Policy Exchange

Policy Exchange

Policy Exchange is a British think tank based in London. The Daily Telegraph has described it as "the largest, but also the most influential think tank on the right". [ [http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/10/02/nosplit/nlist102.xml The Right's 100 Most Influential: 50-26 - Telegraph ] ] , whereas the Guardian has called it 'hard-right' [ [http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/story/0,,2230012,00.html Guardian Unlimited | Comment is free | Cameron must rein in these toxic neocon attack dogs ] ] and neo-conservative, and the New Statesman described as David Cameron's 'favourite think tank'. [ [http://www.newstatesman.com/200610090013 New Statesman - Cuddly but not convincing ] ]

It seeks localist, volunteer and free market solutions to public policy problems, with research programmes covering health, education, environment, crime and justice, welfare, housing, family policy and security.

It was set up in 2002 by Founder Director, Nicholas Boles and then-Chairman Michael Gove. Michael Gove has gone on to become Member of Parliament for Surrey Heath. Charles Moore, former editor of the "Spectator" and the "Daily Telegraph" has taken over as Chairman. In May 2007, Nicholas Boles was replaced by former Times Political Correspondent, Anthony Browne. Policy Exchange is a registered charity, with an income of £1 million in 2006 though it does not reveal the sources of its funding. [http://www.charity-commission.gov.uk/registeredcharities/showcharity.asp?chyno=1096300 Policy Exchange] , Charity Commission, charity number 1096300.]

In 2005, the Policy Exchange publication 'Unaffordable Housing - Fables and Myths' (Alan W. Evans, Oliver Marc Hartwich) won Prospect Magazine's prize for the best British think tank publication. [ [http://www.prospect-magazine.co.uk/article_details.php?id=7096 Columns: 'News & curiosities' by | Prospect Magazine November 2005 issue 116 ] ] It won Prospect Magazine's award for Think Tank of the Year in 2006/7 [ [http://www.prospect-magazine.co.uk/article_details.php?id=7831 Web exclusive: 'Prospect Think Tank of the Year Awards 2006' by | Prospect Magazine October 2006 issue 127 ] ] . Some of the most recent studies published by Policy Exchange since 2002 include 'Going Ballistic', 'Footing the Bill', 'Measure for Measure', 'More Good School Places', 'Out of Sight, Out of Mind', 'Replacing the Routemaster', 'Unlocking the Prison Estate', 'Bigger Better Faster More', 'Culture Vultures', 'No More School Run', 'Unaffordable Housing: Fables and Myths', 'Taming Terrorism', 'Manifesto for the Met', 'Going Local' and 'Better Homes, Greener Cities'. However it has recently been embroiled in controversy over claims that evidence was forged in its latest report on mosques in Britain.

Policy Exchange is a member of the Stockholm Network.

Notable reports and controversies

"Living Apart Together" report

On January 29th 2007 Policy Exchange published a report, Living Apart Together: British Muslims and the paradox of multiculturalism that concluded that a minority of young Muslims identify less with British society than their parents do, and are more likely to want Muslim women to wear the hijab and to see Sharia Law implemented in Britain. [cite web|url=http://www.policyhub.gov.uk/news_item/muslims_multiculturalism07.asp|title=British Muslims and multiculturalism] The report was authored by Munira Mirza (broadcaster and PhD student of local cultural studies), Abi Senthilkumaran (a Social Policy Research Methods Masters student) and Zein Ja'far (a Masters student of Near and Middle Eastern Studies), [ [http://www.policyexchange.org.uk/images/libimages/241.pdf radical islam 2.qxp ] ] based on a poll conducted by the independent polling institute Populus [ [http://www.populus.co.uk/ Populus Limited ] ] of 1,003 Muslims in Britain.

The report was described as "comprehensive and nuanced" by a BBC Home Affairs correspondent, [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/6309979.stm] and received widespread coverage in the mainstream media, but was attacked by Muslim groups, as well as university-based academics such as Dr Gabriele Marranci at the University of Aberdeen and Drs Marie Breen Smith and Jeroen Gunning of Aberystwyth University [cite web|url=http://politics.guardian.co.uk/thinktanks/comment/0,,2011804,00.html|title=The abuse of research] also questioned the report's alleged political motivation. The latter wrote that the report was designed to support and legitimise the Conservative party's agenda with a façade of independence.

"The Hijacking of British Islam" report controversy

In October 2007, Policy Exchange published another report on the Muslim community in the UK, uncovering the extent of extremism within mainstream British mosques and Muslim institutions. The report entitled The Hijacking of British Islam: How extremist literature is subverting mosques in the UK was described as [cite web|url=http://www.policyexchange.org.uk/images/libimages/307.pdf|title=The Hijacking of British Islam]

"a year long investigation carried out by Policy Exchange into the character of the literature currently available in mainstream sites of Islamic religious instruction in the UK."

