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An extraordinary year for the Centre for Policy Studies

2 January 2020

by Robert Colvile - Director, CPS

In January, Conservative MPs polled by ComRes named the Centre for Policy Studies as Westminster’s most influential think tank. In December, we showed why they did.

The recent Conservative Party manifesto contained more than two dozen policies (listed here) proposed either by CPS staff or by our guest authors - who this year alone included the Rt Hon Priti Patel MP, the Rt Hon Sajid Javid MP, the Rt Hon Dominic Raab MP, the Rt Hon Matt Hancock MP, the Rt Hon Nicky Morgan MP, the Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng MP and the Rt Hon Damian Green MP.

The manifesto’s flagship fiscal policy, to cut tax for low-paid workers by raising the National Insurance threshold, was first championed by Tom Clougherty, CPS Head of Tax, in his landmark report Make Work Pay

One of its main housing policies, the introduction of long-term fixed-rate mortgages, drew on the arguments in Resentful Renters, an imminent report by Graham Edwards, chairman of the CPS Housing Policy Group - part of a broader pattern of support for home ownership, a key CPS priority.

Its focus on cutting the burden of tax and administration on small and family businesses echoed the arguments of Think Small, by CPS Head of Business Nick King - and its proposals for levelling up Britain’s towns and regions were completely in tune with his recent report on the topic, A Rising Tide. It also reaffirmed the Tories’ commitment to freeports – first proposed post-Brexit in a CPS report by the Rt Hon Rishi Sunak MP.

Oh - and I took a leave of absence during the election campaign to actually write the manifesto, working with Munira Mirza, the head of policy at No 10, and Rachel Wolf, co-founder of Public First and a CPS Research Fellow and Advisory Council member.

All of this didn’t just happen because of our brilliant team and their great ideas. It happened because when I joined the CPS two years ago, the clear mission statement set for me and our Head of Policy, Alex Morton, was to develop policies aimed at the “Just About Managings” – to show hard-working families trying to get on and do the right thing how free-market ideas could make their daily lives better.

I’m delighted to say that we will be continuing that work in 2020, with a new joint project with Rachel, James Frayne and the rest of the team at Public First to understand the priorities of this New Majority and develop policies in response.

But even without all this, it would still have been an extraordinary year for us here at the CPS. We published more than a dozen major papers, as well as a landmark collection of essays by almost 40 Conservative MPs (in association with George Freeman MP and the 2020 Conservatives). We hosted speakers including the Foreign Secretary, Health Secretary, Chancellor, Transport Secretary, Trade Secretary and Chief Secretary to the Treasury. We packed out the Guildhall for our annual Margaret Thatcher Conference, which featured a stirring speech by US Ambassador Robert Wood Johnson and some sparky debate between Prof Niall Ferguson and the Rt Hon George Osborne over our relations with China and America.

And in May, we were honoured to host the world’s most senior diplomat, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, to deliver the Margaret Thatcher Lecture at Lancaster House – introduced by the Foreign Secretary.

Meanwhile, the team at CapX have delivered another record-breaking year, publishing more than 1,000 articles and attracting record traffic figures over the election period. There are some recent highlights below, but I strongly recommend you sign up for their daily digest.

We have also had some personnel changes over the year. Emma Barr and Gareth Milner, our Heads of Press and Digital respectively, entered Government as Special Advisers in the Transport and Brexit departments. Ben Elliot, our Treasurer, was appointed Co-Chairman of the Conservative Party, though remains part of the CPS family. Andrew Griffith, the Chairman of our Advisory Council, moved to No 10 to become the Prime Minister’s Senior Business Adviser, and is now the new MP for Arundel & South Downs. Emma Revell, Emma Barr’s deputy, moved to the Institute of Economic Affairs. And Nick King briefly took a sabbatical to act as Campaign Manager to his old boss Sajid Javid (and then stand as MP for Makerfield), but is now hard at work again. Thank you to all of them for their immense contributions.

As we at the CPS look forward to 2020, it is with huge optimism. A Government with the majority to get things done – Brexit first and foremost. A CPS team bursting with talent. And a policy environment in which good ideas have never been more important.

On behalf of all of us, I’d like to wish you a merry Christmas – and a policy-packed New Year.

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