Home


ThinkTent – a joint venture between the Institute of Economic Affairs and the TaxPayers’ Alliance – has become a staple of the fringe scene at Conservative Party Conference.

This year, we are heading to Manchester from Sunday 3rd October to Wednesday 6th October, where we will be hosting politicians, journalists, academics, and business leaders to discuss the key issues facing the country.

The full schedule is below.

ThinkTent 2021 Schedule

Sunday 3rd October | 14.45 – 15.45
Hosted by the IEA and the TPA
Boom or bust: the economy in a post-pandemic world
The state has taken an almost unprecedented level of control over the economy. Wages subsidised, business loans completely underwritten, the bill falling on future taxpayers. How do we grow the economy, create jobs and generate revenue to help cover the cost of coronavirus? Can the rise in home working be a driving force behind economic recovery?

Speakers:
Annabel Denham (Chair), Director of Communications for the Institute of Economic Affairs
Mike Denham, Chairman of the TaxPayers’ Alliance
Dehenna Davison MP, Co-Chair of the Free Market Forum
Stephen Herring, Former head of taxation at the Institute of Directors
Soumaya Keynes, Britain Economics Correspondent for The Economist
Matthew Lynn, Financial Columnist for The Daily Telegraph

Sunday 3rd October | 16.00-17.00
Hosted by the TaxPayers’ Alliance
TPA Question Time
The BBC’s Question Time may be reluctant to allow a variety of views on their panels – but the TaxPayers’ Alliance isn’t! Join us for a topical discussion with guests from the world of politics and the media – from all across the political spectrum – for a proper debate about what’s going on in the world.

Speakers:
Iain Dale (Chair), LBC Radio Presenter
Kate Andrews, Economics Editor for The Spectator
Danielle Boxall, Media Campaign Manager for the TaxPayers’ Alliance
Stephen Bush, Political Editor of The New Statesman
Rt Hon Jacob Rees-Mogg MP, Leader of the House of Commons

Monday 4th October | 09.00 – 10.00
Hosted by the Institute of Economic Affairs and the Free Market Forum
Britain Unlimited? 30 ideas for 2030
As the UK begins to put the conflict and chaos of Brexit and the pandemic behind it, the Free Market Forum has released a new publication “30 ideas for 2030”. Offering a bright, bold, and positive vision for where Britain could be by the end of the decade, join some of the authors to discuss how we can seize the opportunities now in front of us and unleash Britain’s potential.

Speakers:
Sam Collins (Chair), Head of Marketing and Outreach at the Free Market Forum
Alison Cork, Entrepreneur
Alys Denby, Deputy Editor of CapX
Matthew Elliott, Advisory Board Member of the Free Market Forum
Greg Smith MP, Co-Chair of the Free Market Forum

Monday 4th October | 10.15 – 11.15
Hosted by the TaxPayers’ Alliance
Should we save the high street?
High streets are struggling. Online shopping has rocketed and footfall in shops has plummeted. But should we try to preserve them? Are taxes too high, or should the delivery giants be forced to pay more? How might business rates be reformed to better take account of the economic value provided by retailers? What – if anything – should be done?

Speakers:
John O’Connell (Chair), Chief Executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance
Rt Hon Jake Berry MP, Chair of the Northern Research Group
Nick Lakin, Group Director of Corporate Affairs for Kingfisher
Paul Scully MP, Minister for London and Parliamentary Under-secretary for Small Business, Consumers, and Labour Markets
Paul Wilson, Director of Policy at the Federation of Small Business

Monday 4th October | 11.30 – 12.30
Hosted by the Institute of Economic Affairs
A safer bet? A conservative approach to gambling regulation
As government considers the results of the Gambling Act review and draws up plans for a white paper in the coming months, what should future gambling regulation look like? This panel considers the recent IEA paper ‘A safer bet?’ which examines some proposed changes to UK gambling laws and the potential unintended consequences, as well as asking what changes the government could make to protect gamblers from undue harm while not infringing on the rights of those who wish to gamble safely.

Speakers:
Annabel Denham (Chair), Director of Communications at the Institute of Economic Affairs
Scott Benton MP, Conservative MP for Blackpool South
Dia Chakravarty, Brexit Editor for The Daily Telegraph
Brigid Simmonds, Chairman of the Betting & Gaming Council
Christopher Snowdon, Head of Lifestyle Economics at the Institute of Economic Affairs

Monday, 4th October | 12.45 – 13.45
Hosted by the TaxPayers’ Alliance
Just how big is the quango state?
From public health to parenting, airports to artworks, quangos have a huge hidden role in our lives. Over 300,000 people work in these arms-length bodies. Yet their remit – and accountability – often isn’t subject to enough scrutiny. Can they mean better government by relieving pressures on parliament and ministers? Or are they now too unwieldy?