According to the report, four Muslim research teams visited nearly 100 Islamic sites in the UK "to determine the extent to which literature inculcating Muslim separatism and hatred of nonbelievers was accessible in those institutions - both in terms of being openly available and also being obtainable 'under the counter'." This material was then compiled by Denis MacEoin, with the assistance of 'a team of independent [translation] experts', into the report. The report is published almost as a directory, with the name and address of each institution, followed by the discussion of the extremist materials allegedly found at each site. The researchers claimed to have found offensive material at around a quarter of the sites visited and this became the report's most publicised claim in the media.

On 12th December 2007, just under two months after the publication of this report, BBC's Newsnight presented evidence [http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/theeditors/2007/12/disastrous__misjudgement.html] suggesting that some of the receipts purporting to prove the sale of extremist material had been forged, and that some of the material had come from bookshops purportedly unconnected to the mosques named in the report.

Newsnight had originally been offered the report on an exclusive basis, but one of the mosques denied selling the book, and claimed that the receipt supplied as evidence was not one it had issued. Newsnight then conducted an investigation.

Its findings were as follows: [http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/newsnight/2007/12/richard_watsons_comment_on_the_policy_exchange_row.html]

* Al-Manaar Muslim Cultural Heritage Centre, West London - forensic analysis showed there was a possibility that the receipt had been written by the same person as one purporting to be from Masjid as-Tawhid in Leyton, ten miles away.

* Masjid as-Tawhid, Leyton - two different receipts were linked to the mosque, one for one set of extremist material purchased from a bookshop close to the mosque but, it is claimed, independent of it, and a second completely different receipt printed on an inkjet printer, but in the name of the mosque.

* Euston Mosque - books were said to have been purchased from "Euston Mosque 202 North Gower Street", however this is actually the address of UK Islamic Mission (which is not a mosque). Euston Mosque is 204A North Gower Street, and says it has never sold any books of any kind.

* Finsbury Park Mosque - the mosque disputed that it sold the books at all. Analysis showed that the receipt, as with all the other disputed receipts, had been printed on an inkjet printer.

* Al-Muntada Mosque - although the books listed are sold by the mosque on its website, the mosque said that the receipt supplied was fake. Forensic analysis showed the receipt had been printed on a home inkjet printer, and that the receipt from High Wycombe Muslim Education Centre could have been written out resting on top of it.

* High Wycombe Muslim Education Centre - it was "concluded with absolute certainty that this receipt was written out while resting on the receipt from Al Muntada mosque, which is 40 miles away in West London".

Policy Exchange stated initially that the accusations made by the BBC are "libellous and perverse", and in a letter threatened to pursue the BBC with legal action "relentlessly, to trial or capitulation" [cite news|url=http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/newsnight/2007/12/wednesday_12_december_2007.html|title=Talk about Newsnight|publisher=BBC|date=12 December 2007|accessdate=2007-12-12] [http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2007/dec/13/bbc.television] although no legal action has yet been forthcoming. Newsnight also asked to speak to the eight researchers involved but was told by Policy Exchange that "they were all away on a religious retreat in Mauritania".

Policy Exchange then responded to the individual cases cited by the BBC, arguing that there was still evidence to link each of the institutions to extremist literature. They have said 'The receipts are not ... mentioned in the report and the report’s findings do not rely upon their existence'. The BBC have suggested this is a tacit admission that some of the receipts were forged, and that it draws into question the whole testimony in the report. [http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/newsnight/2007/12/richard_watsons_comment_on_the_policy_exchange_row.html]

The chairman of Policy Exchange, ex-Telegraph Editor Charles Moore, has also responded in the Daily Telegraph [http://www.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/main.jhtml?xml=/opinion/2007/12/15/do1501.xml] saying that Jeremy Paxman "accused Policy Exchange itself, which the Newsnight report had not done, of fabricating receipts" and claimed that the forensic expert concluded that "the relatively limited amount of writing available for comparison has prevented me from expressing any definite opinion". The editor of Newsnight, Peter Barron, disputed these assertions subsequently in a letter to the Telegraph stating, "Charles Moore's attack on Newsnight's investigation into a report by Policy Exchange is a distortion of the truth and does him no credit". [cite news|url=http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2007/dec/17/bbc.television|title=Moore and Barron in Newsnight Clash] . Jeremy Paxman has made no comment.

