I was asked to write a short comment for The Guardian, about Osborne’s attack on charities. But they’re not going to use it – so, here it is:
Legislation to stop charity lobbying, recent comments from Osborne, and the Minister for Civil Society telling charities to stick to their knitting all suggest the Conservatives don’t like charities.
It’s especially odd when you remember that Osborne, like many of the current government, was educated by a charity. Private schools, as charities, benefit from tax breaks which mean they’re effectively subsidised by the state.
That’s a reminder of how embedded in British society charities really are. They’re everywhere. They’re there when we need them, supporting schools and hospitals, but they’re also there for the good things – the arts, our historic buildings and our countryside are all better because of the work of charity. And charities provide less tangible benefits too, bringing people together, reducing isolation, bettering people’s health and increasing community cohesion. There’s even a charity dedicated to supporting the Conservative Party’s finances. Charity and giving are long traditions, and they’re what put the ‘Great’ in Britain.
In 2011, after I started #riotcleanup, Cameron singled me out in his Party Conference speech and later described my work around volunteering as showing ‘the Best of British’. And his great project, The Big Society, was all about being charitable, giving time and money to do good things. It’s deeply worrying that a Conservative government which did so much to support charity, and oversaw the first rise in volunteering since 2005, has now turned against the people it encouraged. It’ll be interesting to see how 20 million volunteers use their votes!