The recently appointed Minister for Charities, Brooks Newmark, has said: “We really want to try and keep charities and voluntary groups out of the realms of politics. 99.9 per cent do exactly that. When they stray into the realm of politics that is not what they are about and that is not why people give them money. The important thing charities should be doing is sticking to their knitting and doing the best they can to promote their agenda, which should be about helping others.”
In order to write this post I have had to put down my knitting needles, and dare to become one of 0.1%.
Yes, I have sinned. I have deviated into the realm of politics. I repent. I had a small input into the work of the Centre for Social Justice whose Breakthrough Britain 2015 work is launched tomorrow. As CSJ’s director, Christian Guy, said on twitter earlier this evening: “Our Breakthrough Britain 2015 work seeks to put most disadvantaged in the UK centre stage in British politics & build second chance society.”
Breakthrough Britain 2015 is an excellent piece of work, drawing from the experience of many hundreds of members of the CSJ Alliance of charities, one of the best such networks in the country. But clearly, in Brooks Newmark’s view, they were wrong to have helped CSJ put disadvantaged people centre stage of British politics. Perhaps they should have stuck to knitting.
I have frequently said that I thought the Conservative’s drug strategy was excellent, in the same measure as I think the Conservative’s Work Programme has been a disaster. I do not say this to be pro or anti Conservative. I say it because people’s lives are at stake and public funds are being squandered. Perhaps I should have stuck to knitting.
Of course charities should not step into the party political arena, but it is a shallow view of the world, and one that ill-becomes a Minister of the Crown, and the Charities Minister more so, that they cannot differentiate between being party political, and wanting to be tough on poverty and on the causes of poverty. (Note to self: that’s a bit New Labour. Stick to knitting).
I hope Brooks Newmark will realise that on this occasion he should have stuck to his own knitting. He should take a leaf out of his predecessor’s book. Nick Hurd, Conservative and a non-knitter, was well respected, listened to the social sector, engaged with us, challenged us, respected us. In return we listened to him and he enjoyed our respect.
I am reminded of the Latin American priest, Dom Helder Camara, who said: “When I feed the hungry, they call me a saint. When I ask why they are hungry, they call me a communist”.
With that, I’ll get back to knitting a woolly hammer and sickle.