Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Is the Smith Institute history?

Well, I watched this 12 minute broadcast by Iain Dale on 18 Doughty Street. It is devastating.

The Smith Institute is a charity. As such it gets certain benefits, (see this article for more)

A charity is supposed to do things for the public good. It can engage in political activity such as advocating particular policies. Fair enough. Amnesty international does that all the time, as do Oxfam and numerous other charities. What they are not allowed to do is to be politically partisan. As in supporting one party or politician.

On it's website the Smith Institute claims to:
"The Smith Institute is an independent think tank, which has been set up to undertake research and education in issues that flow from the changing relationship between social values and economic imperatives. In recent years the Institute has centred its work on the policy implications arising from the interactions of equality, enterprise and equity."

Fair enough. Can't argue with that.

However watching Iain Dale's report is shocking. It details meetings held by the Smith Institute which are clearly partisan, for example Bob Schrum setting out way of dealing with and attacking David Cameron. If that is not politically partisan I don't know what is.

Of course as MiniTrue points out here there is a potential get out for the Smith Institute in that it may not have organised the event, it may have got a company called SI Events, wholly owned by the Smith Institute, to organise the meeting. In many ways that would circumvent the need to be nonpartisan.

However that question does need to be answered, (was it SI events or not?) after all it is possible that they overlooked something. I expect the Charity Commission to have a look. The other question has to be why oh why the Smith Institute gets so much more access to No 11 than everyone else put together. (Apart from Gordon Brown that is).

2 comments:

Watching Them, Watching Us said...

A charity is supposed to do things for the public good. It can engage in political activity such as advocating particular policies. Fair enough. Amnesty international does that all the time, as do Oxfam and numerous other charities. What they are not allowed to do is to be politically partisan. As in supporting one party or politician.


Amnesty International is not a charity under English law:

http://amnesty.org.uk/content.asp?CategoryID=10098

Even if the "Sith Institute" loses its charitable status, how likely is it that Gordon Brown would do the honourable thing and resign ?

Benedict White said...

Thanks for the info about Amnesty, though obviously charities are allowed to advocate policy.

How likely is it that a Labour politician would do the honourable thing? Very very unlikely!