Last night Prospect held our 9th annual think tank of the year awards, Britain’s most pointy-headed award ceremony, at the RSA in London. The awards are decided by a bi-party panel of six judges over a series of meetings in the months prior to the awards, a process greatly helped by the willingness of nearly 40 think tanks to fill in our various nomination forms.
David Willetts MP, shadow secretary for innovation, universities and skills gave the evening’s key note address, making two striking statements. First, having joked that progressive think tanks like the IPPR faced a choice of whether to become part of the “official opposition” he called on traditional tanks of the left to work with an incoming Conservative government, rather than against it. Then, in a neat turn of phrase, he argued that British think tanks (as opposed to their more staid American counterparts) were the policy equivalent of hedge funds: entrepreneurial, lightly regulated, and prone to taking risks in search of headlines.
Then, following Willetts remarks, we unveiled the winners, which were:
Think Tank of the Year 2009: Awarded jointly to the Centre for Social Justice and the Institute for Fiscal Studies. A split decision—the judges found themselves divided between the moderate social-policy friendly right wingers at the CSJ, and the financial wizards of the IFS. The former were commended for their continuing success influencing Conservative party policy while also reaching out to the current Labour government too, with the judges noting in particular their successes in pushing the Tories into areas like prisoner rehabilitation, and community budgeting. The judges were impressed with the IFS’s huge reach during the year of the financial crisis, the way in which their research provided analysis upon which many other think tanks (not to mention political parties and the media more broadly) based their work, and their early advocacy for some of the most important fiscal decisions of the year, notably the VAT cut and other stimulus measures. Facing a split panel, the judges—for the first time in the history of Prospect‘s awards—decided to award jointly. Think Tank “One to watch”: Demos An award…