Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Reds under charity beds....

So, it’s the silly season and you can expect fluffy stories, one of which appeared in the Sunday Telegraph this weekend. I had bought a copy after early morning Communion and it had me chortling on my croissant. Apparently charities are being taken over by former advisors to Gordon Brown. A lurid headline “former brown aides fighting coalition as charity chiefs" failed to provide any evidence to back this up.

It would appear that on the ST logic you are unable to perform a professional job for a charity if you previously worked for a labour politician. So they castigate Justin Forsyth who is doing a tremendous job at Save the Children in incredibly taxing times simply for his former role with our last Prime Minister. No evidence is provided that somehow their work has been subverted by improper political influence.

The reality is that many former advisors to Blair and Brown are in jobs across the public, private and third sectors. That is because they are talented and professional people who have significant experience to bring to the job. Should the fact that Simon Stevens was a Blair advisor and former Labour Lambeth Councillor rule him out of the top job in running our NHS?  Of course not and everyone recognises the huge skill and talent which led the Government to appoint him.

The fact that people take jobs working in Government for Ministers of whatever persuasion should not rule them out for running anything. They should be appointed on merit and ability and they are. Its the outcomes and delivery that matters in a top job not the colour of the tie you wear . The ST failed to provide any evidence that there has been political bias in the work they do; and that's because there isn't any.

It is always disappointing when senior politicians revert to character assassination rather than tackling an argument on its merits or demerits. A classic example of this was Chris Grayling's article to accompany the ST piece. His attack on Frances Crook who leads the Howard League for Penal Reform was particularly regrettable. A distinguished and ardent campaigner; I have known her for years as an ACEVO member. She has been as fierce in attacking Blair and brown as in attacking plans by this government depending on what she feels to be right. According to Mr Grayling she is "one of the most prominent labour supporting pressure group leaders". And the reason for this attack? I reckon it is because The Howard League have criticised the introduction of fixed bedtimes for teenagers. For the world's oldest and most respected penal reform charity not to campaign on such issues would be a dereliction of their charity duty and indeed I know Frances would have been as vehement about this whether it was a coalition or labour policy. It is entirely respectable to criticise such policies. Indeed a healthy democracy respects and encourages such debate. I recommend Frances's excellent Blog on this subject. (

And I rather liked her pithy response to the ST story ". We would be shirking our duty if we did not (campaign). Sometimes it is unpalatable to politicians and this is just tough". Amen to that.

No comments: