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Sat Dec 7, 2019, 07:06 PM

How the right's radical thinktanks reshaped the Conservative party

Last edited Sat Dec 7, 2019, 09:20 PM - Edit history (1)

In the wake of the Brexit vote, ultra free market thinktanks have gained exceptional access to the heart of Boris Johnson’s government.

When Boris Johnson assumed office as prime minister in July 2019 and proceeded, without the mandate of a general election, to appoint a cabinet that was arguably one of the most rightwing in post-second world war British history, many commentators called it a coup. The free market thinktank the Institute of Economic Affairs felt self-congratulation was more in order, however. “This week, liberty-lovers witnessed some exciting developments,” the IEA said in an email to its supporters. The organisation, whose mission is to shrink the state, lower taxes and deregulate business, noted that 14 of those around the Downing Street table – including the chancellor, Sajid Javid, the foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, and the home secretary, Priti Patel – were “alumni of IEA initiatives”.

The IEA had good reason to boast about its influence. Just a few years earlier, on the occasion of its 60th birthday in 2015, Javid had declared that it had “reflected and deeply influenced my views, helping to develop the economic and political philosophy that guides me to this day”. In a speech to the IEA the same year, Raab also enthused about the organisation’s effect on his younger self. A few years back, he told the audience, he had been on a beach in Brazil. He’d had a couple of drinks, and had gone in to the sea to mull over an idea: that New Labour had “eroded liberty” in Britain and created a “rights culture” that had fostered a nation of idlers. Lost in thought, the tide had dragged him far from his starting point, and back on the beach, he had trouble locating his family among all the “scantily clad Brazilians”. On stage, he thanked the IEA for helping him develop this idea, which became the starting point for the book Britannia Unchained, an anti-statist tract, co-written with other MPs who would go on to join Johnson’s new cabinet – Patel; Elizabeth Truss, now trade secretary; Kwasi Kwarteng, business minister; and Chris Skidmore, then health minister.

The authors were also members of a parliamentary faction called the Free Enterprise Group, whose aim was to rebuild confidence in free market capitalism in the wake of the financial crisis, and for which the IEA has organised events, co-authored papers and provided administrative support. Other members included future Johnson ministers Andrea Leadsom, Matt Hancock, Robert Buckland, Julian Smith, Alister Jack, Alun Cairns, Jacob Rees-Mogg, James Cleverly and Brandon Lewis.

Libertarian thinktanks in the US, such as the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) have had this sort of close relationship with incoming Republican administrations for years, furnishing them with staff and readymade policies. Thinktanks – non-governmental organisations that research policies with the aim of shaping government – have long been influential in British politics, too, on both left and right, but the sheer number of connections between Johnson’s cabinet and ultra free market thinktanks was something new. In the period immediately before the Brexit referendum and in the years since, a stream of prominent British politicians and campaigners, including Johnson, Michael Gove, Nigel Farage and Arron Banks, have flown to the US to meet with thinktanks such as the AEI and the Heritage Foundation, often at the expense of those thinktanks, seeking out ideas, support and networking opportunities. Meanwhile, US thinktanks and their affiliates, which are largely funded by rightwing American billionaires and corporate donations, have teamed up with British politicians and London-based counterparts such as the IEA, the Legatum Institute and the Initiative for Free Trade, to help write detailed proposals for what the UK’s departure from the EU, and its future relationships with both the EU and the US, should look like, raising questions about foreign influence on British politics.

The organisations involved in this collaboration between the US and UK radical right are partners in a global coalition of more than 450 thinktanks and campaign groups called the Atlas Network, which has its headquarters in Arlington, Virginia. Members of the network operate independently but also cooperate closely in fighting for their shared vision of ultra free markets and limited government. They call themselves the “worldwide freedom movement”, collectively they have multimillion-dollar budgets, and many of their donors, board members, trustees and researchers overlap.

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/nov/29/rightwing-thinktank-conservative-boris-johnson-brexit-atlas-network

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Reply How the right's radical thinktanks reshaped the Conservative party (Original post)
Denzil_DC Dec 2019 OP
T_i_B Dec 2019 #1

Response to Denzil_DC (Original post)

Mon Dec 9, 2019, 08:49 AM

1. As always....

The question with "think tanks" is who on earth funds them. Who pays for them to promote their terrible policies?

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