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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

TFN is published by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, Mansfield Traquair Centre, 15 Mansfield Place, Edinburgh, EH3 6BB. The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) is a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation. Registration number SC003558.

Demands for charity CEO and Labour candidate to quit immediately

 

Party's stance on Palestine is incompatible with charity's mission say staff and donors

Pressure is mounting on a leading charity chief to resign after she was selected as Labour candidate for Cowdenbeath and Kirkcaldy.

Melanie Ward, from Helensburgh, has taken leave of absence from UK relief charity Medical Aid for Palestinians but faces calls to immediately quit from staff and volunteers because of Labour’s stance on Israel’s attack on Gaza, according to Middle East Eye.

Ward was selected to contest the seat after prospective candidate Wilma Brown was suspended by the party for liking and sharing offensive posts on social media.

However, campaigners are furious that the charity is endorsing Ward after Labour leader Keir Starmer publicly backed Israel's military campaign and has opposed a permanent ceasefire in Gaza.

A letter sent to the charity’s trustees has been signed by some 2,250 people, many of them prominent pro-Palestine campaigners, and including the charity's own healthcare workers, medical volunteers, supporters and donors, detailing concerns that MAP does not currently have a permanent CEO at a time when people in Gaza are facing an unprecedented crisis.

The signatories also criticise the charity for backing Ward’s candidacy citing Starmer’s stance on Palestine.

They demand Ward immediately resigns and have called on Sarah Eldon, chair of the board of trustees, to step down also.

Ward previously stood for Labour in Scotland at the 2015 election but lost to the SNP. 

She responded by saying she wanted attacks on the charity to stop.

“My views on the situation in Gaza are clear and are on the public record,” she said.

“If elected, I would likely be one of the few MPs who has been to Gaza and personally witnessed Israel’s horrific war there, since it began eight months ago.

"The situation faced by the Palestinian people is, at its root, a political one and we need more British politicians who really understand it and who want to bring about change. I would be one of them.  

“I would urge people to stop targeting MAP’s staff and volunteers and allow them to focus on their vital work providing lifesaving aid.

“I am currently on a leave of absence from MAP, as is normal practice amongst most of the other charity leaders also standing for Parliament in this election.”

MAP’s board of trustees said in a statement to supporters: “Just as other charities in a similar position, we place employees on a leave of absence in the event that they run for political office.

“Since becoming an election candidate, the CEO has had no involvement in operational decision-making at the charity; and as with any candidate who becomes a Member of Parliament, if elected, our current CEO will not be able to continue in the role.”

The added: “Our focus and our resources are invested in our mission to uphold the rights to health, dignity, and justice for all Palestinian people. 

“We recognise and value the heartfelt dedication of our supporters to the cause that MAP serves. We share that commitment and are grateful for the solidarity and support you have shown to our charity and its staff at this most difficult time.”

Gerry O’Hare, a cancer nurse from Glasgow who has volunteered with MAP in Gaza for the last five years, said he has written two letters to the board in protest.

“It saddens me profoundly that the MAP leadership, despite warnings, failed to act to prevent damage to MAP’s reputation caused by their CEO having such clear alignment and political ambitions with the Labour Party,” he said. 

 

Comments

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Gareth Morgan
25 days ago

I share these concerns as someone who has made significant donations to MAP over many years. I have a huge respect for the charity and for other politicians such as Dr Phlippa Whitford who had volunteered extensively for the charity.

But I find it very hard to see how Melanie Ward feels able to stand for Labour at the present time, especially in a Scottish seat when it is the pro-independent Scottish MPs and MSPs (SNP, Scottish Greens and Alba) who have taken the strongest stance on Gaza.

I also note that MAP's HQ is in London (it isn't even registered as a charity in Scotland) and I assume Ms Ward is normally based there.

Having said that, I agree that charity CEOs shouldn't be discouraged from standing for election, and taking a leave of absence from the charity is the right course of action - the trustees of MAP could hardly have prevented her from standing.

But whether or not she is elected, I think MAP will soon be looking for a new CEO - which is sad as she is generally regarded as doing a good job for the charity.