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…

IPPR’s Transport Report Comes Off the Rails

Left-wing think tank IPPR has released a report claiming “New analysis of the government’s planned transport spending shows that, unless investment in the Northern Powerhouse goes ahead, London is set to receive almost 3 times more per person than the North.” You would hope the IPPR would be keeping track of the details…

To reach these skewed numbers, the think tank has had to include private sector investment.  Yet they claim incorrectly in their press release that the “new analysis” is of “the government’s planned transport spending”. It quite simply is not. The train-wreck of a report implies that Government investment is highest in the South and lowest in the North. In reality, official figures show that the opposite is true…

Looks like their report has already come off the rails…

Call for British Government to Offer Hong Kongers Freedom Lifeline

As the Hong Kong crisis enters its eleventh week, the Adam Smith Institute has published a new paper entitled ‘Doing Our Duty’, calling on the British Government to grant automatic citizenship rights to the 169,000 British Nationals living in Hong Kong, and open up the application process to Hong Kong nationals. This would allow a host of highly skilled, English speaking people instilled with British values who want to flee an encroaching communist regime. Self-filtering freedom lovers is exactly the kind of immigration Britain should prioritise… 

The paper notes that the UK took similar action when Idi Amin announced the expulsion of South Asians from Uganda. Ugandan Asians, like Hong Kongers were highly educated and with strong English language skills, and integrated quickly. Famous Ugandan Asians include Brexiteer Shailesh Vara MP (the first Minister to resign over May’s Withdrawal Agreement) and Tory Peer Lord Popat. Priti Patel is the daughter of Ugandan Asian migrants too…

The Sino-British Joint Declaration requires the British government to maintain the rights of Hong Kong citizens until at least 2047, and the ASI argues that as the UK cannot act within the territory of Hong Kong, the way to guarantee these rights are maintained for Hong Kongers is as within the United Kingdom.

The ASI’s Matthew Kilcoyne, who authored the report, told Guido:

“Britain has a duty to uphold the rights of the citizens of Hong Kong in the face of excessive force being used toward protestors and laws that infringe on the autonomy of the city. While the UK is far away, the country has a special link to these islands, and it has a responsibility and the ability to offer a home away from Hong Kong should the need arise.”

This echoes the Foreign Affairs Select Committee chairman Tom Tugendhat’s call for citizenship to be offered to Hong Kong residents. Quite.

Warsi Cites Conspiracy Theorist Suspended from Labour Party

Sayeeda Warsi is unhappy about The Times splash this morning, claiming “this article makes disturbing & disingenuous claims about British Muslims APPG report Islamophobia Defined. This is the latest in a line of attacks from the same sources which until now I have ignored as usual silly boy games but this is dangerous and needs challenging”.

She then goes on to have a go at the Policy Exchange think-tank:

The report Baroness Warsi cites here is The Cold War on British Muslims: An Examination of Policy Exchange and the Centre for Social Cohesion written by David Miller – then of Bath University (now Bristol). The report was written “with the aid of a grant of £5,000 from The Cordoba Foundation”. The Cordoba Foundation was identified by former PM David Cameron as a “front for the Muslim Brotherhood”. The Government’s 2014-5 Review of the Muslim Brotherhood similarly described the Cordoba Foundation as being “associated with the Brotherhood”. Miller’s report is quite simply not a credible academic source.

Miller is a conspiracy theorist who is on record as having promoted the idea that chemical attacks in Syria were a false flag – perhaps involving British intelligence in some capacity – designed to force Western intervention in the country’s civil war. Miller has also defended the comments which led to Ken Livingstone quitting the Labour Party (about Hitler supporting a Jewish homeland) – he was suspended from the Labour Party over these comments before being subsequently reinstated. He has called the concept of Israel a “racist endeavour”. He even accused the Government of “state propaganda” over its reaction to the Skripals’ poisoning in Salisbury.

Miller’s suspiciously worried about the influence of “ultra-zionists” and the Israeli government:This should come as no surprise. The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) report on Islamophobia, which produced the highly problematic definition that Baroness Warsi is so desperate to promote, itself took evidence from and cited the work of Professor David Miller. No wonder the government is looking to formulate a better working definition of ‘Islamophobia’…

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…

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…

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.[…] Read the rest

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Quote of the Day

Expelled Tory MP, Richard Benyon, on the short three-day Programme Motion for the Withdrawal Agreement Bill:

“Whether you had three days, three weeks or three months debating this, you would not hear one original argument that we hadn’t otherwise heard in this process…”

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