Conservative MP Brooks Newmark has got himself into trouble with the leftist political activists who dominate Britain’s charities sector by telling them to “stick to their knitting” and stay out of politics.
Problem is, in the case of many charities these days, political meddling is their knitting. Hence, for example, this email from former CND agitator Liz Hutchins who is currently working for the Political and Legal Unit of Friends Of The Earth – as leaked via Guido.
In it, Hutchins writes to various fellow left-wing charity bods suggesting various ways they can punish Newmark.
These vary from the template for a suggested letter…
Dear Minister/ Dear editor,
It was very ill-considered for you/the Minister for Civil Society to tell charities to “stick to their knitting”.We are pleased that you have/ he has clarified your/his view that “charities absolutely have the right to campaign but should stay out of the realm of party politics”.
Charities, by law, cannot and do not take part in party politics and it is misleading to suggest this is a problem that needs to be tackled. We are proud to be party politically independent and to speak truth to power – even if that is uncomfortable for politicians.
The Lobbying Act, coming in to force on 19 September, was opposed by over 150 charities and campaign groups – from Cancer UK to the Quakers, Water Aid to WWF. We are concerned that it contains provisions that may well limit the ability of charities and other organisations to speak out on some of the most important policy issues facing the country and the planet.
From women’s suffrage to stopping the sell-off of our forests, campaigning on politically contentious issues is vital to democracy and to Governments making the right decisions. No ill-considered new laws or comments by ministers should stop charities and campaign groups from this important work.
Signed lots of NGOs..
…to some suggested ways to harass Newmark on social media.
If you can take a photo of yourself knitting that would be great. (We actually have a box of knitting in the Edinburgh office. It turns out charities really do like knitting!) If you can’t get hold of any knitting a text tweet will do! Just remember the hashtag! Some examples:
In between knitting, I like to help solve youth unemployment in Scotland. #stickingtomyknitting
After a hard day’s knitting, I like nothing better than to help get disempowered people get online #stickingtomyknitting
European Funding Policy is fun and all, but I’d rather be knitting! #stickingtomyknitting
These techniques are, of course, classic Saul Alinsky. (“Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, polarize it”). Newmark is being singled out here for an orchestrated bullying campaign (masquerading as an authentic, unprompted, grassroots response) designed both to intimidate him and ridicule him as well as to act as a shot across the bows of any fellow politician tempted to take his side.
No doubt the likes of Hutchins are cooking up similar campaigns all the time. (And if I were in her line of business, I’d definitely give her a job. Her ability to say things like “we are proud to be politically independent” with a straight face and without demons automatically dragging her screaming down to hell deserves the same grudging respect you’d accord, say, a serial killer with a particularly memorable ‘signature’.) The only difference is that on this occasion we have seen the bare bones of this widespread but largely secret practice exposed.
In case you don’t find any of this problematic let’s recap.
Liz Hutchins is a hard-left political activist working for an anti-capitalist, deep green eco charity whose raison d’etre is to lobby the government for more state assaults on personal freedom, more regulation, higher taxes and greater constrictions on free markets in the name of saving the environment. Her charity’s greatest triumph? The moment when FoE’s Bryony Worthington got to write the draft policy document which eventually became the 2008 Climate Change Act, committing the UK taxpayer to spending £18.2 billion a year till 2050 “decarbonising” the UK economy.
Much of FoE’s income – as is the case for many similar “Fake Charities” – comes not from private donations but from government handouts. For example in 2008, FoE was paid more than £150,000 by the Department of Environment Food and Rural Affairs to produce a poster campaign lobbying the government for more action on climate change. Its sister organisation FoE Europe receives 50 per cent of its funding from the European Union which pays it – you guessed – to lobby the EU to take more action on climate change.
A Conservative MP – Brooks Newmark – becomes understandably concerned by all this.
And the left-wing charities sector responds as only the left-wing charities sector knows how: with bullying; with astroturfing; with moral posturing; with social media monstering.
Before the Lobbying Act comes into force on 19th September may I propose an amendment? Can’t we just have done with it and close down these fake charities altogether?