Winner From Manila

Last night’s much-coveted €100,000 IEA Brexit Prize went to Iain Mansfield, a 30 year old member of the diplomatic service based at the British Embassy in Manila. Which the FCO will love.

His winning pamphlet concluded that “in the event of an exit, there exists a scenario for an open, prosperous and globally engaged UK that is eminently achievable”. Also worth reading Lord Lawson, who presented the prize, tearing Clegg a new one in the Times today:

“Mr Clegg may have been trounced, and indeed humiliated, but his determination to strike fear in the minds of the public about the consequences of a British Exit – “Brexit” – was all too evident. In particular there was his absurd insistence that “three million jobs” depended on our membership of the EU, with the clear implication that they would disappear if we were to leave. This is complete nonsense.. The – in my view, beneficial – consequences of a Brexit need to be debated calmly and rationally. The IEA is to be congratulated for its initiative in launching this prize, as is Iain Mansfield for winning it.”

Even if – to the slight trepidation of the room – he doesn’t express an opinion on whether or not we should leave…

And how did David Cameron react to the pamphlet? He told the Commons he would be reading Nadine Dorries’ book instead.

UPDATE: To help Dave with that reading list the IEA have sent him a copy of both Mansfield’s pamphlet and Nads’ book:

Red Prince Will Straw: The New "Emperor of Blackburn"

Red Prince Will Straw doesn’t seem to be taking his bid to follow his father Jack into parliament that seriously. Despite fighting the ultra-marginal seat of Rossendale and Darwen, wonk Will has not yet to moved into the seat and continues to work in London. “Like father like son,” says a suspicious local resident, “his old man barely ever spends any time up here, sweeping in once a month like the Emperor of Blackburn.” Will claims he is staying with family and friends while he looks for somewhere to rent. Jake Berry, his sitting Tory opponent, is scathing: “publishing a picture* of yourself wearing a flat cap doesn’t mean you can pretend to live in Lancashire when you don’t! People round here aren’t daft.” 

*A photo of Will in a flat cap on his website has mysteriously disappeared from the interent. Above is an artist’s impression.

UPDATE: Will Straw has contacted us to say he has never worn a flat cap in Lancashire. He has only worn one in chi chi France…

How Charities Spend Taxpayer Millions on Political Lobbying

The Institute of Economic Affairs has done the leg work to expose how charities spend millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money on political campaigns and lobbying. As Guido mentioned earlier in the week, several leading charities are now run by ex-Labour advisers. This is clearly reflected in their work:

  • Save the Children: Receives 16.3% of total income from taxpayer. Run by Justin Forsyth, former No. 10 spinner for Gordon Brown, who has ramped up attacks on domestic government “cuts” since 2010.
  • National Children’s Bureau: Receives more than 50% of income from taxpayer. Current campaigns include minimum pricing for alcohol, votes at 16 and a ban on smacking children.
  • Sustain: Receives 24.8% of income from taxpayer. Campaign for bans on junk food at supermarket checkouts and on children’s television.
  • Balance North East: Receives 100% of funding from taxpayer. Campaigns for minimum pricing of alcohol.
  • War on Want: Receives 8.7% of income from taxpayer. Opposed campaign to spend 0.7% of GDP on foreign aid, because if they joined they ‘couldn’t be critical of government.’

Worth reading some further work done on this by City AM this morning. A charity that relies in the main part on taxes is no more a charity than a prostitute is your girlfriend…

Bright Blue Director’s SpAd Blocking Temper Tantrum

Over Christmas dripping wet Tory pressure group Bright Blue launched a blistering attack on the Conservative Party’s messaging. The group’s director Ryan Shorthouse slammed the Dave for “pandering to prejudice, uncertainty and anger”. Though now it appears it was Shorthouse who was the angry one – he was blocked by Downing Street in December from becoming a SpAd to David Willets at BIS. Revenge is a dish best served on a slow news day.

Top Wonks Slam Osborne’s Minimum Wage Rise

Osborne ruining Ed’s big day by calling for a rise in the minimum wage is politically cunning, though it remains a fundamentally unsound economic idea. Here is a round up of how some of the more sensible think tanks responded to the idea of an increase to £7-an-hour:

Adam Smith Institute – “A minimum wage increase will hurt the poor, particularly young people and vulnerable groups like migrant workers. Most of the empirical economic evidence has found that increases in the minimum wage cause increases in unemployment. Even if the immediate impact is not large, this increase will lead to a long-run decline in job creation and standards for Britain’s poorest workers. It will hurt the very people it is supposed to help.”

Institute of Economic Affairs“This move would not only jeopardise the jobs of some of the most vulnerable workers in the country, it will make it even harder for the young and out of work to get a foot on the employment ladder. If an employer cannot afford to hire someone because the minimum wage is too high, then someone who otherwise could have found work remains unemployed. The minimum wage is a blunt instrument. Increasing it will damage both business growth and society’s most vulnerable.”

