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Policy Exchange is a centre-right progressive British think tank based in London. The Daily Telegraph has described it as "the largest, but also the most influential think tank on the right".[1] The New Statesman called it as David Cameron's 'favourite think tank',[2] a view shared by the Political Editor of the Evening Standard, Joe Murphy, who referred to it as ‘the intellectual boot camp of the Tory modernisers’.[3] Its alumni include Anthony Browne, one of London Mayor Boris Johnson’s policy directors, and a number of individuals identified by The Guardian as being the ‘thinkers behind fresh Tory policies’.[4]

It describes itself as seeking localist, volunteer and free market solutions to public policy problems, with research programmes covering health, education, energy and environment, crime and justice, welfare, housing, family policy and security. It works with academics and policy advisors across the political spectrum, and members of its advisory councils include Lord Trimble, Peter Clarke, former, Head of the Metropolitan Police Counter Terrorism Command, James Cameron, Executive Director of Climate Change Capital, and Simon Stevens, former health advisor to the Prime Minister. Events hosted by Policy Exchange include Hazel Blears' explanation of her opposition to IslamExpo and the Islamic radical right,[5] and the Annual Colin Cramphorn Memorial Lecture, delivered in 2009 by Charles Farr OBE Director General of the Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism in the Home Office.[6]

Policy Exchange authors have included former Government advisor Professor Dieter Helm, economist Robert Shiller, author and broadcaster Bill Bryson and former Financial Times journalist John Willman.

It was set up in 2002 by Founder Director, Nicholas Boles, then-Chairman Michael Gove and Francis Maude MP. Maude names his being one of the co-founders as his proudest political achievement.[7] Michael Gove went on to become Member of Parliament for Surrey Heath. Charles Moore, former editor of the Spectator and the Daily Telegraph took over as Chairman. In May 2007, Nicholas Boles was replaced by former Times correspondent Anthony Browne. Browne was in turn succeeded in August 2008 by Neil O’Brien.

Policy Exchange is a registered charity.[8]

Contents

Recent reports and controversies

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Public Sector Pensions – The UK’s Second National Debt report

The report revealed the real figures behind what The Economist called the growing ‘pensions apartheid’[9] , and found that their true cost was £1.1 trillion.[10]

Green Skies thinking – Promoting the development of sustainable bio-jet fuels report

The report recommended the wide-scale deployment of sustainable bio-jet fuels which would result in emission reductions worth £37.41 billion in the UK between 2020 and 2050, as well as making a significant contribution to meeting the UK’s 2050 emission reduction target.[9] The Society for British Aerospace Companies said the report made a ‘welcome contribution to an important debate’[11].

Choosing Our Friends Wisely report

Praised as ‘remarkable’[12] by Lord Guthrie, Chief of the Defence Staff 1997 – 2001, the report looks at how Preventing Violent Extremism, the £90 million centerpiece of the Government’s effort to stop the radicalization of young Muslims, has been compromised by muddled thinking.[13] One of the report’s authors, Shiraz Maher, is himself a former member of Hizb ut Tahrir, a radical Islamic organization committed to creating a puritanical Muslim state, and explained his reason for leaving the group in an article entitled ‘Why we must be mad to give £90 million to these fanatics – I should know, I used to be one’.[14]

Educating Rita – A model to address inadequate support given to part-time students report

The report recommended that the Government must invest £33 million to begin tackling the chronic underfunding of part-time students who currently receive a fraction of the support given to their younger full-time counterparts.[15]

Living Apart Together report

On January 29 2007 Policy Exchange published a report, Living Apart Together: British Muslims and the paradox of multiculturalism that concluded that a minority of young Muslims identify less with British society than their parents do, and are more likely to want Muslim women to wear the hijab and to see Sharia Law implemented in Britain.[16] The report was authored by Munira Mirza (broadcaster and PhD student of local cultural studies), Abi Senthilkumaran (a Social Policy Research Methods Masters student) and Zein Ja'far (a Masters student of Near and Middle Eastern Studies),[17] based on a poll conducted by the independent polling institute Populus[18] of 1,003 Muslims in Britain.

