Thursday, August 7, 2008

+++ Wilf Stevenson Resigns From Smith Institute ++++++ Lord Haskel Resigns Chairmanship of Trustees +++

Guido has learnt that following the condemnation by the Charity Commission of the trustees of the Smith Institute, Lord Haskel has resigned as chairman of the trustees, Wilf Stevenson has also resigned as director after the unprecedented criticism of the charity for partisanship.

Paul Hackett, a wonk who has written some pamphlets for the Sith, is the “acting director”. The offices are closed and Guido has confirmed that the Smith Institute will no longer be based at the New Statesman’s offices. The rumour in wonk-land has it that the IPPR has taken pity on them and will be giving them space at their offices.

Mission accomplished, Sith in disarray. Guido won.
Don’t forget we also have the prospect of an Electoral Commission investigation into illegal undeclared “donations in kind” by the Smith Institute to Gordon Brown.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Charity Commission Attacks Sith for Spinning Report

According to charity sector specialist magazine Third Sector, Andrew Hind, chief executive of the Charity Commission, has said he is “extremely concerned” that the Smith Institute is misrepresenting the contents of the regulator’s report into the think tank.
The commission reprimanded trustees of the think tank this week for failing to protect the charity from claims that it is supporting the Labour Party.

Paul Myners, deputy chair of the institute, responded by saying the commission was asking trustees to ensure that all speakers were politically neutral and that the regulator had “shown a fundamental lack of understanding of the work that all think tanks undertake”.

But Hind responded: “We are not saying we expect trustees to guarantee that no party political statements will be made. What we are saying is that if you want to have politicians at your event, as a think tank charity you have to ensure that there is balance.

“The trustees are disputing some of the clauses of the report and are alleging that the Charity Commission is naive and doesn’t understand how think tanks operate. But we have had extraordinarily in-depth discussions with them over the past few months.”

At the commission’s open board meeting in Liverpool yesterday, Hind again defended the report and said it would be “a reference point for the future” for other think tanks.

He said: “Not only are there some important findings about the Smith Institute, but there are also some important points of principle for all charity think tanks.”

Dame Suzi Leather, chair of the Charity Commission, said the enquiry had produced “an exemplary report from an independent regulator”.

Guido has been pleasantly surprised with the thoroughness of the Charity Commission report – the way the Sith’s trustees have tried to spin it has demonstrated their unsuitability to be a charity. Paul Myners really ought to resign.

The Centre for Open Politics has summarised the web of close links to Gordon Brown in a single document to go with this graphic:

click to enlarge

Monday, July 21, 2008

Gordon’s Undeclared Donations During the Long Campaign

Last week’s Charity Commission report ruled the Smith Institute was in breach of the laws on political impartiality. Paul Myners whines that the Charity Commission “have shown a fundamental lack of understanding of the work that all think tanks undertake.”* It is Myners and his fellow trustees who have clearly shown a fundamental disregard or lack of understanding for Charity law. A “think tank” is not a legally defined entity, legally the Smith Institute is a registered charity. Other think tanks, such as the similarly named but rather more illustrious Adam Smith Institute think tank, do not seek charitable status. Partisan think tanks should not be able to abuse the tax exemptions available to charities, because charities can reclaim taxes on donations they are legally obliged not to stray in partisan politics.
In the years leading up to Brown seizing the premiership the Smith Institute was functioning as his political secretariat. Whenever he needed something done outside the party structures, the Smith Institute was used. Photo-opportunity with Al Gore needed? Get the Smith Institute to invite him. Want to get the line out to Toynbee and the media fan base? Have the Smith Institute invite them. Want private polling advice? Get Deborah Mattinson to do it for the Institute (didn’t she do well as a result). Gordon wants expensive strategic advice from Bob Shrum? Put Bob on the payroll and slush the money through the Smith Institute…

Herein lies a very difficult problem for Gordon Brown – the Charity Commission has found that the Institute’s Senior Research Fellow, the expensive pollster and strategist Bob Shrum, was unsupervised. The Inquiry could only identify him leading two events in 2006, both of which did not further the Institute’s charitable purpose. So what was he doing for his money between September 2005 – April 2007? He was advising Gordon Brown on strategy and tactics. This service was undeclared to the Electoral Commission and is a breach of Section 50 (2) (f) of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000. Following the publication of the Charity Commission report a formal complaint has been put in to the Electoral Commission. Although he has so far refused to respond to questions from the Charity Commission about the Smith Institute, this is not yet over for Gordon Brown. He may have thought the issue closed, but it has opened up a new front.

