Wednesday 13 January 2010

No 10 and Blackberry Blessings...

At No 10 yesterday morning - and who said I am not discrete in my blogs so I'm not revealing who I met or what we talked about...but it was great to be sitting in the State rooms under a gorgeous portrait of Lord Byron. And amusing as I was leaving to meet various Cabinet Ministers coming out of yesterday's political Cabinet. I walked out with a couple and joked I was expecting at least one, if not 2 Chapters on the Third Sector in the Labour Manifesto! We were very successful for the 2005 manifesto- even if Andy Burnham is busy breaking one of the pledges ( I managed to avoid bumping into him : it would have been too embarrassing! )

Which brings me neatly to the Tories. You would have thought they would be mounting an attack on the " preferred supplier" u turn. We have been in touch with Andrew Lansley MP , their spokesperson on health but so far he has done nothing on this. Indeed my Deputy, Dr Kyle, was meeting him yesterday to talk about this, turned up in the room booked only to find Lansley had cancelled and not even told him.

So could we please clarify Tory policy on this? Will they immediately cancel the Burnham policy if they take over? We need clarity Andrew so if you cannot make a meeting at least a firm letter that makes clear what you will do will suffice. No fudging on what is a fundamental issue for the sector. We expect you to restore a competitive policy where you encourage sector delivery.

And another irritation from that quango The Commission for Skills. A big advert in today's papers from them with an " Open Letter to Employers" signed by 10 employer Leaders, Brendan Barber, Small business federation etc. But not one single person from the third sector. Not me or Stuart. Despite the fact we employ 1.3 m staff. Deliver huge services. Engage the community and develop cohesion and have an economic power of some £130bl pa. Amazing. And inept.

But of course the Commission , like so many, just see the stereotype of the sector. Just charities. Volunteers. Working at the margins and to be patronised rather than taken seriously. So a sharp letter is on its way to the offending CEO. It is crucial we work to challenge stereotypes and assert the power and strength of our sector whenever we can.

It is something I will touch on when I talk at our ACEVO AGM at the Commons today. I have been working on the speech and praying we don't have snow to keep people away. Our AGM always attracts big audiences- some 300 last year. It's a mark of how members see their organisation and its role promoting CEO leadership. We will also be announcing the election of 2 new trustees. And the electorate have chosen well! 2 great sector leaders. More on this soon.

And finally, so good to read in the Times about the Blessing of the Blackberries at St Lawrence Jewry in the City yesterday. The first Monday after the Epiphany is traditionally Plough Monday ; when farmers brought their ploughs to church to be blessed. So in an updated service we read that the Lord Mayor of London had his Blackberry processed and laid on the High Altar. And blessed. Though hopefully not drenched in Holy Water or censed!

And let me leave you with the Rev Canon Parrott's blessing:

" May our tongues be gentle, our e-mails be simple and our websites be accessible ".

Amen to that !

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