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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