Brooks Newmark is feeling the sharp end of the needle after commenting that charities should “stick to their knitting” and stay out of politics. Below Guido unravels details of a plot to stitch Newmark up coordinated by Friends of the Earth, spinning a yarn by organising a group letter to be printed in the national press. A conspiracy by left-wing charities to fight the idea that there’s a conspiracy by left-wing charities.
Dear Minister/ Dear editor
It was very ill-considered for you/the Minister for Civil Society to tell charities to “stick to their knitting”.
We are pleased that you have/ he has clarified your/his view that “charities absolutely have the right to campaign but should stay out of the realm of party politics”.
Charities, by law, cannot and do not take part in party politics and it is misleading to suggest this is a problem that needs to be tackled. We are proud to be party politically independent and to speak truth to power – even if that is uncomfortable for politicians.
The Lobbying Act, coming in to force on 19 September, was opposed by over 150 charities and campaign groups – from Cancer UK to the Quakers, Water Aid to WWF. We are concerned that it contains provisions that may well limit the ability of charities and other organisations to speak out on some of the most important policy issues facing the country and the planet.
From women’s suffrage to stopping the sell-off of our forests, campaigning on politically contentious issues is vital to democracy and to Governments making the right decisions. No ill-considered new laws or comments by ministers should stop charities and campaign groups from this important work.
Signed lots of NGOs..
The seamless plan also aims to buttonhole Newmark on social media, in what the charities minister will be hoping is a vain attempt to make him reap what he has sewn:
If you can take a photo of yourself knitting that would be great. (We actually have a box of knitting in the Edinburgh office. It turns out charities really do like knitting!) If you can’t get hold of any knitting a text tweet will do! Just remember the hashtag! Some examples:
In between knitting, I like to help solve youth unemployment in Scotland. #stickingtomyknitting
After a hard day’s knitting, I like nothing better than to help get disempowered people get online #stickingtomyknitting
European Funding Policy is fun and all, but I’d rather be knitting! #stickingtomyknitting
The email has been sent out to left-wing charities by Liz Hutchins, a former CND agitator who describes herself as a “senior political campaigner” and currently works for the Friends of the Earth “Political and Legal Unit”. Somewhat giving the game away. Other proposals of direct action suggested by Liz include turning up at Newmark’s constituency office in Braintree and making him undergo re-education in a meeting at the Cabinet Office. You can read the email in full here and have your say in the thread below…