See also : Flashback : The Smith Institute Exposé

*Faithfully reported, without critical comment, in the Guardian. Paul Myners is also the chairman of the Guardian Media Group.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Flashback : The Smith Institute Exposé

If you are new to the Smith Institute story this January 2007 documentary expo which Iain Dale presented and Guido scripted for broadcast by the old 18 Doughty Street internet TV station gives you the background. This video really did kick off the official Smith Institute investigation. It was whilst filming outside the Charity Commission office that a press officer came out and asked Guido what we were doing. In conversation Guido was told that the reason they hadn’t started an investigation was they had no official complaint! The next day Guido filed his complaint, days later the investigation was announced. It was not too bad an effort for a first time citizen journalist producer…

Some bloke called Crick had a go as well – see here. Hmmm…

The Sith Suffered a Grave Defeat Yesterday

Guido has now had time to fully digest yesterday’s report on the Smith Institute. Some comment from the unpopular wing of the blogosphere shows they don’t seem to have grasped that the Sith were found to have operated illegally nor have they understood the full ramifications of the Charity Commission’s investigative findings:
The Institute failed to implement key elements of the 2002 commitments arising from the first investigation.

The “predominant involvement of Labour Party politicians in the Institute’s activities, compromised the Institute’s independence.”

“Due to the amount and nature of party political content in some of the Institute’s events and publications, the Commission concluded that the Institute’s work was not always as sufficiently balanced and neutral as required under charity law”

“The trustees allowed inappropriate party political comments which were made at events, to be reported word for word… without any commentary, editing, qualification or disclaimer in Institute publications and disseminated to a wider audience”

The language used by the Institute at times “constituted a party political statement inappropriate for the charity. This inevitably compromised the Institute’s independence and reputation”

The Institute “took insufficient steps to regulate inappropriate party political” activities by Senior Research Fellow, Robert Shrum.

Directly criticised the trustees, finding “evidence of unchallenged party political comments being made at Institute events by politicians and also party political comments made by or on behalf of the Institute… combined with the predominant involvement of Labour Party politicians in the Institute’s activity, compromised the Institute’s independence. Bearing in mind the previous engagement between the Commission and the trustees in 2001/02 on this matter, the Commission concluded that the trustees had not safeguarded or adequately supervised the risks posed to the independence and reputation of the Institute”

Found that “the trustees had allowed the Institute to become exposed to concerns that is supported Government policy and was involved in party political activity inappropriate for a charity” and that they were “not sufficiently engaged to ensure the proper supervision of the charity”. The trustees were lambasted throughout the report for failing in their statutory duties to oversee the workings of the charity.

Still had ongoing concerns “over the Institute’s frequency of use of 11 Downing Street and over the review and monitoring of the impartiality of its educational programmes”.

Found “a number of instances where the balance and neutrality of the Institute’s work were compromised by a party political association… Sufficient steps had not been taken to identify or manage the perception that the Institute was unacceptably linked to and supported the Labour Party or that it inappropriately promoted Government policy… it is understandable how the perception arose that the Institute was focussed on or was connected to the then Chancellor of the Exchequer”.

This is a good result and Guido feels totally vindicated in making his complaint. The Commission has formally found the Institute in breach of the laws on political neutrality – anyone interested now knows what really went on. The Institute has been forced to restructure, with an audit committee. It has also closed down the subsidiary company S.I. Events Limited, which was used to launder money from corporations seeking regulatory favours and to invoice the Treasury for seminars. A formal oversight structure was ordered to be put in place with tight controls and it has been told to appoint known Tory and LibDem supporters to the board. It is now on probation and must report back on the implementation of the changes as ordered in six months. The Commission will take a second look next year.

Guido doesn’t think we will be hearing any more speeches on how to beat Cameron and the LibDems at Smith Institute events in the future…

Friday, July 18, 2008

Gordon Brown Refused to Answer Inquiry Questions

One footnote from the Charity Commission report into Gordon Brown’s Smith Institute is positively Nixonian.

You have the right to remain silent but….

