MPs demand investigation into climate change denial group linked to Suella Braverman

Suella Braverman
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This piece was updated at 16:45 on 9 November to clarify that the donations were made to the Legatum Institute and that this organisation is a think tank.

During her failed bid to become Tory leader, Suella Braverman received funding linked to the former chair of a climate change denying think tank. Now, three MPs are demanding the wider finances of that think tank – based at the prestigious Westminster address of 55 Tufton Street – be investigated. This news may prove embarrassing for the government, coming as it is during COP27 week.

The investigation could potentially end up as a test case for other groups – collectively nicknamed the Tufton network – based at, or associated with, that address. Several senior Tory MPs work closely with those groups. Many of them are also listed as current or past members of the European Research Group (ERG).

Investigation into “wrongdoing”

Representing a cross-party trio of MPs, the Good Law Project has asked the Charity Commission to investigate alleged wrongdoing by the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF). The thinktank is a registered charity that rejects climate change.

An 18 page letter sent to the Charity Commission, alleging “mismanagement” by GWPF, is available to view here.

Specifically, the MPs claim GWPF authorised:

several hundred thousand pounds’ worth of spending on one-sided and politically-motivated research, which does not fall properly within the “educational” purposes of the Charity.

Read on...

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A company owned by former GWPF chair Terence Mordaunt donated £10k to Suella Braverman for her bid as Tory leader. Mordaunt is also a trustee of the similarly named GWP Forum, a subsidiary of GWPF.

So who are the the Tufton network?

In October, Led By Donkeys (LBD) posted a video identifying the groups who make up the Tufton network. They include: TaxPayers’ Alliance (TPA), Centre for Policy Studies (CPS), the Adam Smith Institute (ASI), and Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA). LBD also named individuals from these groups who worked closely with Liz Truss during her short tenure as prime minister. They include Matthew Sinclair and Alex Wild (TPA), Caroline Elsom (CPS), Ruth Porter (IEA), and Julian Jessop (IEA).

According to LBD, the IEA reportedly received funds from BP and ExxonMobil. LBD adds that the tobacco industry funds the IEA, the CPS, and ASI.

More funding sources

Independent media sites in particular have exposed other funding sources for the Tufton network:

  • In June 2022, Open Democracy revealed that the John Templeton Foundation provided just under “$2m to the US arms of the Adam Smith Institute and the IEA”.
  • ExxonMobil gave $30k to the US arm of Policy Exchange (PE), another thinktank group, co-founded by Michael Gove. PE recommended a new law to target Extinction Rebellion (XR) and other climate change groups. That proposed law became the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act. Policy Exchange has described XR as ‘extremists’.
  • The Sarah Scaife Foundation, a funder of climate denial organisations, donated $350k to pro-privatisation and pro-private healthcare ASI and the Legatum Institute, another think tank.
  • The Charles Koch Foundation, set up by the co-owner of fossil fuel company Koch Industries, donated $154k to the Legatum Institute.
  • The Legatum Institute’s “lead sponsor” is the Legatum Foundation. Its founding partner and chair is former hedge-fund Sovereign Global manager Christopher Chandler. He and his brother invested heavily in Russia, including the energy company Gazprom.
  • A trust which donated $22m to climate denial organisations also gave $2m to Policy Exchange, TPA, IEA and Legatum Institute via their US fundraisers.
  • BP has funded the IEA “every year since 1967”, according to openDemocracy.

Tufton network and the Tories

The pro-privatisation and climate change denying CPS has long-standing links with the Tory right. It was set up by Margaret Thatcher, along with Keith Joseph and Alfred Sherman. Wikispooks lists CPS directors and council members, the latter of which include several Tory MPs. The CPS’s advisory board also includes, among others, Graham Brady who is chair of the highly influential 1922 Committee of Tory MPs.

Brady is also the CPS deputy chair. The CPS supports NHS privatisation and fracking.

Moreover, in 2021, the IEA launched the Free Market Forum that included Priti Patel, Liz Truss, and Kwasi Kwarteng in its parliamentary wing. The forum’s advisory council included former TPA CEO Matthew Elliott.

It’s further revealed by openDemocracy that:

14 members of Boris Johnson’s cabinet – including the home secretary Priti Patel, the foreign secretary Liz Truss and the business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng, are “alumni of IEA initiatives”.

There’s also Shanker Singham, Legatum Institute’s then-economic policy director, who met regularly with then Brexit minister and ERG head Steve Baker. Singham later moved on to the IEA.

Then there’s Tim Montgomerie, senior fellow at the Legatum Institute and “creator of the ConservativeHome website”. Following the disastrous Kwasi Kwarteng budget, openDemocracy reported that Montgomerie, who was also a former adviser to Boris Johnson:

wrote on Twitter that the mini-budget was a “massive moment for the IEA”. “They’ve been advocating these policies for years,” he said.

These groups “are the government”

Guardian columnist George Monbiot has also identified links between certain Tufton network groups and Tory Party policies:

Monbiot suggests that the lobby groups he mentioned are “no longer lobbying government – they are the government”.

He points out that their policies also include: no tax for the rich, deregulation of industries, and the abolition of trade unions and protest movements. He argues that these groups promote fundamentalist policies that would see massive cuts in services, leading to the privatisation of public services, including the NHS.

Meanwhile, we await a response from the Charity Commission to the Good Law Project’s request for an investigation into GWPF finances.

As for the wider Tufton network, their links with Tory-run government are expansive if not endemic. Indeed, to borrow a phrase from the Thatcher era, they could be described as the “enemy within”.

Featured image via YouTube cropped 770×403 pixels

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