The report was described as "comprehensive and nuanced" by a BBC Home Affairs correspondent,[22] and received widespread coverage in the mainstream media, but was attacked by Muslim groups, as well as university-based academics such as Gabriele Marranci at the University of Western Sydney and Marie Breen Smith and Jeroen Gunning of Aberystwyth University[19], who also questioned the report's alleged political motivation. The latter wrote that the report was designed to support and legitimise the Conservative party's agenda with a façade of independence.

Arrested Development: Reducing the number of young people in custody report

The report recommended that local authorities should foot the bill for youth custody places, thereby removing the existing perverse incentive in the system.[20]

Building Blocks – an investigation into Building Schools for the Future report

The report recommended that the Building Schools for the Future programme should be radically simplified and the quango who currently delivers this project -Partnerships for Schools should have its remit curtailed.[21]

The Power of Numbers – Why Europe needs to get younger report

This book looks at what population changes will mean as numbers continue to rise in the developing world, across Africa, Asia and the Middle East, and how the economic, political and military balance[22] of power across the globe will be affected.[23]

Reforming the UK Tax and Benefits System report

The report recommends tax allowances for dependent children and for non-working spouses should be restored. This would allow working parents to keep more of what they earn, rather than going to the state for top-ups, and it would reduce wasteful churning and ‘middle class welfare’.[24]

Controlling Public Spending: the scale of the challenge report

The report finds that Government spending is growing far more quickly than in other countries, and faster than in previous recessions.[25]

The Hijacking of British Islam report controversy

In October 2007, Policy Exchange published another report on the Muslim community in the UK, uncovering the extent of extremism within mainstream British mosques and Muslim institutions. The report entitled The Hijacking of British Islam: How extremist literature is subverting mosques in the UK was described as [26]

"a year long investigation carried out by Policy Exchange into the character of the literature currently available in mainstream sites of Islamic religious instruction in the UK."

According to the report, four Muslim research teams visited nearly 100 Islamic sites in the UK "to determine the extent to which literature inculcating Muslim separatism and hatred of nonbelievers was accessible in those institutions - both in terms of being openly available and also being obtainable 'under the counter'." This material was then compiled by Denis MacEoin, with the assistance of 'a team of independent [translation] experts', into the report. The report is published almost as a directory, with the name and address of each institution, followed by the discussion of the extremist materials allegedly found at each site. The researchers claimed to have found offensive material at around a quarter of the sites visited and this became the report's most publicised claim in the media.

On 12 December 2007, just under two months after the publication of this report, BBC's Newsnight presented evidence[23] suggesting that some of the receipts purporting to prove the sale of extremist material had been forged, and that some of the material had come from bookshops purportedly unconnected to the mosques named in the report.

Newsnight had originally been offered the report on an exclusive basis, but one of the mosques denied selling the book, and claimed that the receipt supplied as evidence was not one it had issued. Newsnight then conducted an investigation.

Its findings were as follows:[24]

  • Al-Manaar Muslim Cultural Heritage Centre, West London - forensic analysis showed there was a possibility that the receipt had been written by the same person as one purporting to be from Masjid as-Tawhid in Leyton, ten miles away.
  • Masjid as-Tawhid, Leyton - two different receipts were linked to the mosque, one for one set of extremist material purchased from a bookshop close to the mosque but, it is claimed, independent of it, and a second completely different receipt printed on an inkjet printer, but in the name of the mosque.
  • Euston Mosque - books were said to have been purchased from "Euston Mosque 202 North Gower Street", however this is actually the address of UK Islamic Mission (which is not a mosque). Euston Mosque is 204A North Gower Street, and says it has never sold any books of any kind.
  • Finsbury Park Mosque - the mosque disputed that it sold the books at all. Analysis showed that the receipt, as with all the other disputed receipts, had been printed on an inkjet printer.
  • Al-Muntada Mosque - although the books listed are sold by the mosque on its website, the mosque said that the receipt supplied was fake. Forensic analysis showed the receipt had been printed on a home inkjet printer, and that the receipt from High Wycombe Muslim Education Centre could have been written out resting on top of it.
  • High Wycombe Muslim Education Centre - it was "concluded with absolute certainty that this receipt was written out while resting on the receipt from Al Muntada mosque, which is 40 miles away in West London".

Policy Exchange stated initially that the accusations made by the BBC are "libellous and perverse", and in a letter threatened to pursue the BBC with legal action "relentlessly, to trial or capitulation"[27][25] although no legal action has yet been forthcoming. Newsnight also asked to speak to the eight researchers involved but was told by Policy Exchange that "they were all away on a religious retreat in Mauritania".

