Comment: Thatcher's Disputed Legacy and the Death of British Climate Science Denial

Read time: 10 mins

This summer saw even the last vestiges of climate science denial wake up or give in to reality. A summer so in your face, so relentless that even the most paid-up, bought-off Petrol Heads couldn’t continue to stomach the fight.

Well, almost.

Centre for Policy Studies

Centre for Policy Studies


The Centre for Policy Studies (CPS) is a free-market organisation founded by Sir Keith Joseph and Margaret Thatcher in 1974, promoting an ideology of small state and economic liberalism.

Although the Centre claims to be non-partisan, historically it is heavily linked to the Conservative party, and has been an influence on British politics since the 1970s.

Read time: 3 mins

Lawson's Break with Thatcher Over Her Free Market Zealotry

Read time: 7 mins

Lawson is almost always introduced as Thatcher's chancellor — but he was instrumental in her downfall. And once again, the tobacco- and oil-funded Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) and its radical free market ideology was at the heart of the debacle. 

Margaret Thatcher's chancellor Lord Nigel Lawson's last public engagement as chancellor was at the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), where he was joined by Sir Geoffrey Howe: “It was a happy if piquant occasion,” Lawson would remember.

“Here were the two ministers who, of all Margaret's cabinet colleagues, had probably done most over the previous ten years to roll back the frontiers of socialism.”

Secretly, however, both Lawson and Geoffrey Howe were on the verge of breaking with Thatcher.

How Traditionalist Hayek Feared Science Would Lead to Socialism

Read time: 5 mins

Margaret Thatcher’s intellectual love affair with the economist Friedrich von Hayek continued despite divergent views on the importance of science, rationality and truth… 

Margaret Thatcher presented a clear argument before the Royal Society in 1988: The free market economy depended on a sustainable natural ecology. And science provided the necessary knowledge to guide the industry on what would, in fact, be sustainable.

The then-Prime Minister's argument was based on reason. It was rational to expect her fellow free market ideologues to agree with her simple premise. But it seemed Thatcher's adherence to science, distilled during her time studying chemistry at Cambridge, was not shared by her philosophical allies.

How Climate Science Divided Neoliberal Duo Thatcher and Reagan

Read time: 3 mins

Thatcher had been in awe of her fellow free market apostle Reagan, but the two world leaders would diverge on the issue of the environment.

By 1988, the American president had served the maximum two terms in office. George H. W. Bush, his likely successor would, enthusiastically mount the climate bandwagon, despite being a fellow Republican. 

History suggests, however, that leaders in America and Europe, about to face their electorate, remained deeply concerned about the environment. Yet after taking office, these leaders became far more interested in creating jobs and the prosperity of the economy.

How the Neoliberal Dream Became the Reality of Thatcherism

Read time: 10 mins

The finest triumph of the Institute of Economic Affairs was winning Thatcher to free market economics. That story is told here. Their second, decades later, was seeding climate denial.

An excitable Keith Joseph met with Ralph Harris of the Institute of Economic Affairs and his deputy Arthur Seldon at one of his favourite Westminster restaurants, Lockets, in February 1974.

Joseph was at the time a member of the Shadow Cabinet and the third most influential politician in the Conservative party. He had invited his close friends from the IEA to lunch so he could get their clearance to set up a rival free market think tank.

The Centre for Policy Studies would be overtly political and use the methods of the Socialist Fabians to win the battle of ideas in favour of radical liberalism within Britain's natural party of government.

The 'Second Hand Dealers in Ideas' Who Sold Us Neoliberalism

Read time: 6 mins

A fateful meeting between economist Friedrich von Hayek and British aristocrat Antony Fisher had lasting consequences—including for the debate about climate change policy. Picture: Fisher with Margaret Thatcher. 

Friedrich von Hayek was working on his latest book, The Use of Knowledge in Society, at the London School of Economics during the Summer of 1945 when, one day, there was a knock at the door. 

Antony Fisher entered and introduced himself. “I share all your worries and concerns expressed in The Road to Serfdom, and I am going into politics to put them right,” he announced. 

Lawson’s Account of Doubling Gas Bills Ahead of Privatisation

Read time: 2 mins
Lord Lawson - then plane Nigel - recorded in his autobiography, The View from Number 11: Memoirs of a Radical Tory, the extraordinary controversay that surrounded his insistance that gas bills for hard working families should be hiked.
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