Election Night Speaker: Leon Gunning

Leon Gunning is Global Research Manager at IPG Mediabrands and lives in Harrow. He is a regular attendee of libertarian events in London including Libertarian Home and can claim to have helped get libertarian paper City AM off the ground by using demographic data to help them target distribution. Leon is also a freelance data scientist.

Born in Jamaica Leon has a degree in Psychology from the Northern Caribbean University, a private university in Mandeville. He also has a masters in Forensic Psychology from Marymount University in Arlington, Virginia (home of the Arlington National Cemetery, for those for whom that is ringing a bell).

Starting his career with a spell at YouGov, he later worked for 2 years as Senior research executive for polling company Gfk in 2010. He produced year-in-review reports for Ofcom, managed research at Ipsos. Between YouGov and Ipsos he has 7 years experience at major pollsters.

Leon will speak tonight on what happens on the Inside of the Exit Poll, collecting anecdotes and insights into what will be a key poll result this evening.

Thursday Speaker: David Atherton

david-athertonDavid is chairman of Freedom 2 Choose a “lifestyle freedom association” who campaigns for less government interference in our lives. He is known to some as “the smoking bloke” although Tobacco Tactics – a website that describes the hideous machinations of Big Tobacco – has almost nothing substantive, and nothing at all negative – to say about it. It does say that David has done a decent job of getting an audience for Freedom2Choose in the places of power on the centre right.

Like many libertarians David works in the IT industry, in this case as a recruitment consultant. He spent 15 years with People in Computers. If you are a business analyst or work in Business Intelligence then he might be a person of use to you.

He has written as for Trending Central, The Commentator and Breitbart and appeared on BBC TV, BBC Radio, CNN, TalkSport, Radio Manchester, BBC Ulster and ITV as a representative of the grassroots lifestyle freedom movement.

David believes that 8 years after the smoking ban we are all smokers now. He’ll be giving a talk explaining why on Thursday in Covent Garden.

Cost of Living Panelist: Kristian Niemietz

kristian-niemietz-chairing-welfare-panelThe job of a chairman is a little like that of a goal keeper. You only get remembered when it goes wrong. It nearly went wrong with Kristian. The first time I remember hearing his name was on the programme of Liberty League Freedom Forum where he was chairing a debate on the role of the state in welfare provision. I saw that debate, and Kristian did a good job, so I forgot all about him. Later I grabbed a moment with Mark Littlewood, head of the IEA. I knew the IEA had been pumping out research on poverty and the cost of living and asked whether he or anyone on his team would be interested in talking in my event on the Cost of Living Crisis. The two names he mentioned were Kristian Niemietz and Christopher Snowdon, both thankfully now part of the event (and both, frankly, deserving of a full profile here) but I was particularly pleased not to have dropped the ball with Kristian. The reason: breadth.

When you stop and read Kristian’s research in detail. You’ll be surprised by the number of different industries and causes he has looked at. His recent paper, with Ryan Bourne, looked at housing supply, planning, rent control, energy privatisation, railway privatisation, food banks, childcare and child care subsidies, sin tax, benefits and incentives, the labour market and tax credits. His earlier paper – which won him his second Arthur Seldon Award for Excellence – criticised the anti-poverty lobby, the sustainability of our welfare strategy, regressive taxation, workless households, single parenthood, and the denationalisation of welfare. His work is always well sourced and detailed, with enough statistical evidence as you can hope to take in. One gets the impression that 90 minutes of just Kristian talking would be a very interesting 90 minutes, but that would deny us the opportunity to hear what the left have to say in response!

It is not just with the titles of his IEA publications that Kristian seeks to “redefine the poverty debate”, his PhD paper on the measurement of poverty rejects the relative definition of poverty that seems to make the problem insolvable. The current relative measure means that someone would be “poor” even if everyone lived in a mansion and ate caviar. From the abstract:

a relative definition [of poverty] formalises the insight that poverty is a context-specific phenomenon [that] changes with overall economic development. Yet this article argues that tagging a poverty line to mean or median incomes does not automatically anchor it in its social context. [..] A comparison with studies on ‘Subjective Well-Being’ (SWB) shows that these assumptions are rather arbitrary. At the same time, relative indicators do not take account of changes in the product market structure that disproportionately affect the poor. If low-cost substitutes for expensive items become available, the poor will be relatively more affected than median income earners. Conventional ‘absolute poverty’ indicators will be equally dismissed for not solving these problems either.

