EXCLUSIVE LEAK: Phillip Blond donor dissects ResPublica’s unpublishable and inadequate workPosted on March 3, 2012
Last year, this blog exclusively revealed the financial troubles being faced by the notorious ResPublica think tank, run by Phillip Blond, the self-proclaimed guru of Red Toryism and supposed architect of the Big Society concept. As the story was picked up by the national press, a bizarre picture emerged of an organisation in a state of deranged chaos – staff locked out due to unpaid rent, company-funded Regency chairs decorated with 80s-style soft-porn and all sorts of other oddities.
All this raised the question that if Phillip Blond can’t run his own little empire, why on earth should anyone think his ideas of how to run Britain should be considered for even a second?
In a new exclusive, I can reveal that it’s not just Blond’s financial management that has proved dubious. The supposedly “academic” work his outfit has produced is grievously lacking – even according to one of his own major donors.
Two letters have been leaked to me that were sent to Blond by Stian Westlake, Executive Director of the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts. NESTA – an endowment fund formed of taxpayers’ money – was a ResPublica donor, having signed a contract to fund a series of six reports on a characteristically Blondian unfocused range of topics, from Lombardy Capitalism to the use of social capital to combat obesity, The money involved was sizeable – at least £200,000 flowed from NESTA to ResPublica, which is a private company owned by Blond himself.
The first letter, sent to terminate NESTA’s contract with ResPublica, reveals a shocking story of woefully inadequate research being produced by Phillip Blond’s think tank. The full documents are below, but here are some choice quotes, detailing the lateness of the work:
…you then failed to deliver any of the five remaining reports and associated events by the respective milestone dates set out in the Agreement. The second report, due on 15 November 2009, was finally submitted 12 months late in November 2010.
its overall inadequacy:
…despite the extremely generous extensions of time given by NESTA to enable you to complete the reports, none of the reports are of a sufficient quality to be published by NESTA or satisfactory in terms of content or thoroughness… there are some positive elements in the reports, but each of them has significant weaknesses which mean that they are not suitable for publication, fit for our purposes or satisfactory to us as required by the Agreement.
and many specific failings, which the letter lays out in excruciating detail:
…poorly structured……contains no account of sources or bibliography……contains a large number of typos…
…lack of originality…
…poorly thought through…
…several of the recommendations appear either too vague to be useful…or questionable…
…vague or difficult to act on…
In short, the letter is a detailed and brutally honest dissection of the lightweight nature of Phillip Blond and his operation – written by one of his own donors. What people have long suspected – that Blond is essentially all long words, and philosophical pretensions, but no practical use – is illustrated by NESTA’s unfortunate experience.
It is hard to see anyone now being willing to hand over cash to ResPublica, or to give Phillip Blond any influence over public policy, given the mounting evidence that he has little clue what to do with either.
There are questions here for NESTA, too. Remarkably, the second letter shows that having already paid ResPublica over £128,000 before deciding to terminate their Agreement with such an incompetent outfit, NESTA still decided to pay a further £85,714.50 of taxpayers’ money, which they were not contractually obliged to, in order “to remain on amicable terms”. In what way is this a justifiable “commercial decision”? What value did taxpayers get from this wholesale handover of their money in return for apparently unpublishable work?
Here are the leaked letters in full:
Tags: Coalition, Conservatives, Exclusives, Leaks, Lombardy, NESTA, opinion, Phillip Blond, Politics, public spending, Red Tory, Red Toryism, ResPublica, Socialism, Stian Westlake, Taxes, Taxpayers, Think Tanks, Waste, Westminster