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Think Tanks: Malign or Benign?

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In partnership with Media North

55 Tufton Street in London is known as the backdoor to Number 10. It is home to think tanks including the TaxPayers’ Alliance and the Global Warming Policy Foundation. Last October the campaign group Led By Donkeys installed an oversized blue plaque on Tufton Street following weeks of turmoil in the UK markets. It read: ‘The UK economy was crashed here.’

Right-wing think tanks boasted of their access and influence over the short-lived, disastrous Truss government. The policies she and her chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng adopted, incubated by these think tanks over the years, were praised by them until the economy crashed. This was followed by silence or buck-passing.

The damage done by these think tanks goes back many years. The privatisation of our public utilities was enthusiastically promoted by them, saying such policies would promote a ‘share holding democracy’.

The Institute for Economic Affairs (IEA), the Adam Smith Institute, the Centre for Policy Studies and the Taxpayers’ Alliance all promote policies favoured by the Conservative Party and the same policies are publicised by papers like the Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph. Freeports is one topical example.

These think tanks pose as charities but their work is blatantly partisan. They are also deeply secretive about who funds them. We need more transparency.

'Think Tanks: Malign of Benign?' will explore these issues and highlight some of the important, positive work of other think tanks.

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Editor-in-chief Yorkshire Bylines, a not-for-profit citizen journalism publication.

Sam Bright is UK Deputy Editor of DeSmog, having previously served as the Investigations Editor of Byline Times from 2020 to 2023. He has written for a number of national and international media outlets, including the New York Times, the BBC, and New Statesman, and is the author of two books: Bullingdon Club Britain, and Fortress London.

Honorary and emeritus professor of journalism at Brunel University London. He is a co-author of Culture Wars: The Media and the British Left (Routledge, 2019) and a member of the editorial board of the British Journalism Review. He has written on the links between think tanks and Conservative-supporting newspapers.

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