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George Osborne hires head of leading centre-right think tank to push through new Tory agenda

30 November 2012

11:13 AM

30 November 2012

11:13 AM

George Osborne has recruited Neil O’Brien, the director of the leading centre-right think tank Policy Exchange, as an adviser. O’Brien will start work in the New Year with a particular focus on the next phase of coalition policy development. I also suspect that O’Brien will have a major influence on Tory thinking heading to 2015 and beyond. The Northern Lights report he commissioned at Policy Exchange is regarded in Tory circles as one of the most important assessments of the challenge facing the party in trying to win a majority.

I understand that Osborne has been impressed by the work that O’Brien has produced at Policy Exchange. At Policy Exchange, O’Brien has sought to craft a more economically focused centre-right agenda. The think-tank, which was in the vanguard of the modernising project, has in the last few years set about developing a policy agenda more suited to these straitened times with an emphasis on economic renewal, public service reform and a more hard-headed approach to welfare.

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O’Brien has also done much work on how to revive the Tories in the north. His piece in this week’s magazine sets out what the thinks can be done about the north south divide. As a veteran of the campaign against the Euro and a former head of the Euro-sceptic think tank Open Europe, he’s also bound to have a view on how the Conservatives should approach the renegotiation of Britain’s terms of membership of the European Union.

For Osborne, this is the second impressive addition to his political team this month—following on from the recruitment of the BBC’s senior political producer Thea Rogers. I know that to those outside the Westminster bubble, the reporting of this kind of news must seem like the worst kind of political navel gazing. But the Chancellor’s continuing ability to attract talent is a sign that some of the sharpest minds in Westminster believe there’s plenty of life in this government and the wider Cameron project.


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  • Open_Palm

    “But the Chancellor’s continuing ability to attract talent is a sign that some of the sharpest minds in Westminster believe there’s plenty of life in this government and the wider Cameron project.”

    OR
    It could just mean that those he recruited are too aware of what further damage Osborne could do if they don’t help.

  • Rhoda Klapp

    Did I miss the obligatory scorn for JF? Well, i might have, but I realised that the post above under his byline is in fact an elaborate parody put up by one of his rivals to show the enlightened just how sycophantic a lobby journalist has to be to get by.

  • Rhoda Klapp

    You know, I can’t read the words ‘think tank’ without it coming out as evil unelected lobby group undermining democracy. Or bunch of gobshites. Or both.

    • 2trueblue

      That is because you are normal, and right, on both counts.

    • dalai guevara

      It gets worse: after the move of BBC ‘socialists’ Craig Oliver and Thea Rogers to No10/11, infiltration is now complete?

  • Noa

    The report is already out of date.

    I searched in vain for a mention of UKIP, or how to identify any Conservatives value that would appeal to voters.

  • Russell

    “the reporting of this kind of news must seem like the worst kind of political navel gazing”

    In that one string of words you capture what the majority of the population really feel.

    And politicians wonder why turn-outs are low for elections!

  • EJ

    WHY NOTHING ON ROTHERHAM?

    Why nothing on the massive surge for UKIP?

    Which teenager is the Speccie going to wheel out to pen another piece belittling and denigrating UKIP?

    The bets are on…

    • David Lindsay

      UKIP still didn’t win. It has still never won a seat. Labour’s share of the vote went up. The real story is that a party with five Cabinet Ministers came eighth. Quite who the six between it and Labour were is pretty much academic.

  • JMckechnie

    ‘O’Brien has also done much work on how to revive the Tories in the north.’ Yes, last night’s by-election results have been a roaring success.

    • Burnageboy

      But he wasn’t a special adviser last night, was he? He’s written extensively on the problems the Tories face up north and proposed solutions. Give him a chance to implement his ideas.

      • David Lindsay

        Disbandment?

        They are simply of no interest in the North, and they simply never will be.

        • 2trueblue

          Look back on how Thatcher actually did revive parts of the north, and it wasn’t by chucking money willy nilly at it. Liebortes, simply buy votes, lower aspirations, and talk. What did they actually improve in their time that had lasting value?

          • TomTom

            Thatcher did not revive the North – she simply won more seats in 1979 than ever again in the North….but that was a fading dream as the consequences unfolded for the North

      • JMckechnie

        Yes, but that doesn’t mean that his work, so far, has revived the tories in the north. It seems that it’s not me that is isn’t giving ‘him a chance to implement his ideas’, but George Osborne. Whether his ideas are any good or not will be told in time; but they are neither a distinct failure, nor a resounding success, till we see what happens.

      • TomTom

        He lived in Huddersfield so he’s probably a former playmate of Mr Lindsay

        • David Lindsay

          Huddersfield? That’s practically Surrey.

          • TomTom

            Chesire is Surrey and lovely with it……oh to have a £450,000 house sell for £900,000

            • David Lindsay

              Full of footballers, isn’t it? Like Surrey, in fact.

              But I grant you that in Cheshire, you might be living next door to someone off Coronation Street rather than, as in Surrey, to someone off EastEnders.

