Think Tanks

Institution Profiles

14 Dec 2009 07:34:57

Profile of the Institute of Economic Affairs

IEA Key people

The team includes Mark Littlewood, the Director General who started on the 1st December 2009.

Also Professor Philip Booth (Editorial & Programme Director) and Professor D R Myddelton (Chairman).

Basic philosophy

The IEA is the UK's original free-market think-tank, founded in 1955.  It dominated debate in the 1970s and 1980s but has not been a major player in UK public policy for more than a decade.  Under its new Director General the Trustees hope that that might change.

Some are concerned that Mark Littlewood's appointment will represent a change of direction for an institution associated with the Thatcherite revolution of the 1980s. This is because Littlewood was a Liberal Democrat (he tore up his Party card for his new job) and was once Head of Media for that party. More than that he is a supporter of the European Union project at a time when most of Britain's centre right is avowedly Eurosceptic. Littlewood's belief in the free market is nonetheless staunch and he wrote an article attacking the minimum wage shortly after he had been appointed. Plenty of Lib Dems were indignant at his classical liberalism and were pleased to see him go.

The IEA's goal is to explain free-market ideas to the public, including politicians, students, journalists, businessmen, academics and others interested in public policy. To some extent they are above the immediate fray. They "seek to change the climate of opinion in which politicians debate policy – it is not our main role to try to change day-to-day thinking of party politicians."

Recent achievements

IEA papers are arranged in a series of titles, each with its own 'brand image'. The main series of publications is complemented by the Institute's quarterly journal Economic Affairs.

The Institute's research activities are aided by an international Academic Advisory Council and an eminent panel of Honorary Fellows.

Continue reading "Profile of the Institute of Economic Affairs" »

11 Dec 2009 08:48:57

Profile of the Henry Jackson Society

HJS Key people

The team include the Director Dr Alan Mendoza (who is also a Conservative councillor on Brent Council).

The International Affairs Director Robin Shepherd was previously at Chatham House.

The group's cross-party credentials are reflected in the support of a number of Labour MPs, including Gisela Stuart, as well as Conservative parliamentarians such as Michael Gove MP and Lord Trimble, former First Minister of Northern Ireland.

HJS dislikes the "neo-Conservative" label that it is frequently given, preferring to consider that it embraces a range of opinions in the ideas spectrum with the common denominator of interest in a moral and interventionist foreign policy. Human rights advocates, democracy promoters and security hawks can therefore all be found within its coalition.

Basic philosophy

Henry "Scoop" Jackson was a Democrat Congressman elected as an isolationist in 1940 but who quickly changed his mind and decided that America should join the Second World War. After the war he was a strong champion of human rights and opponent of Communism believing that detente with the Soviet Union was a mistake, and that it ought to be opposed on moral grounds (e.g. that the Soviet Union was an ‘evil empire’) as well as security ones.

The HJS believes in an interventionist foreign policy to promote democracy and human rights around the world. It "supports a ‘forward strategy’ – involving diplomatic, economic, cultural, and/or political means -  to assist those countries that are not yet liberal and democratic to become so."

HJS argues that "modernisation and democratisation often do not not require a military solution. For example, the European Union has been instrumental in expanding its democratic ‘Grand Area’ on the continent since the fall of the Iron Curtain. So has NATO, through the process of eastern enlargement, and various initiatives engaging the Soviet successor states."

For example they argue that military intervention to topple Robert Mugabe from power in Zimbabwe would be justified as a last resort, under “Responsibility to Protect” criteria, but that he could probably be brought down without resorting to it, and that such an eventuality should be pursued by the international community. 

They argue that there is no contradiction between a foreign policy that reflects our national interests and one that promotes democracy and human rights, seeing as the major sources of instability in the world are autocratic regimes and that in a globalised world these will ultimately affect British interests.

Recent achievements

Very active in hosting public speaker meetings in Parliament. Speakers have ranged from Richard Perle, Jose Maria Aznar, Boris Nemtsov, Joschka Fischer to General Sir Mike Jackson.

Acts as the secretariat for the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Transatlantic & International Security and the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Homeland Security.

The HJS is often willing to be outspoken and anti-establishment. For instance it regarded the western response to Russia over the conflict in Georgia as "pretty feeble." It has raised some issues, such as human rights in Saudi Arabia, that western Governments often prefer to ignore.

Part of their task is to demystify foreign policy and to open up debate rather than it being the preserve of secretive elites. They have also started a blog called The Scoop.

Future plans

These include opening an office in Washington DC. Also developing an umbrella group of like minded think tanks from around the world under the banner of the European Convention on Liberal Democracy.

Issues that they will be concentrating on include "Russian expansionism", the threat of a nuclear Iran, genocide prevention policy and NATO’s future prospects.

