This is going to be a long post, even by my standards, but I’d ask you to bear with me as the information it contains is most illuminating.
Paul Staines, who blogs under the psedonym ‘Guido Fawkes’ has recently run a series of typically snide posts about a registered charity, The Smith Institute.
The Smith Institute is a policy research organisation set up in the memory of the late John Smith MP (Reg Charity No. 1062967) with the aim of the advancement of the education of the public in the field of study and research into the economy of the United Kingdom (it’s official charity objects) and describes itself as:
The Smith Institute is an independent think tank, which has been set up to undertake research and education in issues that flow from the changing relationship between social values and economic imperatives. In recent years the Institute has centred its work on the policy implications arising from the interactions of equality, enterprise and equity.
It has close, and obvious links, to the Labour Party, as you might expect from an organisation founded in the memory of a former leader of the Labour Party. It’s charity trustees include Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale, a former foreign policy advisor to John Smith, Lord Haskel of Higher Brougton, a Labour Peer and Chairman of the Institute, Baroness Rendell of Babergh, otherwise known as the author Ruth Rendell and another Labour Peer, together with John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York, and Baron Joffe, a cross-bench peer and human rights lawyer who represented Nelson Mandela at his trial in 1964.
The current interest in Conservative ranks in the activities of The Smith Institute, and its apparent links to the Labour Party, specifically to Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown, is nicely reflected in the contents of the Smith Institutes’ Wikipedia page.
The Smith Institute is a think tank in the United Kingdom. It was founded in memory of the late John Smith QC MP, former Leader of the Labour Party.
A large number of the thinktank’s events and meetings are held at Number 11 Downing Street, the Chancellor’s official residence, and the organisation enjoys extremely close ties with Gordon Brown. The director of the Institute is Wilf Stevenson, one of Gordon Brown’s closest confidants (Brown was best man at his wedding). The Smith Institute is currently the subject of a second investigation by the Charity Commission, which is examining whether its political ties with Gordon Brown breach the rules governing charitable organisations. The Shadow Chief Secretary,Theresa Villiers, has also recently written to the Information Commissioner to request an inquiry into the Treasury’s refusal to clearly state the full extent of the links between Gordon Brown and the Smith Institute.
Ed Balls, now Labour MP for Normanton and former Chief Economic Advisor to Gordon Brown, was given a (paid) Senior Research Fellowship at the Institute after he left HM Treasury to stand as a Parliamentary candidate in 2004.
This also, pretty much covers the entire contents of Paul/Guido’s recent ’stories’, which, when you sift out all the usual egomaniacal grandstanding amount to allegations that The Smith Institute is ‘too close’ to Gordon Brown and, therefore may have compromised the legitimacy of its claim to charitable status; and that it may have ‘bent’ the rules, somehow, by employing Ed Balls in 2004, which may be difficult to prove as the rules, such as they are in Charity Law, are far from clear on this kind of practice.
Everything else, amounts to no more than the usual tittle-tattle, innuendo and, in places, misrepresentation of mundane happenings in a form contrived to deliberately smear the organisation and the Labour Party.
In this post, for example, he refers to the Institute as “the “non-political”, tax subsidised, “public educational charity”, the Smith Institute”, while here he takes the smear a little further by stating:
Who knows how much the Smith Institute gets in kickbacks* from the Treasury as rebates for “charitable donations” from secret donors.
Adding the footnote “*Legal, but not exactly transparent or a good example of open government.”
All that Guido is referring to here is the fact that as a registered charity, The Smith Institute is entitled to make use of the ‘Gift Aid‘ system when receiving donations from individuals, a system introduced by the Conservative government in 1990 and revised by the present government in 2000, when the previous maximum limit on donations was abolished, or a similar system that exists to cover corporate donations.
All registered charities are entitled to use the system, if they wish, and all received the same benefits:
Gift Aid allows individuals who are subject to UK income tax, to complete a simple, short declaration that they are a UK taxpayer. Any cash donations that the taxpayer makes to the charity after making a declaration are treated as being made after deduction of income tax at the basic rate (22% in 2006/7), and the charity can reclaim the basic rate income tax paid on the gift from HMRC. For a basic-rate taxpayer, this adds approximately 28% to the value of any gift made under Gift Aid. Higher-rate taxpayers can claim income tax relief, above and beyond the amount claimed directly by the charities. The rate of the relief for higher-rate taxpayers in 2006/7 is usually 18%, the difference between the basic rate (22%) and the higher rate (40%) of income tax, although recipients of savings income (taxed at 20% and 40%) and dividend income (taxed at 10% and 32.5%) can achieve higher rates of tax relief (20% and 22.5%, respectively).
The Smith Insitute is funded by donations and, as with any registered charity, is not required by law to publicly disclose the identity of its donors in its accounts. Since beign founded in 1997, its annual income has grown for £91, 050 in its first year to a peak of £503, 011, in 2004-5, before falling back slightly to £483,815 in 2005-6.
The one newspaper, thus far, to take any significant interest in Paul/Guido’s smear stories is, unsurprisingly, the Daily Telegraph, who gleefully told its readers on 25th November 2006 that:
Figures filed with the Charity Commission show that the Smith Institute took £2.2 million in income during the seven years to the end of March 2005, including more than £500,000 in the last reported year.
The possible relevance of the Telegraph’s interest in all this will become a little clearer later on in this article as will this…
Iain Dale alerted Guido to this PQ a few days ago:
Mr Keith Simpson (Con, Mid Norfolk): To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer which charities have held meetings at 11 Downing Street since December 2005.
Mr Keith Simpson (Con, Mid Norfolk): On how many occasions since December 2005 the Smith Institute has held meetings at 11 Downing Street and who attended each.
