Has Liz Truss handed over power to the extreme neoliberal think tanks? | George Monbiot

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Whow did Liz Truss choose? Conservative party members, of course. Who are they? Disproportionately wealthy, white, older men living in the south of England. But there are members whose profile we don’t know. They do not live in the UK, have never been residents or citizens here and do not have the right to vote in our elections. Amazingly, since 2018, these foreign members have been allowed to decide who should become Britain’s prime minister.

The Conservative Party statutes are an open invitation to anyone who wants to tamper with our politics. There doesn’t seem to be anything stopping agents from another government from registering as members with Conservatives Abroad. It also seems that there is nothing to stop one person (or one bot warm) from applying for multiple memberships. So much for the party of patriotism, sovereignty and national security.

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This open invitation, judging by the little information we can gather, has yet to be fully exploited. Perhaps foreign governments have not yet realized what a golden opportunity they have been given. Maybe they just can’t believe how irresponsible the Tories are.

But we don’t need to propose another state’s campaign to see Truss as some sort of Manchurian candidate, undermining what remains of our democracy on behalf of undemocratic interests. As a rule, the louder a politician proclaims his patriotism, the more likely he is to act on behalf of foreign money. Every recent conservative prime minister has placed the interests of transnational capital above the interests of the nation. But to a greater extent than any previous leader, Truss’s politics has been shaped by organizations that call themselves think tanks, but better described as lobbyists who refuse to reveal who finances them. Now she has brought them to the heart of government.

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Her senior special counsel, Ruth Porter, was communications director at the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), an extremely neoliberal lobby group. An investigation by the Transparify democracy campaign called the IEA “highly opaque” about its funding sources. We know from a combination of leaks and US filings that it has a history of taking money from tobacco companies and, since 1967, from the oil company BP, as well as receiving large disbursements from foundations funded by US billionaires, some of which are among the most important. sponsors of climate science denial. While working at the IEA, Porter called for lower housing allowance and child benefits, charging patients to use the NHS, cutting foreign aid and cutting green funds.

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She then became head of economic and social policy at Policy Exchange, which was also labeled “highly opaque” by Transparify. Policy Exchange is the group that (after Porter’s departure) called for a new law against Extinction Rebellion, which became the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act in the hands of former Home Secretary Priti Patel. We later found out that it had received $30,000 from US oil company Exxon.

Liz Truss has spoken at more of his events than “any other politician in the past 12 years”, according to the head of the IEA. Two of Truss’ meetings with the organization were removed from the official record and then reinstated after the removals sparked a scandal.

More importantly, Truss was the ostensible founder, in 2011, of the free enterprise group of Conservative MPs. The group’s webpage was registered by Ruth Porter, who was working for the IEA at the time. The IEA organized events for the group and provided it with media briefings. Twelve members of the current cabinet, including some of the highest figures, belonged to the group. If you try to access the webpage today, you will be redirected to the Free Market Forum, which calls itself “a project of the Institute of Economic Affairs”.

Truss’ chief economic adviser is Matthew Sinclair, former chief executive of a similar lobby group, the Taxpayers’ Alliance. It is also obscurely funded by foreign donors. Sinclair wrote a book called Let Them Eat Carbon, in which he argued against action to prevent climate degradation. It claimed that, “Equatorial regions could suffer, but it’s entirely possible that this will be offset by areas like Greenland.” In other words, we can trade the lives of billions of people against the prospects of some of the least inhabited places on Earth. It is one of the most heartless and ignorant statements I have ever seen.

Truss’ interim press secretary, Alex Wild, was a research director at the same organization. Her health advisor, Caroline Elsom, was a senior researcher at the Center for Policy Studies, which Transparify listed as — you guessed it — “very opaque.” Her political secretary, Sophie Jarvis, was head of government affairs at the Adam Smith Institute (also “very opaque”) and was funded by tobacco companies and American foundations, among others.

These groups represent the extreme fringes of neoliberalism. This means that human relationships are completely transactional: we are primarily motivated by the pursuit of money, which determines our behavior. But, hilariously, if you challenge them about their funding, they deny that the money they receive affects the positions they take.

For decades, the policy development of the right took shape as follows. Oligarchs and corporations funded the think tanks. The think tanks proposed policies that, by sheer coincidence, were aligned with the interests of oligarchs and corporations. The billionaire press – also owned by oligarchs – reported these policy proposals as brilliant insights from independent organizations. Conservative front benchers then cited the press coverage as proof of the public’s demand: the voice of the oligarchs was treated as the voice of the people.

In his autobiography Think Tank, Madsen Pirie, founder of the Adam Smith Institute, explains how it worked. Every Saturday, staff from the Adam Smith Institute and the Institute of Economic Affairs sat down in a wine bar in Leicester Square with conservative researchers and leading writers and columnists from the Times and Telegraph to outline a “week ahead strategy” and “our activities.” to make us more effective collectively.” The Daily Mail helped lobbyists refine their arguments and ensure that every time they published a report, there was a supporting article on the leader’s page.

But now the think tanks no longer need a detour. They no longer lobby the government. They are the government. Liz Truss is their candidate. To defend the interests of global capital, it will wage war against any common attempt to improve our lives or protect the living planet. If Labor is looking for a three-word slogan to fight the next election, it could be worse than “Repair this country”.

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