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Revealed: Truss-allied think tank met dozens of MPs prior to leadership win

Institute of Economic Affairs boasted of access to parliamentarians in run-up to Liz Truss’s ill-fated premiership

Adam Bychawski
11 January 2023, 1.25pm

The IEA spent almost £700k on lobbying last year, its accounts reveal.

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PA Images / Alamy Stock Photo

A secretively funded think tank that propelled Liz Truss’s disastrous rise to prime minister and devastating “mini-budget” quietly met with scores of MPs in the months before she took over, new documents reveal.

The Institute of Economic Affairs boasted of securing access to 75 cross-party parliamentarians in its annual accounts for the financial year ending March 2022 published on Companies House earlier this week.

The meetings came ahead of Truss’s successful Tory leadership campaign, during which she made a number of pledges – such as the scrapping of green energy bill levies and EU-derived regulations – that the think tank has previously lobbied for.

It raises questions about the role the IEA played in helping manufacture early support among MPs for Truss’s eventual leadership bid, which saw her win the backing of more than 100 Tory MPs before going on to trounce Rishi Sunak in a vote by party members.

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The former prime minister is a long-standing supporter of the IEA, having founded its parliamentary wing, the Free Enterprise Group, in 2011.

The IEA said it received £2.4m in anonymous donations in the year to 31 March 2022, of which it spent almost £700,000 on communication. 

The think tank has tax-exempt charitable status and does not disclose its donors, though journalists have previously revealed that it has received money from oil giants BP and Exxon as well as US tobacco companies. openDemocracy’s ‘Who Funds You?’ project has assigned it a transparency rating of E, meaning “no or negligible relevant information provided” regarding its sources of cash.

Last year, openDemocracy revealed that the IEA has received millions of dollars from a US foundation accused of promoting and funding climate denial.

The IEA denies it is a lobby group for corporate interests and says it is an “educational charity” with the purpose of “improv[ing] understanding of the fundamental institutions of a free society by analysing and expounding the role of markets in solving economic and social problems”.

In September, the think tank’s director Mark Littlewood claimed that Truss had adopted several of its policies, which included slashed taxes for the wealthy and corporations. Littlewood later distanced himself from the proposals after the former PM was forced to abandon them in response to growing economic turmoil.

“You might have the recipe for making the most perfect and delicious pizza, but if the chef is hubristic, or crazy, or incompetent, you are not going to end up with a particularly tasty pizza. Does that mean you shouldn’t eat pizza again? No, it just means you shouldn’t eat pizza cooked by that chef,” he told the Financial Times in December following her resignation.

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