John Healey (Financial Secretary to the Treasury): I will let the Honourable Member have a reply in due course.
Which refers to this post of Iain’s on 9 January…
Of interest to Mr Guido Fawkes of this parish, from today’s Hansard (not yet published…)
Mr Keith Simpson (Con, Mid Norfolk): To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer which charities have held meetings at 11 Downing Street since December 2005.
Mr Keith Simpson (Con, Mid Norfolk): On how many occasions since December 2005 the Smith Institute has held meetings at 11 Downing Street and who attended each.
John Healey (Financial Secretary to the Treasury): I will let the Honourable Member have a reply in due course.
It is hardly rocket science to answer two simple questions like that, is it? Do I detect the sound of shredded attendance lists…? Perhaps we’ll get this answer from John Healy…
This could be entirely innocuous, after all this is something that would be interest to Paul/Guido given that he’s fronting what looks for all the world like a smear campaign against Gordon Brown and the Smith Institute.
It could also, however, be construed as what was once commonly referred to as ‘tag-team trolling’ in which two posters on a Usenet group or online forum would deliberately ‘bounce’ comments off each other in what looked, to those on the outside, like a simple conversation between two posters but which, in fact, was a carefully co-ordinated exercise is ’story-telling’ designed to avoid any one individual being ‘tagged’ for too obviously pushing a specific agenda - Tag-team trolls would usually have put their head together, privately, by email, and got their ’story’ straight before entering the newsgroup or forum and then build the story over a series of conversational posts, with each adding more detail/information in turn.
This is actually a very effective method of infilitrating and subverting a forum without getting marked as a troll, as no one participant ever throws too much information into the ring at one time to make it obvious what they’re doing.
And that, apart from a fairly poor effort to conflate his Smith Institute smears with his other pet ’story’ of the moment, the ‘loans for peerages’ investigation is Paul/Guido’s Smith Institute story in a nutshell, although there is one further example of misrepresentation that is worth noting.
In this post, Paul/Guido highlights a statement issued by Damian McBride (described as Gordon’s spinemeister) which attempts to blow off the Smith Institute ’story’ and other unsubstantiated rumours linking Brown to the loans for peerages investigation.
What is particular interesting here is the slant that Paul/Guido puts on these two posts - the one containing McBride’s statement is entitled ‘Ferret Watch: Brownites vs Blairite” while the other, posted the following day, claims that journalists were briefed is a very particular manner:
This is all a “Mandelson smear” the Sunday papers were briefed. Guido has no formal link with Mandelson, but he has been digging into “the Sith” sleaze for months. When is a smear not a smear? When it is the truth.
No actual evidence to back this last claim up, of course.
In both cases, the impression that Paul/Guido is deliberately attempting to convey is one in which the alleged ’smears’ against Brown are a result of a ‘dirty war’ within the Labour Party itself, one resulting from the apparent rivalry between Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.
This is, indeed, one possible explanation but not the only one.
There is another possible explanation and that is, quite simply, that there is indeed a ‘dirty war’ being waged, one in which efforts are being made to smear Gordon Brown and the Smith Institute but that the origins of this ‘war’ lies much closer ot Paul/Guido’s political ‘home’ than he cares to admit.
It is tempting to see his Smith Institute stories nothing more than another variation on his usual modus operandi of using bits of lobby gossip to jump in on breaking political news stories just before the mainstream press and then try and take the credit, but the Smith Institute material seems a little different to his usual fodder in as much as it looks for all the world as if, in this case, Paul/Guido is actually trying the make the story, rather than jump in on the back of the MSM’s ‘investigations’.
Paul, in the guise of Guido, likes to present himself as an anarchic figure; one with no overriding political alliegence or partisan agenda - just a tabloid slash ‘n burn merchant who’s in it for the fun of bringing down the politicos on all sides - and you could be forgiven for thinking that given that he does at times have the occassional ostentatious dabble in appearing to bait the Conservatives - most recently by popping up on Webcameron to ask why ‘Dave’ has dodged a question about loans to the Tory Party from near-anonymous non-trading companies.
Paul/Guido does, however, have some more substantive previous form, as his entry on Sourcewatch, nicely illustrates:
Paul Staines is a former member of the Committee for a Free Britain, a shadowy organisation which was funded by Sir James Goldsmith, Rupert Murdoch and David Hart. His self described role with the organisation was as “a foreign policy analyst”…
“Generation Ecstasy : Into the World of Techno and Rave Culture” by Simon Reynolds describes him as “a Libertarian Conservative whose day job was as assistant to rabid freemarket ideologue David Hart, one of Thatcher’s favorite advisors.” David Hart masterminded the breaking of the miner’s strike and was a favourite courtier of Thatcher. She would ask multi-millionaire Hart to make suggestions for her speeches. Staines as aides-de-camp was reputed to come up with the jokes. Hart and Staines shared a right-wing hippy libertarian outlook.
And, of course, as we all know…
Paul Staines has neither denied or confirmed that he is the author of Guido Fawkes’ Blog. The popular political gossip site won the 2005 Guardian Political Commentary Blog of the Year Award and has a large following in media and political circles. “Guido Fawkes” co-edited with Iain Dale the bestselling Little Red Book of New Labour Sleaze published in May 2006.
So, Paul/Guido has previous form as a member of an organisation funded by Goldsmith and Murdoch and, possibly, even as a gag-writer for Margaret Thatcher.
Not quite the independent operator he would like to be seen as.
So, a quick recap before we move on, and things begin to get really interesting.
Paul Staines (aka Guido Fawkes) has a histoiry, according to Sourcewatch, which connects him (perhaps only loosely) to some fairly high-ranking figures on the politicial right and has one current known associate within Conservative ranks, the party’s most high profile blogger and a co-author with Paul/Guido of the ‘Little Red Book of New Labour Sleaze’, Iain Dale.
