Selsdon Group

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The Selsdon Group
Formation 1973
Type Public policy think tank
Headquarters London
Official language
John Wilkin
Affiliations Conservative Party

The Selsdon Group is a British free-market economics pressure group, closely associated with the Conservative Party. Selsdon Group members believe that economic freedom is the indispensable condition for political and social freedom. The group's President is the Rt. Hon. John Redwood, MP.

It was created in 1973 by a group of young libertarian Conservatives with David Alexander as the first chairman and Nicholas Ridley as first president to promote free-market economic policies, following an intensive discussion to generate ideas at the Selsdon Park Hotel in Selsdon, with Edward Heath and his shadow cabinet in 1970. Another early patron was Lord Coleraine.

In January 1970, Sir Edward Heath held a brainstorming session of the shadow cabinet at The Selsdon Park Hotel near Croydon, Surrey. The aim of the meeting was to formulate policies for the 1970 General Election manifesto. The result was a radical free market agenda, condemned by the then Labour Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, as the work of "Selsdon Man". Wilson lost the subsequent General Election to Heath. After a short period, however, Heath abandoned the 1970 manifesto in the face of bitter opposition from the trade unions. This historic U-turn was the catalyst for the formation of the Selsdon Group in 1973. A handful of young libertarian Conservatives, including David Alexander (chairman), Stephen Eyres, Philip Vander Elst, Anthony Vander Elst, and Richard S. Henderson created the new group with Nicholas Ridley MP as president to uphold and promote the free market policies that they believed had won the Conservative Party the 1970 General Election. Early members, however, informally stressed that the Group commemorated and advanced the general principles of the Selsdon declaration, rather than the detail of what they regarded as an inadequate document.

The "Selsdon Declaration", to which all members must subscribe, was adopted at the Selsdon Group's first meeting at the Selsdon Park Hotel in September 1973. Nicholas Ridley closed his keynote speech at that meeting by citing the "Ten Cannots" of William J. H. Boetcker, adding that they "could well become the guiding principle of the Selsdon Group". He wrongly attributed the quotation to Abraham Lincoln.[1][2]

The group was criticised by many figures within the Conservative Party establishment at the time. Many of its policies, however, influenced later governments led by Margaret Thatcher and John Major.

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