Centre for Policy Studies

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The free market think tank set up by Sir Keith Joseph which is most associated with the rise of Margaret Thatcher.

It was set up in 1974 by Margaret Thatcher, Keith Joseph and Alfred Sherman. Keith Joseph, who was head of policy at the Conservative Party between 1975 and its successful election in 1979, was strongly influenced by the Institute of Economic Affairs. He helped set up the CPS as a kind of politicized version of the IEA, with the aim of promulgating its ideals around the political establishment -- in particular, around the Conservative Party [1].

During Margaret Thatcher's tenure as Prime Minister, the CPS enjoyed a considerable influence over policy, which declined rapidly following the departure of Keith Joseph from government in 1986, and Thatcher's removal in 1990.

The CPS 'develops and publishes public policy proposals and arranges seminars and lectures on topical policy issues, as part of its mission to influence policy around the world. It also maintains a range of informal contacts with politicians, policymakers, civil servants and the press, in Britain and abroad.' and 'can claim a large share of the credit for initiating policies such as privatisation, trade union reform, council house sales, pensions deregulation, education reform, free trade, health service reform and the recent restructuring of the tax system to favour traditional families.'


Sir Keith Joseph was the founder of the Centre for Policy Studies (CPS) and the President was Margaret Thatcher. The full-time director was Alfred Sherman, who had started his political life on the extreme left. Some controversy surrounds the way the CPS was set up:

It was a fraud. Keith Joseph went to Ted and asked his permission to set up a fund to see how private enterprise worked in other countries. Then he went round the City saying he had Heath’s permission to raise the money. Then it became the Joseph/Thatcher power base for attacking everything Ted stood for. (Keegan, 1984: 47)

This key alliance between Thatcher and Joseph, urged on by Sherman, is traced as the origin of Thatcher’s famous interest in a monetarist economic policy together with. The CPS very quickly became the centre for the propagation of anti-Heath views — notoriously stage-managed at Joseph’s Preston Town Hall Speech on September 1974, which advocated greater unemployment to tackle inflation — as a challenge to his leadership.

With Offices in Westminster it was the base for publishing books and pamphlets on monetarism and right-wing ideology, the speeches of Thatcher and Joseph, Samuel Brittan and others.

The CPS became the formal political manifestation of the ideology that had so far been propagated by the nominally independent Institute for Economic Affairs. Both were in the propaganda business. Both had offices in relatively unassuming private houses in S.W.1. Both poured out a stream of publications designed partly to reassure the faithful but first and foremost to proselytize. (Keegan, 1984: 60)

The CPS concentrated its propaganda on the universities, while the IEA tried to influence ‘Fleet Street’ and the City. The “economics” propounded by the IEA, which were openly taken up by the Conservative government in 1982, were, inter alia:

… more denationalisation of industry; an extension of private medicine; the introduction of education vouchers...; and more anti-union legislation. (Keegan, 1984:)

Founded in the 1950s by Lord Ralph Harris, the IEA was the first organisation in the UK to publish Milton Friedman’s monetarist economics. According to investigative journalists it later took an active part in the cabals which covertly drove the Conservative party rightwards in the 1970s, in alliance with the ultras in the Secret Service. (Dorril & Ramsay, 1991: 224 – 228) Arthur Seldon, deputy for Lord Harris wrote a book with the notorious MI6/CIA operative, Brian Crozier, who was involved in various nefarious covert operations through pan-European far right organisations such as “the 61” and the Pinay Circle. Lord Harris himself shared a platform with Crozier and John Gouriet of the Freedom Association (founded by the McWhirter twins) addressing the officers of the Army Staff College at Camberly circa 1975. This was an effort to encourage direct military intervention against “internal subversion (i.e. the left). (Crozier, 1993: 122)

The IEA are well known for their work in the field of privatisation. It was they who commissioned Stephen Littlechild in 1981 to write the paper “Ten steps to denationalisation,” Littlechild later became one of the four “regulators” who overseen 20% of the UK’s GDP in the form of the four utilities Gas, Water, Electricity and Telecommunications. They also influenced the Conservative Government’s minimum wage policy, (Sunday Times, 1995) promoted the notion that “non-traditional” families (i.e. black and Asian) produce more delinquent children and advocating that “student loans should be charged at a higher rate of interest.” (Financial Times, 1995) Mrs Thatcher herself stated that:

What we have achieved could never have been done without the leadership of the IEA. (Spectator, 1988)

Modern Times

In the Telegraph in 2006, Ruth Lea, the director of the CPS, suggested that we need not worry about climate change because, when the earth’s climate changed before, it gave rise to civilization (Lea, 2006). She was denounced by the man whose research she claimed to be championing. Nick Brookes of the University of East Anglia suggested that she had wilfully misinterpreted his work. “The distortion of science for ideological purposes,” he wrote, “has a long history, and the results are generally ugly.” (Brooks, 2006)

George Monbiot argued that this was part of a disinformation campaign. The Royal Society’s president, Lord Rees, sent the Telegraph what must be one of the most damning letters it has ever received.

In her sixth article in five months which misrepresents the science of climate change in the Business Pages of The Daily Telegraph, Ruth Lea erroneously asserts that “there is wide scientific disagreement” about the likely impact of climate change. In fact, the peer-reviewed scientific literature, of which Lea appears to be completely unaware, shows that continued growth in greenhouse gas emissions will lead to a rise in global average temperature of between 1.4 and 5.8 centigrade degrees by 2100…. (Rees, 2006)

Monboit revealed the campaign of disinformation was started by the tobacco company Philip Morris in a convoluted attempt to distract attention from its funding of a campaign to deny the effects of tobacco by funding people to deny climate change as well. This heavily-funded lobby has produced some odd bedfellows, such as the Revolutionary Communist party (RCP) who have traveled from the fringes of the left to the extremities of the pro-corporate libertarian right:

In 1988, it set up a magazine called Living Marxism, later LM. By this time, the organisation, led by the academic Frank Furedi, the journalist Mick Hume and the teacher Claire Fox, had moved overtly to the far right. LM described its mission as promoting a “confident individualism” without social constraint […] It campaigned against gun control, […] against banning tobacco advertising […] and child pornography, […] and in favour of global warming, […] human cloning and freedom for corporations. It defended the Tory MP Neil Hamilton […] and the Bosnian Serb ethnic cleansers. […] It provided a platform for writers from the corporate thinktanks the Institute for Economic Affairs […] and the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise. […] Frank Furedi started writing for the Centre for Policy Studies […] and contacting the supermarket chains, offering, for £7,500, to educate their customers “about complex scientific issues”. (Monbiot, 2003)


Previous employees

Board of Directors

Centre for Policy Studies Council



Brooks, N. (2006) Global Warning, Letter to the Telegraph, September 13.

Crozier, B. R. (1993) Free Agent, Harper Collins.

Dorril, S. & Ramsay, R. (1991) Smear!, 4th Estate.

Financial Times 9/1/95.

Keegan, W. (1984) Mrs Thatcher’s Economic Experiment, Penguin.

Lea, R. (2006) Costly futile gestures in the climate change debate, The Telegraph. September 11.

Monbiot, G. (2003) Invasion of the Entryists, Guardian, December 9.

Rees, Lord of Ludlow (2006) Letter sent to the Telegraph, September 18.

Spectator 23/4/88.

Sunday Times 19/2/95.