Approximate budget and staff numbers

The HJS is a charity. The annual budget is £100,000. There are four members of staff.

Contact details

8 Dec 2009 10:45:15

Profile of Civitas

Civitas Key people

The team includes the Director, Dr David Green, Deputy Director Robert Whelan (who is also Managing director of the New Model School Company) and Deputy Director Anastasia de Waal, who is responsible for research. The Chairman of their Trustees is the Hon Justin Shaw.

Basic philosophy

Civitas is the Institute for the Study of Civil Society. It started as the Health & Welfare Unit of the Institute of Economic Affairs but divorced from it in order to grow and because libertarian elements within the IEA disapproved on the focus on non-narrowly economic issues.

Civitas has given a lot of attention to the failings of state schools, hospitals and welfare provision as well as carrying out research on crime and immigration.

Recent achievements

Very much a "do tank" Civitas' most impressive recent effort has been establishing three independent day schools for primary school aged children. The fees (about £5,000 a year) are much lower than other fee paying schools. They are roughly in line with the cost per pupil of state education. The company that operates them is an offshoot of Civitas called The New Model School Company Ltd. The lessons learnt in the process are an important influence on Michael Gove MP as he drafts a supply-side revolution for the whole of the UK schools system.

A related Civitas project concerns supplementary schools. These have provided lessons for 350 children a week who have been let down by the state system. They have also undertaken a literacy project in Tottenham with the London Boxing Academy. Youths who have been permanently excluded from state schools are helped through a mixture of sport and academic work to pass their GCSEs.

Continue reading "Profile of Civitas" »

3 Dec 2009 15:46:24

Profile of Reform

Reform Key people involved

The team includes Director, Andrew Haldenby and the outgoing Deputy Director, Liz Truss.  Liz is standing down having been selected as a Conservative PPC.

Consultant Directors include Professor Nick Bosanquet and Greg Rosen.  The Chief Economist is Dr Patrick Nolan.  Senior researchers are Lucy Parsons (public spending) and Dale Bassett (social policy).  Anna Calvert manages fundraising and events.

The new Chairman of their Advisory Board is Sir Adrian Montague.

The cross-party Parliamentary members of their Advisory Board are Frank Field MP, Ed Vaizey MP and Jeremy Browne MP.

The think tank was established in 2001 by Andrew Haldenby and Nick Herbert – now a Tory MP and a member of the Shadow Cabinet.

Basic philosophy

Reform is an independent, charitable, non-party think tank which seeks to make the case for radical reform of public services.

They aim to produce research on the core issues of the economy, health, education, law and order, and on the right balance between government and individual; then to communicate this research to politicians and opinion formers in all parties and none in order to create a consensus for reform."

Reform is constituted as a charity (the Reform Research Trust, registered charity no. 1103739).

Recent achievements

Reform was shortlisted in the 2009 Prospect Think Tank of the Year awards for Think Tank of the Year and Publication of the Year – for Back to Black, a pioneering publication on public spending cuts.

The hole we are in, Reform’s Pre-Budget Report paper in November, took a strong stance against a fiscal stimulus and argued against boosting the economy through extra spending and debt.  This was the position adopted by the Conservative Party.

Back to black, Reform’s Budget paper in April, called for immediate cuts in public spending. It offered specific proposals for spending reductions.

Reform is regarded as influential in the Conservative decision to scrap their proposed ring fencing on education and defence spending although they have failed to persuade the Party to make a similar change on health spending.

Reform has attacked the proliferation of middle-class welfare, which it regards as an unaffordable luxury given the state of the public finances. Back to Black proposed abolishing or means-testing a number of universal benefits, proposals that were expanded upon in The end of entitlement.

Their paper Fit for Purpose argued that civil service reform is essential to delivering effective public service reform. It proposed that Ministers should appoint top-level civil servants who would then be publicly accountable. Liam Byrne, then Cabinet Office Minister, spoke favourably of the proposal, which was also endorsed by The Independent’s Steve Richards. Sir Gus O’Donnell was not so keen – and in objecting prompted a minor diplomatic spat with Barack Obama’s administration.

Reform's The Value of Mathematics report was accused by The Guardian of itself containing an arithmatical error. It said 40% of maths graduates go into financial services but The Guardian worked it out as 20%. Labour bloggers also attacked their proposals for maternity pay changes saying it would leave an average family £1,500 worse off.

In July, David Cameron made a speech for Reform on quangos and accountable, effective government.

Reform’s June paper A new level proposed putting university academics in charge of A-levels to restore rigour to the qualification, an idea that was adopted by Michael Gove shortly after publication. The report
attracted significant media attention and the Conservatives have since proposed re-emphasising the core academic subjects, more rigorous exams, abolishing the Diploma, scrapping narrow measure league tables, and abolishing the QCDA, all policies suggested by the report.

