Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The Questions the Smith Institute Should Answer

I've made a 12 minute film on the Smith Institute for 18DoughtyStreet tonight. Michael Crick I ain't, but the film is designed to show the political partisanship of the Smith Institute and to highlight the fact that a formal complaint is being made to the Charity Commission. See the film HERE.


Anonymous said...

Excellent report Iain, you are a natural! I must admit the talk by Shrum and the interesting guest list was very revealing. Keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

That's an appalling state of affairs and far worse than Blair selling peerages (which we all know goes on anyway). Brown should be made to resign immediately.

We really do live in a banana republic.

The Labour Party may think the future is Brown, but its looking pretty Black in the rest of the country.

Anonymous said...

I do believe that this is only scratching the surface, and tucked behind the facade is another bunch of corruption in the making.


let the digging commence.

Anonymous said...

Its strange, right from the very start of the Blair regime, my mum told me he was a wrong un.

-Based on the fact that whilst professing to be Anglican, Tone went along to Catholic mass and may/may not have taken communion.

If he was prepared even to do this (and in so doing, continue to be all things to all men), "he would do anything".

Anonymous said...

A very good film, Mr Dale, and puts the points very well. But you also can't argue that Shrum has captured the essence of Cameron very well, even if he shouldn't really have been paid by the Smith Institute to do so.

By the way, the last time I saw a coat like that was on David Duchovny in the 'X-Files'....The truth is out there, Iain - you just have to find it..

Anonymous said...

tone made me do it...It took my kid brother to rumble Tony for me.

I am convinced that it was because he read 'Animal Farm' at school. He hated it, and thought it was bollocks, in much the way I hated Shakespeare then.

But that subliminal warning must have got through when the 'we the people' message of Labour became 'let's get our snouts in the trough, we are the masters now..'of New Labour.

Anonymous said...

Before slagging off the Smith Institute (which is all too easy), remember that David Davis himself spoke to a meeting of it. i know that these clandestine meetings at no.11 seem a bit sleazy, but the institute itself is in no way a bad thing

Anonymous said...

Smith Institute DOES do policy.

see http://www.feslondon.dial.pipex.com/sems02/parts-Smith.pdf

meeting held in London Nov 03, Regional Policy.

All the usual suspects plus some more.

Perhaps an FOI request will dig out the content.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps an FOI request will dig out the content.

Now you know you cannot use FoI to serve on Charities....nor can you obtain documents used to formulate policy under FoI

Anonymous said...

A good report Iain. Trusting Mr Simpson never lets go until full invetigation is agreed. Utter contempt and hubris displayed by Son of the Manse Brown in his relationship with Smith Inst tells you all you need to know about his so called moral compass. Smith Ins is just another version of Orion Trust.

Anonymous said...

Excellent. Hopefully a few more journalists will pick up on this story.

We can leave formal questions about SI Events Ltd, the consequences for tax refunds by the trustees and criminal charges to a future date.

Anonymous said...

Well done, Iain & 18 D St

Anonymous said...

Tax evasion by Gordo

Now there is a headline for the sun to salivate over.

Anonymous said...

Oriental Orator said...
Tax evasion by Gordo

Of course! There's historical precedent.

I doubt the Sheriff of Nottingham ever paid any taxes to himself.

Anonymous said...

Great film, Iain. Bob Shrum voice-over is killer punch.

Anonymous said...

As I understand you are a trustee of the Policy Exchange which is also a Charity with similar (although right rather than left wing) patronage. Similar allegations can be made against that organisation. Am I wrong?

Anonymous said...

Good report Iain. Doughty Street should do more of these mini-news reports, particularly on issues not covered by the rest of the media

kingbongo said...

andy w

specific allegations about abuse of charitable status by the Smith Institute have been made and supported by evidence. If you have specific evidence of tax evasion by Policy Exchange I suggest you take it to the Charity Commissioners, otherwise you're libelling Iain by claiming he knows of offences that are being committed and is doing nothing about it.

Anonymous said...

mark w

Not covered by the rest of the media? That all came from Bloomberg and is also on page 2 of the telegraph.

Anonymous said...

How many reports has Policy Exchange published which advocate Labour party policy?

Schoolboy-Error said...

Let's face it:No left wing politician will ever get a Crick in his neck.

It's up to the right thinking people to finally reveal that this is the most corrupt government since the Eighteenth century

Iain Dale said...

