|Formation||7 February 1951|
|Type||Public policy think tank|
|Geoffrey Howe, Norman Lamont, John Redwood, Roger Scruton, David Starkey, Norman Tebbit|
The Bow Group is a UK-based independent think tank, promoting conservative opinion internationally. Founded in 1951, it is the oldest group of its kind, counting many senior conservative MPs and peers among its members. It represents a forum for year-round political debate with its varied programme of events and official journal.
Although often associated with the Conservative Party, the group is an independent organisation that operates globally. It backed Leave in the UK's EU Referendum in 2016. The Bow Group exists to publish and promote the research and policy proposals of its members, through policy papers, policy briefs and larger collaborative projects. Its members include leading conservative politicians.
The group's journal, Crossbow, published three times a year, and the group's programme of meetings during the parliamentary year also provide its members and guest speakers and writers with a forum for political debate.
It is possible to join the Bow Group although it additionally accepts outside donations, sponsorship and advertising. No information about its funding is available on its website.
The Bow Group was founded by a group of students with the aim of providing an effective counter to socialism and the Fabian Society. Since then, it has expanded under chairmen such as Geoffrey Howe, Leon Brittan, Norman Lamont, Michael Howard, Peter Lilley and Sir Christopher Bland. Much of the group's thought can be categorised as supporting both a market economy and social responsibility. The reputation of the group was founded on the need for innovative thinking to address the pressing problems of the day. In keeping with this trend, it was The Bow Group which promoted the idea of a World Refugee Year in the late 1950s. In the 1960s, the group attracted significant controversy in Conservative circles over its support for Kenyan independence. In the 1970s and early 1980s, the group was closely associated with the development of post-Keynesian economics and policy. The publication in 1973 of Peter Lilley's Alternative Manifesto marked the beginnings of the intellectual shift from the policies of the Heath government. The group was later in the vanguard of developing policy on privatisation and new enterprise zones, and promoting the extension of share ownership. The group continued to publish pamphlets on an enormously wide range of issues during the 1980s and 1990s.
In July 2012, the Bow Group, reflecting on 60 years of its history in British politics, appointed former British Prime Minister John Major as its President and Lords Howe, Howard and Lamont as its Senior Patrons to serve on the advisory board of the organisation. Their appointment was announced officially by the group's chairman Ben Harris-Quinney at the Bow Group's 60th Anniversary Summer Reception, in celebration of the landmark. In 2014 the conservative academics David Starkey and Roger Scruton joined the advisory board of the Bow Group, with professor Scruton addressing the Group on the difference between modern Conservatism and ideological conservatism. In 2015 Norman Tebbit, former Conservative Party Chairman and long term confidant of Margaret Thatcher, also joined the Bow Group's Board. Addressing the organisation at a lecture prior to his appointment he criticised the centrism and lack of ideological clarity in the modern Conservative Party, and called for an end to the "Bedroom Tax".
In May 2015, with polls pointing to a hung Parliament in the run up to the 2015 general election, the Bow Group chairman, Ben Harris-Quinney, called on voters in marginal constituencies to support the values of conservatism by voting UK Independence Party (UKIP) where the Conservatives could not win, and the Conservatives where UKIP could not win. However, this suggestion of tactical voting was opposed by Bow Group patrons including Lords Heseltine, Howard and Lamont, in a joint statement.
Geoffrey Howe, founder and Senior Patron of the Bow Group, died on 9 October 2015. Harris-Quinney described him as a "quiet revolutionary" at the heart of the Thatcherite Government and movement.
Chairmen of the Bow Group
In 2006, the Group published a paper called 'Keep It Simple', which details the extent of maladministration in the UK tax system and gives some ideas for reform.
