Saturday 2 February 2019

How independent is "independent"?

I was driving to work on Thursday morning listening to Radio 3 and the 7 o'clock news bulletin began:
A study carried out for the BBC says the Government hasn't made enough preparations in case the UK leaves the European Union without a deal. The independent think tank the Institute for Government said there was a significant risk that ministers working to replace EU legislation covering areas such as trade, immigration and agriculture wouldn't have new laws ready in two months time.
As was discussed on the Open Thread, on Thursday the BBC made the views of the "independent" Institute for Government one of their lead stories over the range of their outlets, and Radio 4's Today programme called the IFG "independent" and "non-partisan".

So a negative report about Britain's Brexit preparations, commissioned by the BBC from the IFG, was given the full 'take-this-as-authoritative' treatment by the BBC. 

But just how "independent" is the Institute for Government, the brainchild of major Remain donor Lord Sainsbury?

Well, as Robin Horbury noted:
Also on the IFG board are Baroness Amos and Liam Byrne (former Labour ministers), and Richard Lambert, former editor of the FT. Its director is Bronwen Maddox, also a strong Remainer and currently visiting professor at the Policy Institute at King's College which is engaged in so-called research aimed at showing how ignorant leavers are about the EU. A further point is that IFG reports for the BBC are being commissioned by Chris Morris's 'reality check' unit - in other words, it is spending vast sums of licence fee money on reinforcing its own biased echo chamber. You could not make it up.
Indeed, a full analysis of the list of board members reveals the following:

Lord Sainsbury of Turville (Labour, Remain donor)
Baroness Amos (Labour, Remain supporter)
Liam Byrne (Labour, Remain supporter
Sir Ian Cheshire (Remain supporter)
Miranda Curtis 
George Freeman MP (Conservative, Remain supporter)
Philip Rutnam
Lord Simon of Highbury (former vice-chair of Britain in Europe)
Sir Richard Lambert (Remain supporter)

The fact that the board is evidently of one-mind about Brexit (i.e. not keen!) doesn't necessarily mean that the Institute's work will be biased in the direction of its board members' shared point of view (or its director Bronwen Maddox's identical point of view) but the "independent" label really ought to make BBC editors queasy when the organisation they are so describing turns out to have a board that's so heavily Remain, especially if - as Robin says - they are using it to bolster their own 'reality checks'.


  1. Yes, I wondered about that that when I heard the BBC pushing that report in their bulletins as independent research. Wiith a quick bit if googling I discovered this.

    Jill Rutter, IFG programme director for Brexit
    is a life long Labour member and activist.

    She was policy officer for The Refugee Council and worked on migration at the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), a left-of-centre think tank. She is also a trustee of Lewisham Refugee and Migrant Network.

    1. Ah, there are actually two Jill Rutters in prominent think tanks. There's the IFG's Jill Rutter and there's British Future's Jill Rutter. The Refugee Council/IPPR/Lewisham Refugee and Migrant Network Jill Rutter looks to be the British Future one rather than the IFG one. They often get confused. On Twitter they both occasionally get referred to as 'Not That Jill Rutter'. One of them should change her name (maybe to Jill Nutter?).

  2. I find it highly concerning that a leading Civil Servant, paid for by our taxes, is on the board of this Remainiac outfit. I refer to Philip Rutnam.

    (a) How come does he have the spare time to devote to this?

    (b) Surely it's in contravention of some part of the Civil Service Code to be part of such a highly politicised outfit? If it isn't, then shouldn't it be?

    There's nothing particularly pro-Remain on Rutnam's Twitter account but it is full of the usual virtue signalling - wishing one religious group (no need to guess - it's the BBC's favourite religious group as well) good wishs for their New Year festival, but not wishing another one (longer established here, not much in favour with the BBC, Corbyn or the later Jeremy Hardy) a happy New Year for their religious festival.

    One has to ask what is discussed at the Board of IFG? Is Rutnam claiming he recuses himself whenever maters of government policy are raised. Surely he'd have to remove himself for virtually every item that comes up.

    Miranda Curtis is President of Liberty Global, a subsidiary of UnitedGlobalCom Inc (couldn't sound more globalist in a "Batman" sort of way could it?). From the article linked below: "Liberty Global, she points out, was a major supporter of the Remain campaign..." You don't say! :)

    So that's looking like a 100% Remainer board, though no doubt Mr Rutnam will claim he has no such affiliation.


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