Charities have been warned on different occasions by some Conservative Ministers and Charity Commission Board members that charities should spend less time campaigning, that politicisation of charities is dangerous, that charities would do better to stick to their knitting, and that they should refrain from left wing agitation in cahoots with the BBC (see my blog of 30 June 2015).
Since there has been predictable sneering at these views by the metropolitan left-leaning elite, I should like to reinforce these warnings by highlighting some particularly dangerous examples, all from registered charities.
Politicisation has spread to the Royal British Legion, who now in addition to promoting the Covenant (between society and members of the armed forces who put their lives on the line for us), have begun another campaign called Insult to Injury about veterans who have to spend all their compensation on social care, and yet another called Lost Voices demanding action over veterans’ acute problems of hearing loss. In a particularly blatant incursion into politics, the Legion produced its own Manifesto 2015 with 12 key policy recommendations on how politicians and officials could build a better future for our armed forces communities, as if that were anything to do with its proper role of selling poppies.
I am also sorry to report that, instead of sticking to religion, the Evangelical Alliance involved itself in political matters and spent charitable resources persuading 668,000 people to sign a petition against the redefinition of marriage (permitting gay marriage). One wishes they would concentrate on life after death rather than this one and leave things like marriage to the politicians.
The Henry Jackson Society, which takes a strong line on the necessary military and political steps that nations need to take in order to protect liberal democracy, which sounds obviously political, even provided the Secretariat to two All Party Parliamentary Groups until obliged to withdraw because they were unwilling to make the necessary disclosures about their major donors. However, since William Shawcross, current Chair of the Charity Commission, was formerly on the Board of this charity things may be less political than they might seem.
The Institute for Economic Affairs was undoubtedly onto something when they campaigned and lobbied against “sock puppets”, ie charities who use public money to campaign for their cause or their own organisation, and persuaded Eric Pickles to act accordingly. The snag is that the IEA was really being rather political in getting involved in this matter. I suppose charities being political is not such a worrying problem if the target is charities being political?
Another shocker is the Girl Guides. You might have thought they would be hard at work working for badges, going to camp and cleaning their uniforms, but we now find that “Girls and young women are taking action across the country in their communities, nationally and internationally to make change happen and improve the lives of girls”. They seem to think that this includes getting involved in the “No More Page 3 campaign” as if that’s got anything to do with girl guiding. The Guides are also rather irresponsibly “empowering girls and young women to speak out for the opportunities they deserve”, and the Senior Section is encouraged “to influence decision makers” and indulge in what they call “advocacy”!!
And don’t get me started on The Countryside Alliance.
It is true that I have not found close left wing connections with these organisations, and the BBC has been playing its hand craftily, to the extent that I have not found any connections with them either. It really is a mystery as to why these otherwise wholesome charities should have got themselves involved in political activity in this way. But clearly, Ministers and Charity Commission are right to be worried if even the Royal British Legion, the Evangelical Alliance, the Henry Jackson Society, the Institute for Economic Affairs, the Girl Guides and the Countryside Alliance are engaged in political activities.
In my opinion, the rot really started with Tories like William Wilberforce, Richard Oastler and Lord Shaftesbury who didn’t realise the dangerous forces they were unleashing by getting irresponsibly involved in political matters over issues like Slavery, animal welfare and child labour in factories and mines. If they could only see now the damage they have done!