2010 saw the Bow Group publish an pamphlet on the future of UK rail transit, "The Right Track", authored by Tony Lodge and Lord Heseltine. The paper set out a proposed route for the UK's High Speed Rail Network (HS2) as an alternative to the then Labour Government's route. The paper was later to be the source of controversy in 2011 when though the Conservative-led Coalition Government did not implement the proposals set out in the paper, in October 2011 the Shadow Transport Minister adopted the "Bow Group Route" as Labour Party Policy.
In 2011, former research secretary Richard Mabey produced a paper with Bernard Jenkin MP on the Alternative Vote system "Death of the Conviction Voter - Fairness and Tactics under AV", which was often cited during the 2011 AV referendum debate and was seen as being an influential contribution to the thinking of the "NOtoAV" campaign.
Also in 2011, Bow Group Chairman Ben Harris-Quinney co-authored a paper with Dr Charles Tannock MEP on "The Eurozone & Germany - understanding the German Mind". The paper argued for greater engagement and dialogue between the UK and the German populace, and the necessity for policy makers in the UK to better understand the economic and foreign policy motivations of Germany as the nation at the centre of the eurozone. The paper was seen to advocate EU realism as an antidote to the increasingly controversial debate on EU membership within the UK Conservative Party.
In March 2012, the Bow Group released a report opposing the Government's plans to trial badger culling in England, stating that the findings of Labour's major badger culling trials several years earlier were that culling does not work. The paper was authored by Graham Godwin-Pearson with a foreword by Dr Brian May and contributions by leading tuberculosis scientists, including Lord Krebs.
On 2 May 2012, the Bow Group published a short article supporting directly elected mayors in large English cities.
The Bow Group published "A Fourth Way - Ideas for a New Conservative Manifesto" to the 2012 Conservative Party Conference and "Party Shrugged - The Lost Conservative: How the Conservative Party lost its base and how it can win it back" to the 2013 Conservative Party Conference.
In May 2013, the Bow Group warned MPs of the dangers of privatising Royal Mail, including the potential for stamps to increase in price, the threat to rural Post Offices and the political danger to the Conservative Party. The Bow Group also warned that Royal Mail was being significantly under-valued by the Government in its flotation by over £1 billion, which proved to be accurate.
In April 2014 Priti Patel MP, writing in the Bow Group's Crossbow Magazine, called for the coalition to come to an end stating that the country wanted to see "more Conservative policies", and with growth figures of 2.7% the reasons for the existence of the Coalition Government had "effectively expired". These calls were echoed by the Chairman of the 1922 Committee Graham Brady MP, at a Bow Group debate in July 2014.
In October 2014 the Bow Group produced a special pre-election edition of its Crossbow Magazine entitled "A conservative manifesto for the Party and nation" it argued for an end to the politics of the third way and a return to clear conservative values for the Conservative Party. The magazine included an essay by the Mayor of London Boris Johnson MP which called for a greater degree of localism and urban devolution.
The Bow Group opposed Government proposals to cut tax credits on the grounds that it would disproportionally affect the poorest in society and small business start-ups. The Bow Group also argued that the decision would damage the Conservative Party politically in the long-term.
On 11 January 2016, the Bow Group released an article opposing the junior doctors' strike on the grounds that it would place patients at risk.
In February 2016, the Bow Group raised concerns that the Prime Minister's EU renegotiation package contravened pledges made in the 2015 Conservative Party manifesto.
In May 2019, the Bow Group sponsored the conference "Europe at a Crossroads: The Virtue of Nationalism" which brought various commentators and politicians together to discuss nationalism in the context of Yoram Hazony's book "The Virtue of Nationalism".
In December 2016, the Bow Group (then in its 65th year) won the 2016 Public Affairs Award for "think tank of the year" for its "very strong spread of detailed initiatives leading to significant outcomes." The award was given after the British vote to leave the European Union and the rise to power of Donald Trump in the United States, both of which the think tank strongly supported. In accepting the award, Bow Group chairman Ben Harris-Quinney said: "A revolution is sweeping across the world. Centrism is dead, and full bloodied conservatism is back..."
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