Paul/Guido is currently running extensively on a ’story’ that is attempting to call into question the relationship between The Smith Institute and Gordon Brown, one in which he is suggesting that the Institute is no more than a Labour Party ‘front organisation’, thereby raising questions as to the Institute’s right to be registered as a charity and enjoy the benefits of charitable status, which include an exemption from payment of corporation tax in income and use of the Gift Aid system when receiving donations, which may boost its income by way of allowing tax to be reclaim on donations.
Having worked through Paul/Guido’s material, I decided that this whole business of political think-tanks operating under charitable status merited a little further investigation, and began to do a little digging.
To clarify the legal position here, registered charities are permitted, in Charity law, to engage in political activities but - and this is important - they may do so only on the basis of well-founded research and only in a non-partisan manner. Charities can ‘do’ politics but not party politics.
And, indeed, there are many non-party political policy research-based charities (i.e think-tanks) out there, ones that do a lot of very interesting and valuable work; two of the better known of these are the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and the King’s Fund.
So, I decided to take a look at the charity register to see just what kind of think-tanks there are out there, at present, operating under charity law.
Before going on, I should add that all the information that follows is sourced from the public domain, using only information from the Charity Commission, Wikipedia and documents and webpages located using Google and on the website of the organisation who’s name I am about to reveal as the focus of my investigations.
There is no insider information, lobby gossip or Paul/Guido-style tittle-tattle in this article, and where doubts exists about the accuracy of information, this will be clearly indicated in the text.
Using only the word ‘Policy’ as a keyword on the Charity Register, I very quick alighted on a think-tank whose name ‘rang a bell’ and seemed eerily familiar, one by the name of…
(To some amongst B4L’s Brighton contingent, that name may see a little familiar - read on and all with be revealed…)
Policy Exchange, like the Smith Institute is registered charity, albeit one founded only in 2003.
And like the Smith Institute, it is funded by private donations and does not disclose the identity of its donors - it doesn’t have to, remember.
And like the Smith Institute, it receives sizeable sums of money from these anonymous donors in order to do its work - £568,2003 in 2004-5 out of a total of £1,542,811 received in the three years for which accounts have, so far, been submitted to the Charity Commission.
Whether it makes use of gift aid, I have not as yet ascertained… but then Paul/Guido has never produced evidence to show that the Smith Institute uses the gift aid system, either. However, as both of these charities undertake research in the field of economics, one might well that both do make use of the system, if only because it would look a bit silly if they didn’t.
And like the Smith Institute is has registered charitable objects that require it to operate as a non-party political organisation:
The purposes of the charity are: 3.1 the non-partisan advancement of education of the public in the economic social and political sciences and their effect on public policy and the policy-making process in the UK and the promotion and publication of objective research; 3.2 the pursuit of such other purposes which are exclusively charitable within the laws of England and Wales as the directors of the charity (hereinafter referred to as “the trustees”) shall determine.
And like the Smith Institute it carries out public policy research, which includes economics, in addition to work on social policy and political sciences.
Policy Exchange is an independent think tank whose mission is to develop and promote new policy ideas which will foster a free society based on strong communities, personal freedom, limited government, national self-confidence and an enterprise culture.
While the Smith Institute, as you might recall from earlier, says that is it…
…an independent think tank, which has been set up to undertake research and education in issues that flow from the changing relationship between social values and economic imperatives. In recent years the Institute has centred its work on the policy implications arising from the interactions of equality, enterprise and equity.
Their is one other area in which Policy Exchange exhibits clear similarities with The Smith Institute, and it is that which has been the focus of my inquiries.
The Smith Institute has some obvious links with the Labour Party, not least its origins, and these links are pretty quickly and easily identified…
Policy Exchange also has some obivious links to a mainstream political party (and maybe even to Paul/Guido, as you’ll shortly see); the Conservative Party. In fact one might even reasonable observe that Policy Exchange, an ‘independent think tank’ operating as a registered charity is actually a veritable rat’s nest of Conservative Party members and associates with identifable links and connections running all the way to very highest level of the party.
To begin with, we’ll look only at the staff of Policy Exchange, which actually refers to them on its website as ‘experts.
For each of the 11 current ’staff’ members I’ve provided (below) a copy of their profile from the Policy Exhange website, plus, where relevant, additional information not included in their official profile but easily identified from other sources.
POLICY EXCHANGE - THE ‘EXPERTS’
Nicholas Boles, Director/Charity Correspondent.
Nicholas Boles is the Director of Policy Exchange. He was born in 1965. He read PPE at Magdalen College, Oxford and won a Kennedy Scholarship to study for a Master’s in Public Policy at the Kennedy School, Harvard University. In 1995, Nicholas founded Longwall Holdings, a small group of manufacturing businesses supplying the DIY industry; he remains non-executive chairman of Longwall. In 1998, he was elected to Westminster City Council as a [Conservative Party] representative of the West End ward. He served as chairman of Westminster’s Housing Committee from 1999 to 2001. In early 2002, Nicholas acted as associate producer of the West End production of The Mysteries.
What the Profile Doesn’t Say:
Boles was the Conservative Party candidate for the Labour-held marginal seat of Hove for the May 2005 general election.
He has been placed on the 170-strong ‘A-List’ of Conservative candidates ahead of the next general election but has not applied for any constituency nominations and is an entrant in the primary to find the Conservative Party a candidate for the London Mayoral election.
James O’Shaughnessy, Head of Research.
James O’Shaughnessy is Head of Research at Policy Exchange. He read PPE at St Hugh’s College, Oxford, and after graduating taught at the Mathieson Music School, Calcutta, before returning to the UK to work in new media. He joined Conservative Central Office in 2001 where he led the education research team. He was Head of Research at public affairs agency LLM Communications before joining Policy Exchange in 2004. For Policy Exchange he co-authored More Good School Places (2005) and edited the award-winning series of reports on housing and planning reform: Unaffordable Housing (2005), Bigger Better Faster More (2005) and Better Homes, Greener Cities (2006). He is Chair of Governors at Garratt Park special school in Wandsworth.
Dr Oliver Marc Hartwich, Research Director
Dr Oliver Marc Hartwich is a Research Director at Policy Exchange with responsibility for economic competitiveness. He was born in 1975 and studied Business Administration and Economics at Bochum University (Germany). After graduating with a Master’s Degree, he completed a PhD in Law at the universities of Bochum and Sydney (Australia) while working as a Researcher at the Institute of Commercial Law of Bonn University (Germany). Having published his award-winning thesis with Herbert Utz Verlag (Munich) in March 2004, he moved to London to support Lord Matthew Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay [Liberal Democrat Peer] during the process of the Pensions Bill. He is the UK Representative for the German think tank the Institute for Free Enterprise. He is the co-author of Unaffordable Housing: Fables and Myths, Bigger Better Faster More, and Better Homes, Greener Cities. He joined Policy Exchange in January 2005.
Munira Mirza, Associate Fellow
Munira Mirza writes and broadcasts on issues related to multiculturalism, cultural identity and urban regeneration. She is an arts consultant for the London East Research Institute and is currently working on her PhD at the University of Kent. In 2005 she presented The Business of Race, a series for BBC Radio Four on race and diversity. She edited the Policy Exchange report Culture Vultures in February 2006. Munira is also part of the Manifesto Club [actually a founding member], which will launch in November 2006.
Nicholas Hillman, Associate Fellow
Nicholas Hillman has been a Policy Adviser on pensions at the Association of British Insurers and a Research Fellow of Policy Exchange since autumn 2003. Between 2000 and 2003, he was the Senior Research Officer to David Willetts MP. He has written on social policy for a number of organisations, including the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Age Concern, the Centre for Policy Studies, Politeia and the Bow Group.
Work with other political think tanks:
The Centre for Policy Studies (CPS) was founded by Sir Keith Joseph and Margaret Thatcher in 1974 to champion economic liberalism in Britain and has since played a global role in the dissemination of free market economics. It continues to have a vital role as the champion of the small state.
Politeia is a think tank established in November 1995 that generally supports free-market based initiatives. Its patron is the Marquess of Salisbury and its director is Dr. Sheila Lawlor. Among those on its advisory council include Professor Tim Congdon, Professor David Dilks, Dr. Oliver Letwin MP, Francis Maude MP, David Willetts MP.
The Bow Group describes itself as the oldest - and one of the most influential - centre-right Think-Tanks in Britain. The Group exists to develop policy, publish research and stimulate debate within the Conservative Party. It has no corporate view, but represents all strands of Conservative opinion.
Prominent members of the group have included, Geoffrey Howe, William Rees-Mogg, Norman St John-Stevas, Michael Howard, Norman Lamont, Peter Lilley and Christopher Bland.
Gavin Lockhart, Research Director
Gavin is a Research Director at Policy Exchange with responsibility for health and crime and justice research. He was born in 1979 and studied Sociology at Edinburgh University. After graduating in 2002 with a first class degree, Gavin worked as a management consultant and spent two years advising clients in UK Healthcare Industry. Gavin joined the Policy Exchange in August 2006.
Jesse Norman, Senior Fellow
Jesse Norman is Senior Fellow at Policy Exchange, having previously served as Executive Director. He was a director at Barclays before leaving the City to research and teach at University College London. He was educated at Oxford University and at UCL, where he holds an honorary research fellowship in philosophy. He also serves on the advisory board of the Roundhouse, an urban regeneration project for young people in London.
Jesse’s most recent book is Compassionate Conservatism: What it is. Why we need it, co-authored with Janan Ganesh, and published by Policy Exchange.
What the Profile Doesn’t Say:
In 2006, Norman was selected to be the Conservative parliamentary candidate for the new constituency of Hereford and South Herefordshire in the next UK general election.
Dean Godson, Research Director
Dean Godson was Chief Leader Writer of the Daily Telegraph. Prior to that he was also a feature and profile writer for the Sunday Telegraph. He is the author of Himself Alone: David Trimble and the Ordeal of Unionism (Harper Collins, 2004), widely hailed as one of the most authoritative books on the Troubles. He regularly comments on national and international affairs for The Times, Sunday Times, Prospect and The Wall Street Journal. He edited the Policy Exchange publication Replacing the Routemaster.
What the Profile Doesn’t Say:
A Dean Godson is listed as having been a Conservative Party candidate at the 1997 General Election in the constituency of Great Grimsby. He came second. Whether this is same Dean Godson is, as yet, unconfirmed.
Roger Gough, Research Director
Roger Gough is a Research Director of Policy Exchange. After reading PPE at Magdalen College, Oxford, he worked as an international investment analyst for fifteen years. He lived in Japan from 1988 to 1991 and later specialised in the European banking industry. At the 1997 General Election he stood as Conservative candidate for Dulwich and West Norwood. He is currently an elected member of Kent County Council, and serves as Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Supporting Independence.
Anna Reid, Associate Fellow
Anna Reid is the former director of the international programme at Policy Exchange.
She worked for The Economist, on the business desk and then as Kiev correspondent, from 1989 to 1995, and has written two books, Borderland: a Journey Through the History of Ukraine (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1997) and The Shaman’s Coat: a Native History of Siberia (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2002). She has edited many Policy Exchange publications, including Size Isn’t Everything, Lion Cubs, and Taming Terrorism. She is currently writing a history of the World War II Siege of Leningrad for Bloomsbury.