Given the nervousness of politicians towards any criticism of the NHS it is perhaps shrewd of Reform to recruit doctors to their cause. Following a prolonged campaign by Doctors for Reform, then Health Secretary Alan Johnson historically announced that NHS patients would be allowed to privately top up their care. Their interest in health reform has, however, attracted hostile attention from the unions.

Future plans

New research reports are planned on 14-16 education, reducing public spending by improving the efficiency of public services, the future of taxation, the fundamental reform of the NHS and on what government should and should not do to help businesses, including a major one day conference.

Approximate budget and number of staff

2009 revenue: £1,000,000.

9 full time staff
1 part time staff
4 interns

Contact details

2 Dec 2009 08:42:07

Profile of Adam Smith Institute

ASI Key people

Its two long-standing directors, Dr Madsen Pirie and Dr Eamonn Butler, who were friends from St Andrews University, have recently been joined by a third, Tom Clougherty.

Basic philosophy

Although non-party, the Adam Smith Institute takes an avowedly free market and libertarian position. It puts  the case for free market capitalism, sound public finances and de-regulation.

More recently it has emphasised the case against the surveillance state and in support of traditional freedoms and the citizen's right to privacy and non-interference by officialdom.

The Institute reveres the memory of Adam Smith, the Scottish economist it is named after.  His likeness appears on their logo, and on a range of products from cufflinks to paperweights. There are even ASI hoodies bearing a graffiti-style version of their logo.

Recent achievements

The Institute spends time and attention nurturing its formidable youth wing with many school and university speeches, one-day school seminars on "The Open Society," and its popular Next Generation group receptions on the first Tuesday of the month.

Recent papers include The Recession: Causes and Cures in which it attributes the global crisis to politicians and central bankers, not to any failure of capitalism, and in Ten Economic Priorities it set out the steps needed to restore Britain's finances.  Its Re-energizing Britain told how future energy supplies could be assured, while its Regulatory Myopia pulled apart the FSA proposals on financial regulation.

Its "Power Lunches" held regularly in the mezzanine above its Great Smith Street offices are quite an institution, as 12-16 guests lunch on sandwiches, sushi and wine, and have no-holds-barred discussions with guests ranging from newspaper editors, academics, regulators and political leaders.

The ASI's air of irreverence and humour compared to other think tanks reflects their success in producing a lively blog - where they have been very much ahead of the pack starting earlier than the other think tanks and getting far more hits.

Statue unveiling Last year an ASI campaign achieved victory when a 20-foot high bronze statue of Adam Smith was erected on a prime site on Edinburgh's Royal Mile.

Approximate budget and number of staff

Currently the Institute has six full-time staff, plus usually two or three interns from America or gap year students.  Its budget is undisclosed but is still under well under £500,000 per annum, and its offices pretty small, but very centrally located in the heart of Westminster. 

Contact details

29 Nov 2009 11:00:00

Profile of The Taxpayers Alliance

TPA Key staff

Matthew Elliott (Co-Founder and Chief Executive); Andrew Allum (Co-Founder and Chairman); Sara Rainwater (Operations Director); Matthew Sinclair (Research Director); Susie Squire (Political Director); Mark Wallace (Campaign Director); Alex Deane (Director, Big Brother Watch).

Basic philosophy

The TPA is Britain's independent grassroots campaign for better public services and lower taxes. It currently has 32,000 signed-up supporters across the country. Its mission is to reverse the perception that big government is necessary and irreversible; to explain the benefits of a low tax economy; and to give taxpayers a voice in the corridors of power.

Politicians from across the political spectrum have been the subject of its Freedom of Information requests as the TPA aims to cut the costs of politics and increase transparency.

It has recently expanded its work into 'modernising Euroscepticism' and campaigning against 'the Big Brother State'.

Recent achievements

Over the past five years, the TPA has grown from operating as a group of volunteers meeting in various coffee shops around London, to employing fifteen members of staff working from offices in London and Birmingham, attracting an average of 700 high-quality media hits every month. Seldom a day goes by without their spokesmen being interviewed in the press or appearing on TV or radio to denounce wasteful state spending. It is Britain's most high-impact campaign group from the centre right.

It has served as a thorn in the Government's side prompting the rage of the Left. Their publication The Bumper Book of Government Waste - highlighting £101 billion worth of misspending - should be required reading for the Shadow Treasury Team as they reluctantly sharpen their axes.  Also required reading is their suggested list of £50bn of spending cuts - published with the Institute of Directors.

The Left's charge that the TPA is a Tory front would surprise some Tory Council leaders who have not been spared the TPA's wrath. The TPA has an anti-establishment mentality. Indeed some Conservatives feel they have an anti-politician mentality and fully expect it to be a nuisance to any Cameron Government.

