Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Farageing for a civil society policy?

What do Nigel Farage and UKIP have in mind for civil society? Does Farage even know himself? Given the huge media attention on UKIP, and their success in the recent elections, this is no longer an academic question.

Some of their candidates, to be sure, have very old-fashioned views on civil society. You have only to delve into the past musings of the UKIP candidate in Newark, Roger Helmer, to discover that. He did me the honour of publishing an entire blog diatribe against an interview I did for the Times a couple of years ago, parading his view that a charity ceases to be, well, a charity, as soon as it receives money for a government contract. He claims that ACEVO’s reason of being is ‘perpetuating the right of charities to continue to suckle on the teat of the Welfare State’ Clearly, in his view, it is not so important what a charity does, but that it stays untouched by government help.

I'm sure that UKIP like the notion of charities doing good works. But our role in campaigning and advocacy, our voice in speaking truth to power, and our duty to champion the disadvantaged and marginalised – these, it seems, will be anathema. I suspect they would prefer charities to be like children; seen but not heard.

It is time that UKIP is put to the test on their view for society. If the party is to keep growing and to be presented as a credible alternative, we must look beyond their most high-profile policies. Immigration and Europe alone do not a national party make.

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