Policy Exchange then responded to the individual cases cited by the BBC, arguing that there was still evidence to link each of the institutions to extremist literature. They have said 'The receipts are not ... mentioned in the report and the report’s findings do not rely upon their existence'. The BBC have suggested this is a tacit admission that some of the receipts were forged, and that it draws into question the whole testimony in the report.[26]

The chairman of Policy Exchange, ex-Telegraph Editor Charles Moore, has also responded in the Daily Telegraph [27] saying that Jeremy Paxman "accused Policy Exchange itself, which the Newsnight report had not done, of fabricating receipts" and claimed that the forensic expert concluded that "the relatively limited amount of writing available for comparison has prevented me from expressing any definite opinion". The editor of Newsnight, Peter Barron, disputed these assertions subsequently in a letter to the Telegraph stating, "Charles Moore's attack on Newsnight's investigation into a report by Policy Exchange is a distortion of the truth and does him no credit".[28]. Jeremy Paxman has made no comment.

Since the Newsnight investigation, The Times, which had featured the Policy Exchange report on its front page, retracted part of the story, stating that "“We would like to make clear that the bookshop situated near the East London Mosque (“Lessons in hate found at leading mosques” and “Studies in Hate”, 30 Oct) is a commercial tenant of the Mosque and is situated on different premises. The Chairman of the Mosque, Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari has no responsibility for or control over the material that is being sold there. We apologise to Dr Bari for any distress caused”.[29] This mosque was not featured in the Newsnight report, though it was a central plank of the Policy Exchange's report because of the fact that Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari was also the Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain, an organisation that has regularly been attacked by the Policy Exchange Chairman, Founder and Directors Anthony Browne and Dean Godson. Seumas Milne in The Guardian newspaper added two more mosques to the list, stating that Rochdale mosque said it had never sold any books, and that material said to have been found Edinburgh had merely been dumped there.[30]

These new allegations were disputed in a letter to The Guardian by Policy Exchange's Director Anthony Browne,[28] stating that it had not claimed that Rochdale was selling the material, that it had in fact been made available for free. He also added that 'East London Mosque does not dispute that extremist literature is sold at the East London Mosque bookshop, which is based on ELM premises and provides till receipts bearing the name "ELM Book Centre". The mosque chairman, Muhammad Abdul Bari, who is also secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, merely makes the surprising claim that he has no responsibility for what is sold in the bookshop'. Browne chose not to comment on the Times admission that the "ELM Book Centre" was a separate, commercial tenant of the mosque. He added that Newsnight had subjected a total of 18 receipts to forensic testing - the large majority of the receipts passed scrutiny.

No evidence of that scrutiny has so far been offered, either in a court of law, or on the Policy Exchange website.

On Friday 15 August 2008, The Independent reported that two mosques mentioned in the Report, the Al-Manar Muslim Cultural Heritage Centre and the North London Central Mosque, were preparing to take legal action against the Policy Exchange.[31]

In February 2009 Al-Manar withdrew its legal action when a clarification appeared on Policy Exchange's website, in which the think tank reaffirmed that it had never asserted that the Al-Manar Muslim Cultural Heritage Centre had knowingly promulgated extremist literature.

The September 2009 issue of the magazine The Middle East in London, published by the London Middle East Institute at SOAS, contained an erratum statement in which the magazine withdrew comments by Arun Kundani in the previous issue. Kundani had written that Policy Exchange had 'apologised' for The Hijacking of British Islam and removed it from its website. The London Middle East Institute stated it "was wrong to make these claims", and that "Policy Exchange has never apologised to anyone for the publication of its Report, and has no intention of doing so in the future." It also stated that the removal of the Report from Policy Exchange's website was part of the routine refreshing of the site's content.[32]

Court Outcome

On 26 November 2009, Mr Justice Eady struck out the claim brought against Policy Exchange by the North London Central Mosque. The six mosque trustees who had advanced the claim were ordered to pay Policy Exchange's costs of defending the action. The High Court made a further Order that £75,000 of those costs be paid by the North London Central Mosque within 28 days.[33]

