Voices on the Left: 5 blogs from the left you need to read this week

A roundup of news from progressive publications...

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1.Revealed: UK’s most secretive think tanks took £14.3m from mystery donors-openDemocracy

OpenDemocracy has a brilliant piece on how the UK’s most secretive think tanks have raised more than £14m from mystery donors in the past two years.

Given the influential role of think tanks in shaping policies, including Liz Truss’s disastrous mini-budget, it’s always worthwhile finding out who funds them and why.

Analysis of think tanks by the site found that a third of think tanks – nine out of 28 –  who received an ‘E’ rating, the worst possible score, had a total income of at least £14.3m according to their most recent corporate filings. Yet there was no relevant information made public about where most of this money comes from.

OpenDemocracy states: “These notoriously ‘dark money’-funded organisations claim to have influence with the government – and often employ high-profile politicians.”

Six of the least transparent think tanks – the Adam Smith Institute, the Centre for Policy Studies, Civitas, the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), Policy Exchange and the TaxPayers’ Alliance – also received an ‘E’ rating in 2019, meaning they have not made any significant improvements.

2. New Tory Peer Ditches Embattled Truss-Allied Think Tank-DeSmog

DeSmog features a piece on how Tory donor Michael Hintze has resigned from the IEA – an influential free-market think tank criticised for inspiring Liz Truss’s ill-fated economic policies – days after joining the House of Lords.

His resignation from the IEA after a 17-year stint comes after increased scrutiny of the think-tank after it credited itself for many of the disastrous ideas in Liz Truss’s mini-budget which led to turmoil on the markets and her eventual resignation.

DeSmog reports: “Alongside his involvement in the IEA, Hintze is a long-time supporter and one of the few known funders of the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF), which dismisses climate change and opposes measures to cut emissions.”

Wera Hobhouse, the Liberal Democrats’ climate spokesperson, described Hintze’s peerage as “completely indefensible” after the “disastrous Trussonomics experiment”.

3. European Research Group Loses Two-Thirds of its Paid-Up Members-Byline Times

The hardline, pro-Brexit, European Research Group (ERG), which produces research paid for by taxpayer-funded expenses, has lost two-thirds of its members, according to an investigation by Byline Times.

Byline Reports that the ERG “has logged just 12 paid-up members this year – falling from 35 in 2020, the last time that the group recorded membership contributions”.

It adds: “The ERG is an internal Conservative parliamentary body, with members expected to make a contribution to the pooled staffing costs of the group, using taxpayer-funded expenses. This figure has stood at £2,000 per MP in recent years, including this year.

“In other words, the ERG’s staffing costs will be funded to the tune of £24,000 this year, raised from the taxpayer, representing a significant fall from the group’s latest membership round, in June 2020, during which it raised some £70,000.”

There have been some significant departures from the group, including former deputy chair Andrea Jenkyns, who has not contributed to the ERG this year. Other departures include Lee Anderson, Jonathan Gullis, John Whittingdale, Desmond Swayne, Andrew Bridgen, Dehenna Davison and Crispin Blunt.

4. It’s time to ditch the austerity agenda-LabourList

Labour MP Olivia Blake has written a piece for LabourList on why it’s time to ditch the austerity agenda and why we shouldn’t unquestioningly accept the government’s arguments about a ‘fiscal black hole’ which needs fixing.

Olivia writes: “The rationale for Hunt’s austerity 2.0 having crumbled, we heard not one mention of the fiscal black hole in last week’s statement – but austerity was still on the table. We were told that cuts remain necessary because “credibility cannot be taken for granted and yesterday’s inflation figures show we must continue a relentless fight to bring it down, including a rock-solid commitment to the public finances”.

“Inflation is a very real – and, yes, global – problem. The Office for Budgetary Responsibility (OBR) argued that the main drivers of the soaring cost of living are imported energy and food prices. It is unclear, however, why the Chancellor’s pencilled £28bn cuts to departmental spending will do anything to bring them down – cutting public services won’t change the price of gas.”

5. Billionaire Philanthropy Is a Scam-Tribune

Jamie Medwell has written a piece for Tribune Magazine on why billionaire philanthropy isn’t a long-term solution to the problems of inequality and poverty that the world faces.

The piece comes off the back of the announcement by billionaire Jeff Bezos that he intended to give away the majority of his $124 billion net worth during his lifetime to charitable causes.

Medwell calls it an attempt at ‘reputation rehabilitation’ pulled straight from Bill and Melinda Gates’ playbook—to patch up Bezos’ tarnished brand as the preferred liberal billionaire of the Obamanauts, circa 2008.

He adds: “Years of tax avoidance, biometric surveillance, and ruthless worker exploitation have taken a toll. It’s hard to play the benefactor when your managerial negligence has allegedly caused the deaths of at least twelve people.”

Medwell looks at how much soft power that ‘comes with charitable donation may be as much of a motivator for Bezos as keeping the stock price buoyant’. Citing from the book Elite Philanthropy in the United States and United Kingdom in the New Age of Inequalities, Medwell quotes: “Elites are drawn to philanthropy not simply as a means of virtuously ‘giving back’ to society, as is so often claimed, but also as an unimpeachable source of the complementary capitals needed to function effectively in the field of power.’

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