It is this work which was published by the IEA as A New Understanding of Poverty which won him the Arthur Seldon Award for Excellence and the Templeton Freedom Award.

So who is this guy? The internet is light on detail. He doesn’t even have many twitter followers (300 less than me), which is a travesty of justice. I had to ask Polish friend to confirm his name is probably German, but he also speaks Spanish and French as well. He has spent 8 months working as an intern in South America, first at the Central Bank of Bolivia and then at the General Directorate of Statistics, Surveys and Census in Paraguay. He has studied at Humboldt University in Berlin, earning a Masters in Economics and at Kings College London where he completed his PhD in political economy.

Kristian has worked as a tutor in economics at Kings while studying for his PhD and worked for the Institute for Free Enterprise for over seven years before joining the IEA in 2008. His committment to free market ideas and “decision making at the individual level” is obvious, but by interning where he did and by teaching and studying mainstream economics at reputable institutions it is clear he is familiar with the arguments of the progressive-left and he is certainly not afraid to take them on.


The job of chairman is different from that of a goal keeper: a goal keeper stops stuff getting in, my job as a chairman on Thursday will be to ensure enough gets out, that each of the interesting arguments – and counter arguments – are expressed. With this speaker it is the latter I shall have trouble with. In this role I should hope to be forgotten.




Kristian Niemietz will be speaking this Thursday at the Causes of the Cost of Living Crisis debate. Tickets are on sale from £11 (£6 concessions) for unregistered users and at £8 for registered meetup users. Newsletter subscribers will also receive a promo-code for £8 tickets.

Thursday Speaker: Michael Jennings

Michael grew up in Australia and lived there until he was 22. He initially travelled to the UK to study – to do a PhD in Mathematics at Cambridge. He moved back to Australia after that and spent five years in Sydney. Of his experience there he says “I love big cities, and I love travelling. None of Australia’s cities are anything like London, and Australia is too far from anywhere to go travelling, so I wasn’t happy in Australia”. This led him to move to London in 2002, where he has been ever since.

He has worked as an analyst for Citigroup and Credit Suisse and is now doing web development for an interesting start up that will “provide healthcare for those times the NHS isn’t there”.


A modified image from the collection of Brain Micklethwait

In person Michael has a certain down to earth niceness that is very obvious. I expect this is an asset to him abroad. Certainly, as a travel addict, he has accumulated a circle of international friends to whom he is very committed. He has recently been tidying up his flat in order to accommodate one of their relatives who has also come to study in the UK.

The travel obsession has led Michael to become a bit an expert on how globalisation has been experienced on the ground all around the world. He gave a talk on this topic at Brian’s Last Friday which was well reviewed and interesting. He is also, of course, a Samizdatista who has written extensively, usually to highlight the peculiar, fun or horrendous things that he has seen.

His topic at the Rose and Crown this Thursday concerns the Russian influence in the territories at it’s borders and that it once occupied, or encroaches upon still, in particular the Ukraine.

If the history of Russia is not your specialist subject then Michael has produced a primer, for you to read ahead of his talk on Thursday October 2nd.

Thursday Speaker: Andy Bolton

Andy is an outgoing, opinionated and occasionally surreal regular at the Rose and Crown. It is fortunate that he is always interesting to talk to because talking is his usual state of being. He is the only speaker ever to appear at a Libertarian Home event who – when ten minutes over a ten minute slot – I have ever had to physically block from continuing to deliver his speech. In fairness to Andy the open mic nights we hold at the Rose and Crown are barking mad affairs and the incident was well within the spirit of the evening, if not the rules.

Andy is a great example of someone who has worked hard and risen to the top of his industry. After starting out in Tescos, between 1987 and 1994 he held a series of technical roles supporting telecommunications and IT systems. From 1994 he began to manage network related strategy, to choose suppliers and manage key relationships. Come 1996 he was quickly promoted to team leader within a highly skilled third-line support team. Two years later he was a manager of capacity planning and had received industry recognition for his innovative strategy.

Between 1999 and 2001 Andy was directing long range plans for a company that seems to deliver about half the internet. Twelve years ago, Andy completed his journey to the top by co-founding a company with former colleagues and is now the chief exec. He employs 30 people, and turns over £2 million a year.

As a political animal Andy started young. Andy was a part of the original thrust of libertarian entryists to the Conservative Party’s youth wing and was a contemporary of people such as John Bercow, who has – let’s face it – ended up in a rather different place. Today Andy is a twitter demagogue and blogs at thenewliberty.me.