Labour are spinning that the report clears Gordon of any links to the Institute. Which is complete bollocks. The Treasury Minister John Healey welcomed attendees to Number 11 in December 2004 thus:

“I am a last-minute substitute for Gordon Brown, so I would like, on his behalf, to welcome you all to Number 11 Downing Street. I know, looking around, some of you are quite regular attendees of Smith Institute seminars, and you will know you get a letter from Wilf Stevenson before each one explaining that you are invited to Number 11 by Kind permission of the Chancellor. I have to say, this series of seminars in particular is being held not so much by the kind permission of the Chancellor, but by his absolute insistence that they take place. He is unable to be with us now, but he will want to know exactly what has been said in the discussion when I see him earlier this morning. Many of you, including and perhaps especially the panel here, have known Gordon for a long time”

The Centre for Open Politics has summarised the web of close links to Gordon Brown in a single document.

click to enlarge

Smith Institute Report

Guido is digesting the lengthy Charity Commission report. The Smith Institute has been found guilty of charge after charge first highlighted on this blog.

Back with fuller comment soon.

UPDATE : There seem to be some errors of fact which Guido will be highlighting.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

+++ Charity Commission Smith Institute Report Tomorrow +++

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Civil Service Swerves Jacqui’s 42 Days Speech Under Investigation Smith Institute Serves Speech

Guido drew attention yesterday to the Smith Institute giving a platform for Jacqui Smith to sell the 42 days policy. The Smith Institute is, as a tax-exempt charity, restricted from getting involved in politics or in matters not compatible with its charitable objectives. It is currently under investigation for a second time for breaches of the Charities Act.

So what was it doing last night? Any claim that the speech given by Jacqui Smith was non-political and made in her capacity as a government minister should be dismissed. Guido understands that senior civil servants ruled that it was a political speech – hence it was not reported or distributed via the official Government News Network or spun by civil service press officers. Quite correct and proper, she was after all making the case for a politically controversial policy.

So the speech was distributed only by the Labour Party’s press office. Which raises the question – what was the legally non-partisan Smith Institute doing getting involved in this controversial area a few days ahead of a close run vote, which theoretically could turn into a confidence vote for Gordon Brown? Another example of blatantly partisan politicking from the Smith Institute.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Smith Institute Used to Sell 42 Days

Gordon Brown is in a lot of trouble over 42 days, his attachment to this Blairite legacy policy has become a trial of strength. Jacqui Smith is going round selling the policy to sceptical Labour backbenchers and implacable opposition.
Strange that tomorrow evening of all days, in the middle of this effort to sell this most politically controversial security policy, Jacqui Smith is giving a speech on the issue to a Smith Institute invited audience. Haven’t we been here before?

The Smith Institute is supposed to be an independent charitable think tank, set up “to undertake research and education in issues that flow from the changing relationship between social values and economic imperatives”. The Smith Institute during the first (2001) investigation by the Charity Commission undertook to stick to its charitable objectives – education in social and economic issues. The second investigation, now into year two, is yet to report.

How does the Home Secretary pushing government security policy in this controversial government policy area constitute “education”? Her speech is on “How can the state adapt its traditional security approach to manage a new and wider range of threats?” “Lock people up for 42 days without trial” will, Guido suspects, be the answer.

This is not even in the charity’s remit and is completely incompatible with the Smith Institute’s charitable status and stated aims. It is merely a politically convenient platform provided for Jacqui Smith when no respectable think-tank would touch the issue…


Seen Elsewhere

Boris is Right About Grammar Schools | Conservative Women
‘Obsolete’ Cable | Speccie
Why are Tories so Upbeat? | Alex Wickham
Clear Public Interest in Newmark Sting | Mirror
Boris Invites Farage to Join Tories | Guardian
RAF Too Run Down to Fight Islamic State | Con Coughlin
Osborne’s Personal Cuts Regime | Quentin Letts
Whoever Wins is Cursed | Janan Ganesh
Dave Will Never Be Forgiven if Ed Becomes PM | Trevor Kavanagh
What is Dave’s Big Message? | Tim Montgomerie
Voting UKIP Only Helps Ed | Boris


VOTER-RECALL
Find out more about PLMR


Mark Reckless told UKIP…

“We are more than a star on someone else’s flag.”



cynic says:

Can anyone help me? I went on holiday a week ago and returned to find someone has pulled out the stake and Gordon Brown is back and acting as Prime Minister. What did I miss? Has there been a snap election?


Tip off Guido
Web Guido's Archives

Subscribe me to:






RSS


AddThis Feed Button
Archive


Labels
Guido Reads
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,477 other followers