Saturday 8 June 2013

Riposte to the Daily Telegraph!

Good to see the DT have carried my letter to them about their disgraceful attack on charity campaigning today. Whichever Editor wrote that particular piece needs to hang his (or her but I doubt that) head in shame.

So you can see it in case you are not a regular reader of the DT here it is:

“SIR – Your leading article (“Politicising charity”, June 5) attacks a fundamental pillar of British democracy.

Political campaigning by charitable organisations has been a force for good in our country for centuries, from the Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade’s petition to parliament in 1787, to the establishment of societies for the prevention of cruelty to children and animals in the Victorian era.

Political advocacy by charities arose from the desire of like-minded people to do all they can for the beneficiaries, communities and causes to which they dedicate themselves. There can be no justification for restricting this ability.

Any restriction on charities’ right to campaign would represent an assault on the principle of freedom of speech. It would also reduce the level of political representation of many vulnerable and under-represented groups in society.

Last but not least, it would undermine one of the fundamental freedoms of British political life: the right of ordinary people to join together in order to seek political change for the public good.

Sir Stephen Bubb
CEO, Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations London N1. "

Good on them for publishing it. And I'm glad to see that one of the MPs on the PASC has described the report as “atrocious". One couldn't possibly comment! I think this is one report heading for a small footnote in history. 

I spent the last 2 days back in my old haunts in the Bodleian Library. It was amusing to read of the deliberations of the Parliamentary Committee on charity set up in 1952 under Lord Nathan. It took 8 years of thinking before a new 1960 Charities Act was produced. They thought long and hard about defining charity. In the end they concluded it was not a good idea. Indeed Viscount Simmonds, a Law lord declared there was no point because it was not capable of sensible definition in law and best left to common law. A useful rebuke to those on the PASC who have, after a cursory look decided that they can define it and “public benefit" is no good.

Always useful to have sources of historical perspective. I recommend them to PASC members. A period of reflection I the Bodleian would do them good. As it has me! 

And it was good to meet Isabel Holowaty, the Director of the history collection here who has given me some handy tips on searching the collections. I think the book is taking shape in my head. I just need to get a précis and find a publisher. I fancy an upmarket one; Bloomsbury or OUP. Any offers?

But now it’s off to the Charlbury Farmers Market!

No comments: