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Demos is ostensibly a left-leaning think tank. However, it has been credited with introducing Thatcherism (policies of reduced state intervention, free markets, and entrepreneurialism) into the Labour party, with the resulting formation of New Labour. It was established in 1993 by Geoff Mulgan and Martin Jaques, former editor of the magazine Marxism Today. Disillusioned with the perceived failure of left-wing politics at the time, they were part of the drive to find a "third way" which was neither socialist nor Thatcherite.

Geoff Mulgan went on to head the policy unit at Number Ten under former prime minister Tony Blair and Charles Leadbetter was often a key adviser to Blair. There is also a cross current of researchers going from Demos to Labour policy units and vice versa.

Demos claims to be beyond questions of party affiliation and in 2008 hosted visits from David Cameron and publishing the report True Blue[1] advising the Conservatives how to return to power.

This distancing from the Labour Party is perhaps not that surprising. It has always been strongly influenced by neoliberal ideas. The advisory board set up to help create Demos contained many prominent neoliberals including Arthur Seldon who is sometimes described as the architect of Thatcherism. [2]

As can be seen from the list below, Demos relies for a great deal of its funding on its corporate sponsors. A 2005 Demos study into the break up of BT found in favour of doing so. The sponsors of this report were Cable and Wireless who stood to gain if BT was broken up.[3]

Demos and culture

Demos engages extensively with art and culture. They advised the government on the rebranding of Britain as Cool Britannia and worked on the projects Demos Scotland 2020 and Demos Glasgow 2020 which examined how Scottish culture shaped attitudes.

Conduit for corporations

In the Dispatches programme ‘Politicians for Hire’, broadcast on 22 March 2010, Patricia Hewitt recommended Demos, along with Policy Exchange, as a think-tank which could be used by corporations seeking to influence government policy. Dispatches had set up a fictional US public affairs company and contacted Hewitt and several senior politicians asking them if they were interested in a position on the advisory board in their London office. Hewitt attended a bogus interview told the undercover reporter:

“Now the think tank and the seminar route I think is a very good one and will remain a good one and so identifying the right think-tank. Policy Exchange is a good one at the moment, Demos is another good one. And saying ok, does that think tank already have a relationship with Minister X? Can we invite Minister X to give a seminar on this subject? Your client would then sponsor the seminar and you do it via the think-tank. And that’s very useful, because what you get for your sponsorship is basically you sit next to the Minister.” [4]

People associated with Demos


  • Andrew Mackenzie - Trustee - Chief executive of Industrial Minerals at Rio Tinto, London.

Groups associated with Demos

Demos' policy entrepreneurs operated from a Mezzanine office as 'charities' engaging in 'social entrepreneurialism'. These exchanged personnel, with funding mostly pirated from the Lottery and put under the control of New Labour 'place men' working unaccountably. 'Individual entrepreneurialism' backed by big business becomes 'venture philanthropy' not 'lobbying'. All the clients who sublet space in the Mezzanine are part of a larger company which trades under the name 'The Mezzanine'. Those were arranged in the office space as below

Civitas and Ashoka in the north mezzanine

Foreign Policy Centre split into two sections Foreign Policy Centre Community Action Network also split into two sections Community Action Network ERA and below them Demos

Demos, CAN and the FPC took up most of the room, a central corridor divided the offices and there were additional communal meeting rooms. There was a north Mezzanine and a south Mezzanine. There were a total of 13 organisations: (1) Family Education Trust (2) New start Publishing (3) Era (4) Can (5) FPC (6) 3RE Green works Renew Trust (7) Charity Technology Trust (8) Timebank (9) International year of the volunteer (10) Smartchange (11) UnLtd (12) Carnegie (13) Policy Network.


3i | Age Concern | BDO Stoy Hayward | BECTA | Bell Pottinger | British Energy | British Gas | BT Forum | Building Societies Association | Bull Information Systems | Cable and Wireless | Calouste Gulbenkian | Carnegie Young People's Initiative | C&A | CFBT | Channel 4 | Commission for Racial Equality | Community Action Network | Coopers and Lybrand | Denplan | Department for Culture, Media & Sport | Department for Education and Skills | Department of Trade and Industry | Design Council | Edexcel Foundation | EDS Ltd | egovernment solutions | ELWa - Education and Learning in Wales | Environment Agency | EzGov | Further education Development Fund | Forum for the Future | HEDRA Limited | IBM | ICA | I&DeA | Institute of Management | Jobs for the Future | Joseph Rowntree Foundation | Ketchum Communications | Kids' Club Network | KPMG Consulting | Lifelong Learning Foundation | London Arts Board | London Tourist Board | Mercury | MMO2 | NAHT | National College for School Leadership | National House-Building Council | National Union of Teachers | National Westminster Bank | Nationwide Building Society | NatWest Group | NatWest Life | NESTA | New Opportunities Fund | North Southwark EAZ | Northern Foods | Norwich Union | Oracle Corporation UK Ltd | PAULO | Pearson | Pre-School Learning Alliance | ProShare | Prudential | Prudential Plc | Reed Personnel Services Plc | Resource | Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors | Scottish and Newcastle | Scottish Power | SEEVEAZ | Sequent Computer Systems Ltd | Shell International | Solace | Solar Foundation | Sorrel Foundation | Tesco | Thames Water | The Architecture Foundation | The Carnegie United Kingdom Trust | The Camelot Foundation | The Charities Aid Foundation | The City of Athens | The Corporation of London | The Esmee Fairbairn Charitable Trust | The Economic and Social Research Council | The Gatsby Charitable Foundation | The Government of Ireland | The Government of Italy | The Housing Corporation | The Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust | The Lattice Foundation | The London Planning Advisory Committee | The Lord Ashdown Charitable Settlement | The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority | The RAC | The Tedworth Charitable Trust | Tomorrow's People | T-Mobile (UK) | UKISC | Various local authorities | VSNTO | VSO | John Wiley and Sons | Woolworths [8]


Fringe events

Labour Party conference 2014

  • 21th September
Going it alone: Is self-employment the future of work? Speakers: Debbie Abrahams MP, Rowenna Davis, Doug Henderson, Duncan O'Leary and Stephen Bush.
Not in my backyard! How can planning balance local and national interests? Speakers: Hilary Benn MP, Betsy Dillner, John Longworth, Nigel Milton and Philip Collins.
Trusting the demos: Does the public always know best? Speakers: David Lammy MP, John McTernan, Kathryn Perera, Joe Twyman and Philip Collins.
  • 22nd September
Feeding the next generation: Are we failing our children? SpeakersAndy Burnham MP, David Lammy MP, Helen Crichton, June O'Sullivan and Claudia Wood.
Auto-Enrolment: A new model for sharing risk? Speakers: Gregg McClymont MP, Dr Nigel Wilson and Duncan O'Leary
Brave new choice: Will the new pension freedoms deliver for consumers? Speakers: Dame Anne Begg MP, Laurie Edmans, John Perks, Claudia Wood and Josephine Cumbo.
Use it wisely: Do smart meters mean smart consumption? Speakers: Jonathan Reynolds MP, Ian Peters and Claudia Wood.
Going Public: Making private/public partnerships work. Speakers: Margaret Hodge MP, Duncan O'Leary, Mike Spicer, Jon Wakeford, and Philip Collins.
Generation Citizen: Mobilising a new generation of voters. Speakers: Sadiq Khan MP, Jonathan Birdwell, Amy Lamé, Tracey Paul, Michael Sani and Philip Collins.
  • 23rd September
The night-time economy: Local solutions to anti-social behaviour. Speakers: Diana Johnson MP, Henry Ashworth, Jonathan Birdwell, Cllr Sophie Linden and Heather Jameson.
Living with disability: The cost of poverty. Speakers: Kate Green MP, Claudia Wood and Clare Pelham.
A place called home: How to improve older people's housing. Speakers: Roberta Blackman-Woods MP and Claudia Wood.
The road less travelled: How can schools support pathways into apprenticeships? Speakers: Lord Adonis, Alan Bailey, Samantha Ball, Howard Borrington, Kirstie Donnelly and Jonathan Birdwell.
Community Chest: Could local banks work in the UK? Speakers: Lord Glasman, Seema Malhotra MP and Duncan O'Leary.
A new revolution: Inspiring a more diverse political class. Chaired by Rushanara Ali MP, speakers: MPs, journalists and UpRising alumni.
The big 60,000: Could community projects revolutionise energy markets? Speakers: Jonathan Reynolds MP, Juliet Davenport, Ruth Davis, Adam Scorer and Duncan O'Leary.
London's future: What next for the capital? Speakers: Diane Abbott MP, Lord Adonis, Margaret Hodge MP, David Lammy MP, Christian Wolmar and Colin Stanbridge.
How did Ed do? Review of the Leader's speech featuring social media analysis. Speakers: Philip Collins, Bobby Duffy, John McTernan, Sonia Sodha and Duncan O'Leary.[9]

