Onward is a UK-based think tank producing research on economic and social issues. Founded in 2018[1] by Will Tanner, Martyn Rose, and Neil O'Brien, it is chaired by Danny Finkelstein.[2] The founders state that Onward would operate in the mainstream of conservative politics, and is a reaction to the "lack of energy on the centre right". It is explicitly aligned to the Conservative Party and is not a charity.[1]

In October 2020 Onward stated that its advisory board also included Kate Fall, Tom Tugendhat, Kate Rock, John Lamont, James Kanagasooriam, Craig Elder, Martyn Rose, Siobhan Baillie, James O'Shaughnessy, Rupert Harrison, Richard Harrington, Anthony Browne and Claire Coutinho.[2]


According to the Financial Times, Onward was launched in May 2018 at an event in which then Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson and then environment secretary Michael Gove gave speeches, and Onward’s stated mission is to generate a "new wave of modernising ideas" and "a fresh kind of politics that reaches out to new groups of people".[3][4]


A 2019 report by Onward entitled "The Politics of Belonging" looked at the changing electoral landscape of the UK. The Times reported that "The general election will be won in the "rugby league towns" of the north of England, according to new analysis. Conservative success in attracting older white men without degrees living in such towns will determine whether the party gets a majority, the think tank Onward argues. "Workington man" will be the vital swing voter, taking the place of demographics such as "Worcester woman" and "Mondeo man" both targeted by Tony Blair's New Labour."[5][6]

Onward has published a number of papers on regional disparities in economic performance.[7] A March 2020 paper "Levelling up" argued that spending on infrastructure, culture and science was excessively skewed towards wealthier regions. The Guardian reported that, "The Treasury should stop directing so much money towards rich and productive London if it is serious about the "levelling up agenda" that Boris Johnson hopes will help him retain red wall seats, according to a report by centre-right thinktank Onward."[8] In September 2020 the BBC reported on an Onward study which found that the UK was "one of the most geographically unbalanced developed economies" and that "in Germany 12% of people live in areas where the average income is 10% below the national average, while in the UK 35% do."[9] The Financial Times said the study showed that "People living in seats won by the UK Conservative party in last year's general election earn on average 5 per cent less than those in areas held by the Labour opposition."[10]

Another programme of research at the think tank has looked at social capital and community life.[11] A March 2020 report "Repairing our social fabric", was launched with a joint article by Conservative MP Danny Kruger and Labour MP Jon Cruddas which argued that "The share of people joining local organisations, volunteering, or exchanging news or favours with those living around them is in precipitous decline. Of course, there are substitutes in new online forms of community, but the loss of face-to-face connection cannot be replaced by screen-time."[12]


  1. ^ a b Eaton, George (18 May 2018). "Onward – the Tory think tank on a mission to remake conservatism". The New Statesman. London. Retrieved 14 October 2020.
  2. ^ a b "Onward Advisory Board". UKOnward.com. Retrieved 14 October 2020.
  3. ^ Hughes, Laura (22 May 2018). "UK Conservatives start to turn minds beyond Brexit trauma". The Financial Times. London. Retrieved 14 October 2020.
  4. ^ Perkins, Anne (21 May 2018). "Michael Gove and Ruth Davidson team up to back new Tory thinktank". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 14 October 2020.
  5. ^ Smyth, Chris (30 October 2019). "General election: Converting rugby league towns is key for Tories". The Times. London. Retrieved 14 October 2020.
  6. ^ "Media for the Politics of Belonging". UKOnward.com. Retrieved 14 October 2020.
  7. ^ "Levelling Up". UKOnward.com. Retrieved 14 October 2020.
  8. ^ Mason, Rowena (6 March 2020). "Tory governments spend more on London than rest of England – thinktank". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 14 October 2020.
  9. ^ "Conservative MPs launch 'levelling up' taskforce". BBC. London. 7 September 2020. Retrieved 14 October 2020.
  10. ^ Payne, Sebastian (7 September 2020). "Earnings in new Tory seats 5% lower than in Labour constituencies". The Financial Times. London. Retrieved 14 October 2020.}
  11. ^ "Repairing our social fabric". UKOnward.com. Retrieved 14 October 2020.
  12. ^ Kruger, Danny; Cruddas, Jon (4 March 2020). "Left and Right must unite to repair our broken communities". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 14 October 2020.