Having spoken to Andy in the past about his ideas for activism I believe Andy is about to deliver a talk with which I will fundamentally agree. He will talk about getting on and delivering new ways of doing things now, despite all the challenges and without necessarily getting our hands dirty in politics.

Andy will be giving the evening talk on Thursday 4th September at the Rose and Crown.

Thursday Speaker: Christian Michel

Christian Michel is the suave sophisticated and quintessentially French organiser of a monthly philosophy and culture meetup in his London home. He is also a long standing intellectual “leader” of the libertarian movement due to his involvement in the running of Liberalia and ISIL. His papers such as those on justice and value for the Libertarian Alliance, and conference appearances around the world, are a testimony to a career of thoughtful political science.

christian-michelMichel’s background is the Byzantine world of international banking and was one of two controllers of Riggs Valmet a Swiss banking group that got into serious financial difficulties in the early nineties. Christian achieves an air of mystery when you find his libertarianism getting side-swiped in a book on money laundering (in a section that the State Science Institute would be proud of) and find bizarre conspiracy theories about Riggs Valmet gold in the cellar of the World Trade Centre on 9/11. Of his past Christian says only that he made a lot of money and lost a lot of money. He now lives comfortably in central London and focuses on his activism.

The grandfatherly anarcho-capitalist is well regarded, but not afraid to court controversy. His last appearance at the Rose and Crown featured an unusually balanced review of the Euro and a suggestion that it’s remit to control price stability is (or at least it was at the time) a better option for Britain than what we have now. The talk’s reception was mixed to say the least.

Christian Michel will be examining the crucial concept of Consent this Thursday at the Rose and Crown.

Thursday Speaker: Richard Carey

I have known Richard Carey for, probably, about 5 years but realised as I sat down that I don’t know that much about him.  It is occasionally the case that libertarians have so much to say about history, philosophy and politics that they neglect to let people into their own selves, or perhaps we are just all to obsessed with all the same things to listen to personal anecdotes. Who knows? He’s in education, he’s smart, he’s sound as pound and he’s a nice nice guy – this is enough.

Richard Carey © Brian Micklethwait

Richard Carey © Brian Micklethwait

I do also know that the stuff that comes out of his mouth is pretty impressive – some kind of intellectual crude oil coming forth at high pressure, high in calorific content. Fortunately, Richard is supremely good at refining his words for the blogging medium and we are used to reading refined samples of his thoughts here at Libertarian Home. Although he is sometimes less refined as orator I am nevertheless expecting something pretty powerful will have been brewed by Thursday. This will be the second or third talk Richard will have given on this topic and I am hoping the finest narrative polymers have by now solidified into a strong flexible structure, grounded in facts and science.

Why so confident? Well, having known him for so long I have seen plenty of clues to his character.

Before I knew him, and for a while longer, he maintained his own very popular and well regarded blog. I remember a Samizdatista once posted to the effect of “I just found a jolly good blog, here’s a quote”. He gave up that rather stylised blog for the more professional environment of Libertarian Home.

Back in the Party days, Richard was a consistent participant at real life meetings at the Rose and Crown and he was one of the few people ready to step up and take real responsibility during the Party’s implosion, helping to spur on Simon Fawthrope (for a while at least). That crisis of trust was a crisis of fiscal trust, and yet Richard was prepared to step up as treasurer, and to do so again for his own party project with James Rigby. Neither occasion ultimately required much to be done but his willingness to grasp the nettle was unique.

He has added a new argument the oft-repeated debate on Gun ownership in the US. No longer is it possible to claim, in any internet forum at least, that the UK is a gun-free and therefore murder-free paradise. Whenever this happens Richard’s neat statistical falsification is trotted out and a little stream of traffic comes this way. I can only measure the number of times the full article has been viewed, I cannot count how many times his graph has been shared separately, or the argument repeated in the bearer’s own words, but Richard’s passionate observation on murder and gun-ownership has now been read more than 35,000 times. Not only is that a very impressive number for one article, but consider what that means: you cannot discuss the gun-ownership debate in internet forums and get away with simple comparisons with the UK. That did not stop thunder headed Piers Morgan, of course, but for thousands of people that is a significant change in the structure of a hugely important debate.

Thursday night Richard is talking on a similarly important topic, but for the UK this time. Richard wishes to claim the Levellers and other revolutionaries of the English Civil War for the side of pro-property libertarianism and finds significant evidence in their writings and deeds.

As ever doors at 7, talk at 8. See you there.