Speakers:
John O’Connell (Chair), Chief Executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance
George Greenwood, Data Journalist for The Times
Dr Catherine Haddon OBE, Senior Fellow at the Institute for Government
Rt Hon Lord Maude of Horsham
Nick Timothy, Columnist for The Daily Telegraph

Monday, 4th October | 14.00-15.00
Hosted by the IEA & the RSSB
Great British Railways – The future of rail?
With the Williams-Shapps Review finally concluding and a fresh government plan on the future of the railways, what does the next decade look like? Uncertainty around the long-term impact of the pandemic on business travel and the viability of commuter routes looms large, but what can the new body – Great British Railways – bring to the table and can it meet the challenges ahead?

Speakers:
Mark Littlewood (Chair), Director General of the Institute of Economic Affairs
Mary Grant, Chief Executive Officer of Porterbrook
Chris Loder MP, Conservative Member of Parliament for West Dorset
Huw Merriman MP, Chair of the Transport Select Committee
Mark Phillips, Chief Executive Officer of the Rail Safety and Standards Board

Monday, 4th October | 15.15 – 16.15
Hosted by the TaxPayers’ Alliance
Are the Conservatives now the party of high tax and spend?

By the end of this parliament, total government spending is due to be at levels not seen since the 60s. Tax rises are pencilled in and public sector debt levels have been steadily rising since 2008. The picture is bleak. Do the Conservatives still deserve the reputation of fiscal responsibility? Are we destined for a decade of high tax and spend?

Speakers:
Mike Denham (Chair), Chairman of the TaxPayers’ Alliance
Cllr Ben Bradley MP, Leader of Nottinghamshire County Council
Brendan Clarke-Smith MP, Conservative MP for Bassetlaw
Darwin Friend, Policy Analyst for the TaxPayers’ Alliance
Dr Gerard Lyons, Senior Fellow at Policy Exchange

Monday, 4th October | 16.30 – 17.30
Hosted by the Institute of Economic Affairs
In Conversation with… Steve Baker MP
IEA Director General Mark Littlewood interviews Steve Baker MP. A leading backbench MP, Steve is Deputy Chair of the Covid Recovery Group, former Chair of the European Research Group and a former Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union.

Speakers:
Mark Littlewood (Chair), Director General of the Institute of Economic Affairs
Steve Baker MP

Monday 4th October | 17:45 – 18.45
Hosted by the IEA and the TPA
You can’t say that! Is free speech in peril?
Some say free speech has taken a hammering in recent years. Online, on university campuses, and in advertising, the voices of censorship seem to grow ever louder. But does this reflect the reality? And how can free speech advocates defend the rights to speak, offend, and oppose, from those who set out to silence criticism, dissent, and offense?

Speakers:
John O’Connell (Chair), Chief Executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance
Andrew Doyle, Journalist for GB News
Marc Glendening, Head of Cultural Affairs at the Institute of Economic Affairs
Julia Hartley-Brewer, Presenter for talkRadio

Tuesday 5th October | 09.00 – 10.00
Hosted by the TaxPayers’ Alliance
Why does council tax only ever go up?
Households across the country have suffered wave after wave of inflation busting council tax rises. Why do councils hike tax every year and how can we stop it? Is the problem a lack of central funding or wasteful councils? Make your voice heard to our panel – tell us what your local council could do better and be part of the TPA’s War on Waste.

Speakers:
Harry Fone (Chair), Grassroots Campaign Manager for the TaxPayers’ Alliance
Cllr Charles Fifield, Weaver & Cuddington Ward of Cheshire West & Chester Borough Council
Darwin Friend, Policy Analyst for the TaxPayers’ Alliance
Cllr Meirion Jenkins, Shadow Cabinet Member for Finance and Resources on Birmingham City Council
Cllr Joanne Laban, Opposition Leader on Enfield Borough Council

Tuesday 5th October | 10.15 – 11.15
Hosted by the Institute of Economic Affairs
Is university still worth it?
As graduates flood the jobs market, a degree no longer bestows the prestige it once did. Campuses are increasingly in the news for free speech controversies, not academic excellence, and the pandemic has exposed pre-existing concerns in the way universities are run and funded. Does the UK need to take another look at our crumbling higher education system?