What the Profile Doesn’t Say:
Reid’s Policy Exchange biography fails to mention that she was also the Kiev correspondent for the Daily Telegraph from 1993 to 1995. This is listed in her literary biography on several websites.
Louisa Mitchell, Research Director
Louisa is a research director with responsibility for the environment and the financial services. She read Chinese at Cambridge University and after graduating in 1994, joined the corporate finance department at Schroders. She spent eight years working as an investment banker in Hong Kong and New York, latterly for Goldman Sachs. She then consulted for the private sector arm of the World Bank in Hong Kong and became Director of ASrIA, the Association for Sustainable and Responsible Investment in Asia. She moved to London in 2003 and joined The Whitley Fund for Nature as Director. In 2006 she spent several months writing for the Financial Times and then joined Policy Exchange.
Of 11 ’staff members’:
Two are currently on the Conservative Party’s ‘A-List’; Norman, who has been selected for what looks like a very winnable semi-rural constituency, and Boles, who has not sought a Parliamentary constituency as yet, but has put himself forward as a possible candidate for Mayor of London.
Two (Boles and Gough) are confirmed as having been former Conservative PPC’s with a third (Godson) awaiting confirmation.
One (Gough) is currently a Conservative local councillor and holds a senior position position is his local authority.
We also have an ex-employee from Conservative Central Office, a former senior researcher to David Willetts MP (currently Shadow Secretary of State for Education) and two former Daily Telegraph journalists.
And through Nicholas Hillman, we also have clearly identifiable connections with three high profile Conservative Party think tanks (all non-charitable) whose combined past and present ‘memberships’ read like a who’s who of the upper echelons of the Conservative Party ovet the last thirty years, taking in everyone from Keith Joseph and Margaret Thatcher to Oliver Letwin and Francis Maude.
But enough of the Staff Writers, what about other ‘guests’ who’ve published material through Policy Exchange?
Here we find rather more variety of political opinions, with published essays by Simon Jenkins and Martin Bright amongst the material that can be downloaded from the Policy Exchange website.
Nevertheless, the ‘guest list’ throws up a few more interesting names and associations.
POLICY EXCHANGE - A SELECTION OF GUEST AUTHORS
Matthew d’Ancona (born 1968) is a British journalist. A former deputy editor of The Sunday Telegraph, he was appointed editor of The Spectator (replacing Boris Johnson) in February 2006.
Former leader of Dorset County Council (Conservative - confirmed by PoliticalHack in comments)
Gaskarth is (was?) the Membership Secretary of the Conservative Think Tank ‘The Bow Group’ which describes itself as:
The Bow Group the oldest - and one of the most influential - centre-right Think-Tanks in Britain. The Group exists to develop policy, publish research and stimulate debate within the Conservative Party. It has no corporate view, but represents all strands of Conservative opinion.
James Panton is a tutor in politics at St John’s College, Oxford and co-convenor of the Battle of Ideas. He is co-founder of the Manifesto Club and sits on the steering committee of Pro-Test, the Oxford-based group which campaigns in defence of vivisection.
Former Director of Steven Norris’s campaign to be Mayor of London
Antonia Feuchtwanger was a financial journalist for the Evening Standard. She worked for the Daily Telegraph as banking correspondent for five years, later contributing leaders, features and profiles. At the Independent on Sunday, she devised the Any Other Business column and acted as Deputy City Editor. Before journalism, she worked at Morgan Grenfell in capital markets and corporate finance in London and New York. She is a graduate of Cambridge University.
Alicia Collinson was educated at St. Hugh’s College, Oxford, obtaining M.A. and M Phil degrees, and is a Harmsworth Scholar. She is the wife of Damian Green MP, Conservative MP for Ashford
I’ll leave you draw your own conclusions, but would note that amongst the ‘guests’ we have Matthew d’Ancona and Antonia Feuchtwanger, both of who have worked extensively, in the past (and at present in d’Ancona’s case) for titles in the Daily Telegraph group - the same newspaper that has taken the greatest interest in Paul/Guido’s ‘Smith Institute’ ’stories…
Much more important than Policy Exchanges ‘guest authors’, or those for whom it has hosteds event, which include:
George Osbourne MP
Michael Gove MP
William Hague MP (his first major speech as Shadow Foriegn Secretary, no less), and
Dr Irwin Stelzer (not an MP but columnist for the Sunday Times, senior fellow of the Hudson Institute and, most recently, editor of ‘Neoconservatism’. Policy Exchange hosted a breakfast event at which Stelzer reviewed US monetary policy and the outlook for the world economy, to be followed by a round-table discussion with a small group of senior policy-makers and corporate leaders. all sounds rather similar to one of the Smith Institute meetings that Paul/Guido is trying to sell as being a bit ‘dodgy’.
Much more important even that the ringing endorsement to their work to be found on their website’s home page:
“Under the brilliant guidance of Nicholas Boles, Policy Exchange has become one of the seminal influences on political debate in Britain.”
Rt Hon Oliver Letwin MP
In fact more important than anything else, is the matter of the Policy Exchange’s Charity Trustees; the people who a legally in control of and responsbile for the organisation as a whole…
…and, again, the line-up turns out to be very interesting indeed.
POLICY EXCHANGE - THE ‘TRUSTEES’
Similar drill to before, here. I’ll be giving the names of the organisation’s trustees, past and present, with, where available, some relevant biographical detail…
Charles Moore (born October 31, 1956) is a British journalist and former editor of The Daily Telegraph (1995-2003).
