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The new “Popular Conservativism” (“PopCon”) initiative launched in recent weeks abruptly deleted Conservative MPs Liz Truss, Simon Clarke, Jacob Rees-Mogg and Ranil Jayawardena from its website in response to an investigation by Byline Times exposing its ties to a dark money lobby group linked to climate denialism, scientific racism, and free market extremism.
The initiative has been attributed to the emergence of a splinter faction of Conservative Party members led by Liz Truss, the shortest-serving prime minister in British history. A member of the faction, Simon Clarke MP, published a controversial column in the Telegraph on Wednesday demanding that the party replace Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.
Byline Times can confirm that the Popular Conservativism website, www.popularconservatism.com, was registered on 14 November last year by a private limited company, Popular Development Partners Limited, whose director is Mark Littlewood. Just months earlier Littlewood had stepped down as Director General of the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA). However, Littlewood remains affiliated with the IEA as Senior Economics Fellow.
The IEA is a dark money lobby group which refuses to fully disclose its sources of funding, but which regularly campaigns for a form of free market extremism that culminated in the failed ‘Trussonomics’ agenda in 2022.
A previous investigation by Byline Times revealed that the IEA played a key role in mainstreaming the figure of Charles Murray, a notorious scientific racist who claims that black people have lower IQs than white people due to genetic inferiority. The IEA also has an alarming track record of climate science denialism, and is part of a network of opaque hard right think tanks in the UK which have received millions in ‘dark money’ donations from American donors. Other confirmed funders include BP and gambling interests.
The group also has close ties with climate-denying alt-right libertarian groups which are supportive of former US President Donald Trump.
A spokesperson for the IEA said: “Popular Conservatism is not sponsored, funded or controlled by the IEA. To suggest otherwise is entirely false.”
Minutes after sending this statement, the Popular Conservativism website was temporarily deleted. When it was republished, the names and images of Truss, Rees-Mogg, Clarke and Jayawardena – identifies as speakers for a forthcoming launch event on 6 February – had been deleted.
Neither Mark Littlewood nor any of the Conservative MPs linked to the ‘PopCon’ faction and slated to speak at a forthcoming launch event – including Liz Truss and her former ministers Simon Clarke, Jacob Rees-Mogg and Ranil Jayawardena – responded to requests for comment.
This article was updated on 25 January 2024 to clarify that www.popularconservatism.com had been temporarily suspended following inquiries from Byline Times, after which Truss, Clarke, Rees-Mogg and Jayawardena were deleted from the website.