Stick to the Knitting


“I think the Knitters have left you a message Minister”

It’s just as well there is less than a year left in this Parliament – and so very little if any time for new legislation or policy development. This is particularly true in the Charity Sector.

Not content with banning Charities from saying anything remotely political in the run up to any Election (the muzzle goes on on the 19th September for next May’s General Election), David Cameron has replaced the thoughtful and helpful former Charities minister, Nick Hurd, with Brooks Newmark MP.

Newmark has been rightly toasted over the media open fire  for his positively Paterson-esque remark that Charities should “stick to the knitting” and stay out of politics. This was at an event organised partly by the Cabinet Office, entitled People Helping People: The Future of Public Services. Newmark later claimed he meant Party politics. But the Lobbying Act has already effectively banned Charities from even commenting on party politics.

One wonders whether Newmark believes that public services, or indeed people helping other people, are entirely unrelated to politics. Perhaps he does.

Newmark has actually managed to achieve something special in this remark. Not only has he deeply offended the entire voluntary sector with this patronising crassitude; he has also ridiculed those who do knit for charity. Knitters make a massive contribution to charity – they have their own website. There are knitters for all causes – I particularly liked knit a message to your MP. Perhaps Newmark will receive some messages from knitters. I hate to think what those messages might say, but they probably won’t appear in Hansard.

Still – you have to shed a wry smile at Cameron’s choice of  Charities Minister. He clearly has a wicked sense of humour.

Newmark’s background is in investment banking – he was a Vice President at Lehman Brothers – remember them? They were the massive American Investment Bank that cooked up all sorts of clever plans and schemes to make money magically out of nothing. This  led inexorably to the US sub-prime mortgage crisis, which in turn caused that good old global economic recession we’re all still mired in. After he left Lehman he had an, I am sure, very successful career in corporate finance. He’s worth a few million of course.

He’s also written a number of reports for the neoconservative “Think Tank” The Centre for Policy Studies and its website lists him as an Advisory Council member. This one was set up by “the Mad Monk” Keith Joseph in 1974, to create policies for Margaret Thatcher’s neo-conservative revolution of the 80s. The CPS is climate change denying, pro fracking and all the other things you would expect. Bizarrely, or indeed not, the CPS has links with Frank Furedi’s libertarian Living Marxism Network, about which I have written before. Furedi wrote a report for the CPS in 1999, about the growth of litigation culture.

Now it becomes clear why Newmark has been made Charities Minister.

In a 2006 CPS report entitled “Charities: The Spectre of State Dependency” The CPS was alarmed at the level of “lobbying” done by charities and recommended that such lobbying be prohibited (p37). 7 years later the CPS have achieved their stated aim to ban political work by charities and they have their man in at the ministry.

With charities, if you want to know who funds them, you can look up that information on the Charities Commission Website where you will find a reasonable amount of information. For Think Tanks like the Centre for Policy Studies, who are, as you can see, highly influential (influencing in a very political sense) it is much more difficult to see who is funding them, who pays the piper whose tune they dance to.

CPS income in the year to September 2012 is a healthy £573000. The CPS receives funding from a charity, called the Institute for Policy Research (IPR). It has given the CPS £1.8 million between 2005 and 2013. That must be a sizeable chunk of its funding.

One advantage of using a charity in this way is that donations received by them can be substantially boosted through Tax Relief. I explained how this works here.

We know that Lord Vinson of Roddam co-founded the CPS. He is also a major funder of the IPR. Vinson has given the IPR £330,000 between 2005-13. It’s not too difficult to join the dots and see CPS founder (and Tory Peer) Lord Vinson giving significant funding to CPS via the Charity the IPR, who get tax relief at 40% and add it on to the grant to CPS. Note that IPR only gives money to neoliberal or neoconservative causes.

Vinson was very recently revealed as a funder of the Global Warming Policy Foundation. I’m sure he will be disappointed that the naughty boys and girls at GWPF behaved so badly that the normally comatose Charities Commission actually took action and insisted they split their overtly political and highly negative lobbying away from their charitable activities.

It is also apparent that CPS, like their fellow neoconservative travellers the IEA,  have received funding from the tobacco industry for many years. I’m sure it’s just a coincidence that in 2011 a CPS acting director signed a letter attacking Government restrictions on tobacco control.

So there you have it. Our new Tory Minister for Charities made a fortune in investment banking and private equity investment, and has close links to a neoconservative Think Tank funded by Tory millionaires via a charity that only funds neoliberal/conservative Think Tanks.

It would seem that as far as our new Charities minister is concerned, if you’re a politically minded Tory Millionaire, it’s fine to use a charity to channel your money (plus an extra 40% Top Rate Tax Relief paid) to your favourite, highly influential Politically connected Think Tank.  But if you’re a knitter, don’t expect your contribution to be used for anything political.


photo thanks to the excellent website.


About Miles King

UK conservation professional, writing about nature, politics, life. All views are my own and not my employers. I don't write on behalf of anybody else.
This entry was posted in Charities campaigning, Charities Commission, neoliberalism, Think Tanks, Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Stick to the Knitting

  1. oblomovIII says:

    Nice piece Miles, but it’s Newmark, if yr pedantic about names and stuff.
    Didn’t realise he’d been chasing this one for so long, which makes it quite scary actually.

  2. David Dunlop says:

    Vives les tricoteuses! 😉

  3. Pingback: Tory Constituency Candidates: of the people, by the people, for the people? | a new nature blog

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