      • Noa

        The ‘posh boy image’ solution will be a challenge for him.
        “George, thanks for giving me the job, but you and Dave now need to go by May…”

    • 2trueblue

      He needs to look further than the north. They are not hitting the mark overall. Far better to get out and about on the streets and hear for themselves.

      • David Lindsay

        No one up here believes you. You would be lucky to get out alive if you started talking about “revival” under Thatcher. Have you ever stopped to wonder why that might be? A handful of depopulated farming areas still vote Tory, although only for the lack of anything else. Even very rich urban and suburban ones haven’t done in years. No one else would dream of it.

        My own Parish Council, in the most steadfastly middle-class village for miles around, has precisely one Tory out of 15 members, the sum total of their elected representation here. He is a farmer, by the way. They ran it in for decades until 1999, i.e., up to and including elections in 1994. But no more.

        This is entirely typical. Nothing that the Conservative Party has to say will ever again be of the slightest interest to the North of England.

        • TomTom

          That is true – the legacy of the 1980s is one Unending Recession without any intervening Boomlet. The only areas which have seen real investment are former mining towns like Barnsley, Mansfield and they are isolated examples of Labour largesse…….others have simply been allowed to turn into Flint, Michigan

        • Daveyyy12

          Sadly true.

          The de-industrialisation of the north due to globalisation, unions and management and blamed totally on the Tories by the left.

          Yet all those years of voting Labour has failed to restore any industry. For that you need people with imagination and vision.

          • TomTom

            Hardly globalisation – Rowntree was offered on a plate to Nestle. BREL was given away to Bombardier, a Canadian company that only exists because of subsidy from Ottawa. Federal Mogul got Turner & Newall and now it is Trafford Park Shopping Centre instead of an Industrial Zone as was intended when Chamberlain created them. Let’s think of English Electric, Crompton Parkinson, Vickers, Reyrolle-Parsons,

            • David Lindsay

              Well said, TomTom.

          • David Lindsay

            Only because they followed your policies for fear of what the “free” press would have said if they hadn’t.

            The Conservative Party’s failure to hold out against globalisation only served, and serves, to illustrate that has not a conservative or a Tory bone in its body.

            • Colonel Mustard

              That I can agree with. But it was fear. Fear of being left behind after years of post-war decline facilitated by the bolshevik left and the sort of piss-poor management that has side-stepped neatly into the corporate and public sectors. And the same fear is behind our determination to be a subordinate to a load of gobby, excitable and socialist Europeans rather than masters of our own destiny in an uncertain world.

              • David Lindsay

                Only in Britain does anyone think that the EU is “socialist”, on account of 30 years of hysteria about even the tiniest social measures being “Bolshevik” or whatever. Everywhere else, the opposition to the EU comes from the Left.

                As most of it does here, in fact, in terms of voting against the Treaty of Rome, ever having held a referendum, ever having fought a General Election on a commitment to withdrawal, voting against the Single European Act, voting against Maastricht, voting against the European Finance Bill, keeping Britain out of the euro, electing Eurosceptics
                (including one who has voted against every Treaty since the first one) as MPs’ representatives to the party’s National Executive Committee, voting by one third of MPs to be chaired by an outspoken and dynastic advocate of outright withdrawal, expressing openness to the possibility of an In-Out referendum, proposing a Eurosceptical candidate for Chancellor, having a Eurosceptic at the head of the party’s Policy Review, and voting to demand a real terms cut in the British contribution to the EU Budget.

                But ssshh, no one must ever know. Isn’t the “free” press marvellous?

        • Colonel Mustard

          Not very equitable, David. You scorned a commentator above for mentioning the “history” of the Smith Institute and here you are resurrecting Thatcher mythology from even longer ago. I think you have a touch of that Labour tendency to airbrush out its own failings whilst steadfastly preserving and complaining about those of the Tories.

          • David Lindsay

            It is very present reality in the North, let me assure you.

        • 2trueblue

          And that is because Liebore have created a clinent state in the area.

          • 2trueblue

            should read ‘client’. Anyway if they are deaf to anything Tory what con you do?

  • David Lindsay

    “the leading centre-right think tank Policy Exchange”

    A proven forgers’ den, and a trading name of Michael Gove’s office.

    This country’s unelected real Government is increasingly rubbing our noses in it.

  • TomTom

    Sorry James, I know you wanted that job and had worked so hard to catch Osborne’s eye. The tough work at a think-tank is almost as tough as building a business and meeting payroll. Thank God we don’t have any focus on those oiks who make things and can focus on Postgraduates with a Tablet and iPhone writing great Powerpoint presentations. Thea Rogers too ! James Purnell’s little fling, and from Newsnight too……. all these people of substance from the real coalface of modern Britain – one male, one female – the Equalities Act is covered except both are White and Metropolitan still she was in Vogue in April – ““There’s also an overnight bag at hand for impromptu trips. ‘I never
    know where the day’s news might lead’.”

