55 Tufton Street

55 Tufton Street


The Westminster building located at 55 Tufton Street is home to a small but influential network of libertarian, pro-Brexit thinktanks and lobby groups, including the UK‘s principal climate science denial group, the Global Warming Policy Foundation. Information on the building’s residents can be found below. [1]

The building itself is owned by Richard Smith, a businessman who runs an aerospace company called HR Smith Group and a former trustee of the pro-Brexit Politics and Economics Research Trust founded by former Vote Leave and Taxpayers’ Alliance CEO Matthew Elliott. It was purchased in 2009 by Specmat, one of Smith’s technology manufacturing companies. While he keeps a low profile, Smith is perhaps best known for flying former Prime Minister David Cameron to his home in Shobdon, Herefordshire, in 2007. Smith is associated with several of the organisations at 55 Tufton Street and also donated to the official Vote Leave campaign, previously located at the same Tufton Street address. [2], [38]

Many of the groups meet monthly to discuss “strategy and tactics”, according to an openDemocracy investigation, while Brexit campaign whistleblower Shahmir Sanni has accused nine of the organisations of running a coordinated campaign for a “hard Brexit” by agreeing on a “single set of right-wing talking points”. [47], [48]

Stance on Climate Change

The building is home to several groups that either spread misinformation about climate science or lobby against government action to reduce emissions. [2]

Key People

Building Residents

The Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF) exists to combat what it describes as “extremely damaging and harmful policies” designed to mitigate climate change and regularly publishes reports rejecting the scientific consensus on the issue. It was founded in the run-up to the Copenhagen climate summit in 2009 by former Conservative Chancellor Lord Nigel Lawson. Several of the GWPF‘s members and funders are affiliated with other groups located at 55 Tufton Street. [1], [3]

Civitas is an educational charity and publisher specializing in health, education, welfare, and economics. The thinktank has published reports arguing against policies to tackle climate change, including a 2013 report by current Energy Editor of the GWPF John Constable. It claimed a shift to renewable energy would mean “more people would be working for lower wages in the energy sector, energy costs would rise, the economy would stagnate, and there would be a significant decline in the standard of living”. Sir Alan Rudge, an advisor to the GWPF, and Lord Nigel Vinson, a GWPF funder, are both trustees. The group has been criticised by Transparify for its “opaque” operations. [4], [45], [5], [6], [3], [7]

The TaxPayers’ Alliance is a free-market pressure group and thinktank formed in 2004 by Matthew Elliott to campaign for a low tax society. It advocates the removal of various measures designed to reduce emissions, including the Climate Change Levy. In 2016 the TaxPayers’ Alliance, along with US climate science denying lobby groups the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) and the Heritage Foundation, held a free trade event at the Conservative Party Conference. The group was, as of November 2015, a member of the Cooler Heads Coalition, a climate science denial umbrella group run by the CEI, but is no longer listed on its website. The Taxpayers’ Alliance belongs to an international coalition of anti-tax, free-market campaign groups called the World Taxpayers Associations. Other members include the Australian Taxpayers’ Alliance, Americans for Tax Reform, the Austrian Economics Center and the Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation. [8], [9], [10], [35]

The New Culture Forum is a right-wing thinktank working to change cultural debates it believes are dominated by “the left”. According to the ConservativeHome blog, Matthew Elliott serves as an advisor to the forum, while Michael Gove, former UK Environment Secretary, has spoken at its events. Its founder and Director is Peter Whittle, former UKIP leader in the London Assembly and former Culture and Communities Spokesperson (2014-2018) and Deputy Leader (2016-2017) for the party. [25], [26], [27]

Past residents

Vote Leave was the official pro-Brexit campaign. The group was originally a resident of 55 Tufton Street but moved to a bigger office several months before the referendum. Members included Nigel Lawson, Matthew Elliott, Graham Stringer (also a GWPF trustee), Matt Ridley, along with prominent Conservative Party politicians Andrea Leadsom, Boris Johnson and Michael Gove. GWPF and Tory donor Michael Hintze also donated to Vote Leave. [2], [14], [15], [16], [17], [18]

