Friday 12 September 2014

What Brooks Newmark's comments about charities tell us about the Tory mentality

I know that saying "I told you so" is hardly a dignified thing to do, sometimes it's just impossible not to.

When the Tories first tabled thierhe so-called "Transparency of Lobbying, Non-party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill" many were quick to point out that the bill actually exempts the vast majority of corporate lobbying organisations from any kind of scrutiny at all, and that the second part of the bill looked as if it had been specifically designed to censor charities, community groups, protest campaigns, trade unions and religious organisations. Hence the TOLNPCATUA bill soon became known as "The Gagging Bill".

I was one of the many independent journalists to speak out about this rotten piece of legislation, and I wasn't alone. The campaign group 38 Degrees ran a high profile campaign against itThe National Council For Voluntary Organisations and hundreds of other charities spoke out against it, the Trade Union Congress condemned it, and even the Electoral Commission (the body responsible for policing these draconian new censorship rules) warned that the Gagging Bill would undermine freedom of speech.

The Tory party and the bulk of the mainstream press ignored all of these concerns, or glibly dismissed them as conspiracy theorising. Leading Tories were wheeled out to repeatedly assure us that the TOLNPCATUA bill was not a "Gagging Bill" and that they had no intention of censoring charities. Here's are a few examples of these repeated Tory assurances that the bill was not designed to silence charities and voluntary organisations:
"We’re not setting out in any sense to constrain any charity or organisation who wants to campaign on policy issues" Andrew Lansley [source]
"It was never our intention to prevent anyone from conducting their normal range of charitable and policy-based activity" Andrew Lansley [source]
"The legislation will not affect the majority of charities and other campaigning organisations." David Cameron [source]
It's worth noting that David Cameron is the man who promised that the NHS would be safe in his hands, and that there would be "no more top-down reorganisations of the NHS", and that Andrew Lansley was the man who was drawing up the secret plan to launch the biggest top-down reorganisation of the NHS whilst Cameron was making all of those misleading pre-election promises about his intentions towards the NHS.

In December 2013 I wrote an article highlighting the implications of Iain Duncan Smith's furious tirade against the Trussell Trust, in which he whinged bitterly about their efforts to prove a causal link between his welfare reforms and the exponential rise in food bank dependency. The manner in which Iain Duncan Smith ranted at the Trussell Trust about how they should keep out of politics made it absolutely clear that the Tories hate the idea of being held to account by charities and voluntary organisations, and strongly suggested that the motivation behind the 
TOLNPCATUA bill was, as so many people were claiming, the desire to force charities and voluntary organisations out of the political sphere.
    Despite the numerous complaints against the bill, and the campaigns against it, it was passed into law in January 2014.

It just goes to show how much contempt the Tories have for the public that within eight months of the Gagging Bill being passed into law, David Cameron's new charities minister Brooks Newmark stated that:

"We really want to try and keep charities and voluntary groups out of the realms of politics ... the important thing charities should be doing is sticking to their knitting"
So after all of those assurances that they had no plans to prevent charities and voluntary organisations from holding politicians to account, their own charities minister openly admits that this is exactly what he considers his job to be.

Brooks Newmark's statement about keeping charities and voluntary organisations out of politics was that undeniable "I told you" moment, but I got no sense of satisfaction from it, because in order to have correctly predicted that something bad was going to happen, something bad must have happened.

Brooks Newmark's views on his role as charities minister reveals the underlying Tory hatred of the idea of being held to account by voluntary organisations. These people clearly believe that politics is solely for career politicians like them, and for the private interests that want to continue lobbying them in secrecy. They don't want "the lower orders" to have any involvement in politics at all other than turning up once every five years to put a cross next to the least bad option on the ballot paper.

This Tory conception that politics is for the privileged elite, and that ordinary people and voluntary organisations should be prevented from participation just goes to show how afraid they are. If the elite running politics, and the plebs not worrying their pretty little heads over serious things was the natural order of the universe, then there would have been no need for the Gagging Bill, and Brooks Newmark would never have spelled out the Tory duty to keep ordinary people "out of the realms of politics".

The privileged Tory minority are right to be afraid. They know that we massively outnumber them, and that if we stood in solidarity against their greed, their corruption and their outright malice against the most vulnerable in society, we could easily consign them to the dustbin of history.

Only time will tell if the ordinary people of the UK have the sense and the strength of purpose to come together and overthrow the corrupt establishment minority, or whether decades of exposure to right-wing media has turned us into a nation of docile and compliant halfwits, who are more likely to get upset about "scroungers" and immigrants at the bottom of society than the corrupt establishment minority at the top.

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