Last night Prospect held the 10th annual Think Tank of the Year Awards at the British Academy in London. Bringing together the nation’s finest political brains in an evening of convivial wonkery, the event has been aptly described by Radio 4 as “the Oscars of the think tank world.” Jeremy Hunt, secretary of state for culture, Olympics, media and sport, was this year’s guest of honour.
Prospect received a record number of entries this year, and the judges’ deliberations went right down to the wire. But eventually a winner emerged: the Institute for Government.
Policy Exchange, meanwhile, claimed the prize for the best think tank publication of the year, which went to “Making Housing Affordable,” by Alex Morton. The European Council on Foreign Relations won the award for the best Britain-based think tank of the year dealing with non-British affairs, and “Red Tory” Phillip Blond’s new outfit, ResPublica, was the “One to Watch.”
Speaking at the ceremony last night, Jeremy Hunt praised the strong showing by centre-right think tanks this year, adding that the work they had done over the past five years had had a major impact on the thinking of his party. But he also called on them to do more work to “unpick a little bit what it means to be progressive.” More thinking is needed, he said, on how leave a fair legacy to future generations, on offering people equality of opportunity. He added that the centre right needs a clearer narrative on “quality of life”—we know what this means to the centre left, he said, but the centre right has not yet articulated its own vision of this.
The judging panel for the awards this year was chaired by Ben Rogers, associate fellow of the IPPR and Demos, and included Kishwer Falkner, Liberal Democrat spokesperson for the ministry of justice in the House of Lords; David Goodhart, Prospect editor-at-large; James Crabtree, Financial Times comment editor and Rohan Silva, senior adviser to David Cameron.
The judges described the Institute for Government as “indispensable,” praising its work on financial consolidation which helped improve the policymaking process leading up to the CSR. Andrew Adonis, the new head of the think tank, accepted the award but was at pains to point out that he deserved little of the credit.
They were also impressed by Alex Morton’s “fresh, thorough and ambitious set of proposals for radically overhauling housing and planning policy in this country.” Published in August, the Policy Exchange report has been widely discussed—and, said the judges, rightly so.
For the European Council on Foreign Relations, special credit was given to its power audits resulting in audits of EU-US and EU-UN relations and its work on international crisis management. And finally, the judges commended Phillip Blond’s achievement in creating ResPublica: a think tank with a distinctive agenda and set of values, which has also published a handful of deeply stimulating reports over the past 12 months.
The Think Tank of the Year Awards 2010 are supported by Shell