Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Rock on, Oxfam!

So, an MP has referred the recent rather brilliant Oxfam poverty advert, a "Perfect Storm" to the Charity commission. I trust the Commission will be sending said MP away with a flea in his ear. It is essential that the commission is clear on the right of charities to campaign, and makes this clear in no uncertain terms.

Oxfam's job is to campaign against poverty. That is what it was set up to do. That is its mission.

It is clear that we have seen a rise in poverty in the UK. We have seen the effects of the recession hit hardest amongst the most vulnerable. What would be shocking ( and a cause of complaint to the Commission) would be if Oxfam were not campaigning on poverty. And Oxfam have typically done so in a hard hitting way. Well done to Mark Goldring their CEO. It was good to do a slot on my local radio station,BBC Radio Oxford, earlier today praising the charity campaign. As I said, Oxfam are in good company: Pope Francis, the Archbishop and Cardinal Nichols have all made clear their views on the need to fight poverty. They sometimes get these cries about being political yet they are doing their job as Church Leaders.

Charities are nothing if they are not a voice for the vulnerable. The relief of poverty is about doing good works ; like the food banks , but also campaigning about the causes of poverty. It a massive task and sometimes we need to be edgy and noisy to get our message across.

I'm afraid there are some in Parliament who seem to have a somewhat regressive view of our role. Like Victorian children they think we should be seen but not heard.

But we in our sector must recognise that the right of charities to campaign is under threat. This is not just about the wretched Lobbying Act. its about a climate that would deny our duty to campaign. We must therefore rally round Oxfam and make clear that we stand behind them on this issue. And I will urge my members not to be put off running hard hitting campaigns and being edgy. The last thing we need is self censorship.

I am writing to the Chair of the Charity Commission to make clear the sector's view on this matter and how we will expect a robust defence of our traditional role. I hope others will do the same.

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