In last week’s No Tern Unstoned Column (which you can find here) I explored the double standards operating in the murky world of philanthrocapitalism. To boil it down for you, the article explores how charitable giving (through misogny-fests like the President’s Club) buys political influence, but charities are gagged from speaking up (to Government or the public) on behalf of the err public interest for which they exist.
On the same day the article was published, the Government announced its preferred candidate for the new chair of the charity regulator, the Charity Commission. You may recall the outgoing chair was the political appointment William Shawcross, who was widely known as a Neocon before he took up the post. He also brought in such luminaries as Professor Gwithian Prins (of the private University of Buckingham) who advises the GWPF (now renamed the Global Warming Propaganda Front).
The Government had wanted to install former Charities Minister Rob Wilson in the post (I guess they thought he knew something about charities), after he lost his seat in the 2017 General Election. This move was rumbled, so they abandoned that plan. Shawcross was persuaded to stay on a bit longer while they looked for someone else. Who could it be? Someone with a deep knowledge and experience of the Charity Sector? Someone who understands what charities are for, why they are so important; and the pressure that is being applied to them by this Government?
Step forward Baroness Tina Stowell, former Leader of the House of Lords under David Cameron. ChariTina as I will call her, must be perfectly suited to the job. She had a civil service career – in the MoD, US Embassy, and a couple of years in TV after working in John Major’s Number 10 Press Office (that must have been fun – Back to Basics and all that). After Major’s defeat in 97 she joined William Hague’s team as deputy chief of staff. It was during her short time in Hague’s top team, that Michael Ashcroft was given his peerage – here’s the fascinating story of how Hague managed to persuade a very sceptical Tony Blair – and what role did Tina Stowell play? Ashcroft had wanted to be styled Lord Ashcroft of Belize. Sadly this was turned down (they thought it was a joke – they’re not laughing now.)
We’ll return to Lord Ashcroft of Belize later.
When Hague’s leadership sunk without trace, Stowell joined the BBC upper echelons for 10 years, eventually becoming Head of Corporate Affairs. She then set up a lobbying firm Tina Stowell Associates – almost no trace of which still exists on the web. Shortly after that ChariTina got her own peerage (as a Tory peer – she could just as easily have been a cross-bencher) when Cameron became PM and she made her way through the Lords to become its Leader, a post from which she retired after the Referendum.
So far, so not very charity-ee, for ChariTina.
What’s she been doing since then, I hear you ask. Has she thrown herself into the world of charities, taking on trustee-ships of large influential charities, as so many others in her position are liable to do. Err no. It’s unfortunate that the Charity Commission website does not enable searches by Trustee – as Companies House does for company directors. Perhaps this is something ChariTina can address. Still, looking at Companies House, I found she had taken up two charity Trustee posts. The first is with the Crimestoppers Trust. This is a medium size charity, income about £5M. Stowell joined the Trustee board in July 2017, according to Companies House. Strangely, the Charity Commission hasn’t got round to updating Crimestoppers details on its own website. Either that, or the Charity hasn’t got round to telling the Charity Commission that it has a new Trustee (who’s about to become its Chair). I don’t know if it’s a crime not to inform the Commission of a change in Trustees. Perhaps I should phone Crimestoppers.You may not be surprised to discover that the chair of the Crimestoppers Trust is that collector of other people’s Victoria Crosses and massive Tory Party donor, yes it’s Lord Ashcroft of Belize. Just a coincidence, I’m sure.
Even more recently, on 1st January this year (and presumably after she applied for the job with the Charity Commission) ChariTina joined the Trustee board of The Transformation Trust. This much smaller charity (turnover £800k) helps school children, often from deprived backgrounds, to improve the chances of them getting a job, by acting as a sort of broker, taking funding from large corporates (and others like the Royal Navy) and organising out of school activities, work placements and the like. The existing board is filled with the Great and the Good, although I did also notice Rachel Wolf is a Trustee. Wolf was funded by Cameron to set up the New Schools Network, of which the unsavoury eugenics enthusiast and social media misogynist Toby Young is still Chief Exec (at the time of writing.) Wolf was a former advisor to Cameron and Gove, and more recently helped set up a new member of the right wing thinktank-ocracy – Parents and Teachers for Excellence.
On this cursory search ChariTina’s charitable credentials seem even thinner than her predecessor’s. One other clue also surfaced when I was looking for evidence as to why Stowell would be the best person for this vital job. She holds a couple of company directorships. One is with ABTA limited – the organisation that represents travel agents. No, not this one. The other one. The other Directorship is with a company called Impellam. Impellam is an outsourcing company, just like Carillion. Impellam provides casual staff to public sector organisations – Impellam calls itself the “second largest staffing business in the UK.” It earns £2Bn a year from providing temps – Supply Teachers, Agency Nurses, Locum Doctors etc. All these staff are filling spaces in the public sector – spaces that have been created by the er policies of the Government (more here). Who could possibly be behind this very successful business that seems to be so closely aligned to the Government?
YES! It’s our old friend, Lord Ashcroft of Belize. He owns Impellam. I expect ChariTina’s experience of the charity sector will be helpful in increasing Impellam’s profits.
There we have it.
Baroness Stowell’s position as preferred candidate for Charity Commission chair is obviously down to her having been a charity Trustee of two charities for a combined total 6 whole months. It can have absolutely nothing to do with the fact that she’s a Tory Peer or has close links with Tory party funder and Eminence Grise Lord Ashcroft.