"Conservative means can serve progressive ends..."

The Project

The Progressive Conservatism Project at Demos is Chaired by David Willetts MP, Minister of State for Universities and Science.  We look at how progressive ends can be achieved using conservative means.  The project develops policies and ideas that are firmly rooted in the conservative tradition but also reflect the progressive values of personal and community empowerment, combating poverty and tackling inequality.  The Progressive Conservatism Project is run by Max Wind-Cowie and you can contact him, with any questions or to find out about supporting our work.

The Progressive Conservatism Project is currently working on:

Patriotism and pride

An investigation into the state of pride in modern Britain.  This project will include extensive new qualitative research, new polling and longitudinal analysis to establish what British people are proud of, what damages their patriotism and what activities, rituals and institutions bolster their sense of belonging.  This work is being funded by the Pears Foundation and will be published in the Autumn.

Are we there yet?

This exciting new essay collection will bring together progressive, conservative thinkers to answer the question of what a uniquely conservative approach to race and ethnicity might be.  Progressive conservatives believe passionately in a society without racial or ethnic discrimination but how does their approach to achieving that differ from Labour's and what are the limits to intervention for equality?


our research

The project is structured around strands that address the most pressing domestic issues in Britain today.

Democracy, Community, Neighbourhoods and Power; arguing that the best way to kick start democracy is to drive control down to town halls, neighbourhoods, and individuals.

Markets, Ownership, Poverty, Opportunity, and Wages; developing bold approaches to tackling poverty and inequality in all its forms: poverty of income, assets, aspiration, and networks.  

Political thoughtinvestigating progressive and conservative new models of government for a period of austerity. 

Our team

Greg Clark MP — Shadow Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change

Zac Goldsmith — Former Editor of the Ecologist, Conservative MP for Richmond Park

John Gray — Emeritus Professor of European Social Thought, LSE

Danny Finkelstein — Commentator and former Conservative adviser

Ferdinand Mount — Commentator and former head of Conservative Policy Unit

Frank Field MP — Labour MP and former Minister for Welfare Reform 


There are a range of partnership opportunities for organisations wishing to be at the heart of progressive conservative thinking in the UK.  For more information please contact Head of the Progressive Conservatism Project, Max Wind-Cowie.

Watch David Willett's latest speech at Demos.



Resuscitating Democracy
Jonty Olliff-Cooper
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The first of the Progressive Conservatism Project's 'Pocket Policy' reports.

Recapitalising the Poor
Max Wind-Cowie
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Recapitalising the Poor makes proposals across Housing Benefits, pensions and money-lending to end the current cash-based, drip-feed welfare system and propose ways to give low-waged workers and families the assets to lift themselves out of dependency.

Leading from the Front
Jonty Olliff-Cooper, Max Wind-Cowie, Jamie Bartlett
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As part of Demos' Progressive Coservatism project, Leading from the Front argues that public sector reform must empower frontline staff to create empowered citizens and improved public service provision.


Everyday equality
Max Wind-Cowie
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Inequality has not always been seen as a priority for conservatives. This pamphlet argues that in face of new evidence about the impact of ‘everyday inequalities’ – those inequalities we see around us that are transparently unfair or undeserved – conservatives should now look again at the issue of distribution in our society.

Civic Streets
Max Wind-Cowie
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This report looks at how two sink estates transformed their areas from the ground up, and what the 'Big Society, Big Citizens' agenda can learn from these experiences.

Good Work
Jonty Olliff-Cooper
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Good Work, a new report from the Progressive Conservatism Project, argues that we should raise the Income Tax threshold to meet the Minimum Income Standard in the UK.

Of Mutual Benefit
Max Wind-Cowie
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This pamphlet informs the task of welfare reform, demonstrating how people can be better protected from financial shocks at a reduced cost to the state.


Rebalancing Risk and Responsibility
Max Wind-Cowie
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This think piece argues that Government needs to use 'nudge'-style policy instruments to reward those who take responsibility.

Duty of Care
Max Wind-Cowie
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Duty of Care asks whether employers have a role to play in widening and strengthening financial protection for workers in the UK.

Squaring the Circle
Max Wind-Cowie
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Squaring the Circle investigates how we can promote financial security and wellbeing at a time of declining living standards and constrained public spending.

Control Shift
Max Wind-Cowie
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This report calls for a new settlement between the state, the individual and local communities. 

Sep 3

A new role for Baroness Warsi

Max Wind-Cowie responds to the speculation around the future of the Conservative Party's co-chair.

Jul 31

Boris Johnson's UK tour

Max Wind-Cowie on why Boris should spend his term selling London to the rest of the UK.

Jul 31

Appropriate opprobrium

Max Wind-Cowie says that social media can regulate itself.

Jun 26

Shame should be liberated, not legislated for

Max Wind-Cowie argues for more judgement and less legislation.

Jun 22

Ed Miliband's philistinism

Max Wind-Cowie writes that there is something lacking in Ed Miliband's speech about integration.

May 21

A Beecroft in their bonnet

Max Wind-Cowie argues that the Conservatives should handle the Beecroft report with caution.

