Yet more bad news for the Good Law Project this week as Guido learns they’ve just agreed to discontinue an ongoing case against DCMS over the appointment of the next charity commissioner. The GLP launched legal proceedings in September last year over claims that Oliver Dowden, the previous DCMS secretary, was threatening to “muzzle charities” by wanting the next chair of the charity commission to be selected “based on how they “rebalance” charities away from that agenda”, away from “woke credentials”. Jolyon argued this was “yet another example of this Government’s attempts to install allies at the top of our public institutions”…
After crowdfunding £84,552 however, this afternoon the GLP discontinued their case against Nadine Dorries. A departmental spokesperson confirms to Guido:
“We have always maintained that the recruitment process for the Charity Commission Chair was run properly, fairly and fully in line with the Governance Code on Public Appointments.
“It is right that the Good Law Project has withdrawn its unfounded claim given we have been clear throughout the Government had no case to answer.”
Dowden was well within his rights to ensure any prospective head of the commission demonstrated a commitment to ensuring charities remain focused on delivering their core purposes and ensuring that trustees understand their legal duties, including on campaigning and political activity. It’s literally in the job description…
A Whitehall source sets out Jolyon’s latest failure more simply:
“In short, GLP made BS claims about the Government trying to muzzle charities (it wasn’t), raised £85k in support of their spurious claim, went on a fishing exercise wasting Government time and money only to discontinue their proceedings and keep much of the cash they raised for their next politically motivated legal case (and of course pay for Jolyon’s kimonos 👘)”
Or even shorter: Jolyon loses… again.
The Charity Commission has issued a formal warning to the Islamic Centre of England following its support for, and honouring of terrorist Qasem Soleimani, who was killed in a US drone strike in January. Statements on the charity’s website offered both condolences and praise for the general, who was designated as a terrorist by the United States in 2005, and had his assets frozen by the UK in 2011 under the Terrorist Asset Freezing Act.
At least two events were held by the charity in honour of the terrorist. At one candlelit vigil, the speaker was filmed appearing to praise and call for support for Soleimani. The Charity Commssion concluded that the charity’s trustees failed to intervene or provide a counter-narrative.
Tim Hopkins, Assistant Director of Investigations and Inquiries at the Charity Commission said that “any charity being associated with terrorism is completely unacceptable and we are concerned by the corrosive effect this might have on public confidence”. Shouldn’t the Charity Commission insist that they stop supporting Soleimani or lose their charitable status? If they had said they supported Brexit they would have come down like a tonne of bricks…
The director of the IPPR left-wing think-tank , Tom Kibasi, has explicitly backed the Labour Party in a Guardian op-ed. He appears to be breaking the rules requiring charities to be non-partisan – an issue on which the Charity Commission has been particularly active of late. In his piece Kibasi doesn’t hold back, writing: “The country cannot afford and should not expect anything less [than a Labour victory]” and Labour’s dire state in the polls “can and must change”. Which seems a tad partisan…
The laws on charitable think tanks explicitly rule out the backing of political parties.
Almost certainly just more fake news from No10. But if true, I look forward to the days of a future Labour government that bangs up all the dodgy right wing networks that take dark money from the US and have undermined our relations with Europe. https://t.co/f2KCvQmu5n
— Tom Kibasi (@TomKibasi) 20 October 2019
No doubt the Charity Commission will have something to say about this lest they again be accused of double-standards again…
The Charity Commission has sheepishly withdrawn the warning it had issued to the Institute of Economic Affairs in February after accepting that their initial response was disproportionate. The warning had been issued earlier this year over the launch of a Brexit-related trade paper, Plan A+. Funnily enough they haven’t given the retraction as much of a media push as they did when they issued it…
The IEA say they are “delighted that the Charity Commission has decided to withdraw the Official Warning with immediate effect”, despite this Guido can still see the warning on the Charity Commission website this morning. Think tank charities publish policy proposals the whole time without the Charity Commission getting involved. Their original decision to take such aggressive action solely against the IEA smelled heavily of political interference…
UPDATE: The Charity Commission have now issued a statement:
“We can confirm that the Official Warning against IEA has been withdrawn with immediate effect. A report published by the charity in September 2018 crossed the line and represented a breach of charity law. In light of steps the charity has taken since the breach was brought to its attention, we have now withdrawn that warning. The charity has made commitments to cooperate with us, and we welcome that.”
