Policy Exchange is a British think tank, whose mission statement claims that it attempts to ‘develop and promote new policy ideas’. The Telegraph described it as “the largest, but also the most influential think tank on the right”, while The Guardian lambasted it as a “neo-con attack dog”. Despite the organisations claim to be “independent”, however, it has recently been fostering close links with the Conservative Party, and nowhere is this more obvious than in Boris Johnson’s administration.

During the electoral campaign, Boris was aided by Dan Ritterband, a one-time director of Policy Exchange, and soon after his victory, Nicholas Boles, the founder of the organisation, was named as the mayor’s Chief of Staff. Boles was, the Observer reported, ‘asked to help the new mayor find the right staff’, and one of his first appointments was Munira Mirza – an employee of Policy Exchange – as Director of Policy, Arts, Culture and the Creative Industries. Ritterband, meanwhile, maintained his position among Boris’s advisers.

The Conservatives have not merely benefited from Policy Exchange’s employees, however, they have also been seduced by their promotion of policies. Tom has already commented on the current influence of ‘Replacing the Routemaster: How to Undo Ken Livingstone’s Destruction of London’s Best Ever Bus’, but the effects of other reports may become clearer in time. In 2007, Policy Exchange published ‘Living Apart Together: British Muslims and the paradox of multiculturalism’. Marie Smith and Jeroen Gunning of the Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Contemporary Political Violence argued that the report ‘appeared to legitimise Conservative party rhetoric’, and it certainly did nothing to harm the career of it’s co-author, Munira Mirza.

It has often been alleged that Gordon Brown is too heavily influenced by think-tanks, and it appears that Cameron isn’t going to be one to buck the trend. Policy Exchange has been named as his ‘favourite think tank’, while Nick Boles is advising Francis Maude, the shadow cabinet minister responsible for Conservative transition plans. ‘Ideas with influence’ indeed.


Plausibly confused as to whose policies to promote, a report by Policy Exchange’s Jesse Norman and Janan Ganesh extolls the virtues of Cameron’s compassionate conservatism, and offers a detailed opinion on its future. It’s worth reading, as it’s ideas may soon seem particularly prescient.

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14 Responses to This Think Tank Is A Powerful Vehicle

  1. Tom says:

    Norman crops up in the Routemaster report too. Also, doesn’t Maude have something to do with Ray Lewis and the whole ‘hoodies for boxing gloves’ idea on youth crime? Along with Ian Duncan Smith, of course, the most influential ex-leader the Tories have had in a while.

  2. BenSix says:

    Yes, Ian Duncan Smith financed Ray Lewis from his Centre for Social Justice. I think that the Conservatives are going to have a ‘family values’ approach.
    I’m not sure whether Francis Maude has any particular connection with either, but here are his views on fathers and the family (nothing surprising):

  3. Sunny says:

    Munira Mirza authored another report on Arts and political correctness with Policy Exchange, hence her new position:

  4. Tom says:

    Does she have any, like, actual practical political or management experience beyond this, or is ‘wrote a report for PX’ considered sufficient qualifications to get into the GLA these days?

  5. Wireman says:

    There is also the controversial Hijacking of British Islam report, roundly fisked by Newsnight, who were threatened by Policy Exchange with legal action “relentlessly, to trial or capitulation”. Needless to say, the courts have so far been unbothered.

  6. BenSix says:

    Thanks very much. We can either assume that Ganesh was beginning a patient veer rightwards, or take his case as further evidence that very little separates New Labour and the Tories.
    She was a board member for the European Cultural Foundation, but that aside I believe that she’s been hired on the basis of ‘Living Together Apart’ and the report that Sunny has mentioned.
    Indeed, it was a great embarrassment for them. The Newsnight interview with Dean Godson, incidentally, was a wonderful protracted example of a debator moving the goalposts.

  7. BenSix says:

    I was rather amused by Harry’s Place’s concerns about Munira Mirza and the RCP, though. They seemed to hop, skip and jump over the point.

  8. Tim Ireland says:

    I found evidence of Nicholas Boles using Policy Exchange as an administrative base for his own ill-fated campaign:

    (Note – There was more than this little item at the time, but nothing I could publish.)

    But he and/or Dean Godson especially are sure to be hoist by their own petard(s) soon enough. Watch, wait and be patient. You will catch them helping themselves… because they simply won’t be able to help themselves.

    (Psst! Iain Dale – former Trustee of Policy Exchange – is also worth a look-see. Tory or not, for a man who doesn’t live in London, he sure did more than his fair share of Ken-bashing.)

  9. Tom says:

    Cheers, Tim, very interesting in that it ties up a loose end. Hypothetically speaking, we can now posit that someone at PX realised that a front-man was required and Boris, being completely uninterested in day to day running of things but with a high profile was ideal. Boles got his nose in the trough straight off, one notices.

    Incidentally, I think you’re right, if Boris’ minders start to foam at the mouth and run the city along hard right lines espoused by PX they’re going to come an almighty cropper. Unfortunately, amusing as this is for you colonial provincials, we actually have to live here…

    Tim – you and I need another pint Somewhere In London…

  10. BenSix says:

    Thankamayou, Tim, very intruiging stuff.
    Martin Bright had a knockabout bit of Islamist bashing with them as well (http://www.policyexchange.org.uk/publications.aspx?id=192). Iain was amusing, because he seemed to shrug off ‘conspiracy theories’ about Policy Derange, and then went on to campaign vehemently against the Smith Institute.

  11. […] of the Queen’s Cup polo match when I saw, over a hedge, the top of a Routemaster! Given the bizarre significance of the things to the PolEx/Godson/Standpoint/CCO/Martin Bright club, I’m tempted to imagine it as the transport for the Decent assassination squad. No […]

  12. […] It really is very influential. […]

  13. […] “failed”, which David Cameron had to rush to distance the Conservatives from, despite the fact (familiar to Boris Watch readers) that Policy Exchange has extremely close links to powerful Tories and indeed they’ve managed to […]

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