May 16

Memo to CCHQ – don’t dismiss Cruddas

Max Wind-Cowie says Jon Cruddas' appointment represents more than a tack to the left.

Apr 12

What Conservatives can learn from Haidt

Max Wind-Cowie urges Conservatives not to shy away from morality arguments.

Mar 16

Protecting the union

Deputy Director, Duncan O'Leary, says that trade unions could be the missing link in Big Society thinking.

Mar 14

Balancing the internet

A new campaigning platform can help the Right learn the online lessons of the Left, says Max Wind-Cowie.

Sep 27

Getting the answers Right

Max Wind-Cowie says that Ed Miliband showed a conservative streak during Labour Party Conference.

Sep 16

Palace Intrigue

Max Wind-Cowie rebuts the accusation that "the Tories are vacating the territory of progress". 

Jul 28

Two Cheers for James Purnell

Max Wind-Cowie warns that Purnell's welfare proposals could easily end up providing cushy career breaks funded by the state.

Jul 11

Is Ofcom 'Fit and Proper'?

Max Wind-Cowie points out that Ofcom has let less than 'proper' candidates pass the test in the past.

Jun 22

In Ken Clarke's shoes

Max Wind-Cowie looks at what the sentencing U-turn says about Clarke's relationship with the PM.

May 31

Simon Cowell is risking his place in the modern pantheon of Britishness

Max Wind-Cowie considers what Simon Cowell and Cheryl Cole mean for modern patriotism.

May 10

Andrew Lansley - Not a t****r

Max Wind-Cowie argues that British politics is unfair to ministers who know what they're talking about.

Mar 15

The equal pay anti-climax

Max Wind-Cowie is disappointed by Will Hutton's review of public sector pay.

Mar 10

Mutually beneficial

Max Wind-Cowie makes the case for government encouraging income protection based on his report, Of Mutual Benefit.

Mar 10

Stemming the flow

Tom Gregory discusses proposals for reforming Statutory Sick Pay in Of Mutual Benefit.

Mar 1

The squeezed middle is real

Max Wind-Cowie responds to George Osborne's criticism of the 'squeezed middle'.

Oct 29

Don't blame Cameron, blame FCO bias

Max Wind-Cowie argues that elected leaders should not held by the whims of the Foreign Office.

Oct 7

Public Injustice

Max Wind-Cowie argues that raising the retirement age will have an impact on the younger generations.

Jul 15

Cut costs, not places

Max Wind-Cowie says two-year degrees could be the answer to the university funding crisis.

Mar 31

Parliament: Hung, drawn and quartered

Max Wind-Cowie is skeptical that a hung Parliament would increase transparency.

Mar 29

Open marriage on the international dance floor

Max Wind-Cowie looks at the US-UK 'special relationship.

Mar 25

Drowning in ‘clear, blue, water’

Max Wind-Cowie joins calls for David Cameron to follow his progressive instinct.

Mar 9

Evidence based conservatism

Max Wind-Cowie argues that progressive conservatism has its roots in solid evidence.

Mar 8

Cameron’s Hurt Locker

Max Wind-Cowie warns that David Cameron mustn't make the same mistakes as James.

Feb 10

Localism unites Tory campaign

Max Wind-Cowie argues a Conservative victory will come from a commitment to localism.

Feb 10

Progressive taxes vs progressive policies

Jonty Olliff-Cooper asks whether increasing tax revenues is more important than who pays it.

Feb 9

The state of responsibility

Max Wind-Cowie argues that Conservatives should care about inequality too.

Feb 2

License to skill

Max Wind-Cowie warns the Children, Schools and Families Bill doesn't do enough to drive up teaching standards.

Jan 19

David Cameron's social party

Max Wind-Cowie believes the Tories' new policies show they are radically progressive.

Jan 11

Playing the Field

Max Wind-Cowie on Frank Field's commitment to a cause.

Jan 11

Cameron's outcomes

Max Wind-Cowie comments on David Cameron's speech to Demos.

Jan 8
Jan 5

Daved and Confused

Jonty Olliff-Cooper writes on how choice means nothing if you don't know how to exercise it.

Dec 18

A Progressive Parliament

Max Wind-Cowie discusses the rising prevalence of progressive ideals amongst Conservative MPs.

Dec 14

Parents choosing school choice

Max Wind-Cowie discusses Tory education policy.

Dec 11

Education is a high-stakes game

Max Wind-Cowie argues that the importance of education means we must implement choice to ensure quality.

Dec 8

Childcare still matters

Max Wind-Cowie argues that childcare is about more than looking after children.

Dec 3

Poverty in the round

Max Wind-Cowie takes a progressive conservative look at poverty and social exclusion.

Nov 26

It’s not what you earn, it’s what you own

Max Wind-Cowie looks to Westminster's housing policies to recapitalise the poor.

Nov 20

Europe lets itself down (again)

Max Wind-Cowie takes a look at the EU's new appointments.

Nov 18

Something for nothing

Jonty Olliff-Cooper writes that unlocking data can also mean unlocking innovation.

Oct 27

President Blair

Max Wind-Cowie thinks the Conservative party should support Tony Blair's bid for EU President.

