Policy Search

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Policy Search was a small 'short lived'[1] think tank based in 14 Tufton Street in Westminster in the late 1980s. It seems to have been active only between 1987 and 1989. It provided a base for Christopher Monckton in 1987 and according to Monckton was associated with Sir Alfred Sherman and a number of others.[2] Policy Search was based in 14 Tufton Street, a building occupied in 2009 by Diocese in Europe.

Sherman

Sir Alfred Sherman was reported as 'chairman of Policy-Search, an independent policy studies centre' at the end of an article he wrote in the Guardian in April 1987. [3] In a later article Policy Search was referred to as 'a clearing-house for studies in decision-making and opinion-forming in public affairs.' [4]

Policy Search as part of the new crop of Tory think tanks

'Most of the present crop of tanks were started in the 1970s', reported the Guardian in late 1987.

Among the newest are the Social Affairs Unit (managing on a modest £50,000 a year), run by Dr Digby Anderson, an academic and ordained Anglican priest; and Policy Search, founded by Sir Alfred Sherman. He is the maverick who stared as a socialist, after an East End Jewish childhood, and became a policy adviser to Mrs Thatcher before falling into disfavour; the shortness of his temper eclipsing the brilliance of his logic.

Somewhere between is the Centre for Policy Studies, started by Sir Keith Joseph before he became Social Services Secretary in the early 1970s, with Sherman as his right-hand man. Together with the tanks say they can co-exist without overlap. But there is a coterie, with New Right luminaries sitting on the boards of various bodies. They go to each other's lunches and some authors write for more than one organisation.

It's a paradox that they're in business at all. Sherman is fond of pointing out that the Tories are known for being The Stupid Party. Trying to get a minister to think about a new policy 'is like trying to sell condoms to an impotent man,' he believes. Even so, Sherman knows that Conservatives are vexed by the difficulties of implementing change.[5]

Funding

Rollo Clifford, 'a West Country aristocrat' and brother of Lord Clifford of Chudleigh, 'was fund-raiser for Sir Alfred Sherman's... right-wing think-tank, Policy Search, in the 1980s.' [6] Clifford would later be charged with fund raising for John Redwood's Conservative 2000 Foundation launched in 1995. [7]

HIV/AIDS

Monckton intervened in the debate about HIV/AIDs in the 1980s, writing an extensive report on the subject in 1987 for Policy Search, with a preface by Dr. John Seale. [8] In an 'author's note' Monckton thanked Sir Alfred Sherman, Nigel Morgan, Melanie Walsh, Hilary West and Sergeant Graham Barton of Policy Search, who 'gave me an office at 14 Tufton Street, SW1 and a great deal of helpful advice and support'.[9] the note also thanks 'those who have read the manuscript and have made constructive comments': George Bunton, formerly a surgeon at University College Hospital, Dr. Jonathan de Pass, Andrew Roberts, Robert Fleming Securities Ltd, Dr Georges Kaye Cromwell Hospital, Dr. David O'Connell, Graham Webster-Gardiner, Conservative Family Campaign, Andrew Lownie, John Farquharson and Co..[10]

In it he advocated 'mandatory annual screening' for everyone aged 13-65 [11], the introduction of an officially issued but voluntary 'AIDS-FREE card' and 'in extreme cases' the 'quarantining of AIDS carriers... if the figures from the national tests demonstrated that it was essential'.[12] Publicity on HIV and AIDS should be 'redrafted to include at least a modicum of morality', wrote Monckton.[13]

Years later Monckton reminisced:

He would have averted the Aids epidemic (having produced 'probably the first working model for the transmission of this particular kind of retrovirus in the UK', he insisted to the cabinet on compulsory testing of adults, legally enforced 'restricted association' for people who were HIV positive, but nothing was done). 'Lobby groups howled. The homosexual lobby said we know you, you're a Catholic, you don't like queers.'[14]

Le Pen

In 1987 Sherman and Policy Search were involved in inviting Jean-Marie Le Pen to the Conservative Party conference:

Sir Alfred Sherman... one-time adviser and speechwriter to Mrs Thatcher, is no longer a member of the Downing Street inner circle. Next month he looks like falling further out of favour.