He was educated at Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge where he studied history and was a friend of Oliver Letwin. He has previously been editor of The Spectator (1984-90) and Sunday Telegraph (1992-95). He resigned as editor of the Daily Telegraph to spend more time writing Margaret Thatcher’s authorised biography, which will be published after her death. Moore’s first publication was a pamphlet for the Salisbury Group titled ‘The Old People of Lambeth’, published in 1982 . He currently writes for two of the publications he previously edited, The Spectator and The Daily Telegraph.
Being a relatively common name, it is difficult to be certain here that I have identified the correct George Robinson, however at this time and until most substantive information emerges the most likely candidate would appear to be this one:
Alderman George Robinson MLA (born 30 May 1941) is a unionist politician in Northern Ireland.
Robinson was educated at Limavady Technical College and is a retired civil servant. He was elected to Limavady Borough Council in 1985 for the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). He was elected as the MLA for East Londonderry in 2003. Robinson was elected Mayor of Limavady Borough Council in June 2002.
He is DUP Party Spokesperson on Social Development.
Colin Barrow CBE (resigned 18 Jan 2005 according to last published accounts but still listed as a Trustee on the Charity Commission’s website)
Conservative Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Finance, Westminster City Council.
Mr Timothy Steel
No definitive information as yet
There is a Mt Timothy Steel listed on www.attheraces.com as the owner of a racehorse, Monte Alto, which is trained by Luca Cumani, but nothing to confirmthat this is the same Timothy Steel.
Ms Alice Mary Rose Thompson (or Thomson)
Information unclear – The Charity Commission gives the spelling ‘Thompson’ but in Policy Exchange’s annual accounts the spelling given in ‘Thomson’.
If the latter spelling is correct then this would appear to Alice Thomson, the great-great-granddaughter of Charles and Alice Todd, who is a British journalist writing for the Daily Telegraph,
the wife of Conservative MP David Heathcote-Amory and a personal friend of David Cameron.
CORRECTION: Wrong Heathcote-Amory cited.
Alice Thomson is the wife of Daily Mail Political analyst, EDWARD Heathcote-Amory, not Conservative MP, DAVID Heathcote-Amory - whether there is a distant familial relationship between the two has not been verified, however the Heathcote-Amory family (generally) is cited as being descended from William the Conqueror.
(Thank to Abelard for the additional info on links to the Heathcote-Amory family)
Ms Camilla Hilary Cavendish
Columnist and Leader writer for the Times Newspaper – as featured on Webcameron.
Mr Iain Campbell Dale
Yes it is that Iain Dale, as this extract from an article published in the New Statesman demonstrates…
The Tories will do anything to suck up to the Scots: not only was Iain Duncan Smith born George Smith, but even the second name on his birth certificate is spelt Ian, not the Scottish-style Iain. Duncan is his third Christian name, rather than part of his surname, and mystery surrounds when Smith became Duncan Smith. Maybe he took my mother’s advice. When I was 18, she suggested that I should hyphenate my middle and surname, as it would “help me get on in life”. Iain Campbell-Dale. Would I now be Tory leader if I had taken her advice?
Iain Dale (born 15 July 1962) is an English Conservative blogger and a presenter on the internet TV station, 18 Doughty Street Talk TV, which he co-founded as a Director of Doughty Media Limited.
Dale is the author or editor of fourteen political books. He presents Planet Politics on Oneword Radio and occasionally presents Sunday Service on BBC Radio Five Live. He has written for The Guardian, The Independent and the New Statesman. In May 2006, Dale co-authored a book with blogger Guido Fawkes (aka Paul Staines) about instances of sleaze from the Labour Party since taking office in 1997.
Dale’s blog, entitled Iain Dale’s Diary, was nominated by The Guardian for the Political Blog of the Year Award
In May 2005, Dale stood in the general election as Conservative candidate for Norfolk North, losing to the Liberal Democrat candidate, Norman Lamb. Subsequently Dale acted as chief of staff to David Davis in the run-up to the 2005 Conservative Party leadership campaign. In August 2006, it was confirmed that Iain Dale had been selected for the elite Conservative ‘A-List’ of candidates to fight the next general election.
Mr Michael Gove
Michael Andrew Gove (born August 26, 1967, Edinburgh) is a British politician, journalist and author. He has been the Conservative MP for Surrey Heath since 2005.
Michael joined The Times in 1996 as a leader writer and has been comment editor, news editor, Saturday editor and assistant editor. He has also written a weekly column on politics and current affairs in the newspaper and contributed to the Times Literary Supplement, Prospect magazine and The Spectator. He has written a sympathetic biography of Michael Portillo MP and a critical study of the Northern Ireland peace process, The Price of Peace, for which he won the Charles Douglas-Home Prize.
Michael joined the Conservative party at university and was secretary of Aberdeen South Young Conservatives. He has helped write speeches for a variety of cabinet and shadow cabinet ministers, including Peter Lilley and Michael Howard.
Michael was previously chairman of Policy Exchange, a centre-right think tank launched in 2002. As Conservative candidate in the safe seat of Surrey Heath, he entered Parliament in the 2005 election.
Ms Rachel Marjorie Joan Whetstone
Rachel Whetstone was Political Secretary to former Conservative leader, Michael Howard. She is now European head of communications for search-engine company Google. (oops better keep an eye on the search engine rankings)
Together with partner Steve Hilton, she is a godparent to Ivan Cameron the eldest child of David Cameron, the current leader of the Conservative party.
Mr Richard John Micklethwait
[Richard] John Micklethwait, born in 1962, is editor-in-chief of The Economist magazine since March 23, 2006. Previously he was United States editor of the publication.
Micklethwait was educated at Ampleforth and Magdalen College, Oxford. He joined the Economist in 1987, previously having worked for Chase Manhattan Bank.He coined the word Cosmocrat.