Since the Newsnight investigation, The Times, which had featured the Policy Exchange report on its front page, retracted part of the story, stating that "“We would like to make clear that the bookshop situated near the East London Mosque (“Lessons in hate found at leading mosques” and “Studies in Hate”, 30 Oct) is a commercial tenant of the Mosque and is situated on different premises. The Chairman of the Mosque, Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari has no responsibility for or control over the material that is being sold there. We apologise to Dr Bari for any distress caused”. [ [http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/faith/article2767252.ece Lessons in hate found at leading mosques -Times Online ] ] This mosque was not featured in the Newsnight report, though it was a central plank of the Policy Exchange's report because of the fact that Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari was also the Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain, an organisation that has regularly been attacked by the Policy Exchange Chairman, Founder and Directors Anthony Browne and Dean Godson. Seumas Milne in The Guardian newspaper added two more mosques to the list, stating that Rochdale mosque said it had never sold any books, and that material said to have been found Edinburgh had merely been dumped there. [cite web|url=http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/story/0,,2230012,00.html|title=Cameron must rein in these neo-con attack dogs]

These new allegations were disputed in a letter to The Guardian by Policy Exchange's Director Anthony Browne, [http://www.guardian.co.uk/religion/Story/0,,2231471,00.html] stating that it had not claimed that Rochdale was selling the material, that it had in fact been made available for free. He also added that 'East London Mosque does not dispute that extremist literature is sold at the East London Mosque bookshop, which is based on ELM premises and provides till receipts bearing the name "ELM Book Centre". The mosque chairman, Muhammad Abdul Bari, who is also secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, merely makes the surprising claim that he has no responsibility for what is sold in the bookshop'. Browne chose not to comment on the Times admission that the "ELM Book Centre" was a separate, commercial tenant of the mosque. He added that Newsnight had subjected a total of 18 receipts to forensic testing - the large majority of the receipts passed scrutiny.Fact|date=August 2008

No evidence of that scrutiny has so far been offered, either in a court of law, or on the Policy Exchange website.

On Friday 15 August 2008, The Independent reported that two mosques mentioned in the Report, the Al-Manar Muslim Cultural Heritage Centre and the North London Central Mosque, are preparing to take legal action against the Policy Exchange. [cite web|url=http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/tories-favourite-thinktank-sued-by-muslim-group-897548.html|title=Tories' favourite think-tank sued by Muslim group]

"Cities Unlimited"

On 13 August 2008, Policy Exchange published "Cities Unlimited: Making Urban Regeneration Work", written by Tim Leunig, a Reader in economic history at the London School of Economics, and James Swaffield, a research fellow at Policy Exchange. The report argued that urban regeneration in northern English cities was failing and the government should instead encourage internal migration to the south by relaxing planning restrictions.cite web|url=http://www.policyexchange.org.uk/images/libimages/413.pdf|title="Cities Unlimited: Making Urban Regeneration Work"|last=Leunig|first=Tim|coauthors=Swaffield, James|date=2008-08-13|publisher=Policy Exchange|accessdate=2008-08-13] [cite news|url=http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/aug/13/regeneration.conservatives|title=The regeneration game is up|last=Leunig|first=Tim|date=2008-08-13|publisher="The Guardian" Comment is free|accessdate=2008-08-13] The report caused considerable controversy, with Labour MP Peter Kilfoyle describing the report as "utter nonsense". [cite news|url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/7556937.stm|title=Northern cities 'beyond revival' |date=2008-08-13|publisher=BBC News|accessdate=2008-08-13] Conservative Party leader David Cameron distanced the party from the report, calling it "insane" and stating: "This report has got nothing to do with the Conservative Party, this is an independent think tank, it has charitable status, I think this report is complete rubbish". [cite news|url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/7558742.stm|title=City report 'insane' says Cameron|date=2008-08-13|publisher=BBC News|accessdate=2008-08-13] .

Staff

* Charles Moore, Chairman
* Anthony Browne, Director
* Natalie Evans, Deputy Director
* Sian Hansen, Managing Director
* Dr Oliver Marc Hartwich, Chief Economist
* Ben Caldecott, Research Director, Environment and Energy
* Sam Freedman, Research Director, Education
* Dean Godson, Research Director, Security
* Roger Gough, Research Director, Government and Constitution
* Gavin Lockhart, Research Director, Criminal Justice and Health
* Louisa Mitchell, Senior Fellow, Families and Society

ee also

*List of UK think tanks

References

External links

* [http://www.policyexchange.org.uk Official website]
* [http://news.bbc.co.uk/player/nol/newsid_7140000/newsid_7142300/7142300.stm?bw=bb&mp=rm&news=1&nol_storyid=7142300&bbcws=1 Report into Policy Exchange on Newsnight]


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