Cities Unlimited

On 13 August 2008, Policy Exchange published Cities Unlimited: Making Urban Regeneration Work, written by Tim Leunig, a Reader in economic history at the London School of Economics, and James Swaffield, a research fellow at Policy Exchange. The report argued that urban regeneration in northern English cities was failing and the government should instead encourage internal migration to the south by relaxing planning restrictions. It singled out Bolton Liverpool and Sunderland as cities in decline, and claimed that Oxford and Cambridge would be able to “form the basis of strong, successful, substantial cities”.[34][35][36] The report caused considerable controversy, with Labour MP Peter Kilfoyle describing the report as "utter nonsense".[37] Conservative Party leader David Cameron distanced the party from the report, calling it "insane" and stating: "This report has got nothing to do with the Conservative Party, this is an independent think tank, it has charitable status, I think this report is complete rubbish".[38] Some weeks later, the report received support from economist Ed Glaeser writing in Prospect Magazine[39]

Key Staff

  • Charles Moore, Chairman
  • Neil O'Brien, Director
  • Natalie Evans, Deputy Director
  • Sian Hansen, Managing Director
  • Amy Fisher, Communications Director
  • Ben Caldecott, Head of the Environment & Energy Unit
  • Anna Fazackerley, Head of the Arts & Culture Unit
  • Henry Featherstone, Head of the Health Unit
  • Sam Freedman, Head of the Education Unit
  • Dean Godson, Head of the Foreign Policy & Security Unit
  • Gavin McKinnon, Head of the Crime & Justice Unit
  • Dr Andrew Lilico, Chief Economist

See also

References

  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ [2]
  3. ^ [3]
  4. ^ [4]
  5. ^ [5]
  6. ^ [6]
  7. ^ [7]
  8. ^ [8]
  9. ^ a b [9]
  10. ^ [10]
  11. ^ [11]
  12. ^ [12]
  13. ^ [13]
  14. ^ [14]
  15. ^ [15]
  16. ^ "British Muslims and multiculturalism". http://www.policyhub.gov.uk/news_item/muslims_multiculturalism07.asp.  
  17. ^ radical islam 2.qxp
  18. ^ Populus Limited
  19. ^ "The abuse of research". http://politics.guardian.co.uk/thinktanks/comment/0,,2011804,00.html.  
  20. ^ [16]
  21. ^ [17]
  22. ^ [18]
  23. ^ [19]
  24. ^ [20]
  25. ^ [21]
  26. ^ "The Hijacking of British Islam" (PDF). http://www.policyexchange.org.uk/images/libimages/307.pdf.  
  27. ^ "Talk about Newsnight". BBC. 12 December 2007. http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/newsnight/2007/12/wednesday_12_december_2007.html. Retrieved 2007-12-12.  
  28. ^ "Moore and Barron in Newsnight Clash". http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2007/dec/17/bbc.television.  
  29. ^ Lessons in hate found at leading mosques -Times Online
  30. ^ "Cameron must rein in these neo-con attack dogs". http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/story/0,,2230012,00.html.  
  31. ^ "Tories' favourite think-tank sued by Muslim group". http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/tories-favourite-thinktank-sued-by-muslim-group-897548.html.  
  32. ^ http://www.lmei.soas.ac.uk/events/mel.cfm?editionid=54
  33. ^ http://www.policyexchange.org.uk/
  34. ^ http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/politics/article4518991.ece David Cameron faces a grim trip up North after call to abandon poor cities
  35. ^ Leunig, Tim; Swaffield, James (2008-08-13). "Cities Unlimited: Making Urban Regeneration Work" (PDF). Policy Exchange. http://www.policyexchange.org.uk/images/libimages/413.pdf. Retrieved 2008-08-13.  
  36. ^ Leunig, Tim (2008-08-13). "The regeneration game is up". The Guardian Comment is free. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/aug/13/regeneration.conservatives. Retrieved 2008-08-13.  
  37. ^ "Northern cities 'beyond revival'". BBC News. 2008-08-13. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/7556937.stm. Retrieved 2008-08-13.  
  38. ^ "City report 'insane' says Cameron". BBC News. 2008-08-13. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/7558742.stm. Retrieved 2008-08-13.  
  39. ^ Prospect Magazine, 28 August 2008, Edward Glaeser: Commentary: The Mill Towns Our Neck

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