Mr Robin Edwards
There is a Robin Edwards listed as a donor (£1250) to Michael Portillo’s campaign for leadership of the Conservative Party on 2001 in Register of MPs interests. Whether this is the same Robin Edwards is yet to be confirmed.
Mr Richard Briance
Richard Briance is Deputy Chairman of Hawkpoint Partners, a leading city corporate finance advisory firm.
His previous City career includes roles as Chief Executive of West Merchant Bank, Vice Chairman of UBS and Managing Director of Credit Suisse First Boston.
He is a Trustee of the London Children’s Ballet and of Policy Exchange and a Board Member of Oxford Analytica and World Golf Systems.
Data from the Electoral Commission show Briance to have made three personal donations to the Conservative Party to the total value of £12,900 since 2002
Mr Theodore Thomas More Agnew
Theodore Agnew was appointed as Chief Executive of Jubilee Managing Agency Limited in May 2004 having received approval from FSA and Lloyd’s. He was formerly Chief Executive of motor claims management company, Town and Country Assistance, which he set up in 1989. He sold the company in July 2002 to WNS Global Services Ltd, a leading business process outsourcing (BPO) company. Mr Agnew served until March 2004 under the WNS management committee.
Mr Richard Ehrman
Richard Ehrman was a government special adviser in the Employment Department and the Northern Ireland Office, during the 1980s. In the 1990s he was chief leader writer of the Daily Telegraph, and is now a consultant director of the think tank Politeia, and on the board of Policy Exchange. He also runs a commercial property company.
Ehrman is a also olumnist for right-wing online daily magazine, The First Post.
Adam Afriyie (resigned 9 May 2005)
Adam Afriyie (born 4 August 1965, Wimbledon, London), British politician, is a Conservative Member of Parliament for Windsor. He was elected at the 2005 general election, succeeding Michael Trend, who was forced to stand down (after mistakenly claiming Additional Costs Allowance, which covers MP’s second homes in London, in respect of expenditure incurred in relation to his main home in Windsor.)
Afriyie is the first black Conservative MP. He was educated at Addey and Stanhope School and has a degree in agricultural economics from Imperial College (Wye) of the University of London.
Afriyie was founding director of Connect Support Services, an IT services company pioneering fixed-price support. He was also Chairman of DeHavilland Information Services plc, a news and information services company, and was a regional finalist in the 2003 Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the year awards. He was a Governor of the Museum of London, a trustee of the Museum in Docklands and a director of Policy Exchange, a centre-right policy body.
A member of the Conservative Party since 1990, Afriyie was selected as candidate for Windsor in October 2003. He was elected at the 2005 election with an increased share of the vote (49.5%) and a swing to the Conservatives of 1.2%.
In Parliament, he has been a member of the Select Committee on Science and Technology since 2005.
As with the ’staff’, Policy Exchange’s Board of Trustees has extensive connections into the Conservative Party, right to very highest levels - Rachel Whetstone was both Michael Howard’s political ‘major domo’ during his time as leader of the party and a godparent to one of David Cameron’s children.
I think that more than matches up to Paul/Guido’s insinuations about Smith Institute Director, Wilf Stephenson.
Again, we have one current Conservative MP plus a former trustee who is no also a sitting Conservative MP.
We have a former Conservative Party PPC, who also happens to be its most high profile blogger and a known associate of Paul Staines (Guido) and a leading light in 18 Doughty Street, or ‘Tory TV’ as its already being called in some circles.
We have more Conservative Party backroom staff, a Conservative councillor and yet more assorted journalists… and even more connections back to the Daily Telegraph, including a former editor who’s career spans the Daily and Sunday Telegraph and the Spectator, as well as being the official biographer of Margarent Thatcher.
In the case of the Smith Institute, one can at least point to two of its Trustees who could be considered to be non-partisan; Anglican Archbishop John Sentamu and corss-bench peer, Baron Joffe.
In the case, however, of Policy Exchange, not a single one of its Trustees can, on the information available, be clearly identified as being non-partisan or independent of the Conservative Party. The only identifiable ‘possible’ in this respect may be George Robinson, who may be a DUP politician, an therefore a natural ally of what is still, after all, the Conservative and Unionist Party.
As for the rest who cannot be definitively tied to the Conservative Party, we have one near complete unknown, one businessman and one other unknown who may have been a past donor to Michael Portillo.
As far as the Trustees go, the thing most open to question is whether one should consider that the controlling interest here lies with members of the Conservative Party or with ex-Telegraph journalists…
Paul/Guido has pointed the finger at the Smith Institute over its having employed Ed Balls (now a Labour MP) during the period leading into the 2005 General Election, at a time when he was a Labour Party candidate.
Policy Exchange director, Nicholas Boles was also a parliamentary candidate at the same general election, albeit an unsuccessful one, as were three of Policy Exchange’s Charity Trustees; Iain Dale, Michael Gove and Adam Afriyie, of whom (Gove and Afriyie) were elected.
And, as if that were not enough, a current staff writer, Jesse Norman, has already been selected as the Conservative Party PPC for the new constituency of Hereford and South Herefordshire, a key Lib Dem marginals with, under the boundaries used at the last election, a majority over the Tories of only 950 or so. A very winnable seat, I’m sure you will agree.
Let’s be clear, what I am not trying to do her is level any specific allegations of misconduct or deliberate breahes of Charity Law.
There are rule governing the involvement of Charities in political activities of which I am sure those associated with Policy Exchange are full aware, much as I would expect the same to be the case at The Smith Institute.
There is, however, more to consider here than simply whether either Policy Exchange has operated in strict adherence to the letter of the law; one of the more areas in which the Charity Commissioners act as ‘custodians’ of the public trust is in the matter of the public character of charity - and because of that, a particularly pertinant question here is not just whether Policy Exchange, or any other similar think tank, functions in a non-partisan manner consistant with the requirements of Charity Law but also whether it looks, to a reasonable observer, like a non-partisan independent policy think tank.
