Matthew Elliott is the founder and former chief executive of the TaxPayers' Alliance, a British think tank that campaigns for a low tax society. Elliot founded the group in 2004 with his wife Florence Heath, a former petroleum geologist.
Elliot sits at the nexus of a group of pro-hard Brexit campaigners closely linked to the UK’s climate science deniers and other anti-regulation think tanks.
Elliott was also the chief executive of Vote Leave, the official campaign group pushing for Brexit ahead of the 2016 EU Referendum. The group was responsible for the false and misleading campaign message: “Give our NHS the £350 million the EU takes every week”.
Elliott was credited with trying to replicate the U.S. Libertarian Tea Party movement in Britain. His other affiliations include being a board member and director of pro-Brexit organisation Business for Britain, an advisory committee member of right wing think tank The New Culture Forum, and a member of the advisory board for leading Eurosceptic think tank The European Foundation. He was also formerly a member of British civil liberties and privacy pressure group Big Brother Watch and was once the secretary for the Politics and Economics Research Trust (PERT), a charity focused on issues of public taxation.
The majority of these organisations were, or currently are, located at 55 Tufton Street near Whitehall – also the location of Vote Leave and leading UK climate sceptic group the Global Warming Policy Foundation.
He has also spoken at events organised by the now defunct All Party Parliamentary Group on Unconventional Oil and Gas, which is used by fracking and fossil fuel companies to gain access to and filter money into parliament.
Elliott is a senior fellow at the Legatum Institute.
In a speech to the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, Elliott said he had learnt his campaigning techinques during visits to the United States, and has singled out time spent with Americans for Tax Reform and Grover Norquist as influential in helping him learn his campaigning tecniques.
Elliott is also a partner at technology firm Awareness Analytics Partners (A2P) which, according to its website, are “experts in understanding and utilizing influence, enhancing online messaging and delivering groundbreaking social media advertising results.” A2P says: “We map the networks of your most engaged audience members and then micro-target your ads to the people most likely to take your desired action.” The firm says it has a database of 115 million social profiles which it uses to identify “networks and people” who share particular attitudes and attributes.
Stance on Climate Change
Elliott is an advocate for limited government intervention when it comes to tackling climate change and protecting the environment. Combined with his Eurosceptic views, he argues that the EU has used climate change as an opportunity for a “power grab” thereby overstepping its authority in setting environmental regulations.
In a speech to the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, Elliott said:
“I have been coming to the US now for over 14 years to learn how to do my campaign techniques, and how to set up a taxpayer group from Grover Norquist at Americans for Tax Reform.”
Speaking to the Guardian:
“You could say our time has come … We need to learn from our European colleagues and the Tea Party movement in the US … It will be fascinating to see whether it will transfer to the UK. Will there be the same sort of uprising?”
In his 2009 book The Great European Rip-off: How the Corrupt, Wasteful EU is Taking Control of Our Lives Elliott writes:
“The prominence given by politicians to the threat of global warming has allowed the [European] Commission to make a huge power-grab.”
“There seemed to be no limit to the price our masters were willing for the rest of us to pay so they could save the planet from our shameful energy profligacy.”
In an interview with the BBC he said:
“I am not convinced that higher taxes are the answer. For example, something like the climate change levy, I have a concern in the way that it has impacted companies in the north of England. It has driven manufacturing jobs overseas to other countries that aren’t as stringent as we are in terms of cutting back CO2 emissions. I think the stick approach isn’t the right approach. I think we should look more at the cash approach, look to giving tax incentives to encourage companies to act in more green ways.”
Prime Minister Theresa May was reported to be lining up Elliot for a senior government position to lead the overhaul of the Conservative Party “in a move that would bolster the hard Brexit-backing Tory wing,” the Independent wrote.
Former energy and climate secretary Ed Davey wrote a letter to Elliott, then the head of the Vote Leave campaign. In the letter, Davey said the group will be guilty of attempting to take the UK “to the fringes of the international community” unless it distances itself from UKIP and the former chancellor Nigel Lawson.
The U.S. Tea Party and the TaxPayers’ Alliance, under Elliott’s leadership, held a joint event in London to “galvanise anti-government sentiment”. At the time, Elliott praised the movement.
Elliott authored a book entitled The Great European Rip-off: How the Corrupt, Wasteful EU is Taking Control of Our Lives in which he was critical of the EU's push for climate regulation.
In a blogpost at Conservative Home, Matthew Elliott writes that he is currently in the United States to learn more about a campaign by Grover Norquist at Americans for Tax Reform “to commit candidates for federal and state office to oppose all tax increases.” Elliott adds:
“Green taxes are not taxes on ‘bads’ as they are sold by political parties and the media. The amount of money raised by fuel duty alone is, even under very ‘green’ assumptions, enough to cover the externalities of Britain’s entire CO2 emissions. Green taxes are revenue raising measures designed to extract more money from ordinary families and British businesses which, as you rightly say, affect the poor more. In regional terms the North is hit incredibly hard by the Climate Change Levy. I’d love to give you some more details and statistics on this issue but they are going to be in a research paper we’ll be releasing soon.”
Photo: The TaxPayers' Alliance via Flickr | CC.20