Andy W, you are quite wrong. Policy Exchange has never used Number 11, let alone 200 times. It has a wide range of speakers and pamphlet authors from across the political spectrum, as a cursory glance at its website would tell you. There are no comparisons to be made.

Anonymous said...

Declare your interest Iain! As a Policy Exchange trustee you are hardly being unbiased.

imho, Policy Exchange is clearly the Tory equivalent of the SI.

New and Blue are as bad as each other.

Tim said...

"Policy Exchange has never used Number 11!

FFS, that's right up there with "There is only one email system at Number 10"!

You should have, at the very least, declared an interest... or even been cheeky enough to claim that your relationship with Policy Exchange made you all-the-more qualified to file this report, as you have 'personal experience' in such matters.

Anonymous said...

Iain, you are missing a trick here.

That Shrum guy is just a hired gun.

And a very astute one - he's rumbled Cameron. Maybe you just ought to raise the dosh to get him to swap sides.

After all he's identified the gaps in David's armoury and the obstacles to him getting elected. I am sure that for a few hundred thousand quid, he could tell you how to fix those problems and make him vaguely electable - might take 6-8 years..

Anonymous said...

I thought that a characteristic of an 'independent' think-tank was that its management tend to keep their political affiliation disceet, not, like Policy Exchange's head Nick Boles, ask to be the Tory Party's official candidate for London Mayor!

Who would doubt that if Cameron won the next election, that the doors to Number 11 would be open to Policy Exchange?

Anonymous said...

Old Chinese proverb - 'Be careful what you wish for....'

You may succeed in reining in the Smith Institute. But Gordo's revenge will be to also remove tax exemption from Private/Public Schools, and then where will all the good Tories be ?

Down at the 'Jade Goody Comprehensive' or the 'Kwik-fit Beacon Academy' if they're lucky. 'He who laughs last, laughs longest'

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the response, it is a comment I had picked up elsewhere. Whilst not using No 11 I thought there were other parallels sorry if I'm wrong.

Anonymous said...

Iain, as someone who actually is independent of party politics, it seems to me that this is all a bit pots and kettles.

Have a look at Policy Exchange director Nick Bowles' profile on the Policy Exchange website.

Where does it say that Nick Boles is a close ally of David Cameron? Where does it say that he was Conservative candidate for Hove at the last election? Where does it say that he wanted to be Tory Major of London?

In fact, where does it make any mention of Boles' extensive links to the Conservative Party? Nowhere? Surely not...

There's no doubt that both main parties (and possibly the Liberals too although I haven't looked into it) use "independent" think-tanks in ways that are not exactly open and transparent.

Given that you are a trustee of one of these "independent" think tanks, something you failed to mention in your report, I think you're probably not the best person to be casting stones here.

Anonymous said...


.and another trustee of Policy Exchange is Rachel Whetsone, who is, I believe the girlfriend of a certain Steve Hilton, chief Cameroon strategist.

Independent? My arse - imho ;-)

Murkier and murkier.

Iain Dale said...

Curiosu Hamster, Er, I do not exactly hide the fact I am a Trustee of Policy Exchange. Indeed, it is listed on my personal website and I have mentioned it on this thread. You really are getting desperate. Look at their range of policy publications and tell me which are party political., You can't becasue they aren't.

Anonymous said...

Well the 'Case for change' meeting held at Policy Exchange's offices in July 2005 and hosted by them was clearly party political Iain as it was solely about how to help the Tory Party.

That doesn't sound very independent to me.

Unity said...

A few clarifications - the 'tax evasion' thing comes from Iain's mate Paul Staines spinning claims that The Smith Institute is accepting donations via the gift-aid system, under which charities can perfectly legally reclaim tax on individual donations - plus there's a similar system in place for corporate donations.

As long as SI is a charity it's legally entitled to use gift aid and the pot/kettle question for Iain, as a trustee of Policy Exchange is simply whether it makes use of the same system - and as a trustee Iain should know perfectly well what the policy is one that.

As for meetings at no. 11, Iain's spinning that as 'cash for access' with what looks to be no solid evidence at all - he admits in the report to not knowing anything about these meeting other than that they exist.

If, as its looks, this is just blowing smoke that use of No. 11 has bearing on SI's charitable status - you question this on misuse of government resources, but that not within the purview of Charity Commission and rather a matter for the Treasury, NAO, Parliamentary and the Public Accounts Committee.

