What the extreme-right may be planning

The wealthy market fundamentalists who fund the right-wing think tanks have different objectives from the UK population as a whole. These think tanks propose such policies as abolishing the NHS, allowing slums with substandard housing to ‘solve’ the housing crisis, slashing benefits to pensioners in order to reduce taxes and letting the climate crisis go unchecked. The UK population as a whole, in contrast, wants to see the NHS properly funded (even if this means higher taxes), a stronger economy and the cost-of-living crisis tackled, decent housing for normal people and serious action taken on climate issues.

The market fundamentalists’ increasing influence over the Conservative Party has led to 14 years of increasingly far-right policies which have left the rich better-off, at the expense of the rest of the population.

And when Liz Truss became Prime Minister, it looked as though the market fundamentalists’ control over government policy was complete. Both Truss and Kwarteng had been nurtured by the Institute for Economic Affairs (IEA) and almost all their senior advisers were market fundamentalists, many sourced from Tufton Street: Matt Sinclair: Chief Economic Adviser (ex-Taxpayers’ Alliance); Sophie Jarvis: Political Secretary (ex-Adam Smith Institute); and Caroline Elsom: Health Advisor (ex-Centre for Policy Studies).

The right-wing journalist, Tim Montgomerie commented:

And the Financial Times pointed out that,

“The [Truss] government may have adopted the most extreme economic position of any major party in the developed world … A week into “Trussonomics”, one could make the case that this represents the first time in modern history that the government of a major developed country has decided to completely unmoor itself from not only economic orthodoxy but its own electorate.”

Fortunately for Britain, Truss became the shortest lived British Prime Minister, and Sunak was forced to roll-back some of her most radical ideas in order to appear a safe pair of hands.

The population has now turned against both Conservative policies and party. Indeed some pollsters are suggesting a near wipe-out for the Conservatives at the next general election. While this represents an opportunity for the population as a whole, it is a major threat to the implementation of the market fundamentalist agenda.

If you were one of those market fundamentalists, how would you push forward your agenda now?

You would, of course, use all the resources you have assembled to maximise your chances:

  • You have enormous and very valuable resources under total or partial control;
  • Your biggest dilemma is what to do with the Conservative Party;
  • You can still aim to secure long-term control of the UK.

You have enormous resources under total or partial control

The diagram below shows some of the resources open to wealthy market fundamentalists.

They have these resources available to them because they can pump money in three directions:

  1. Control of the media: in the UK, over 60% of readers in the UK consume media owned by one of four off-shore, tax-avoiding billionaires with a strong vested interest in this government remaining in power. If you are very wealthy, you can also set up new media such as GB News. And even the supposedly neutral BBC has had its senior management seeded with Conservative donors and ex-GB News managers. Social media are equally controlled: Meta (owner of Facebook, Instagram, Threads, and WhatsApp) is owned by Mark Zuckerberg and Peter Thiel sits on its Board of Directors. Twitter (now X) was bought by Elon Musk, another protégé of Peter Thiel. Other than their own personal experience, most members of the public have no reliable source of information on what is happening to the UK;
  2. Lobbying groups: we have already discussed the role of think tanks in relation to direct political influence. It is also notable how much media coverage they and their extremist views are able to command. The IEA, for example, appeared 14 times per day on average in UK media during 2023. Traditional lobbying groups advising (mainly) corporations on how to secure legislative changes to their benefit are also generally pushing views to the right of the political spectrum. And there has also been lobbying which appears to break the rules (at least on the part of the recipient) such as that in the Owen Paterson and Michell Mone cases.
  3. Donations to political parties: last year, according to the Electoral Commission, political parties received £93 million in donations. Of the donations reported, the largest amount, £9,912,101, was to the Conservative Party and £8,690,645 to the Labour Party. But these do not represent the total. Conservative donations in the previous two years were around £20 million, roughly double the 2023 reported figure and Labour donations were slightly higher at around £10 million. Of course, being a major donor gives you influence on party policy – if the party cannot afford to lose your donation, you are in a strong position to get what you want.

Your biggest dilemma is what to do with the Conservative Party

Having largely taken control of the Conservative Party is a major asset. The party has been one of the world’s most effective election-winning machines, holding power in “more than 50 of the 90 years since 1929 (the country’s first election with equal suffrage for men and women).”

But the polls today suggest that it may be heading for an electoral defeat on a scale that might damage its long-term prospects of regaining power.

If that were to happen, you would want Reform to be strong. But you would not want Reform’s strength to make a Conservative wipe-out more likely, and you might not want to gamble on voters switching in sufficient numbers to an untested Reform Party.

That is your dilemma.

You can still aim to secure long-term control of the UK

Taking all this into account, how could you secure your long-term control over the UK?

For the sake of argument, let us make two assumptions: 1) that the Conservative Party does not manage simply to delay the elections past the latest currently legal date (28 January 2025); and 2) that the Labour Party wins an outright majority at the next election.

In that case, your objectives would be:

  • In the general election:
    • To keep Labour’s majority as small as possible;
    • To keep the Conservative vote as high as possible;
  • After the general election:
    • To ensure that after the inevitable leadership election, the next Conservative leader is another Tufton Street graduate;
    • To prevent Labour from successfully addressing the needs of the British people;
  • At the 2028(?) election: to ensure that the Conservatives win.

In the 2024 election, you would fully mobilise all the media and social media assets at your disposal. The successor companies to Cambridge Analytica and Aggregate IQ now have more experience and access to more powerful generative AI meaning that social media message targeting of individuals will be even more effective than it was during the Brexit referendum. Even so, an outright Conservative victory seems unlikely, but Labour may not get anything like the super-majority many currently expect. You would also make Reform stand-down or at least not campaign hard in any seat the Conservatives might expect to hold.

There is a very good chance that the next Conservative leader will be another Tufton Street graduate – at the last leadership context, all the key contenders were. So your continued control over that party seems secure.

Influencing Labour will, of course, be far harder than influencing the Conservatives. Making them do what you want (eg cutting benefits to fund tax cuts) may be impossible. But it may not be so hard to prevent them doing what they want (eg investing in a green transition). To get elected in the face of the UK media, Labour have adopted a small-target strategy without radical policy pledges. If you can get them to stick to that approach in office, their results will be a bitter disappointment to many who are hoping for a significant change, and the scene will be set for another Conservative win.

As Martin Wolf wrote, comparing Rachel Reeves’s challenge with Gordon Brown’s,

“Reeves, if she indeed becomes chancellor, will not [inherit a sound economy]. Her task would be far harder. It would also be correspondingly more important. New Labour had to avoid messing things up. Today, a new government would have to effect a transformation.”

Should Labour fail to deliver a transformation, the Conservatives will have good prospects at the 2028(?) election. Such a transformation is perfectly possible, with the right policies.


The general election represents a real chance for change, but not a certainty. If you, like Martin Wolf, would like to see a transformation, you can help by:

  • Making sure that you will be allowed to vote at the next election;
  • Using your vote wisely, even if that means voting for a party you are not 100% happy with;
  • Joining the 99% organisation and helping us to encourage rational policy-making to drive the much-needed transformation after the next election.