Welsh Charitable Think Tank Pulls Out of Hain Organised Event Electoral Commission to Examine Foreign Funding

Peter Hain has organised a conference today in his Neath constituency on “Winning Economically, Winning Politically”. Labour politicians and German SPD politicians will be discussing strategy and tactics in a session titled “What was done, what went wrong and how to win back voter support”. The event is financially supported by the SPD’s Friedrich Ebert Stiftung think tank. The Welsh Bevan Foundation, an educational charity, was co-sponsoring it.

On Tuesday following complaints made by Plaid Cymru MP Adam Price, the Bevan Foundation pulled out because it feared its charitable status could be compromised.

Price wrote to the Bevan Foundation’s director Victoria Winckler:

“You will no doubt be aware that the Charity Commission began a formal inquiry into the Smith Institute last year occasioned by not dissimilar circumstances, after the Democratic political consultant Robert Shrum was shown to have given electoral advice to Labour Party members based on US experience.

Commenting on the publication of its report into the institute’s political activity, Andrew Hind, the chief executive of the Charity Commission, said: ‘Trustees of charitable think tanks have a responsibility to ensure the political neutrality of the work they do. When a charity operates close to the political environment, it must safeguard its independence and ensure that any involvement it has with political parties is balanced.’

Clearly the event was political, Price was entirely right to cite the Smith Institute precedent. The Bevan Foundation secretary Mick Antoniw now says:

“Our reputation is everything and because of the concerns raised and the advice the trustees have received, the foundation will be withdrawing from the event….”

Price is not letting the matter rest: “I will be writing to the Electoral Commission as to whether the funding of what in the afternoon is effectively a Labour election strategy seminar amounts to an impermissible donation. I will also be asking the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner to investigate whether the involvement of Peter Hain’s political researcher in organising the conference in any way constitutes a misuse of parliamentary resources.”

Hain is a creature of habit, once again another think tank’s funds are being used to further his political ambitions. Just as with the Progressive Policies Forum there appears to be a case to answer for breaches of electoral law – a foreign foundation funding electoral strategy advice is illegal. You would have thought given he is currently under police investigation for funding irregularities Hain would be more cautious, he already has one criminal conviction, he is asking for another…

Full story in the Western Mail.




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