Many prominent Liberal Democrat politicians are involved with the think tank including the current Deputy Prime Minister Rt Hon Nick Clegg MP, Schools Minister Rt Hon David Laws MP, Business Secretary Dr Vince Cable MP and former Lib Dem leader Lord Ashdown. However, it is independent from the party and its board members include the Labour Party MP Natascha Engel, Labour Peer Lord Adonis, Conservative MPs David Willetts and Nick Boles as well as several prominent journalists and academics.
Amongst CentreForum's publications is 'Britain After Blair', in which senior Lib Dem politicians gave their view on a liberal direction for the policy brief they covered at the time in the Liberal Democrat Shadow Cabinet. Although not party policy, the then Leader of the Liberal Democrats Sir Menzies Campbell wrote a foreword to the volume. The book is the successor to the controversial Orange Book which advocated classical liberal solutions to current social policy issues.
Other publications of CentreForum include 'Globalisation: a liberal response', 'Climbing the ladder: how can Britain become more socially mobile?', 'Open universities: a funding strategy for higher education' and 'A balancing act: fair solutions to a modern debt crisis' These publications highlight CentreForum's combination of both economic and social liberalism.
In recent times CentreForum has published work on how to improve the working of higher education reform, social housing and alternative approaches to tackling crime . Since the formation of the coalition government in May 2010, which includes Liberal Democrat ministers in government for the first time since the Second World War, several of CentreForum's ideas have been adopted as government policy. Most notable are the idea of a pupil premium in education and the use of community land auctions as part of the government's localism agenda.
In 1992 a group of Liberal Democrats set up the Reformer magazine, first published in 1993 with articles including pieces on welfare reform by Baroness Shirley Williams and Frank Field MP. After a successful 1997 General Election, a number of influential Liberal Democrats sought for ways to give the party a firmer policy grounding. Richard Wainwright led the project and the Centre for Reform was formally launched at the Liberal Democrats 1998 Spring conference with Richard Grayson as the first Director. Anthony Rowlands became the Director in 2000 and guided the think tank as it published a wide range of papers - many by Liberal Democrat MPs and Lords.
After the death of Richard Wainwright in 2003 the Centre's future appeared uncertain Paul Marshall, then chair of the Liberal Democrat Business Forum, agreed to fund the Centre's future for at least three years. A new business plan was written and former Goldman Sachs banker Jennifer Moses was brought in as Chief Executive.
The organisation moved to larger offices in Westminster and expanded its staff. For the first time it was able to produce in-house research. It was at this time that the think tank was relaunched as CentreForum.
Two Directors were recruited: Alasdair Murray from the Centre for European Reform; and Julian Astle MBE who had been working for Paddy Ashdown in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Paul Marshall became Chair of CentreForum's Management Board, a position he still occupies.
In early 2008 Jennifer Moses left to become a Special Adviser to Gordon Brown in Downing Street. Chris Nicholson took over as Director and Chief Executive in 2010 and in April 2011, Julian Astle left CentreForum to become Special Adviser to Nick Clegg. Chris Nicholson left in Spring 2012 to become Special Adviser to Edward Davey when he became Secretary of State in the Department of Energy and Climate Change following the resignation of Chris Huhne. Tim Leunig, London School of Economics economist was appointed as CentreForum's Chief Economist in January 2011 before leaving in October 2012 to work as a Policy Adviser in the Department for Education.
CentreForum is now led by Professor Stephen Lee, who joined the organisation as Chief Executive in October 2012. CentreForum also has three Associate Directors: James Kempton, who leads on education and social policy; economist Tom Papworth; and Richard Reeves, former Director of Strategy to the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg. Richard Reeves oversees CentreForum's work on contemporary liberalism.
- "List of thinktanks in the UK". The Guardian. 2013-09-30. Retrieved 2014-02-24.
- "reforms will be biggest test for Campbell'". The Times. 2006-09-15. Retrieved 2014-02-24.
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- "CentreForum policy impacts – Tom Frostick". Centreforumblog.wordpress.com. 2011-05-26. Retrieved 2014-02-24.
- Dictionary of Liberal thought, Brack & Randall, Politico's Publishing Ltd, 2007
- "£1 million boost for Lib Dem think thank". The Times. 2005-06-28. Retrieved 2014-02-24.
- http://126.96.36.199/tol/news/politics/article3466766.ece Lingerie boss to pep up No 10 briefs, The Times, March 2, 2008