Saturday 15 February 2020

Who to ask, Lewis?

Lewis on the Road to Nowhere?

Yesterday's Newsnight featured a report from policy editor Lewis Goodall.

One of his three 'talking heads' was Raphael Hogarth of the Institute for Government. 

Thursday night's Newsnight also featured a Lewis Goodall report.

One of this 'talking heads' was Jill Rutter of the Institute for Government. The other 'talking head' was Giles Wilkes of the Institute for Government.

There were only two 'talking heads' on Thursday night's report, so that was a clean sweep for the Institute for Government. 

Is there a pattern emerging here?

Well, it's probably too early to tell. I've used TV Eyes to locate all of Lewis Goodall's Newsnight reports over the last month - all 10 of them. Two dealt with the Irish election, one with climate change, three with the Labour leadership race and - the ones I was interested in - four with general UK politics/Government, including the two editions referred to above. 

What of the other two? Well, Lewis's 16 January report featured Catherine Haddon from, yes, the Institute for Government.

The 27 January one, however, replaced someone from the Institute for Government with someone from the left-leaning IPPR.

So that's 3 out of 4 of Lewis's Newsnight reports on the UK government/UK general politics over the last month that have featured 'talking heads' from the Institute for Government - and one had two of them. 

This is one to watch, perhaps. Maybe they're just absolutely fantastic and fabulously independent-minded, but the Institute for Government is one of those 'respected', 'independent' think tanks that came across as anti-Brexit over the past few years.

It was founded by strongly pro-EU Labour peer Lord Sainsbury, and its board is striking in its centre-left-leaning, Europhile composition with four parliamentarians past and present belonging to Blairite Labour, one to the Lib Dems, and one to the Conservative Party (David Lidington, who resigned in anticipation of Boris Johnson becoming PM).

It sounds a very BBC outfit, doesn't it? 

I'm intrigued to see if Lewis Goodall keeps up this heavy involvement with the Institute for Government over time. What will it mean if he does?


  1. And I've seen the woman who's the director of the Institute for Government a couple of times in the last few days, not on Newsnight but possibly Politics Live or Andrew Neil programme. Bronwen Maddox? I think that's her name.

    1. Have you ever heard her say anything insightful?

      I haven't.

      Her stock in trade seems to be to say of Boris "He's going to find it difficult to x, y, z". Fortunately Boris is far more able than her. He understands getting anything done in politics is difficult, but he has already despatched many dragons: "No chance of winning the Conservative Leadership", "No chance of changing the Withdrawal Agreement", "No chance of getting a deal with the EU on Withdrawal", "No chance of getting a working majority", "No chance of breaking down the Red Wall", and "No chance of getting the devolved structures operating again in Northern Ireland". While I might not be happy about HS2, he's been decisive on that as well.

      Thankfully we have someone at the helm who is way more inspiring and inspired than Browned- Off Bronwen.

  2. I've raised this numerous times. The IFG is not "independent". As I understand it, Lord Sainsbury controls the funding through family trusts.The IFG admit on their website: "The majority of the Institute for Government’s funding comes from the Gatsby Charitable Foundation, one of the Sainsbury Family Charitable Trusts. For 2017/18, the Institute received a core grant of £3.8 million from the Gatsby Charitable Foundation towards our charitable work."

    The IFG claims to be a charity but we can see it is a highly political pro-EU, anti-Brexit, anti-Boris propaganda outfit. Why it should have charitable status I cannot see.

    It is outrageous that the BBC conspires with it to present it as an independent, disinterested and non-partisan body when it is none of those things. There's a wider spectrum of views on Brexit within the Labour Party than there is in the IFG!

    When not trying to obstruct Brexit or keep us tied to the EU, the IFG's commentaries on government, civil service, devolution and so on seem to me shallow, misleading, disingenuously idealised and, where there is occasionally some substance, unmistakably Blairite.


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