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Greg Clark MP: Labour turns to charity for funds

Clark_greg_2 Greg Clark MP is Shadow Minister for Charities.

On Friday the Charity Commission revealed that the Labour Party accepted £15,000 in political donations from a charity devoted to running breakfast and after-school clubs for underprivileged children (see here).

Taking money from a children's charity marks a new low in the depths to which Labour's increasingly desperate search for funds has descended.  It is illegal for charities to make donations to political parties.  As a result of the Charity Commission's inquiry, Labour has had to repay the £15,000 it accepted from the charity concerned, Catz Club.

Two fundamental questions arise: how could Labour think it was acceptable to take money from a charity, and, why did the charity consider it appropriate to donate money to Labour? The answers to these questions are highly revealing of the culture that now pervades Labour's relationship with the outside world.

On the first question, I expected that Labour would have claimed that it accepted money from a charity inadvertently, and regretted making such a crass error.  Not a bit of it.  Far from being apologetic, a Labour spokesman said:

"The Labour Party did nothing wrong in accepting this donation, which is allowed under party funding rules."

It seems that Labour was fully aware that it was accepting donations from a charity, and returned the money only when the Charity Commission intervened to point out that this was an illegal act for the charity. That the Labour Party can see nothing wrong with taking money from a charity for underprivileged children needs no further comment.

The answer to the second question - why a lottery-funded charity thought it reasonable to make a donation to the Labour Party – is also remarkable in what it reveals about the devalued culture of this government.  As well as donating £7,500 directly, Catz Club paid £7,500 for its executives to attend Labour's Sports Dinner – the party's lavish fundraising event at Wembley.  They defended this as reasonable because it allowed them to:

"engage with and lobby senior politicians to encourage increased funding for after school childcare activities".

When a children's charity finds that the best way to express its views on children's policy to government ministers is to donate to the Labour Party and buy its way into Labour fundraising events, it shows how remote this Government has become from the openness and new politics that it once promised.

There are more questions to be answered in this affair.  Who in the Labour Party sanctioned the decision to accept money from charities? Is it relevant that the person listed as being responsible for fundraising on Catz Club's website, Amanda Delew, is Labour's former Director of High Value Fundraising? Catz Club has received significant amounts of public funds both through the National Lottery and from government departments – what role have Labour ministers had in the decisions to grant public funds to this organisation?

During the days ahead, I will be pressing for answers to these questions.  But already this affair tells us much about the culture and attitude that pervades Labour in government.

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