Tory modernisers get moving on 'middle way' campaigning think tank

Written by David Singleton on 13 April 2018 in Diary

Rising star Tom Tugendhat is among the MPs on the board of Onward.

Theresa May’s former deputy policy chief at Number 10 has been appointed director of new Tory think tank Onward, it emerged today.

Will Tanner will leave his job at lobbyists Portland to take on the new role. He told Total Politics. "Onward will be a new campaigning think tank to develop a new generation of ideas and people for the centre right."

The new outfit was immediately backed by Theresa May’s former chief of staff Nick Timothy, who called Tanner’s appointment a "coup" and said there would be "lots of bold and creative thinking" coming out of the think tank.

Who else is involved? Tanner - who is in a so-called Westminster power couple with May's former press secretary Lizzie Loudon -  was tight-lipped ahead of next month’s launch. But it’s understood that Martyn Rose, former chairman of David Cameron’s National Citizens Service, is vice chairman of the board and a key donor. PR men Nick Faith and Craig Elder are also involved.

And crucially, a number of well-regarded Tory MPs - including former Number 10 adviser Neil O’ Brien and rising stars Tom Tugendhat and Kemi Badenoch - are on the board of the new outfit

Restless new Tory MPs hope that the think tank will provide much-needed radical intellectual firepower for Number 10. In doing so, it will aim to bridge the divide between two Tory modernisation agendas: the one pursued by David Cameron and his allies, which was often focused getting middle class urban dwellers to vote Conservative, and the one pushed by Timothy for Theresa May, which focused on getting lower income people in more provincial places to support the Tories.

“It’s meant to be a middle way between those two modernising factions of the party,” said one source with close knowledge of the project.

"This is about try to find that middle ground, saying you don’t need to be one or the other, you can be both. You just need to have a policy agenda that meets both peoples’ fears and hopes.”


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