50.50: News

Revealed: LGB Alliance has secret office at UK’s libertarian think tank hub

Charity Commission urged to investigate organisation over shared address with right-wing lobby groups

Gemma Stone Lee Hurley
19 December 2022, 6.21pm
The LGB Alliance is renting an office in 55 Tufton Street, home of several right-wing think tanks

PA Images

Controversial trans-exclusionary charity the LGB Alliance is renting an office in the Tufton Street nerve centre of Britain’s most influential right-wing think tanks, previously unseen documents have revealed.

It is the first time a clear link has been drawn between the so-called ‘gender critical’ movement, which opposes equal rights for trans people, and the movement of conservative lobby groups at 55 Tufton Street whose libertarian economic policies have influenced a succession of governments.

The LGB Alliance says it chose the address – revealed in an FOI request to broadcasting watchdog Ofcom – simply because it was “handy” and “flexible”, and tried to warn against drawing “conspiratorial conclusions”.

The Georgian building at 55 Tufton Street hit headlines earlier this year during Liz Truss’s disastrous stint as British prime minister. It is owned by Tory donor Richard Smith and currently acts as a base for the Institute for Economic Affairs, Centre for Policy Studies, the TaxPayers’ Alliance, Global Warming Policy Foundation, New Culture Forum, and BrexitCentral, among others.

Help us uncover the truth about Covid-19

The Covid-19 public inquiry is a historic chance to find out what really happened.

“Given that the LGB Alliance insists it is a charity, it’s surprising that it has office space in a building known for hosting some of the most prominent right-wing libertarian lobbying groups in the country,” said a spokesperson for the Trans Safety Network.

“The fact that the other organisations working from this building are highly networked raises questions about the relationship of this supposedly neutral charity to these politically motivated actors – questions that ought to be thoroughly investigated by the Charity Commission to determine whether or not the LGBA is itself a lobby group.”

openDemocracy has approached the Charity Commission for comment.

The LGB Alliance was founded at the end of 2019 with the advertised aim of advancing “lesbian, gay and bisexual rights”. By its own admission in a recent tribunal, it has done little if anything on that front, stating that it will “get round to” it. Instead, it has so far focused on trans issues, particularly opposing reforms to the Gender Recognition Act, campaigning for schools to remove ‘trans toolkits’ and keeping trans people excluded from a ban on conversion therapy.

It is not yet clear when the LGB Alliance moved to 55 Tufton Street. It registered a move from a virtual office in City Road to another a few doors up in May 2022, a few months before receiving the letter from Ofcom. The City Road address is still listed on its website and with the Charity Commission.

The group’s charity status was challenged by trans youth charity Mermaids at a tribunal earlier this year, with a decision due in early 2023.

LGB Alliance managing director Kate Barker wrote to supporters in an email seen by openDemocracy: “You may have seen that the address of our London office was shared on Twitter this weekend.

“We have preferred that it not be public to ensure the safety of volunteers who come along to help us prepare for events, take part in training or want the chance to meet with us in person.

“I hope you will understand that’s why I won’t be repeating the address in this note.

“I can tell you we’ve rented a single large room that is ideal for our purposes. The office is fantastically well-served In terms of transport links. In addition, we spend a lot of time trying to make our case to politicians and the office is just a few minutes’ walk from the Houses of Parliament.

“You will be unsurprised to learn that our detractors will seek to draw conspiratorial conclusions from our address. I can tell you that the office was chosen because it, handy, flexible and that it became available at the right time.

“We’re really pleased to have a base to be able to build on our work and hope we may have a chance to meet you there soon.”

The LGB Alliance has not responded to openDemocracy’s requests for comment.

As equalities secretary, Liz Truss is reported to have had regular meetings at 55 Tufton Street with groups such as the IEA. The UK government staged a significant U-turn on its attitude towards progressing LGBTQIA+ rights during the same period, culminating in a backpedal on Gender Recognition Act reform and the collapse of the #SafeToBeMe2022 event earlier this year.

Truss’s second-in-command at the time, Kemi Badenoch, has now taken on the post. She too has links to Tufton Street via the Cato Institute and her former adviser Alex Morton, who went on to become head of policy at the Centre for Policy Studies and subsequently the IEA’s director of strategy.

Why should you care about freedom of information?

From coronation budgets to secretive government units, journalists have used the Freedom of Information Act to expose corruption and incompetence in high places. Tony Blair regrets ever giving us this right. Today's UK government is giving fewer and fewer transparency responses, and doing it more slowly. But would better transparency give us better government? And how can we get it?

Join our experts for a free live discussion at 5pm UK time on 15 June.

Hear from:

Claire Miller Data journalism and FOI expert
Martin Rosenbaum Author of ‘Freedom of Information: A Practical Guidebook’; former BBC political journalist
Jenna Corderoy Investigative reporter at openDemocracy and visiting lecturer at City University, London
Chair: Ramzy Alwakeel Head of news at openDemocracy

We’ve got a newsletter for everyone

Whatever you’re interested in, there’s a free openDemocracy newsletter for you.

Get 50.50 emails Gender and social justice, in your inbox. Sign up to receive openDemocracy 50.50's monthly email newsletter.


We encourage anyone to comment, please consult the oD commenting guidelines if you have any questions.
Audio available Bookmark Check Language Close Comments Download Facebook Link Email Newsletter Newsletter Play Print Share Twitter Youtube Search Instagram WhatsApp yourData