Oct 22

Broken down or broken up?

Max Wind-Cowie thinks Brown must be more willing to debate the politics of big banks.

Oct 14

Who should do battle with the BNP?

Max Wind-Cowie would like to see Sayeeda Warsi put Nick Griffin in his place.

Oct 13

There are more taxing questions for the Guardian to ask

Max Wind-Cowie thinks the Left should give up bullying the Tax Payers Alliance.

Oct 9

Twelve tests for 2012

An incoming Conservative government will have to pass '12 tests in 2012' if it is to be judged truly progressive after two years in power. 

Oct 9

Academise, academise!

Max Wind-Cowie thinks conference commitments will make positive changes in education.

Sep 28

Angela smashes

Max Wind-Cowie looks at what David Cameron might learn from Germany.

Sep 24

Why turkeys don’t vote for Christmas

Max Wind-Cowie responds to David Walker's blog about Leading from the Front.

Sep 21

Trust me, I'm a doctor

Max Wind-Cowie argues that giving public sector frontline staff more responsibility is a progressive Conservative vision.

Sep 16

State intervention: quality not quanitity

Max Wind-Cowie argues that state intervention is about quality, not quantity.

Sep 15

Sacred cows must be sacrificed

Max Wind-Cowie thinks it's about time that everyone embraced spending cuts

Aug 20

A chance for reform

Max Wind-Cowie thinks the recession has opened the door for much-needed welfare reform....

Aug 18

Cameron’s encounter with ‘the black swan’

18/09/08     Max Wind-Cowie comments on a breakfast event with David Cameron at...

Aug 17

Progressive Conservatism gains traction

17/08/09    Max Wind-Cowie comments on a poll that places the Conservatives as...

Aug 12

Tory Story

12/08/09     Jonty Olliff-Cooper asks just how progressive George Osborne'...

Jul 16

A suitable age

16/07/09  The news that the world's oldest mother has died is relevant for progressive...

Jul 14

We need more politicians, not fewer

14/07/09 There are not too many politicians, only too many Civil Servants, says Jonty Olliff...

Jul 10

An Innocent Lesson

10/07/09  Sarah Kennedy asks whether the public sector can learn something from Britain...

Jun 17

Making two plus two make five

17/06/09 Earlier this week, the Shadow Chancellor drew one of the first clear dividing...

Jun 9

Progressive conservatism can beat the BNP

10/06/09 The political classes are in a tizz.  Buried in every broadsheet, somewhere...

May 8

A Case for School Choice

In all the excitement over the Gurkahs and MPs’ expenses this week, it was easy...

Jan 27

Will the red Tories spill blue blood?

Secretary General of the Fabian Society, Sunder Katwala offers a thoughtful response to...

Jan 27

The Civic State

It is now clear that we are at one of those epoch changing moments in British political...

Mar 13

Reward patients who eat healthily

The Mail reports on the recommendations of our most recent publication, Control Shift.

Mar 13

Max Wind-Cowie on the Today programme

Max Wind-Cowie, author of Control Shift, appears on BBC Radio 4's Today Programme to argue that healthy people should be prioritised for non-emergency NHS treatment. (From 2h40m).

Mar 13

Healthy patients 'should be rewarded' says think-tank

Max Wind-Cowie is interviewed on camera by the Telegraph about his recent report, Control Shift.

Mar 13

The NHS and Demos - it’s a bad idea to stigmatise the poor

The Independent argues that, though it is 'a sensible premise' that 'individuals should take responsibility for their own health,' the recomendations of our Control Shift report would 'punish those at the bottom of the social ladder'.

Mar 13

Patients living healthy lifestyles ‘should skip the queue’

The findings of Demos' recent report Control Shift appear in the Metro.

Mar 13

Jobseekers should be paid to work out at the gym, says thinktank

The Mirror summarises the findings of Demos' Control Shift, which argues that adults should be nudged into making good decisions.

Mar 13

Eat your greens? Keep fit? Then go straight to the front of the hospital queue

The Independent reports on the 'controversial' recommendations of our Control Shift report.

Sep 26

The NHS needs people to be more responsible

Max Wind-Cowie writes in the Guardian that making bad lifestyle decisions puts the NHS at risk.

Sep 5

What is the future for the squeezed middle?

Middle earners are irrationally optimistic about their financial futures, according to the think tank Demos.

Jul 17

The role of unions in the Big Society

ConservativeHome reminds Conservatives of their ties with the unions

Mar 26

Wherefore art thou, Big Society?

Rowenna Davis quotes Max Wind-Cowie in her New Statesman article about the shortcomings of David Cameron's 'pet project'.

Mar 16

Tories and trade unions are a match made in heaven

In the Telegraph, Robert Halfon MP details the ideas set out in his new Demos pamphlet, Stop the Union-Bashing.

Mar 16

Robert Halfon MP urges Tories to bypass Union leaders and go for grassroot support

The Huffington Post's Chris Wimpress responds to Robert Halfon's Demos pamphlet, Stop the Union Bashing.

Apr 27

Does income inequality matter?

Max Wind-Cowie takes part in a Guardian podcast.