After the Greenpeace sting has come the pushback, the spin, the credulous hacks and pundits prepared to spray what little credibility they still possess up the nearest wall in order to defend that part of the establishment that is the IEA. And the accepted narrative, adopted universally from the word go, was to ask what the IEA had done wrong.
That may seem all to obvious to those outside the hermetically sealed Westminster bubble, but there were still plenty of takers, not least the Mail on Sunday’s not even slightly celebrated blues artiste Whinging Dan Hodges, confirming his floor-crossing journey to anyone who had not known it for some time previously.
“Can someone explain what the IEA are supposed to have done wrong. Genuinely” whined Dan (the punctuation still isn’t making it). Rabidly right-wing pundit Iain Martin chipped in “baffling - seems to have pushed some anti-Brexit people over the edge. Insane comments”, thus framing the issue as “anti-Brexit”, and making a mental health smear.
Hodges offered to open out the discussion. “If the IEA have acted improperly then every think-tank, public relations company, public affairs company, charity and trade union in this country will have to close its doors tomorrow”. Maybe not. But Martin was up for a bit of that: “indeed - what do people think unions do at westminster? The response is pure BDS (Brexit Derangement Syndrome)”. Yes, it’s about Brexit, and its the unions’ fault.
Then along came Mark Wallace, formerly of the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance, who may even believe the drivel he utters. “It's a bizarre way to attack them - I'm struggling to think of a position the free market, pro-individual liberty IEA holds which anyone could suggest they have adopted at a donor's behest rather than on their principles. Oppose nanny state? Support low taxes? Back free trade?” Individual liberty? Yeah, right.
Then he tried to get really clever, never a good idea when you aren’t: “Lads, I've been doing undercover filming and I've found out a think tank raises money to fund its work promoting the views it holds. Apparently it even tries to get that work read and heard by people in power”. This may have convinced himself, but others were not persuaded.
And here we meet Pete North: he is included to illustrate to the faithful of the right-leaning punditerati that revulsion at what the IEA has been caught doing is not some kind of anti-Brexit cabal at work. North is editor of Leave HQ, “Making the case for leaving the EU”.
Although North does not think the Vote Leave cheating amounts to much - “As it happens I don't think the VL accounts fiddling is much to write home about” - he has no doubt as to the IEA being bang to rights. “The real scandal is the IEA acting as a broker to sell UK trade policy to the highest bidder”. And he had another thought on the matter.
“And you know what? The latest revelations, I bet, are only the tip of the iceberg. I strongly suspect the IEA is taking money from the palm oil lobby and others have suggested big tobacco and private health. It's a sordid den of thieves”. Well, as Tom Pride pointed out some time ago, the IEA has previously advocated abolition of the NHS.
As to who the IEA is taking money from, examples of the US foundations that have been bankrolling the organisation I covered earlier, including one with a religious slant.
And what the IEA has done wrong, insofar as it is supposed to be a charitable organisation, is to not be about education or informing, but lobbying. Hence Mark Littlewood asserting that the IEA is in “The Brexit-influencing game”. Like the rest of the alphabet soup of SW1, it is a lobby group first and foremost.
Effectively offering ministerial access, heavy hints that the outcome of “research” will align with the objectives of those commissioning it, and even, so I’m told, bragging that it can get its talking heads on the BBC’s Daily Politics - rather than the Beeb deciding whether they get asked on. Those are not the actions of a charitable organisation.
Meanwhile, the Charity Commission is already at work, telling “We already have an open case into the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) and will shortly be receiving evidence from the Greenpeace investigation reported in the Guardian. We will assess concerns raised within that carefully as part of our ongoing case”.
Perhaps Hodges, Martin, Wallace and the rest of their jerking circle would like to try their sneering and dismissive response to the Greenpeace action there.
But that would be too much like hard work. So they’ll just sit on the sidelines and whine.