Founder Anthony Fisher had told its first director Ralph Harris, several years before the IEA was born, that the right had failed to engage in the battle of ideas.
'One day when my ship comes in, I’d like to create something which will do for the non-Labour parties what
the [socialist] Fabian Society did for the Labour Party.’
This attempt to use Fabian means to overturn Fabian ends is also discussed in detail in Richard Cockett's 1990s book Thinking the Unthinkable on the role of the think-tanks in creating the New Right.
So it is certainly appropriate to send our congratulations to Mark Littlewood, who is the new director of the think-tank as it seeks to step up its modern agenda-setting ambitions. according to a report at Guido Fawkes website.
Littlewood is a former LibDem head of communications, but his libertarianism has seen him a good way to the right of the LibDem mainstream on most significant policy issues. ("There will be organic champagne corks popping in Cowley Street", writes Fawkes, noting the IEA's policy on staff severing party connections).
Littlewood is an articulate and energetic public advocate of libertarianism, though I had written before about being pretty unimpressed by the lack of any evident research for the public statements of his previous Progressive Vision think-tank, which seemed to lead to the rather predictable advocacy of maximum deregulation of absolutely everything.
Still, Fabians would say that wouldn't they.
And the resources of the IEA make it a very different proposition, so ought to make for a more research-based advocacy of its smaller government mission.
So good luck Mark, even if we are not likely to agree on all that much.
Let the battle of ideas recommence!
UPDATE: Here is an official statement from the IEA blog.
Mark Littlewood said:
“This is an enormously exciting opportunity. But it is also an awesome responsibility. The IEA has made an incredible contribution to the understanding of the importance of free markets over the past five decades.
I am determined to ensure that the Institute builds on its rich history to ensure that the case for free markets is made loudly and clearly at this challenging time, when politicians of all parties show an alarming tendency to place trust in increasing regulation and statist solutions to cure many of society’s ills.
The need for the IEA has never been greater and I’m honoured to be given the chance to play such a key role in building on the Institute’s reputation, influence and history.”
(He may have heard a different David Cameron conference speech to the rest of us).