The TPA's Quango hunting, populist denouncing of public sector fat cats, pursuit of expense-abusing politicians and scepticism about the implications of climate change policy will continue to have traction for some years to come.

The TPA's campaign for the abolition of inheritance tax - pursued with the Daily Express - reached a climax in October 2007 when the Conservative Party promised to abolish the tax for all but millionaires.

In 2006 the TPA won the ConservativeHome "One to Watch" award; in 2007 the Bumper Book of Government Waste, co-authored by Matthew Elliott and Lee Rotherham, was awarded the Sir Antony Fisher Memorial Award; and in 2008 the TPA was named 'Pressure Group of the Year' by the readers of the popular blog, Iain Dale's Diary.

Continue reading "Profile of The Taxpayers Alliance" »

29 Nov 2009 11:00:00

Profile of the Centre for Social Justice


The CSJ's Chairman is the former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith MP. Philippa Stroud, CSJ Executive Director, is relatively new to politics having spent most of her life in frontline roles, working alongside the homeless and people with addictions. She is also Tory PPC for Sutton and Cheam. Over the last year significant appointments have been made in preparation for possible changes associated with the likely election of a Conservative government. This includes the recruitment of Gavin Poole, the CSJ’s strategy director. Key members of the CSJ team.

The CSJ was established in 2004 by IDS, Philippa Stroud, Tom Jackson, Cameron Watt and ConservativeHome Editor Tim Montgomerie.

Basic philosophy

The CSJ researches new approaches to persistent forms of poverty and Britain's most acute social problems. It is not a conventional Westminster think tank. It describes itself as a "do tank"; championing and learning from the work of effective grassroots poverty-fighting groups throughout Britain.

The policy work is rooted in the experience and wisdom of the hundreds of small charities, social entrepreneurs and faith based groups that are having great success in tackling Britain’s deepest problems, where the best efforts of the state have failed. The CSJ Alliance of Effective Poverty-Fighters seeks to provide a link between these groups and senior politicians in Westminster and local Government, in order for them to share their hard won expertise.  "We are constantly driven by the need to bring politicians face-to-face with the realities of social breakdown in Britain," they say.  They run "inner city challenges" which bring MPs face to face with social breakdown.  Read Ed Vaizey MP's diary of his own immersion.

The CSJ conducts evidence led and independent policy research that combines data, anecdotal evidence and polling (through YouGov). Through this they seek to gain an accurate picture of poverty in Britain, its causes and consequences, and to define the role the state and other players can and can’t play in its reduction.

The CSJ seeks to address the root causes of poverty, preparing policy proposals aimed at preventing social breakdown, rather than attempting to stabilise or manage social problems.

Continue reading "Profile of the Centre for Social Justice" »

29 Nov 2009 11:00:00

Profile of Policy Exchange (PX)

PolicyExchange Key people

The team includes Neil O'Brien, Director; Sian Hansen, Managing Director; Natalie Evans, Deputy Director; and Amy Fisher, Communications Director.

Dr Andrew Lilico has been recruited to oversee Policy Exchange's economics output. Dean Godson oversees 'Security policy'. In addition there are:

  • Criminal Justice - Gavin Mcikinnon
  • Health - Henry Featherstone
  • Education - Anna Fazackerley
  • Environment - Simon Less

Neil O'Brien ran Open Europe before joining Policy Exchange in 2008. He succeeded Anthony Browne who left to become Head of Policy for the Mayor of London. Browne's predecessor was Nick Boles. Boles founded Policy Exchange with Michael Gove and now runs the Conservative Party's Implementation Team with Francis Maude MP. This is just one of the many links Policy Exchange has with the Tory Party. PX's former head of research, James O'Shaughnessy, now runs the Conservative Research Department.  Sam Freedman and Gavin Lockhart, also from PX, now work in the Tory policy unit under Oliver Letwin.

Policy Exchange's Chairman is the former Daily Telegraph editor Charles Moore. PX's trustees include the chief executive of the Next retailer, Simon Wolfson and Times journalists Camilla Cavendish and Alice Thomson.

Basic philosophy

Policy Exchange is an independent, educational charity that is seeking free market and localist solutions to public policy questions.

PX supports the wider use of market forces and the promotion of individual responsibility, and is interested in how these tools could be used to achieve progressive ends - to give new opportunities to groups that don't have them today.

PX also believes in strengthening society. They advocate empowering communities to solve their own problems at a local level, and helping people to be more self-reliant. This applies in everything from criminal justice to environmental policy. For example, Policy Exchange's research on welfare reform suggests that traditional welfare policies have too often created perverse incentives, undermined the social fabric, and failed because they don't tackle the underlying causes of poverty.

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