This is some heavy spin from the Charity Commission. In their letter to the IEA informing them of their decision to withdraw the warning, the Commission both accepted that the IEA had taken “immediate steps” to implement the “remedial actions” they requested – several months prior to the issuing of the official warning – and admitted that their decision to subsequently issue the warning anyway:
“did not deal fully with certain aspects relating to procedure, fairness, and proportionality and aspects of the reasons for the warning.”
These are significant admissions from the Charity Commission about the deficiencies in their own procedures. Airbrushing them entirely from their statement given their clear relevance to the decision is a pretty shameless cover-up…
UPDATE: David Davis comments:
“Glad to hear the Charity Commission has withdrawn the official warning against the IEA. It was a wholly inappropriate case against them and would have resulted in a chilling effect on the entire thinktank sector, hindering bold thinking and the creation of new ideas.”
Toby Young complained to the Charity Commission about left-wing charity War on Want’s involvement in the anti-Trump campaign. The Charity Commission told him:
War on Want by appearing to support the Stop Trump Campaign in materials published on the charity’s website, and through public activities of the charity’s director, the charity has been engaging in inappropriate political activity. Following our intervention, the charity has removed materials of concern from its website. We expect it to ensure that, in the future, the charity is not associated in the mind of the public with the Campaign.
Charities are free to campaign on issues that relate to their charitable objects for the public benefit. What charities cannot do is campaign against a government, administration, individual politician or political party in general terms. Charity holds a special status in our society, and so when individual charities clearly cross the line from legitimate to inappropriate political activity, the public expects us to hold them to account. That is what we have done in this case.
For general background: we determined that War on Want’s apparent involvement with the Stop Trump Campaign amounts to inappropriate political activity, because:
– The Campaign appears to be against the individual (President Trump) and his administration generally, and is not confined to criticism of that administration’s policies in relation to poverty or human rights (the charity’s purposes)
– While the charity has attempted to link the Campaign to its objects, these explanations have not been sufficient to allow us to determine that the Campaign is appropriate for the charity.
This is not the first time War on Want have been in trouble with the Charity Commission. They continually flout the law, yet no sanctions are taken against them. If Guido’s co-conspirators find any more examples of left-wing charities breaching the rules, complain to the Charity Commission and let us know. Two can play at this game…
The Resolution Foundation, the welfare reform focused think tank which has charitable status, hosted an event this morning at its Westminster offices on the subject of “British politics beyond Brexit: Where are Labour heading?”
According to their website
“Shadow Cabinet Office Minister Jon Trickett will set out his vision for tackling Britain’s big political economy challenges. He will be joined by leading Labour thinkers, including Bridget Phillipson MP, Ayesha Hazarika and Stephen Bush, to discuss what the priorities should be as they prepare for the next general election, whenever that may be.”
Speakers for the event were all Labour supporters, MPs or former staffers; Jon Trickett, Shadow Cabinet Office Minister, Bridget Phillipson, Labour MP for Houghton and Sunderland South, Ayesha Hazarika, former Labour Party special adviser, Stephen Bush, the Labour supporting New Statesman’s political editor, Torsten Bell, Director of the Resolution Foundation and former Ed Miliband adviser when he was leader of the Labour Party. Torsten came up with the “Ed Stone”.
They all obviously advocate voting for the Labour Party. Which is fair enough and Guido has no issue with a think tank examining the Labour Party’s policy options. However given the regulatory warning recently issued to the Institute of Economic Affairs, which said it had breached regulations stipulating that it is unacceptable if “at events, the audience is only addressed by people with the same views on a topic”. Guido put this point to Torsten this morning…
Torsten’s response was that balance can be “judged across sections of things, not in one given event.” That’s not what the Charity Commission’s guidance says…
The official guidance says that charities “must ensure that the charity’s outputs (research reports, articles, seminars and so on) are balanced and neutral” and that “activity would not be permissible if… its purpose is (in essence) political, party political or propagandist.”
Today’s Resolution Foundation event was clearly political and not clearly related to to their charitable objectives “to improve outcomes for people on low and modest incomes. We do this by undertaking original research and economic analysis to understand the challenges they face.” Guido has contacted the Charity Commission to see if they will be warning Torsten likewise in an even-handed* way…
*The Charity Commission’s duty to act consistently and fairly is one of their principles.
“People should be treated fairly and consistently, so that those in similar circumstances are dealt with in a similar way. Any difference in treatment should be justified by the individual circumstances of the case.”