Senior Vote Leave Members Join Forces to Create a 'Museum of Communist Terror' In The UK


A group of hard-Brexiters is working together to launch a “Museum of Communist Terror” with the aim to “keep alive knowledge and understanding of the deaths, terror and economic failure that took place under Communist regimes, primarily in the 20th century”.

Over the last month, individuals from high-profile and opaquely-funded organisations advancing free-market and libertarian ideology have joined the venture founded by journalist and writer James Bartholomew.

This included senior members of Vote Leave such as the campaign’s founder Daniel Hannan, who later founded the IFT (previously Institute for Free Trade), technology chief Thomas Borwick and head of social media Chloe Westley, now a campaign manager at the Taxpayers’ Alliance, which was founded by Vote Leave’s chief executive Matthew Elliott.

The group also includes Eamonn Butler, the co-founder and director of the Adam Smith Institute, another libertarian think tank which together with the TaxPayers’ Alliance and the IFT are part of a network of free-market organisations and climate science deniers pushing for a hard-Brexit.

DeSmog UK has extensively reported on this network which is based in and around 55 Tufton Street, an office near Westminster.

The office is also home to the climate science denial group the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF), founded by former Chancellor Nigel Lawson.

Coal baron Matt Ridley, a conservative hereditary peer, an advocate of the UK leaving the EU and an advsior to the GWPF, also joined the museum as honorary president. 

Earlier this weekend, the Taxpayers’ Alliance conceded that it had coordinated with eight other organisations pushing for a hard-Brexit as part of their political campaign. The revelations came as the Taxpayers’ Alliance admitted to illegally sacking BeLeave whistleblower Shahmir Sanni for raising the alarm over Vote Leave’s electoral spending.

The nine groups include the TaxPayers’ Alliance, the Adam Smith Institute, the Global Warming Policy Foundation, Leave Means Leave, Brexit Central, the IEA, the Centre for Policy Studies, Civitas and the office of former Ukip leader Peter Whittle.

Out of eight of the museum’s current directors, only one is a historian.

The Charity Commission turned down the Museum of Communist Terror’s application for charitable status on the grounds it was too political. The museum said it would try to apply again once it has established “that we are covering genuine events in history in an accurate and even-handed way”. It added that it would consider setting-up a separate organisation, which would “study totalitarianism of all kinds, not just Communism”. 

Activities and messaging

According to its website, the museum team is currently working to “acquire artefacts” from former Communist countries to create a collection and create one or more small museums “leading up to the development of a full-size museum in London”.

The museum’s message will also be disseminated through social media, films for schools and universities and “lobbying for improvements in the teaching of the history of Communist regimes”.

At time of publication, the museum’s website includes short videos of people sharing their life experience under communist regimes in Cambodia and eastern Europe. These interviews were recorded and carried out by Bartholomew.

The “Museum of Communist Terror” Twitter account is also followed by a number of climate science deniers and key members of the Tufton Street network, including Breitbart writer James Delingpole, MP Owen Paterson and coal baron Matt Ridley.

In an email to DeSmog UKBartholomew said the Museum of Communist Terror had nothing to do with the Brexit process and that trustees including “figures from the left of the political spectrum” will be appointed in the next year. 

“I also hope to recruit more historians and, indeed, at least one professional curator,” he said.

Bartholomew added that current funding for the museum was “minimal” and dependent on donations from inidviduals supporting the project.  

Museum directors: Who’s Who?

The museum founder is James Bartholomew, a journalist for the Daily Telegraph, the Daily Mail and the Spectator and the author of The Welfare of Nations, his second book which argues that welfare and nanny states are damaging prosperity.

Bartholomew registered a private limited company by guarantee named “Museum of Communist Terror”based in Bath with Companies House in September last year.

Writing in the Spectator in 2016, Bartholomew said he developed the idea of creating the museum after visiting the House of Terror in Budapest, Hungary, a museum and memorial to the victims of the country’s fascist and communist regime of the 20th century.

Bartholomew wrote that “the generation that has grown up since the collapse of the Berlin Wall does not seem to understand the connection between communism and terror”, adding “the far left is experiencing a surge of popularity” across Britain and the US.

The museum’s website was created by Kanto Systems, a company which describes itself as a political campaign consultancy and whose founder and director is Thomas Borwick, Vote Leave’s former chief technology officer who previously worked for Cambridge Analytica.

Kanto Systems also built the website for the Save The 8th campaign in Ireland which opposed amending the constitution to legalise abortion.

Borwick is also tightly connected to former Ukip MP Douglas Carswell and together run a campaigns communication management company called Disruptive Analytica.

Borwick joined the museum company as a director last month, along with a number of new recruits.

Chloe Westley, a campaign manager for the TaxPayers’ Alliance – which was founded by Vote Leave chief executive Matthew Elliott – also joined the company last month.

Westley was head of social media for Vote Leave and founded the grassroot campaign “Change Britain” which aimed to deliver on the EU referendum result.

In the summer 2016, she also advised environmental minister Michael Gove during his Tory leadership campaign.

Daniel Hannan joined the “Museum of Communist terror” earlier this month. Hannan is a Conservative MEP for the South east of England, known for his hardline pro-Brexit views.

Last year, Hannan was a speaker at The Liberty Summit to discuss “the dark legacy of the communist system and the developments of post-communism”. The event was organised by the Alliance of Conservatives and Reformists in Europe (ACRE), a European eurosceptic political movement.

Hannan made headlines in September last year when he launched the IFT (previously the Institute for Free Trade) at the Foreign Office, which was attended by international trade secretary Liam Fox and former foreign secretary Boris Johnson.

The IFT is based at 57 Tufton Street, sharing an office with the anti-renewables thinktank the Centre for Policy Studies, and next door to many of the organisations DeSmog UK previously revealed to be at the heart of a UK climate science denial network in 55 Tufton Street.

The IFT was set up after the Brexit referendum to promote free-trade deals between the UK and other countries. Earlier this year, the IFT engaged in “shadow trade talks” with a range of libertarian groups from the UK and the US to set-out what a USUK trade deal could look like post-Brexit.

These talks resulted in the publication of an alternative Brexit plan, known as the “Plan A+”, which was largely produced by lobbyist Shanker Singham, director of the international trade unit at the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA).  

The plan called on the UK government to cut EU environmental regulations to secure free-trade deals with the US, China and India after Brexit, describing environmental protection as “frequently they are disguised methods of protectionism”. The plan was widely criticised by environmental groups.

Eamonn Butler is an economist and the co-founder and director of the Adam Smith Institute, another free-market organisation which is based at 55 Tufton Street.

Butler is strongly affiliated to the Atlas network.

In the 1970s, Butler worked in the US on pensions and welfare issues for the House of Representatives.

Giles Udy is a historian whose work has focused on the Soviet gulag system and its influence on the Labour movement in the UK. His latest book is called “Labour and the gulag”.

Roger Scruton, is a writer and philosopher who has long defended conservative values.

He came under scrutiny in 2002 after having written extensively about smoking, including for the IEA, without disclosing he was receiving regular donations from Japan Tobacco International.

Jean-Paul Floru is a writer and a senior research fellow at the Adam Smith Institute. He is a former conservative councillor at Westminster City Council and stood as a Conservative candidate in the 2009 European Parliament election.

He describes himself as a libertarian conservative, a “Boris [Johnson] backer” and a eurosceptic.  

Image Credit: Daniel Hannan MEP speaking at the 2012 Coonservative Political Action Conference in Washington DC. Gage Skidmore/Flickr/CC BYSA 2.0

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