Charities and political activity

Guido Fawkes, the popular political blogger, reports on an investigation into the Smith Institute. He says that it has dragged on too long and that the charity broke existing Charity Law by acting as a campaign slush fund for Gordon Brown. (Sith Break the Rules, Sith Change the Rules)

Leaving new Labour sleaze to those better equipped to comment, the thing I find interesting is that Ed Milliband is now of the view that:
Charities should be free to participate in appropriate ways in political activities. There are clear benefits to society from allowing charities to do so.
(See Times Online:Plan to let charities become political)

For some time, certain dioceses in England and Wales have been worried about allowing the White Flower Appeal organised by the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) because it is "political". In fact, many other pro-life groups engage in what is obviously political work - and indeed SPUC has many pastoral and caring initiatives in addition to its much-needed political campaigning.

What SPUC and others do is to have a charitable arm which only funds activities that are "charitable" in the sense that the charities commission currently accept. In any case, the White Flower Collection is not designed to be taken up as a second collection in Church - it is taken up outside Church by SPUC volunteers.

If the law is changed to allow charities to engage in appropriate political campaigning, two questions arise:
  1. Will pro-life political campaigning be treated on an equal footing with, say, campaigning for Labour ministers?
  2. Will the opposition of some English Catholic dioceses to the White Flower collection be withdrawn because their worries have been allayed?
If you think that the answer to either of those questions will be "Yes", you have more to learn about life in England today.

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