On Friday the Charity Commission revealed that the Labour Party accepted £15,000 in political donations from a charity devoted to running breakfast and after-school clubs for underprivileged children (see here).
Taking money from a children’s charity marks a new low in the depths to which Labour’s increasingly desperate search for funds has descended. It is illegal for charities to make donations to political parties. As a result of the Charity Commission’s inquiry, Labour has had to repay the £15,000 it accepted from the charity concerned, Catz Club.
Two fundamental questions arise: how could Labour think it was acceptable to take money from a charity, and, why did the charity consider it appropriate to donate money to Labour? The answers to these questions are highly revealing of the culture that now pervades Labour’s relationship with the outside world.
On the first question, I expected that Labour would have claimed that
it accepted money from a charity inadvertently, and regretted making
such a crass error. Not a bit of it. Far from being apologetic, a
Labour spokesman said:
"The Labour Party did nothing wrong in accepting
this donation, which is allowed under party funding rules."
that Labour was fully aware that it was accepting donations from a
charity, and returned the money only when the Charity Commission
intervened to point out that this was an illegal act for the charity.
That the Labour Party can see nothing wrong with taking money from a
charity for underprivileged children needs no further comment.
The answer to the second question – why a lottery-funded charity
thought it reasonable to make a donation to the Labour Party – is also
remarkable in what it reveals about the devalued culture of this
government. As well as donating £7,500 directly, Catz Club paid £7,500
for its executives to attend Labour’s Sports Dinner – the party’s
lavish fundraising event at Wembley. They defended this as reasonable
because it allowed them to:
"engage with and lobby senior politicians to
encourage increased funding for after school childcare activities".
When a children’s charity finds that the best way to express its views
on children’s policy to government ministers is to donate to the Labour
Party and buy its way into Labour fundraising events, it shows how
remote this Government has become from the openness and new politics
that it once promised.
There are more questions to be answered in this affair. Who in the
Labour Party sanctioned the decision to accept money from charities?
Is it relevant that the person listed as being responsible for
fundraising on Catz Club’s website, Amanda Delew, is Labour’s former
Director of High Value Fundraising? Catz Club has received significant
amounts of public funds both through the National Lottery and from
government departments – what role have Labour ministers had in the
decisions to grant public funds to this organisation?
During the days ahead, I will be pressing for answers to these
questions. But already this affair tells us much about the culture and
attitude that pervades Labour in government.