There is a well established pattern of groups, officially charities, devoting their resources to left wing lobbying. The Charity Commission has been utterly ineffective at dealing with this.
For example last year the anti free trade “charity” War on Want sponsored the extremist Peoples Assembly. Astonishingly the taxpayer funds War on Want (via DFID and the European Commission) with over £300,000 a year.
When I wrote to the Charity Commission about War on Want’s involvement in politics the Commission replied:
“Your complaint is duly logged, however that is all we can do.”
I have written on this site in the past about the antics of Shelter.
This week we had a well coordinated ambush of the Welfare Minister Lord Freud over his comments about the viability of employers paying the minimum wage to the disabled. Lord Freud was not saying the the disabled should receive less than the minimum wage – but that the Government should help employers pay the bill. The objective was to make it easier for disabled people who wished to work to do so.
Scope and Mencap were both quick to join Labour’s attack.
Scope said it was “unacceptable”. Yet they had also earlier backed Lord Freud’s policy.
The cynicism of the Labour Party in misrepresenting Lord Freud and in seeking to punish someone for addressing a genuine problem has meant their intervention has backfired.
However the charities have also done themselves great harm. Mencap spend £6.5 million a year on “engaging and influencing key stakeholders” as they put it in their accounts. Many of those who donate to them may be startled by that. Wouldn’t their money be better spent providing practical help for people with learning disabilities?
But let us concede that lobbying is a legitimate way for them to spend their money. Surely their crass partisan involvement of the past week has diminished their influence. Do they really want to be in a position that their criticisms of Government policy are discounted – in rather the way that the National Union of Teachers or the Police Federation now are?
Do Mencap want Ministers to be unable to have any frank or serious dialogue with them? Are these charities trying to break a taboo or enforce one?
There is a revolving door of those who work as Labour Party staff or (rather better paid) charity executives. So in the General Election campaign we can expect a regular feature to be spurious third party endorsements of Labour Party complaints about the “uncaring” Government. The Independent on Sunday splashes this morning with a Labour attack on Justice Minister Andrew Selous. He was taped (presumably by a Labour operative) saying that “disabled people work harder because they are grateful to have a job”. Again we are not given the context. Again one suspects a wilful misrepresentation.
Did the journalists – Mark Leftly and Jane Merrick – ask for the tape? It would have been interesting to have seen more than the 12 words from Mr Selous that were quoted. Did the Labour operative refuse to hand the tape over?
Still I suppose Mr Selous will be jolly careful in future about recounting to employers positive examples of disabled people grateful to have been given a chance and determined to prove themselves.
I don’t know whether it will harm the Conservatives for charities to join in playing Labour’s squalid game. But I’m pretty sure the charities will damage their own reputations by participating.