UK2020 was a right-wing thinktank set up by former Environment Secretary Owen Paterson in 2014 that drew comparisons with the American “Tea Party” movement. Among the policy recommendations the group called for was “a robust, common sense energy policy that would encourage the market to choose affordable technologies to reduce emissions.” These technologies include shale gas and small modular nuclear reactors. It also aimed to strip back regulations and subsidies in the energy sector designed to combat climate change. Matt Ridley of the GWPF was a policy advisor for UK2020 and Tim Montgomerie, founder of the ConservativeHome website and a former senior fellow at the Legatum Institute, was their political adviser. [23], [24], [2], [36]

Leave Means Leave was a pro-Brexit campaign group formed following the 2016 EU referendum to “ensure the UK makes a swift, clean exit from the EU”. It backed a “hard” Brexit, with the UK leaving the European Single Market, the Customs Union and the European Court of Justice, and supported the UK reverting to World Trade Organisation rules. The group was co-founded by Richard Tice, a property developer and now Chair of the Brexit Party, and John Longworth, former Director-General of the British Chamber of Commerce and now Executive Director of the Centre for Brexit Policy. Its advisory board included MPs Sammy Wilson, Owen Paterson, Graham Stringer, Kate Hoey and Peter Bone. On a now-deleted page on the group’s website, Nigel Farage was listed as its Vice-Chair, along with Tice. The group ceased to operate on January 31, 2020, the day Britain left the EU, with its website stating that it had “achieved its aims.”  A telephone number previously used by the group is in use as the contact number for the Economists for Free Trade (EFT) and the Centre for Brexit Policy (CBP) and has been linked to the office of Media Intelligence Partners[49], [50], [51], [52], [68], [69], [70], [71], [72]

Business for Britain was a pro-Brexit campaign group for business leaders founded in 2013 by Matthew Elliott to push for a referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU. In 2014, it released a briefing paper on ‘Energy Policy and the EU, claiming that EU regulations and policy had driven up the cost of energy in the UK and recommending that the government should consider opting out of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme. Matt Ridley, an advisor to the GWPF, launched the Business for Britain North East branch, and Lord Vinson acted as an advisor to the group. Founder Matthew Elliott announced the group’s closure in September 2016.  [11], [12], [13], [37], [79]

The European Foundation was a high-profile Eurosceptic thinktank formed in 1993 to oppose the Maastricht Treaty and chaired by Conservative MP Bill Cash. The group published a report in 2009 during the Copenhagen climate summit entitled “100 reasons why global warming is natural” which denied there is any proof that human influence has anything to do with climate change. Members of the group’s advisory board included Matthew Elliott, Richard Smith, owner of 55 Tufton Street, the former UKIP MEP Roger Helmer, and Conservative MPs David Davis, Oliver Letwin, Bernard Jenkin, John Whittingdale, Graham Brady and Iain Duncan-Smith. Owen Paterson, former environment secretary and Chairman of UK2020, another organisation based at 55 Tufton Street, was also on the advisory board. As of August 2020, the European Foundation had not issued any new publications since July 2019 and its Twitter account had been suspended for violating the media platform’s rules. [19], [20], [21], [22], [73], [74]

Global Vision was a Eurosceptic campaign group launched in 2007 by the Conservative peer Lord Blackwell, Chair of Lloyds Banking Group and a former Board Member of the Centre for Policy Studies, and Ruth Lea, Trustee of the Global Warming Policy Foundation and an advisor to the TaxPayers’ Alliance. According to its website, the group promoted “a constructive new relationship between the UK and Europe based on free trade and mutually beneficial cooperation, whilst opting out of the process of political and economic integration”. Its Economic Advisory Panel included Neil Record, Patrick Minford (Chair of Economists for Free Trade) and Eamonn Butler (Founder/Director of the Adam Smith Institute). A now-deleted webpage listed MPs and peers belonging to the “Parliamentary Friends of Global Vision”, which included Bill Cash, Christopher Chope, Philip Davies, Peter Lilley and Lord Vinson. Its “Business Supporters” included oil and minerals businessman Algy Cluff, GWPF donor Michael Hintze, and Leader of the House of Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg. As of August 2020, the organisation was listed as active on Companies House however it has filed accounts as a “dormant company” on the website since 2016. In February 2020, a pro-Brexit media outlet named Global Vision was launched by Shanker Singham. It is unclear whether the two organisations are otherwise related. [53], [54], [55], [56], [57], [75], [76], [77], [78]

55 Tufton Street Contact & Address

55 Tufton Street



57 Tufton Street

The building next door to 55 Tufton street also houses several other like-minded thinktanks. [28]