Speakers:
Emily Carver (Chair), Head of Media for the Institute of Economic Affairs
Dr Steve Davies, Head of Education for the Institute of Economic Affairs
Robert Halfon MP, Conservative MP for Harlow and Chair of the Education Select Committee
Professor Andrew Westwood, Professor of Government Practice at the University of Manchester

Tuesday 5th October | 11.30 – 12.30
Hosted by the TaxPayers’ Alliance
Will net zero punish the poor?
The UK aims to cut emissions to reach net zero by 2050. The challenges this presents to policymakers, and burdens it may place on consumers and businesses, are vast. But who will pay the price? Do we need a new system for taxing carbon? Can the “green jobs revolution” allay these concerns? Can a low carbon economy benefit the poor in society?

Speakers:
Duncan Simpson (Chair), Research Director for the TaxPayers’ Alliance
Lee Anderson MP
Ross Clark, Leader writer and columnist
Hannah Dillon, Head of Campaign at The Zero Carbon Campaign
Rt Hon Dame Andrea Leadsom DBE MP

Tuesday 5th October | 12.45 – 13.45
Hosted by the Institute of Economic Affairs
Rules Britannia? Better regulation for a better Britain
One in, two out. Successive attempts to cut Britain’s red tape have floundered, with governments of every colour failing to tame the size of the regulatory state. Post-Brexit and post-pandemic, the UK has a very specific window in which to take bold action. Can we establish a better regulatory framework now we are outside of the EU, or do politicians need to fundamentally rethink their attitudes towards regulation?

Speakers:
Ruth Porter (Chair), Managing Director at Finsbury Glover Hering
Sarah Boon, Managing Director for Corporate Affairs at UK Finance
George Freeman MP, Conservative MP for Mid Norfolk
Victoria Hewson, Head of Regulatory Affairs at the Institute of Economic Affairs
Philip Salter, Founder of The Entrepreneurs Network

Tuesday 5th October | 14.00 – 15.00
Hosted by the Heritage Foundation
UK Foreign Policy After Brexit
The United Kingdom’s exit from the EU created the need for a wider reconsideration of British foreign policy. This panel will discuss the UK’s global role and the wide-ranging interests, from its now lively trade diplomacy to Britain’s new frontiers in the Indo-Pacific and its investments in cyber and space that its foreign policy must advance.

Speakers:
Dr Ted Bromund (Chair), Senior Research Fellow, The Margaret Thatcher Centre for Freedom in the Heritage Foundation
The Hon. Alexander Downer AC, Executive Chairman of the International School for Government at King’s College London
Sophia Gaston, Director of the British Foreign Policy Group
Andrew Rosindell MP

Tuesday 5th October | 15.15 – 16.15
Hosted by the IEA & Pernod Ricard
The UK’s Indo-Pacific trade policy tilt: what does it mean for business?
The Conservative’s post Brexit international trade strategy is notably focused on the Indo-Pacific. The framework behind the UK’s first post-Brexit FTA with Japan looks set to form the basis of the UK’s agreement with the CPTPP. With a deal reached with Australia, and a New Zealand agreement high on the Government’s trade agenda, the UK’s strategic and trade tilt toward the Indo-Pacific is clear, but can this strategy deliver economic benefits at home? Which sectors and which countries should be prioritised? What does Government and business need to do to support export and investment across the UK and adapt respectively?

Speakers:
Mark Littlewood (Chair), Director-General of the Institute of Economic Affairs
Lord Bilimoria, President of the CBI
The Hon George Brandis, Australian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom
Anishka Jelicich. Public Affairs Director for Pernod Ricard
Shanker Singham, Chief Executive Officer of Competere

Tuesday 5th October | 16.30 – 17.30
Hosted by the TaxPayers’ Alliance
Quids Inn: do politicians hate the Great British Pub?
Hospitality venues across the UK reopened to normal service over the summer. Yet many have been brought to the brink. Attendance has been falling for years, with more Brits drinking at home and consuming less booze. Is it the beginning of the end for the Great British pub? Have politicians made it worse? Will a post-pandemic world allow a revival?

Speakers:
Danielle Boxall (Chair), Media Campaign Manager at the TaxPayers’ Alliance
Charlie Gilkes, Co-Founder of Inception Group
Jonathan Gullis MP
Emma McClarkin, Chief Executive of the British Beer and Pub Association
Kate Nicholls OBE, Chief Executive of UKHospitality

Tuesday 5th October | 17.45 – 18.45
Hosted by the IEA & TPA
In Conversation with… the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rt Hon Rishi Sunak MP
The IEA and TPA host an in-depth conversation with Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rt Hon Rishi Sunak MP. From the spending review, tax and spending policies, and the country’s economic recovery, join us for a wide-ranging and thought-provoking conversation with the man responsible for the UK’s economic future.

Speakers:
Mark Littlewood (Co-Chair), Director General of the Institute of Economic Affairs
John O’Connell (Co-Chair), Chief Executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance
Rt Hon Rishi Sunak, The Chancellor of the Exchequer