The joy of the summer
I spoke recently to a young man in Belfast , he recounted how he was living and studying in London when the Olympic Games were taking place, he loved the city so much that he moved back a few years later, he only lasted a few months as he felt the city had changed , that the joy and optimism that had been so evident had been replaced by something far darker . Brexit he said had brought something sinister and unpleasant along with it, that the London he saw now was unrecognisable to the one he experienced in 2012. I have frequently heard people express that they wish they could return to the salad days of 2012 where hope and unity reigned supreme.
However, in those heady and carefree days the change we are now seeing in the political landscape was being plotted under our very noses. Despite the disappointment among conservatives of DAVID Cameron’s showing in the 2010 election and the fact they had to enter into a coalition with the Lib Dem’s; a new wave of ultra right wing young Torres had entered Westminster espousing the free market ideals of Milton Friedman and the Chicago school of economics, held with such affection by the likes of Thatcher , Reagan and Pinochet.
At the vanguard of this new movement was the free enterprise group that was launched by one of the new entrant class of 2010, Liz Truss. It mainly consisted of new entrants from 2010 including Priti Patel, Sajid Javid, Dominic Raab, Matt Hancock and Kwasi kerwarteng.
The group soon became busy launching several papers covering everything from banking to healthcare and exposing how a radical free market approach could have a beneficial effect on the country. If anything this was even more to the right than anything Friedman exposed.
Which brings us to what is undoubtedly their opus and guiding principles and acts as a guide to what we are going to see introduced in the coming months and years now that the class of 2010 have come of age and taken power. Britannia unchained has been described by the group as “ taking on this ludicrous, debilitating, anti-austerity, anti-capitalist narrative put out there by the egalitarian left in this country”.
This was released in the September of 2012 and came hot on the heels of a successful conference hosted in conjunction with the institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), one of the oldest and certainly the most influential right wing think tanks in the UK.
Authored jointly by Kwartweng, Patel, Raab, Skidmore and Truss it was controversial from the start. Raab made the headlines with his claim that British workers are “among the worst idlers” in the world” however it is the proposals inside the book that are of great concern string of radical-right ideas such as: for profit schools, abolishing and privatising large parts of the NHS and abolishing basic workers rights something it argued had prevented the UK competing on a world stage.
The spirit of free enterprise
There is a lot of evidence to suggest that the IEA have their claws very deep in the heart of the free enterprise group. They have been described as the parliamentary wing of the IEA, the group were registered by the IEA commercial director and shared many platforms. Indeed Raab talking about Brittania Unchained said that “it was the IEA which supported us in waging the war of ideas and launching that book.”
Speaking in 2015 at the 60th anniversary of the IEA Raab also commented how critical the IEA had been to his thinking, and to giving him and his ideas a platform.
It seems it isn’t just ideas and platforms it gives out, in 2016 Matt Hancock received a donation of £4000 from the think tank which received heavy criticism at the time as it convenient coincided with Hancock introducing one of the think tanks recommendations to clampdown on charity lobbying ( this policy was then dropped amidst the scandal).
The IEA uncovered
Andrew Marr in his book the modern history of Britain describes the IEA as “undoubtedly the most influential think tank in modern British history". However it is also on of the least transparent. It has the lowest rating on the website “ who funds you” repeatedly refusing to reveal where it gets its funding from. We do know that traditionally it was heavily subsidised by the tobacco, oil and sugar industry and fought for there interests, in recent times a lot of funding seems to have come from Right wing organisations in the US and has set up a group called American friends of the IEA to funnel this.
One of the largest backers in the US has been the Templeton group giving over half a million pounds to the think tank including one grant for £155,000 to seek alternative solutions to “public, pay-as-you-go financed systems of pensions, disability insurance, healthcare and long-term care”, and promote privatisation of each of these areas, according to the Templeton Foundation's website. Indeed on the end of the grant the foundation references another of the IEA’s works entitled “healthcare without the NHS” it seems incredulous that the man tasked with defending and protecting the NHS is so strongly ideologically and financially linked with an organisation that promotes its demise.
It is also worth noting how they have hunted in packs being based out of the same offices and sharing the same resources as several other right wing influencers, including the taxpayers alliance and several brexit groups.
The age of the hard hard right
The interior of Boris Johnson’s car is a bit like the man himself, untidy, unkempt and a bit of a mess, however one eagle eyed journalist spotted amount the litter and empty coffee cups, but also a well thumbed copy of Britannia unchained. It appears that the IEA have managed to infiltrate the very heart of the British Government and cabinet. Raab himself gave an illustration at the 60th birthday party about swimming on a beach in Brazil and emerging from the water only to discover that the current had quietly moved him hundreds of metres along the shore. Funnily enough it’s an illustration I have also used in my preaching and public speaking except I was in the more illustrious setting of Barry Island! The IEA operates similarly, he said, quietly moving British politics to the right, without anyone noticing. While we were all celebrating the great achievement of the olympics a play was being hatched to quietly introduce a very right wing agenda to the Conservative party, make no mistake the centrist one nation conservatism is dead in the water and the very thing those who voted for Boris Johnson treasure most; employee rights, a minimum wage, free healthcare are under threat like never before. The rise of the Free enterprise group and the IEA means rather than Britannia unchained we are now chained to the most right wing ideology we have ever known.