The Centre for Policy Studies is a free market thinktank, co-founded by Margaret Thatcher in 1974, five years before she was elected Prime Minister. Lord Vinson was another co-founder of the organisation and subsequently served as Director. It regularly publishes work by climate science denier and anti-renewables advocate Rupert Darwall and runs the CapX news and comment website, which has published numerous articles by GWPF members criticising clean energy. Ahead of the UK‘s adoption of the Climate Change Act in 2008, it published a report casting doubt on climate science and arguing that energy policy should be based on long-term energy security rather than emissions reduction. The group is currently chaired by the billionaire financier and Conservative donor, Michael Spencer, with Sir Graham Brady, Chair of the 1922 Committee of backbench Conservative MPs, acting as Deputy Chair. More recently the group has published a series of essays from Conservative politicians which called on the party to show leadership in tackling climate change and argued in favour of a carbon border tax. [29], [30], [58], [59], [80], [81]

Past residents

The Initiative for Free Trade (IFT) is a pro-Brexit, free trade thinktank launched in September 2017 by Boris Johnson and Liam Fox inside the Foreign Office. The group’s president is former Eurosceptic MEP Daniel Hannan, who has downplayed the threat of climate change, believing humanity can adapt to any impacts “with a fractional sum of money”. Originally called the “Institute for Free Trade” before being forced to rename by Companies House, owing to legal requirements around the use of the word “institute”, it published a “blueprint” for a deregulatory USUK free trade deal in 2018, in partnership with the US-based libertarian thinktank the Cato Institute. A number of long-time opponents of climate action are closely involved in the group, including former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Conservative peer Peter Lilley. The group was previously based at 57 Tufton Street, according to Companies House records. It then moved to 10 Buckingham Street and in February 2020 changed its address to the office of a Birmingham accountancy firm run by Saqib Bhatti, newly elected Conservative MP for the West Midlands constituency of Meriden. [31], [46], [64], [65]

11 Tufton Street

Public First is a PR firm which aims to help its clients “understand and influence public opinion through research and targeted communications campaigns”, crafting “policy ideas that Governments can realistically apply to difficult issues”, according to its website. [39]

The company was founded by James Frayne, a Conservative political strategist who has held roles at other PR companies such as Westbourne Communications and Portland Communications, as well as having worked as Campaign Director at the Tufton-based Taxpayers’ Alliance and as Director of Policy and Strategy at the right-leaning thinktank Policy Exchange. [40], [41], [42], [43]

Natascha Engel, former Labour MP known for her strong pro-fracking stance, became a Partner at the firm in July 2019, leading the company’s “infrastructure and regulation” division. [44]

2 Lord North Street 

Around the corner from Tufton Street is Lord North Street, which is home to the Institute of Economic Affairs. [32]

The Institute of Economic Affairs is a free-market think-tank and “educational charity” founded in 1955 by the late Sir Anthony Fisher and Lord Harris with the mission “to improve understanding of the fundamental institutions of a free society by analysing and expounding the role of markets in solving economic and social problems.” Trustees linked to 55 Tufton Street organisations include Lord Vinson, Neil Record, and Michael Hintze. The IEA has received significant amounts of funding from anonymous donors through DonorsTrust, as well as yearly donations from oil giant BP, as revealed by Unearthed in 2018. It has also taken donations from tobacco companies. [33], [34], [60], [61]

23 Great Smith Street

The Adam Smith Institute is a libertarian thinktank founded in 1977 to promote free-market ideas. It has published numerous articles and reports casting doubt on climate science and downplaying the potential of alternatives to fossil fuels, calling solar power in Britain an “impossible dream.” The group has also taken donations from tobacco companies. Co-founder and Director Eamonn Butler sits on the Economic Advisory Board of now dormant Tufton Street organisation Global Vision. [62], [63], [61]

40 Great Smith Street

Open Europe is a Eurosceptic thinktank that has been accused of stoking anti-EU sentiment in the UK media. In 2010, the Economist described it as a “political campaign outfit” made up of a team of young researchers who “translate and link to stories that show the EU in a bad light, in a daily press summary that has very wide circulation among political reporters”. In 2014, it published a report criticisng EU renewable energy targets which it said should be dropped “immediately”, recommending that the EU should “suspend its micromanaging energy policy-prescriptions.” In February 2020, it became part of the thinktank Policy Exchange, where its team will lead a new “Britain in the World Unit.” [66], [67], [82]


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Photo: Wikimedia Commons |

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