It was one of the first publications we released at the Adam Smith Institute and a very influential one. It was also one of the most fun. Philip Holland, MP, had been tireless in asking ministers about the quangoes that came under their auspices. The acronym stood for Quasi-Autonomous Non-Governmental Organizations, the bodies set up by ministers, but featuring non-elected members, which had powers over many areas, and yet which were not answerable to Parliament. We identified 3,068 of them and decided to publish the list after a brief introduction describing the problems they presented.
We called it ‘Quango, Quango, Quango,’ after an old song ‘Quando, Quando, Quando.’ We published the list on a single page, 12 feet long. Several pages had to be glued together by the printers in order to construct it. When the report’s covers were opened, the page, folded like a concertina, opened out and dropped down. It was designed to dramatize just how big the quango problem had grown.
We had Philip Holland photographed on the House of Common terrace holding the publication with the opened-out page blowing in the wind. Machine-printed copies of the photo were sent to all media outlets with our press release. We also helpfully identified some of the more bizarre and amusing quangoes for the press to seize on. We guessed it would be big news when ITN filmed the printing of “the longest page in the world” for their evening news ahead of the next day's publication, and we dashed over to Victoria station at 11 pm to buy first copies of the next day’s papers. We were elated to see that the story, complete with the photo, made the front page of most of them.