Conservative Party Conference 2014

  • 28th September
Trusting the demos: Does the public always know best? Speakers: Dominic Raab MP, Bobby Duff, David Goodhart, Ferdinand Mount and Claudia Wood.

29th September

Changing places: Are we becoming a segregated nation? Speakers: James Brokenshire MP, Professor Eric Kaufman and David Goodhart.
Brave new choice: Will the new pension freedoms deliver for consumers? Speakers: Charlie Elphicke MP, Andrew Tyrie MP, John Perks, Jane Vass, Claudia Wood and David Budworth.
The producers: How can Government and industry increase productivity? Speakers: Mark Garnier MP, John Longworth, Kit Malthouse, Steve Wadey and Jeni Russell.
A place called home: How to improve older people's housing. Speakers: Kris Hopkins MP and Claudia Wood
Use it wisely: Do smart meters mean smart consumption? Speakers: Baroness Verma, Ian Peters and Duncan O'Leary.
Going it alone: Is self-employment the future of work? Speakers: Charlie Elphicke MP, Brian Binley MP, Chris Bryce, Rebecca Coulson, Duncan O'Leary and Tom Clark.
Going public: Making private/public partnerships work. Speakers: Jesse Norman MP, Professor John Bryson, Jon Wakefield and Philip Collins.
  • 30th September
Living with disability: Improving employment outcomes. Speakers: Mark Harper MP, Claudia Wood and Clare Pelham.
The night-time economy: Local solutions to anti-social behaviour. Speakers: Andrew Mitchell MP, Henry Ashworth MP, Jonathan Birdwell, Jacqui Kennedy and Sir Hugh Orde.
A healthy relationship: What does the EU do for healthcare? Speakers: Charlie Elphicke MP, George Freeman MP, Steve Bates, Rob Webster and Claudia Wood.
Community Chest: Could local banks work in the UK? Speakers: Guy Opperman MP and Duncan O'Leary.
Unrepresentative democracy: Creating a more diverse political class. Speakers: Nadhim Zahawi MP, Jonathan Birdwell and Andrea Cooper. [10]

Liberal Democrat Party Conference 2014

  • 5th October
Trusting the demos: Does the public always know best? Speakers: Sir Menzies Campbell MP, Baroness Falkner, Jodie Ginsberg and Jonathan Birdwell.
Unrepresentative democracy: Creating a more diverse political class. Speakers: Baroness Falkner, Jonathan Birdwell, Andrea Cooper and John Leech MP.
  • 6th October
Living with disability: The criminal justice system. Speakers: Norman Lamb MP, Claudia Wood and Clare Pelham.
Brave new choice: Will the new pension freedoms deliver for consumers? Speakers: Steve Webb MP, Laurie Edmans, John Perks, Jeff Salway and Claudia Wood.
A place called home: How to improve older people's housing. Speakers: Stephen Williams MP and Claudia Wood.
Going it alone: Is self-employment the future of work? Speakers: Roger Williams MP, Lucy Hurds, Simon McVicker, Duncan O'Leary and Tom Clark.
  • 7th October
The future of residential care: The findings of the Demos commission. Speakers: Paul Burstow MP, Cllr Tim Brett, Clare Pelham and Claudia Wood. [11]