You’ve seen the evidence, here…
Does this organisation, Policy Exhange, actually look like a
“an independent think tank, which has been set up to undertake research and education in issues that flow from the changing relationship between social values and economic imperatives”
…or does it look, instead, like…
“a Coservative Party think tank, which has been set up to undertake research and education in issues will directyl influence, shape and contribute to Conservative Party policy and its next general election manisfesto in addition to providing a ‘hot house’ for potential future Conservative MPs”
What is the public character of this organisation and is does that character appear to be compatible with its status as a registered charity?
Well, with dues respect to Iain Dale, who is after all, a follow blogger, I have to say that the guiding principle here seems to very much on of…
If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck…
Final thoughts - The Guido Fawkes Connection (???)
Let me run you quickly through a few things we DO know…
We know that Conservative MPs are actively sniffing around The Smith Institute and its rumoured connections with Gordon Brown in the hope of uncovering something that looks sleazy enough to use as political capital against him and the Labour Party.
We also know that a complaint regarding the alleged political activities of the Smith Institure has been forwarded to the Charoty Commission and in under investigation.
We know that Paul Staines (aka Guido Fawkes) has past, if possibly loose, connections to notable figures in the Conservative Party, including what were at time time, key supporters (Goldsmith, Murdoch) and with a former policy advisor and speech writer to Margaret Thatcher for whom Staines is thought to have supplied the jokes.
We know that Staines is ‘pushing’ the Smith Institute story on his blog in much the same manner as he has the ‘loans for peerages’ story and that he has, in doing do, deliberately twisted an otherwise innocuous fact - as a charity the Smith Institute has access to the gift aid system on donations - to try and create the appearance of ’sleaze’ in the financial dealings of the Institute.
We know that Staines is also a known associate of Iain Dale and co-author of a book, with Dale, about New Labour ’sleaze’.
We know that Dale is a former Conservative PPC, was Chief of Staff to David Davis during his unsuccess run for the Conservative leadership, and is, along with Tim Montogomerie at Conservative Home, the de facto front man for what one might consider the ‘unofficial’ Conservative Party expansion into the use of new media and the internet as a campaign tool, both as high profile blogger and as a founder of, and leading presenter on, 18 Doughty Street.
We now also now that Iain Dale is a founding trustee of an ‘independent’ political think tank that operates as a registered charity, has extensive and verifiable links into the highest echelons of the Conservative Party (past and present) but including the present leadership of the party and a extensive selection of members of its front-bench team, links into three major Conservative think tanks and into the mainstream media, and in particular into newspapers and magazines belonging to the most traditional of all Conservative newspaper/magazine groups, that which publishes the Daily and Sunday Telegraph and The Spectator.
And we also can see that, looked at reasonably and objectively, the links and connections that Policy Exchange has with the Conservative Party are at least, if not more extensive and marked than those that exist between the Labour Party and The Smith Institute, even allowing for the fact that the Smith Institute was founded in the memory of a former leader of the Labour Party.
And finally, we know that the first newspaper to pick up and run with the Smith Institute story - or ‘Guido’s story’ as Staines appears to like to call it - was the Daily Telegraph, who ran two full stories and a leader (with no byline to identify the author) in the space of a week…
Oh, not quite finally, because having just nipped over to Guido’s site, I’ve just noticed that amongst the advertising running at present - remember Guido’s got an ‘in’ on an online business called ‘Messagespace’ that provides advertising to several blogs, including Iain Dale’s, ConservativeHome, LabourHome, Recess Monkey and, of course, his own blog - is an advert for…
Small world, eh?
What we DO NOT know is whether and to what extent, if any, any of this list of thing s that we do know, may be directly connected - the list I’ve just provided may indicated nothing more than a long series of coincidences and be simply a list of laargely unconnected facts with no bearing whatsoever on the current efforts of either Paul Staines or Conservative MPs to dig around in the affairs of The Smith Institute in the hope of finding a bit of sleaze to pin on number 11, having seemingly failed to pin anything to with the ‘loans for peerages’ investigation on the same ‘official’ address.
What does, therefore, leave us with is a lot of unanswered questions about whether and how all this information, and these people, may be related, if it is; a few suspicions, certainly, and a growing odour of mendacity and double-standards in regards to the concerted efforts of Conservative MPs to dig up ’sleaze’ on think tank linked to the Labour Party when, all the time and the surface, one might be forgiven for concluding that what appears to one of their own think tanks may be working the exact same loopholes and grey areas in charity law, that the claim the Smith Institute has be working.
And that brings us full circle, back to Paul Staines (aka Guido Fawkes - or perhaps that should be Guido Faust) and the question of just exactly who he might actually be working for and getting his little titibits of seemingly useful gossip and rumour from?
With Paul/Guido acting for all the world like the attack dog of the Tory Party, one has to reasonable wonder quite who’s on the other end of the leash?
UPDATE: WHAT NEXT?
What to do with this information? Mmm…
Actually I have thought it through and although I could quite easily take the partisan tit for tat route through this, that of forwarding this information to the Charity Commissioners with a formal complaint asking that they conduct an inquiry into the governance, in particular, of Policy Exchange, its links to the Conservative Party, and whether this contravenes regulations on political activities by Charities, what I’m much inclined to do is take a broader view of all this and aks that the Commission carry out a detailed and thorough review of the relationship between political parties and policy think tanks that claim charitable status.
Better, I think, in the long run, to clean out the stables completely than try and do it one stall at a time.
Of course, such an inquiry would rather derail Guido’s ‘Smith Institute’ story, but then its an ill wind that blows no one any good, as they say…
Res Ipsa Loquiteur.