Activists gather at 55 Tufton Street to shine light on opaque influence of right-wing think-tanks

Campaigners congregated in the 'most dangerous street in London,' urging MPs to step up on climate action.

Caroline Lucas MP at Tufton Street

Yesterday – April 21 – climate action campaigners congregated outside 55 Tufton Street in Westminster to raise awareness of the influence the think-tanks that reside there have on the government.

Representatives from MP Watch, Steve Baker Watch, Craig Mackinlay Watch, Mark Jenkinson Watch and Mogg Watch, a grassroots network of constituents committed to shining the light on ministers’ failings on the climate, urged their MPs to step up on climate action.

The well-attended event began with MP Watch cofounder Jessica Townsend asking how many people felt their children’s future was safe in their MPs hands. The crowd was clear that they didn’t.

“We will hold a mirror up to those who could do better to help shift them towards better understanding through collaboration. We need politicians who will truly represent us,” she said.

Townsend then introduced Caroline Lucas as being one of the few MPs that ‘we can trust.’ The Green MP said it was ‘inspiring to see thousands out on the streets today’ and that the demands for government are clear, to tell the truth about the climate emergency and ‘stop being complicit in countless climate crimes from oil fields to coal mines.’

Mike Berniers-Lee, writer of No Planet B, spoke of the ‘polycrisis’ and how it would not be solved until we address the lack of honesty in public life. Gemma Rogers, from the original Steve Baker Watch group, talked about being called ‘child abusers’ by her MP for trying to tell children the truth on the climate.

A spokesperson from MP Watch told LFF: “It is our aim to engage with MPs who haven’t yet got climate smart and unseat climate deniers like those from the Tufton affiliated Net Zero Scrutiny Group.”

Since the 2010s, the four-storey Georgian-era townhouse, has been home to a network of pro-Brexit libertarian lobby groups and think-tanks, related to climate science denial.

Among the residents is Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF), founded by the recently deceased Nigel Lawson. The climate sceptic think-tank has led the backlash against the government’s net zero policy and has reportedly received funding from groups with oil and gas interests.

The TaxPayers’ Alliance (TPA) also resides in the building, a group well-known for promoting right-wing policies. Founded in 2004, the TPA has traditionally opposed government measures to combat climate change, and has supported the abolition of the Climate Change Levy, which incentivises businesses to reduce carbon emissions and improve energy efficiency. In 2018, it was revealed that in the last five years, the right-wing group had received at least $285k from US-based donors.

This isn’t the first time that climate action campaigners have targeted Tufton Street. In October, Just Oil protestors sprayed orange paint over the front door of the building. The campaigners demanded that the government halts all new oil and gas licences and consents.

Over the years, a number of people who were employed at 55 Tufton Street have been appointed as government advisors. The address became an all but household name during Liz Truss’s brief premiership, when many of those who championed her were known to have connections to the think-tanks and lobby groups which reside there.

Gabrielle Pickard-Whitehead is a contributing editor to Left Foot Forward

Image credit: MP Watch

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