Alcohol lobbying


On July 17, 2013 the government announced it would not be progressing in its plans to introduce a minimum unit pricing for alcohol, like what had been planned in alcohol strategy in March 2012. The backtrack was brought about due to research by Demos, which has now been revealed was sponsored by alcohol giants SABMiller; who produce or brand over 200 beer types in 75 countries, including Fosters and Peroni.

The research was carried exposing the link between Demos and SABMiller was out by Benjamin Hawkins and Jim McCambridge of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, who monitored policy influencing activities on the think tanks website, social media and other publications, spoke with an employee involved in the SABMiller Demos funded work and attended two launch events for the report.

In 2010 SABMiller commissioned Demos to conduct research on the 'social aspects of binge drinking among those aged 18 to 25 years old, this led to the report Under the influence being published on 15 September 2011. The literary review of this report left out research from the Wold Health Organisation sponsored peer-review summary of the alcohol policy evidence base and accessed instead industry funded publications, including a 2009 Centre for Economics and Business Research report on minimum unit pricing, funded by SABMiller, Wine and Spirit Trading Association, the International Centre for Alcohol Policies and Drinkaware. The report claims the preparatory work undertaken by the UK government on minimum unit pricing plans as unsupported assertions, amongst other anti minimum unit pricing arguments. In 2012, in association with SABMiller, Demos organised talks at all three main political party conferences to promote this report and another SABMiller funded report on the funding of alcohol carried out by London Economics. At the fringe events the speakers were; Fiona Bruce MP, Jonathan Birdwell, Patrice Muller, Emma Vandore and Laura Donnelly (Conservative), Diane Abbott MP, Jonathan Birdwell, Patrice Muller, Simon Antrobas and Clare Gerada (Labour) and John Pugh MP, Jonathan Birdwell, Patrice Muller and Emma Vandore (Liberal Democrats).

On December 11, 2012 the Houses of Parliament launched a second report by SABMiller and Demos, titled Feeling the Effects, whilst SABMiller also funded Centre for Economics and Business Research to produce a further report on minimum unit pricing. Feeling the Effects was written by different authors to those who had written Under the Influence, therefore giving the government three reports on minimum unit pricing in quick succession at a key time for them in their decision making process. The fieldwork in the second report was facilitated by Addaction, a group who have received funding from Heineken since 2005.

In November 2013, Demos published a further report on alcohol, funded by the Association of Convenience Stores, claiming the government rejected minimum unit pricing due to a lack of supporting evidence and calls for industry self regulation. The report cites research from the previous SABMiller funded work.



Contact, References and Resources




  1. True Blue, Demos, accessed 16 April 2008
  2. "Obituary: Arthur Seldon', The Economist, undated in archived form, accessed February 2009.
  3. Alex Law The Conformist Imagination, Variant magazine, No. 23, Summer 2005, accessed February 2009.
  4. Patricia Hewitt. Interview. In: Dispatches, ‘Politicians for Hire’, Channel 4, 22 March 2010, 20:00 hrs.
  5. George Parker, Think-tank feels pinch as rival cashes in, Financial Times, 27 August 2008.
  6. Centrica Management Accessed 26th August 2008
  7. [1] accessed 14 April 2008
  8. [2] accessed 16 April 2006
  9. Labour Conference 2014 Demos, accessed 6 October 2014
  10. Conservative Conference 2014 Demos, accessed 6 October 2014
  11. Liberal Democrat Conference 2014 Demos, accessed 6 October 2014
  12. Benjamin Hawkins and Jim McCambridge Government, Law and Public Health Practice Vol 104, No. 8, Industry Actors, Think Tanks, and Alcohol Policy in the United Kingdom American Journal of Public Health August 2014, accessed 27 October 2014