone who has ever interacted with Stella on Twitter knows, she really doesn’t like being proved wrong…

Wonk Watch: Ex-No.10 Aides Form New CPS Team

Wonk world transfer news: the think tank founded by Margaret Thatcher and Keith Joseph, the Centre for Policy Studies, has unveiled a new team and policy programme this afternoon:

  • Alex Morton: ex-No.10 policy unit and Policy Exchange, he will oversee the new policy programme
  • Rachel Wolf: also former No.10 and founder of the New Schools Network, commissioned to work on welfare with her firm Public First
  • Rosie Lyburn: former SamCam aide is head of development
  • Tom Clougherty: ex-ASI and Cato, will be head of tax
  • Graham Edwards: Telereal Trillium property boss will lead work on housing
  • Emma Barr: joins from CCHQ press office as the new head of comms
  • Declan Pang: former IEA, now head of external engagement
  • John Ashmore is joining CapX from PoliticsHome as deputy editor

The plan is to make the case for free markets, ownership and control of people’s lives to a new generation…

Tories Show Signs of Life at Freer Launch

Liz Truss labelled Labour “humourless po-faced hat-wearing socialists” who would threaten freedom of speech as she launched the new Tory think tank Freer at the Conrad hotel last night. In a wide-ranging speech in which she told the story of rebelling against her socialist family as a child, Truss called for a “Tory revolution” led in industrial towns and port cities by a new generation of “Uber-riding, Airbnb-ing, Deliveroo-eating freedom-fighters” she dubbed “Tories with attitude”. At a time when the government is dominated by the anti-libertarian, anti-free market, statist dogma of Theresa May and Nick Timothy, this was refreshing to hear. It certainly won’t do Liz any harm with the Tory grassroots…

The Freer bash exceeded expectations – MPs present seemed genuinely buoyed to see some actual signs of life in the Tory party. It piqued the interest of senior ministers including Michael Gove and Dom Raab and Brexit brain Shanker Singham. And unlike some other Tory “initiatives“, this appears to be a real thing that will back up the chat – Freer have committed eight MPs from the 2017 intake to publishing a paper a month for the next eight months. Pro-freedom domestic policies have been shunned by this government so it is encouraging that a new generation, the likes of Lee Rowley, Luke Graham, Rachel Maclean and Kemi Badenoch, make the case for individualism and a smaller state. Even if “Tories with attitude” comes with a slightly unfortunate abbreviation…

IEA’s Kate Andrews Schools Alan Johnson and Anna Soubry on Swiss Health System

As Alan Johnson and Anna Soubry blindly defended the NHS despite being confronted with dire statistics on its health outcomes, Kate Andrews of the Institute of Economic Affairs made a compelling case for reform on This Week.[…] Read the rest

+ READ MORE +



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Rowan Atkinson tells The Times

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