‘We Are Not Done’Conservatives Remain in Thrall to Tufton Street
Sam Bright reports on the Conservative Party’s enduring alliance with the libertarian lobbying groups that ‘crashed the economy’
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As a year of political turmoil nears its conclusion, the agents of chaos are still firmly embedded within the Conservative Party, Byline Times can reveal.
Despite Liz Truss’ disastrous mini-budget, engineered by the free market ‘think tanks’ of Tufton Street, these same lobbying groups have retained their close proximity to the party in power.
The 23 September mini-budget saw $500 billion wiped off UK markets as Truss and her Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng proposed a swathe of unfunded tax cuts for the rich. Truss lasted just 50 days in the top job, with Kwarteng departing Number 11 a few days after his ‘pro-growth’ package had been revealed.
These reforms were widely seen as the culmination of the ideas conceived by the Tufton Street network – the opaquely-funded, libertarian groups that have clustered on this one street in Westminster. As former Conservative advisor Tim Montgomerie said on the day of the mini-budget: “A massive moment for the IEA. They’ve been advocating these policies for years. They incubated Truss and Kwarteng during their early years as MPs. Britain is now their laboratory.”
Mark Littlewood of the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) heralded the mini-budget immediately after its release, arguing that: “This isn’t a trickle-down budget, it’s a boost-up budget. The Government has announced a radical set of policies to increase Britain’s prosperity.”
He made no mention of the fact that the Government had entirely failed to explain how these measures would be paid for.
Tufton Street subsequently faced a considerable amount of scrutiny – the campaign group Led By Donkeys installed a blue plaque above 55 Tufton Street reading, “the UK economy was crashed here”.
However, all the signs following this event have suggested that the Conservative Party has retained its intimacy with this radical libertarian offshoot.
Just last week, Leader of the House of Commons Penny Mordaunt was a guest of honour at the IEA’s Christmas party. “I remember Labour’s record – that is why I’m sticking around, to fight the next election,” she reportedly began by saying – alluding to the multiple high-profile Conservative MPs who have chosen not to stand at the next general election.
Addressing the assembled audience, Mordaunt added: “enjoy your Christmas, get some rest and sharpen your pens because we are not done.”
And, while the IEA’s donors are largely opaque, we know that figures associated with the group have recently been filling the Conservative Party’s coffers. Byline Times can reveal that £8,000 has been donated to the party in recent months by Shanker Singham, who is a Trade Fellow at the IEA, having previously served as the director of the think tank’s International Trade and Competition Unit. As reported by DeSmog, Singham has been described in the media as the “Brexiters’ brain” for his close ties and “unparalleled access” to senior Eurosceptics.
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Singham is a proponent of ‘Enterprise Cities’ – geographic zones with regulatory autonomy from their host governments, allowing them to set independent tax and regulation policies to, in theory, boost innovation. It has been suggested that these ideas played a role in the Government’s ‘freeports’ policy, whereby tax rules and regulations will be loosened in some areas of the country. The Enterprise Cities idea also sounds markedly akin to Truss’ plan to create ‘investment zones’ across the UK – a policy now scrapped by Sunak.
The Conservative Party’s stubborn alliance with Tufton Street also extends beyond the IEA. Home Secretary Suella Braverman last week wrote the foreword to a report from the Centre for Policy Studies (CPS), which proposed the “indefinite detention” of all asylum seekers who enter the UK “illegally”. Braverman described the report as “a vital and necessary contribution to the policy debate about what can be done to tackle the crossings” of asylum seekers across the Channel. The CPS is a libertarian think tank based in 57 Tufton Street.
Moreover, as previously revealed by this newspaper, International Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch carried on Liz Truss’ Tufton Street traditions by delivering a flagship speech at the Cato Institute – a free market think tank based in Washington DC. Badenoch, who this week is travelling to India in the hope of reigniting a free trade agreement with the country, is also advised by a number of Tufton Street figures – including the IEA’s Littlewood – who were brought into the department by Truss during her stint as International Trade Secretary.
And, although the number of Tufton Street alumni advising the Government has dropped markedly since Truss’ short tenure in Downing Street, there still remains a libertarian cohort within Sunak’s administration, with seven senior advisors formerly having worked at the CPS or the IEA.