Liberal Vision

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Liberal Vision’s LinkedIn page describes it as a ‘think tank created for libertarians within the Liberal Democrat Party to push forward libertarian policies within the party’.1
According to the organisation’s website:

Liberal Vision exists to promote individual liberty, a free economy and limited government. We advocate these goals within the Liberal Democrats, among the political and media community, and to the wider public.2


Liberal Vision was formed in 2008 as an offshoot of Progressive Vision. The founding staff were:

In 2009 Fernando defected from the Liberal Democrats to the Conservatives.3

Its current director is Angela Harbutt, who is also coordinating the Forest campaign Hands Off Our Packs.
The Liberal Vision FAQ describes the relationship with Progressive Vision as follows:

In strict legal terms, we are a wholly-owned subsidiary of the classical liberal think tank, Progressive Vision, and describe ourselves as an ‘affiliate’. We share Progressive Vision’s aims and values but Liberal Vision is NOT obliged to support all or any of Progressive Vision’s specific policies – and neither are Liberal Vision’s members or supporters. We do our own thing, spend our own money (yes really our own money!) and write what we feel strongly about. No control. No influence. The direction of Liberal Vision is decided autonomously, and not influenced by Progressive Vision (or anyone else for that matter).”4

In fact, there are close connections between the organisations and the people involved, which are outlined here and on related Tobacco Tactics pages. Angela Harbutt and Mark Littlewood for instance were partners in 20105, while Progressive Vision has been registered at his home address since 2007.6

Pro-Tobacco Activities with The Free Society

At the 2008 Liberal Democrat Conference Fringe, Liberal Vision organised an event with the Free Society, an offshoot of the smokers’ lobby group Forest, to talk about issues related to drinking and smoking. Also speaking was a representative from the Institute of Economic Affairs and Mark Littlewood of Progressive Vision.
One Liberal Democrat activist who attended the event reflected:

Liberal Vision is a organisation that is hostile to the Liberal Democrats. That is a shame, even if they are frighteningly libertarian to the point of being hostile towards democracy, because they do make some arguments that deserve engagement.” 7

In June 2010, the Free Society hosted a number of events in association with the Institute of Economic Affairs, the Adam Smith Institute, Big Brother Watch, The Manifesto Club and Liberal Vision. The series of debates were called “Voices of Freedom”.
Speaking about the events, Julian Harris, executive director of Liberal Vision, said:

Big Government is proving to be the Greek tragedy of our age as po-faced politicians gather to bail out each other’s crises. With their debt spiralling upwards, our civil liberties go down the drain. It’s time for real change, not the vacuous kind proposed by leaders who simply want even more control.8

A year later, in June 2011, The Free Society repeated the “Voices of Freedom” debates. On 15 June 2011, Angela Harbutt chaired a debate hosted by the Free Society and the Democracy Institute. Speakers included Dr Patrick Basham, from the Democracy Institute; Mark Littlewood from the Institute of Economic Affairs and Jake Brindell, introduced as a gambling addict. The debate was called “Risk and the Pursuit Of Happiness
 – Is smoking, drinking, gambling good for you?” 9

The Letter to the Daily Telegraph in 2011

In March 2011, the Executive Director of Liberal Vision Angela Harbutt was one of 11 signatories of a Letter to the Editor to the Daily Telegraph attacking the Government’s position on tobacco control and arguing against further restrictions.

Attacking ASH

In June 2011, Harbutt attacked the anti-smoking charity ASH on the Liberal Vision website, and argued that its public funding should end:

Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) is a campaigning health charity set up in 1971 by the Royal College of Physicians to work towards eliminating the harm caused by tobacco. This could have been a force for good – after all there is nothing intrinsically wrong with wishing to reduce the harm caused by tobacco. It rather depends how you go about it – and that is so often determined by who is footing the bills.

ASH receives huge amounts of money from the taxpayer and sadly, like so many publicly funded bodies with too much money and too little scrutiny it has NOT gone about its task well. ASH has now become a fat, over-staffed, political, and single-minded organisation hell bent on eradicating smoking from the face of the earth, by whatever means necessary.10

Her blog entry evoked 158 comments, in a discussion about the dangers of smoking, and funding of health groups with public money. Some of more famous pro-smoking bloggers, like Martin Cullip, Mark Littlewood of the Institute of Economic Affairs and Dave Atherton of Freedom2Choose joined the discussion, as well as some of the ASH staff.

Tobacco Industry Funding?

In May 2012, when the Tobacco Control Research Group at the University of Bath asked Liberal Vision whether it was currently receiving tobacco industry funding, or had received funding in the past, it received no reply to its questions. 11

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  1. LinkedIn, Liberal Vision, accessed Feb 2012
  2. Liberal Viassion, Mission, not dated, accessed June 2012
  3. Nicholas Cecil, “‘Delight’ for Cameron as two Lib-Dems defect to Tories”, Evening Standard, 16 July 2009
  4. Liberal Vision, FAQ, organisation website, no date, accessed June 2012
  5. Economic Research Council, 13th July: Mark Littlewood, Director General of the IEA, undated, accessed June 2012
  6. Companies House, Company appointments for Progressive Vision Limited, Reg. nr. 06401466, accessed June 2012
  7. Joe Otten, Conference: Liberal Vision and the Free Society, 18 September 2008
  8. The Free Society, The battle against Big Government – join the debate! 19 May, 2010
  9. The Free Society, Voices of Freedom, announcement, accessed June 2011
  10. Angela Harbutt, ASH abuse of public money must end, Liberal Vision Website, 22 June 2011, accessed February 2012
  11. Tobacco Control Research Group, Email to Liberal Vision, 11 May 2012