Similarly, the Shrum meeting are only an issue in terms of SI's charity status if it was actually SI's gig and paid for from charitable funds. If the meeting were arranged by SI Events Limited on a contract basis as event organiser and paid for by someone other than SI then this is an heap of nothing, as SI Events is a non-charitable trading company and under no restrictions on its trading activities.

As for "It has a wide range of speakers and pamphlet authors from across the political spectrum, as a cursory glance at its website would tell you. There are no comparisons to be made." I suggest you re-read the CC's guidance on political activities and campaigning - it's CC9, btw.

Sticking out a few token pamphlet written by lefties is not a defence as political activities and campaigning are assessed on a case by case basis and the CC's rules are formulated quite specifically about policy related activities - ideological texts do rather push the envelope in terms of the CC's guidance, especially when the author's now a Tory PPC and spent several months publicly shilling his book in a rather partisan manner.

A rule breach on one publication would be unlikely to result in deregistration but it would be enough for the CC to require the removal of the material in question, were a complaint to go it and be upheld.

Oh, and as Curious Hamster says - best to check what your walls are made of before you start chucking stones around.

Oh, should mention, Iain - I've been working in and around charity law for 10 years, so I do know what I'm talking about.

Anonymous said...

Iain Dale: "I do not exactly hide the fact I am a Trustee of Policy Exchange"

No... not *exactly*. You just appear to pick and choose the moments that you mention it rather carefully.... or unwisely, depending on one's point of view.

Manic thinks that there are questions that Iain Dale should answer:

1. Why did you not mention this in your report?

2. Why is there no reference to it on the web page where your report is featured?

3. Why do you answer every question like a politician? Surely it's too early to start practising...

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your reply Iain.

"Look at their range of policy publications and tell me which are party political."

Well, this puff piece for Cameron's "compassionate conservativism", coming as it does from an "independent" think tank whose director is a close ally of Cameron's, is rather dubious, isn't it?

Or what about this?

"Bernard Jenkin MP spoke to Policy Exchange about how the Conservative party needs to change if it is to offer a viable alternative to the third-way, social democratic consensus that rules Britain today."

What's that got to do with an "independent" charity?

Also, could you tell me if Policy Exchange held meetings at any of the party conferences this year and if so, at which Party's conferences?

On their website, I can only find reference to meetings at the Tory conference (pdf). I'd love to know what went on at the "What is compassionate conservatism?" meeting, the "Advice to Dave from great Tory leaders of the past" meeting and the "Discover the new Conservatives" meeting.

Are you really saying there's no sign of party political affiliations at Policy Exchange?

P.S. Any chance Mr Bowles could at least get his Policy Exchange profile altered to reflect his affiliations in an open and transparent manner? Even mention of his time as a councillor omits the fact that he wsas a Conservative councillor.

PPS. Again, I appreciate the reply. It's more than I'd get from some.

Anonymous said...

Iain, great film at your very high standard

Anonymous said...


Like Curioushamster I am not party political and like him I took up your suggetion to take a look at the Policy Exchange website.

Why does this independent think tank only host events at the Conservative Party Conference?

What about this document http://www.policyexchange.org.uk/images/libimages/181.pdf - by George Osborne. Surely this cannot be seen as independent?

I am sure there is an easy explaination but I truely cannot see how the Policy Exchange can be viewed as wholly independent.

Iain Dale said...

Actually, Policy Exchange hold events at all three party conferences, so you;re talking crap.

Anonymous said...

Hello, Iain (again)

Are you ignoring Manic (again)?

Can you try to answer Manic's questions please, instead of jumping on various escape routes?

Anonymous said...


I'm sure it's not the first time I've spoken crap however my source is the Policy Exchange website giving a list of their events - I'm surprised the the Labour & Lib Dem conferences are not mentioned. Crap in crap out?

Unity said...

Iain's correct is saying that Policy Exchange have done gigs at the Labour Party Conference...

Shame I had to get the information of IPPR's website...

That still leave a lot of questions, mind you...

Anonymous said...

What about that Cameron puff piece, Iain?

I'm glad to hear that Policy Exchange attended the other conferences too. Strange that they only list the Conservative conference meetings on their website.

