Conservative Intelligence

Conservative Intelligence

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Matthew Elliott

Department: TaxPayers' Alliance

Position: Founder

Last Updated: Friday, August 27th, 2010

It was announced this week that the No campaign at the referendum scheduled for next May on adopting the Alternative Vote system for electing MPs will be headed by Matthew Elliott. Known for having established the TaxPayers’ Alliance, he is not only one of the most influential voices in extra-parliamentary British politics today, but also one of the most talented campaigners.

Elliott was born in Leeds in the late 1970s and remained in West Yorkshire until he came to London to study at the LSE, just after Tony Blair brought Labour to power for the first time in a generation. He took a First in Government, with his political outlook as a small state, low tax, eurosceptic Conservative confirmed by the fact that he was already working part-time at Bill Cash’s European Foundation and running the LSE’s Hayek Society. This latter role he shared with one Allister Heath, the editor of the City AM newspaper since 2008, who also now happens to be his brother-in-law: he married Heath’s sister, Florence, in 2005.

After graduating, he gained first-hand experience of the workings of both Westminster and the European Parliament in the offices of Greg Knight MP and Timothy Kirkhope MEP respectively. But it was in 2004 that the Taxpayers’ Alliance was born as a pressure group to represent the hard-pressed taxpayer, campaign for lower taxation and expose how public money is wasted variously by Brussels, Whitehall and local councils.

Over the last six years, the TPA has evolved from being an outfit run virtually by Elliott himself from his mobile phone, to a formidable operation with 15 staff in offices in London and Birmingham. It has over 55,000 registered supporters and acquires hundreds of media hits a month, testament to Elliott’s ability to tap into the mood of a public which is sceptical about politicians, their motives and their claim to know how best how to spend taxpayers’ money.

His empire recently expanded as he founded Big Brother Watch, a civil liberties campaign consistent with his hostility to state intrusion into peoples’ lives.

Whilst his personal political background is undisputedly Conservative, Elliott and his team have always had politicians of all political hues in their sights. The TPA targeted the Labour Government for wasteful spending, but it will be equally robust in its criticism of the Coalition, in the same way that at a local level many a Conservative-run council has been on the wrong end of a TPA salvo over the years.  

The emergence of Elliott as head of the No to AV campaign is not entirely unsurprising, given the skills and talents which he will bring to the role: an excellent grasp of how to present a news story to secure media coverage; experience of alliance-building behind the scenes; an ability to distil arguments into simple campaign messages; and a track record of raising considerable amounts of money from private donors.

His appointment is a considerable boost to the cause of those who want to retain First-Past-The-Post.

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