    Still O’Brien knows the problem “Writing for the Guardian on the eve of the Conservative
    conference in Birmingham, O’Brien says: “The Tories urgently need a
    new round of renewal. Tory modernisation has not yet healed the party’s
    worst wounds. It is still seen as the party of the rich. It does badly
    in urban areas, particularly outside the south-east.”

    UKIP is now seemingly a Party of the North to my amazement, but more power to them for reaching Voters the Tories cannot and the LibDems can kiss goodbye…..Clegg must be thinking of jumping ship in Sheffield into a cushy EU or Goldman job

    • David Lindsay

      Or a constituency near you, to be faced, like all Lib Dem Ministers, with no Conservative opponent. And no, that would not mean that UKIP would win the seat. UKIP does not win seats. It just happens to be treated by the media as if it had scores of them.

      • TomTom

        What constituency might that be Mr Lindsay since you are south of me

        • David Lindsay

          Hexham? Somewhere in Cumbria?

          • romanlee

            You need to get out more, Northumberland is where Hexham is located, comprehensive or money wasted on private education.

            • David Lindsay

              Evidently…

    • 2trueblue

      UKIP is the party that people now feel express what they want, freedom in their own country to live as they see their birthright, British. They have had their rights diminished and can not express their thoughts or feelings without being call a bigot. Liebore spent 13yrs taking away our liberties and the media helped. We need to clean up the BBC, but frankly we had the chance and fluffed it. Now Millipede wants a totally state controlled press.

  • In2minds

    Rotherham, Energy Bill?

    • David Lindsay

      Yesterday was a very good day to bury bad news. Or to burn it. Energy prices to go, as it were, through the roof. Except for big companies, which are to be made exempt. But the media are talking about themselves instead.

      • TomTom

        Same as in Germany where householdrs face a 30% increase as the new policy is to compensate windmill operators for electric power that cannot be connected to the grid and to buy utilities commitment to keep coal power stations fired so the trains don’t grind to a halt this winter

        • 2trueblue

          Why are we wasting money on further development of a method that is really a vanity project? It does not work and in itself is polluting. Manufacturing the windmills is not eco friendly, putting them into the ground is not eco friendly and building roads up to them so they can be serviced is not eco friendly. This is a vanity project and we should not be force into footing the bill.

  • Swiss Bob

    I was more pleased to see the booted Leather moaning in the Guardian and Shawcross appointed chairman of the charities commission.

    Does this mean the Government will stop lobbying itself through the funding of fake charities?

    • David Lindsay

      Fake charities? Take that up with Liam Fox, late of Atlantic Bridge, an integral part of the same milieu as Policy Exchange.

      • Swiss Bob

        Fine by me as long as all the others go, what was Balls’ fake charity called, you know, the one used to funnel money to him.

        • David Lindsay

          Beats me, and I know about these things. You are making this up, aren’t you? He’d be in prison if you weren’t. And even if you were, Balls is not yet back in office.

          Whereas the neocon ones are directing our foreign policy on behalf of foreigners whose own electorate has cast them out forever, and the neoliberal ones are devastating our economy with policies that they would always have implemented regardless of the circumstances.

          Policy Exchange is both.

          • Swiss Bob

            Beats me, and I know about these things.

            It’s well known so clearly you don’t, pompous or what?

            http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/christopherhope/3655941/Think_tank_scrutinised_over_Labour_links/

            More controversy about the Smith Institute and its alleged influence on Government policy. Now the Conservatives have written to the head of the civil service asking him to investigate whether Ed Balls, the Schools Secretary, broke Whitehall rules when he worked for the think tank between 2004 and 2005.

            • David Lindsay

              That’s it, is it? A five-year-old “story” which got nowhere (why ever might that have been?), about even longer ago again? Dear me…

              • Swiss Bob

                It was enough for the now sacked lefty chair of the charities commission to launch an investigation which says a whole lot.

                And you can stuff the whataboutery, I conceded that ALL of them should go, you are obscuring the isssue, I wonder why?

                • David Lindsay

                  And that investigation led to what, exactly?

                  What is to be your next complaint, the overthrow of the House of York by Henry Tudor?

                • Swiss Bob

                  David Lindsay: apologist.

        • HooksLaw

          Smith Institute

          • David Lindsay

            No story there. As was found. People would be in prison if the claims made about that had been one tenth true.

            And has it existed at all for years? Whether it has or it hasn’t. no story there. As was found. People would be in prison if the claims made about that had been one tenth true.

            Whereas Policy Exchange are proven forgers. And Atlantic Bridge was committing treason out of the office of Her Majesty’s Secretary of State for Defence.

            • Diogenesthered

              And the US lobbyists behind Atlantic Bridge are still full of right wing Tories in both Westminster and Brussels

              http://www.na-saighneain.com/

    • TomTom

      You mean like the Home Office funding of the Church of England for “Cohesion” Programmes in Inner Cities or the Local Councils funding C of E “Social Workers” who cannot display their religious affiliation – is it called “Butterscotch” in some areas. No wonder the Home Office is squeezing on Synod votes.

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