Kirkup leaves Telegraph for think tank

Daily Telegraph Image copyright Telegraph

Daily Telegraph executive editor (politics) James Kirkup is to be the next director of the Social Market Foundation think tank.

He will take up his post in late March, having come to an amicable agreement with editor Chris Evans.

The former political editor at the Scotsman wrote columns, leaders, and morning political briefing emails for the Telegraph, which he joined in 2007 and where he also worked as political editor.

The Telegraph is still looking for a new political editor, following the departure of Peter Dominiczak last year.

Previous SMF directors include Times columnists:

  • Daniel Finkelstein, who left the Social Democratic Party to become a leading Conservative moderniser and is now helping David Cameron write his memoirs
  • Phillip Collins, who was a key figure in Tony Blair's administration, not least as a speech writer

And writer and broadcaster Mary Ann Sieghart chairs its board of trustees.

Unlikely allies

Many years ago the SMF was seen as the archetypal Blairite think tank, but it has been usurped in that role by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR).

And there may be a vacancy in British public life for a think tank that unites so-called Blairites, Cameroons and Orange Book Liberal Democrats.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Lord Mandelson: Closer to leading Conservatives than to his party leadership

Labour peer Lord Mandelson, for instance, is infinitely closer in worldview and policy prescriptions to former Conservative Chancellor George Osborne than to his party leader, Jeremy Corbyn.

The UK's first-past-the-post electoral system creates unlikely allies, because only a coalition of often disparate interests can succeed.

With UKIP regrouping, Mr Corbyn re-acquainting Labour with socialism, and the Liberal Democrats limited in scope by their small number of MPs, many people in the radical centre of British politics are lost.

Mr Kirkup's task will be twofold:

  • to provide policy ideas and energy for MPs of all parties who belong to that terrain, and so broaden it
  • to raise the profile of the SMF, not least through increasing its digital impact

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