(By the way, for my own part, I deliberately phrased the conference thing as a question because I wasn't sure of the answer. I learned that trick from "Guido" you know...)

Anonymous said...

You Brownite /nutters are becoming very febrile with your astro-turfing these days. Your only defense is recrimination. Pathetic.

Iain Dale said...

Tim Ireland,

Manic thinks that there are questions that Iain Dale should answer:

1. Why did you not mention this in your report?

Because it is irrelavant

2. Why is there no reference to it on the web page where your report is featured?

Because it is irrelevant

3. Why do you answer every question like a politician? Surely it's too early to start practising...

Why do you ask questions as if you imagine there's always a great conspiracy. There isn't. I'll answer questions in my own way. If you don't like it, fair enough.

Anonymous said...

Iain Dale,

Thank you for answering Manic's questions.

For the record, Manic does not mind you using the name of his alleged alter-ego... it helps to make matters a little clearer for those who do not know why Manic is currently speaking in third-person.

So, dealing with your answers:

1 & 2: So you wrote/filmed/published a report on one think-thank that operates as a charity (and may or may not have undue political leanings), but you decided that it was 'irrelavant ', 'irrelevant' and/or 'an elephant' that you are a trustee for another think-thank that operates as a charity (and may or may not have undue political leanings).

Please be aware that if you ever describe yourself as a 'journalist' in future, Manic will wish to have a quiet word.

3: Manic didn't mention a 'great conspiracy'... you did. And your answer - that began with a question, but lacked a question-mark - did not address the original question:

Why do you answer every question like a politician? Surely it's too early to start practising...

Iain Dale said...

You see a conspiracy in everything. I don't.

Anonymous said...

I blame Glaxo and paxil

Anonymous said...


Back to the briefing.

Iain, you did not answer Manic's third question, but he will let it go for now. It is enough to have your answer to 1&2... and to know that you are ultra-sensitive about conspiracies* for some reason.

(*Sometimes it only takes two people, Iain. Read your dictionary.)

Anonymous said...

He's mad I say! He's madder than mad Jack McMad, winner of last year's Mr Madman competition! Beep! Beep! Boing! What did you say? Wasn't me! I heard you! Did you? Yes. Open the door. No! Precious!

Anonymous said...

Hmmm. Let Manic translate that for the audience at home:

In other words; "f**k off and stop asking awkward questions"

This is fast turning into a full-time gig for you, dizzy... dodging issues with mindless abuse.

Anonymous said...

Why on earth would I tell you to fuck off on someone else's blog Tim?

I'm surprised I'm having to spell it out for you in such stark terms given you've been on "teh interweb" for so long, but I was taking the piss out of you.

I shall have to work on my piss-taking a little more I think. Was it really not that clear enough?

I don't want you to go anywhere, you're to entertaining for that. Stay. Pull up a pew. I need you. Don't you understand? It's like being back on the BBS. You remember those days of 14.4 don't you? You da man of the Net after all. The dude. The first one to like use CGI man! You're a god!

Now, you said I was dodging issues? What issues would those be exactly? Aside from, your paranoid delusions of course.

Anonymous said...

Incidentally Tim, if you do reply tonight then don't expect a reply any time soon. I don't sit up all night with my computer you see - not unless I'm being paid at least £60 per hour anyway.

In fact, you may not actually get a reply from me at all because I'll probably forget about this thread by the morning. I'm so gracious you see, and I understand that you probably want the "last word" as it were to satisfy that online argument complex some suffer from in which one "must win". Go for it!

Anonymous said...

dizzy said: Why on earth would I tell you to fuck off on someone else's blog Tim?


And, to answer your only relevant question, it was Iain who invented the 'paranoid drivel'... right after he told the world that he published a report on one think-thank that operates as a charity (and may or may not have undue political leanings), but decided that it was not worth mentioning that he is also a trustee for another think-thank that operates as a charity (and may or may not have undue political leanings).

Anonymous said...

What you coughing for Tim? I didn't say I wouldn't tell you fuck off on someone else's blog, I asked you why would I tell you to fuck off on someone else's blog.

The answer, as you've usefully pointed out, is pretty plain for all to see. I'd do it when the person replying to me had a mammory gland to their left and was making delusional extrapolated conclusions from a conversation in which one person was genuinely offering the other bet.

