Sacked Environment Secretary Dodges Question on Whether he Will Challenge Conservative Party Leadership

Owen Paterson dodged questions last night on whether he’s organising a challenge to the Conservative Party leadership in the run-up to next May’s general election.

The sacked environment secretary simply answered “it’s a private dinner, you better ask the organisers,” as he left an event discussing the future of the free market economy.

The organiser of the ‘political economy supper’, as the event listing describes it, was none other than free market think tank, the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA).

Bankrolled by Big Oil and Big Tobacco, the IEA helped Thatcher’s rise to power. More recently, DeSmog UK revealed in September that Neil Record, IEA trustee and Lord Vinson, ‘Life Vice-President’ of the IEA are both funders of Lord Lawson’s Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF).


Paterson, who gave the keynote speech at the GWPF last month arrived at the event with the head of his newly launched conservative think tank UK2020.

Among its goals, UK2020 will seek to free Britain from some climate change regulations and targets.

While Paterson mentioned UK2020 “several times” according to dinner guest, Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, MP for the Cotswolds, the event was not connected to the think tank.

According to Clifton-Brown, the some 20-30 male dinner guests talked mostly public policy at the IEA’s Westminster offices: “We didn’t talk much about climate, it was really free market stuff.”

The Free Market

It was a discussion about how we win the ideas of the centre-right of British politics,” he said, suggesting the spring election was among the topics discussed. “How are we going to promote those [free market ideas] and be able to make sure the electorate actually votes for a centre-right government?”

According to author and activist Naomi Klein however, climate change is evidence that free market ideology is dangerous.

In addition to IEA staff, those in attendance included former conservative MP and current UKIP deputy chairman, Neil Hamilton, Alistair Hide of British American Tobacco, Allan Rankine of BP and Edgar Miller, a Texan-born venture capitalist and GWPF funder.

Several MPs were also there such as Julian Smith, MP for Skipton and Ripon, as well Lord Glentoran and academics Jeremy Jennings, head of department and professor of political theory at Kings College London and David Myddelton, professor at Cranfield School of Management.

Daniel Johnson, founding editor of Standpoint and Sir John Craven, a director of Reuters and former director of Deutsche Bank were also there.

Lord Howard Flight, deputy chair of the Conservative party and member of the IEA’s advisory board, described the evening’s conversation as “fundamentally [about] why the economic model that Russia and China used to employ was such a disaster and caused so much starving and death and why by contrast the model which the West has followed has been successful.”

Christopher Chope, conservative MP for Christchurch said: “I think most of us are singing off of the same hymn sheet as one might say.”

Reporting: Kyla Mandel, Brendan Montague and Richard Heasman. Photo: Brendan Montague