The Spectator

Think-tank battle

The concept of a ‘Red Tory’ is not an easy one to grasp.

The concept of a ‘Red Tory’ is not an easy one to grasp.

T he concept of a ‘Red Tory’ is not an easy one to grasp. Is it someone who believes in huntin’, shootin’ and fishin’ for all, or is it an inversion of a champagne socialist: someone who preaches free markets from beneath a flat cap while sipping bitter in a boozer in Bolton?

The phrase was invented by Philip Blond, a former lecturer who has attracted a million pounds to set up his own think-tank, ResPublica — launched this week with David Cameron in attendance. His particular beef is with monopolies, and their effect on community spirit. Much to the annoyance of Ken Clarke, the shadow business secretary, he advocates legislation to break up high-street shopping chains.

One cannot accuse the world of Con-servative think-tanks of monopoly domination. ResPublica was one of at least two to be launched last week, coming days after Lord Lawson’s Global Warming Policy Institute. The event was far less fashionable. Only two Tory MPs — one of them David Davis — dared to be seen there. In an era where politicians like to buy ideas off the shelf, rather than have to think them up, there has never been more choice.

But might there be too much choice? How is a confused politician supposed to make sense of the multitude of idea-peddlers? How can he tell his Theos from his Demos? This may be boom time for Tory ideas, and the party may very well be in need of them. But the world of Tory think-tanks looks ready for some consolidation.

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