Centre for Policy Studies – “Those who suffer most from a rise are the unskilled and young, who have low productivity and get priced out of the market – denying them the chance to accumulate “on the job” human capital. Higher minimum wages make it less profitable for firms to take on untested employees. This may be one reason why youth unemployment and unpaid internships became more common, even in a healthy pre-crisis jobs market.”

Still, you’d need a heart of stone not to enjoy Labour’s squirming this morning…

Wonk Movements: All Change at TPA

Big wonk movements last night, with Matt Sinclair leaving his position as chief executive of the Taxpayers’ Alliance to jump ship to Europe Economics. He is replaced by the TPA’s current political director, Jonathan Isaby who has gone from hack, to wonk, to boss in under five years. Research director John O’Connell is promoted to Director. Fact: Isaby owns every single Now That’s What I Call Music album ever released.

Labour Rehab Wonk Shop's Unpaid Intern Mystery

Centre for London is an “independent” think tank run by Ben Rogers, a former adviser to Gordon Brown and fellow at Labour wonk shop IPPR. This morning they are launching a “ground-breaking” report criticising low pay, authored by Brown treasury minister and expenses trougher Kitty Ussher, calling for a higher minimum wage in London than for the rest of the country. Indeed, they say this is a policy they employ themselves. According to their website, “internships at Centre for London are paid at the London Living Wage”. 

That is not what one former employee says. An ex-staffer at Centre for London, who wishes to remain unnamed, tells Guido that the think tank has itself regularly used unpaid staff and that many members of its current team started out there in jobs without pay. He says “my jaw dropped” when he saw today’s report attacking low pay, claiming that when he was there a “we will pay you if you raise the money” policy was in place. A spokesperson for Centre of London insists that they have always paid their staff. Surely a wonk shop doubling as a rehab clinic for failed Brown era apparatchiks would never say one thing then do the other…

Wonk Allegiances

Interesting to note the political influence and orientation of some of the lefty wonk shops most willing to take money from the taxpayer compared to their counterparts to the soft right. Economist Andrew Whitby has calculated that the supposedly “non-political” IFS is more biased to Labour than almost any right-wing think tank is to the Tories. IPPR, Compass and the Fabian Society are almost off the chart. No surprise there.

Via @EconAndrew and @GoodwinMJ.

Labour's Manifesto Must Pass Twitter Test

Just when Labour appeared to be making an interesting intervention into the debate about how we reduce the welfare bill, Rachel Reeves shoots down the proposal. IPPR, Labour’s favourite think-tank, are displaying a rare flash of common sense with their idea to restrict benefits to under 25s.[…] Read the rest

+ READ MORE +

The Un-Free, Anti-Enterprise Group

The “Free Enterprise Group” is made up Tory MPs who are usually relatively sensible and allegedly right-wing, so Guido cannot understand why they keep coming up with such bonkers ideas. First they wanted to tax the old even more, now they want to put VAT on food and kids’ clothes.[…] Read the rest

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"The Personal is Political"Gender Inequality at the Patriarchal CLASS Think Tank

class-gender-inequality

The union funded Class think-tank Owen Jones helped found is, despite being very left-wing, not very right-on it seems when it comes to ‘fair’ representation of woman. Their insanely large ‘advisory panel‘ has 48 members, only a third of whom are women.[…] Read the rest

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Wonk Watch: Ruth Porter Jumps IEA for PX

Big transfer news in Wonk Land this afternoon as Ruth Porter jumps from Director of Communications at the Institute of Economic Affairs to take on the Head of Economics and Social Policy brief at deadly rivals Policy Exchange.

Porter, who has been a key part of the IEA’s recent renaissance, is said to be politically ambitious and PX is a natural feeder into the Tories.[…] Read the rest

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Wonks Take Spooks to Court

gchq

Big Brother BankingGCHQ are facing court action after three campaign groups filed papers accusing them of breaching the privacy of British citizens. Big Brother Watch, the Open Rights Group and English PEN have brought the action against the government at the European Court of Human Rights.[…] Read the rest

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Wonks Take Axe to Clegg’s Magic Money Tree

Nick Clegg’s big conference giveaway managed to last a few hours before it was comprehensively taken apart by policy wonks.

  • Centre for Policy Studies – free school meals for under 8s is yet another “universal benefit… a middle-class welfare gimmick”.
[…] Read the rest

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Wonks Demolish Lobbying Bill IEA, TFA, CPS, TPA, BBW and ASI Slam Proposals

We wish to highlight our grave concern about the Government’s Lobbying Bill, a piece of legislation that poses a significant threat to legitimate campaigning freedom of speech, political activism and informed public debate.

Part II of the bill threatens the ability of charities, research and campaigning organisations to inform the public debate, fulfil their missions and raise awareness of important issues.

[…] Read the rest

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Wonk World Whacks Carney

The new Governor’s first big day at the office has gone down rather badly in wonk world: The IEA call it “the most dangerous development in UK monetary policy since the late 1980s.”:

“Monetary policy should be designed to ensure that we have stable prices.

[…] Read the rest

+ READ MORE +



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