Redwood launches leadership bid think-tank in leadership bid platform

Click to follow
The Independent Online
JOHN RENTOUL

Political Correspondent

John Redwood, the defeated Tory leadership challenger, today launches his think-tank, the Conservative 2000 Foundation, which he hopes will provide the policy platform for another leadership bid after the general election.

The foundation will be run by his former ministerial special adviser Hywel Williams, and Mr Redwood will hold no formal role. It is modelled on the Centre for Policy Studies, set up by Keith Joseph and Margaret Thatcher in 1974, which acted as a base for Mrs Thatcher's leadership bid the following year and provided the policy framework for "Thatcherism" in government.

The foundation is understood to be funded by some of Baroness Thatcher's admirers, including Greville Howard, head of the electronics group Arlen. Mr Howard owns 11 Lord North Street in Westminster, which serves as the foundation's base until it moves into its new Wilfred Street office.

Mr Howard's house was fitted out as a possible campaign HQ for Mr Redwood's right-wing rival Michael Portillo, now Secretary of State for Defence, during last month's leadership election. Mr Howard was private secretary to Enoch Powell and is a strong Euro-sceptic. He reportedly paid for an advertisement in Denmark during the referendum on the Maastricht Treaty there, exhorting the Danes to vote no.

The new think-tank is expected to put flesh on the bones of Mr Redwood's attempt to revive Lady Thatcher's free-market, authoritarian ideology.

Some right-wingers say Mr Redwood's leadership campaign revealed the need for new policy work, because his policy programme turned out to be embarrassingly thin.

After declaring "the Conservative Party is a tax-cutting party or it is nothing", his plans for pounds 5bn tax and spending cuts failed to survive scrutiny. The cuts, he explained, would be achieved by a system of performance- related promotion in a Redwood Cabinet, based on how well ministers attacked waste and inefficiency in their departments.

The foundation is likely to try to repeat the success of Newt Gingrich, Speaker of the US House of Representatives, in reviving Ronald Reagan's free-market ideology. Mr Gingrich's Contract With America manifesto was credited with the right-wing revival which powered the mid-term elections landslide last November.

But Mr Redwood's parallel attempt to revive the legacy of Lady Thatcher will be contested not just by John Major but by supporters of Mr Portillo.

Mr Redwood's venture is criticised by some right-wingers for being too closely identified with his undeclared candidacy for the next leadership campaign. Those close to Lady Thatcher insist her Centre for Policy Studies did not operate as a faction in the Tory party.

But internal Tory politics has changed since then, and one of the implicit functions of the foundation will be to provide policy ammunition for party factions such as Conservative Way Forward, whose president is Lady Thatcher and which inherited the right's mantle from the No Turning Back group, set up by Mr Redwood and other MPs in the mid-Eighties.

The foundation could also play a role in the battle to secure Lady Thatcher's endorsement as a future leader.

Sources close to Lady Thatcher say she was impressed by Mr Redwood's courage in challenging John Major last month, and disappointed by Michael Portillo's hard line against intervention in Bosnia.

Comments