How so? Because he is expected to be seen around Blackpool during the Conservative conference in company with a highly embarrassing guest. Policy Search, a research firm with which Sir Alfred has links, is organising the advertised visit of Jean Marie Le Pen, ultra-right-wing leader of the French National Front, to the conference fringe.

Mr Le Pen and a number of other right-wing French deputies are to meet the press, and will address their own fringe meeting on the final evening of the conference - the day before the Prime Minister's triumphal address to the closing rally.

Sir Alfred insists that Le Pen is neither a fascist nor a racist, that the poor chap has been much misunderstood and that he will one day be President of France. Whether or not Mrs Thatcher shares this view, it is unlikely that she will be grateful to her old ally for using her very own victory celebration to prove his point. [15]

In April 1988 Sherman wrote in the Guardian on the subject of Le Pen, stating that part of the story of the rise of Le pen is that Muslim immigrats are not assimilable:

True, France has a tradition of absorbing working-class immigrants. But they were mainly Catholic Latins who wanted nothing more than to become French. The Moslems' quintessentially distinct political culture, their inassimilability, their cultural level and numbers, together with the complications generated by the welfare state, make it impossible to equate the new wave with its earlier one. [16]

'It has become commonplace', Sherman wrote 'to refer to Le Pen as 'extreme right-wing', which means almost anything one pleases, or 'Nazi', a term susceptible to definition. Whereas national socialism borrowed many themes from Socialism, and aggrandised the state in the economic as in all other spheres, Le Pen is closer to the New Right in wishing to exclude the state as far as possible from economic life, mass-welfare, education, housing, communications, and media, and to return to an older French tradition giving the family-business sector and family provision greater scope.' [17]

Friends of the Union connection

Policy Search called a joint press conference with Friends of the Union on 10 November 1987 (two days after the Enniskillen bombing) to launch a pamphlet by Sir Charles Carter on devolution in Northern Ireland.

The organisation is a strange one. It sprang up around Mr Ian Gow, Mrs Thatcher's former parliamentary private secretary who resigned as a junior Treasury minister the night the Hillsborough agreement was signed, two years ago this weekend. Since then it has been the home of Unionist true believers in the Conservative Party but has had no impact on official thinking or the public mind. Yet yesterday Mr Gow was there to present it as the true embodiment of Tory sentiment and, with less delicacy, Sir Alfred Sherman (an enfant terrible to Downing Street staff for whom he was once an ideological touchstone) to say it represented the Prime Minister's genuine feelings, which had been distorted by civil servants, whom he presented as old Etonian snobs who despised Ulster Unionists.

Mr Gow, chairing a press conference to launch a document critically assessing the Anglo-Irish agreement, agreed with Sir Alfred that selective internment would be desirable (but declined to support a parallel between troubles in Northern Ireland and World War Two) and found himself forced to accept the notion of Sir Philip Goodhart, a former Northern Ireland minister, that it would be a good thing if the IRA itself shot its members who had perpetrated Sunday's atrocity.

'I would not be sad,' said Sir Philip, asked how he would react to news that the bombers had been killed by the IRA. Mr Gow indicated assent, and Sir Alfred weighed in with talk of full-scale internment on a wartime scale. 'The parallel is there,' he said.

The Friends, who called the press conference in association with Sir Alfred's Policy Search, have had little impact on Tory policy despite having as patrons a swathe of the traditionalist Right. Their letterhead is an emblem of old right values: from the editor of the Spectator to former Northern Ireland prime ministers and romantics of the Salisbury strain of Conservatism.

It has been difficult for Mr Gow and his associates to express disdain for Government policy while distancing themselves from the rough trade of Unionism, Mr Ian Paisley, Mr Peter Robinson, and their supporters.

Mr Gow said yesterday that he still believed the Hillsborough agreement was unnecessary to improve border security, therefore presenting himself as a hardliner. But when Sir Philip expressed enthusiasm for IRA internal discipline and Sir Alfred spoke of widespread internment, his placid features wobbled slightly. He said that the 'de-alienation' of the minority in Northern Ireland had more than been matched by an alienation of the majority, who had not been consulted about the agreement. But he did not claim that the security argument had been settled absolutely: claiming simply that violence in the two years after the agreement had exceeded that in the two years before it, and that the Government's case therefore had not been proved.