Note though I didn't just tell you to fuck off of course. I also told you put your tinfoil hat on and have a wank. Suggesting that I in fact called you paranoid long before Iain did. Not that's I'm in competition on that matter of course.

I imagine though that you, being the archivist type flamer, will be able to go back through hundreds of post correlating timestamps to find the answer to who did it first though. Sadly for me, life and work gets in the way of being so anal. Another good reason why we need you to do the role for us - and you do so well! Bravo!

Now, I did say that I probably wouldn't reply to you and I have, so I promise to let you have the last word this time. Oh, and you'll note that I've not addressed the issues to do with Policy Exchange etc. It's not because I'm dodging them though, it's because it's much more fun taking the piss out of you.

Now hit me with what you got you Internet guru you.

Anonymous said...


There is no need for me to delve any further than a week to show that you are the last word in last words... and those words are usually "f**k off".

You turn up like a bad penny every time Iain Dale or Paul Staines is challenged on one point or another, and every time you seem intent on shouting down criticism instead of dealing with the point(s).

Are you really so concerned that they can't fight their own battles and/or address the point(s) themselves?

Anonymous said...

Tim Ireland and chums are frightfully tedious.

Policy Exchange does policy research. It has a broadly conservative outlook. Other thinktanks have a broadly socialist outlook. Neither Iain nor Guido have questioned this. This is perfectly allowable. Charities are entitled to be conservative (with a small c). What they must not do, is advocate or attack particular parties or candidates. As Policy Exchange is a conservative-leaning thinktank it would be pretty f***ing stupid to ban people from being a member of it because they are members of the Conservative party. Equally it would be odd to mention that they are members of the party on the charity website, because the charity is non-partisan - they are there because they are conservative thinkers, not because they are Conservatives.

Unfortunately Tim & fellow morons don't seem to have grasped that advocating left-wing or right-wing policies (which is entirely allowed, even if those policies are particular associated with certain parties AS LONG AS you don't advocate that party or otherwise engage in party political activity) this is not what the Sith is being attacked on. Not at all. Being 'conservative' is not a crime. Being 'Conservative' is. Would suggest Tim & co think again if they think a thinktank with a conservative outlook should be banned from having Conservative party members working for it, because then they wouldn't have any members at all, as leading conservative thinkers are quite likely to be members of the Conservative party.

So please shut your mouths until you have something substantial such as paying somebody to draw up an anti-Blair strategy, or evidence of using support for the charity to get influence.

Anonymous said...

Manic thinks that it has already been pointed out that there is very little substantial material in Iain's report on a think-tank with charity status (the one where he does not declare that he is a trustee of another think-tank with charity status).

Manic is also amused at the overwhelming number of positive/defending comments that are made anonymously.

Captain Kirkham said...

Well, having read all the stuff about this, and having entirely no links to either the Conservative Party or the Labour Party, I have to say that Mr Dale doesn't come off terribly well in this. Mr Dale, it is not irrelevant that you are a trustee of a right-leaning think tank that has links with a certain political party and takes advantage of gift-aid in making a report about a left-leaning think tank that has links with a certain political party and takes advantage of gift-aid. It is in fact extremely relevant.

What you are saying about the Smith Insitute, Number 11 and gift aid may be reliable and true, but your neglecting to mention your own circumstances makes a truly independent listener/reader like me doubt you bona fides on this issue.

Anonymous said...

anonymous, you say that "it would be odd to mention that they are members of the party on the charity website, because the charity is non-partisan...".

Well, here's a snippet from another profile on Roger Gough, Policy Exchange's research director.

"At the 1997 General Election he stood as Conservative candidate for Dulwich and West Norwood.

So there isn't some sort of blanket ban on this "independent" charity mentioning their staff's links to the Conservative Party. In what way is mention of the above different from mentioning that Boles was Conservative candidate for Hove at the last election? Why can one be included but not the other?

There's quite a lot of wriggling going on here and not a lot of openness or transparency.

Also, as far as advocating a particular party or party figure, here's an article by Boles, writing as "director of the centre-Right think tank Policy Exchange" which might interest you. Here's my favourite quote:

"Although transforming his party's approach to opposition has been important, Mr Cameron's biggest achievement in the past year has been to show the British people that he shares their views and their values on the biggest issues confronting Britain."

I couldn't help but note that more than one right/centre Telegraph reader thought it was a "pathetically sycophantic article".

Puffery is not policy.