Sir Alfred had few such qualms. The agreement had failed because the Government had perpetrated an intellectual and moral failure, he said. The trouble for Mr Gow was that this was the very essence of the foundation of the Friends of the Union, but his instinct was to put it less bluntly. His tone was that of outrage modified to cope with a Prime Minister whose watchword is consistency. For once, as Mr Gow more than most can recognise, the Unionist Right is suffering from 'the resolute approach'.[18]

Broadcasting

In his last piece for the Guardian as Chair of Policy Search Alfred Sherman argued for an increased role for the market in broadcasting. [19]



References

  1. Peter Osborne, Tom Leonard 'Lone John's silver; The Redwood Foundation goes in search of big money' Evening Standard (London) September 27, 1995 Pg. 15
  2. Christopher Monckton, The Aids Report: An examination of public health policy on AIDS, London: Policy Search, 14 Tufton Street, Westminster, SW1, May 1987.
  3. Alfred Sherman, 'The Third Term: Policies and politics in the election balance - Series on the Conservative future', Guardian, 8 April 1987.
  4. Alfred Sherman, 'The Third Term: Policies and politics in the election balance - Series on the Conservative future', Guardian, 8 April 1987.
  5. John Cunningham, 'The think-tanks' role in the battle for Britain (first of two articles): The growing mini-industry of political policy units', Guardian, 6 October 1987.
  6. Peter Osborne, Tom Leonard 'Lone John's silver; The Redwood Foundation goes in search of big money', Evening Standard (London), 27 September 1995; p.15.
  7. Peter Osborne, Tom Leonard 'Lone John's silver; The Redwood Foundation goes in search of big money', Evening Standard (London), 27 September 1995; p.15.
  8. Christopher Monckton, The Aids Report: An examination of public health policy on AIDS, London: Policy Search, 14 Tufton Street, Westminster, SW1, May 1987.
  9. Christopher Monckton, The Aids Report: An examination of public health policy on AIDS, London: Policy Search, 14 Tufton Street, Westminster, SW1, May 1987.
  10. Christopher Monckton, The Aids Report: An examination of public health policy on AIDS, London: Policy Search, 14 Tufton Street, Westminster, SW1, May 1987.
  11. Christopher Monckton, The Aids Report: An examination of public health policy on AIDS, London: Policy Search, 14 Tufton Street, Westminster, SW1, May 1987, Summary p. 5
  12. Christopher Monckton, The Aids Report: An examination of public health policy on AIDS, London: Policy Search, 14 Tufton Street, Westminster, SW1, May 1987, Summary p. 6
  13. Christopher Monckton, The Aids Report: An examination of public health policy on AIDS, London: Policy Search, 14 Tufton Street, Westminster, SW1, May 1987. Summary, p. 7
  14. Tim Adams 'THE INTERVIEW: A favourite policy adviser of Mrs Thatcher in the Eighties, the 3rd Viscount Monckton of Brenchley is now the country's most notorious climate-change sceptic and has thrown down a challenge to Al Gore to a public debate on global warming. What does he know that we don't? Only that he has never been wrong' The Observer (England) May 6, 2007 Pg. 6
  15. Ian Aitken, 'Agenda: Liberal Assembly - Points of Order', Guardian, 11 September 1987.
  16. Alfred Sherman, 'Agenda: A vacuum filled by malcontents - How the National Front siezed its chance', Guardian, 26 April 1988.
  17. Alfred Sherman, 'Agenda: A vacuum filled by malcontents - How the National Front siezed its chance', Guardian, 26 April 1988.
  18. James Naughtie, 'The Day In Politics: Unionism's friends uneasy in spotlight - A Tory pressure group which came into prominence over Enniskillen' The Guardian (London) November 11, 1987
  19. Alfred Sherman 'The Media (Opinion): Let a hundred flowers bloom - Broadcasting Focus', Guardian, 16 January 1989.