Chris Grayling says campaign groups "hide behind a veneer of neutral non-partisanship"
A senior government minister fired a salvo against charities and campaign groups for criticising government policy.
Justice secretary Chris Grayling said he was worried some groups “hide behind a veneer of neutral non-partisanship” in their campaigning and claimed some were too closely linked to the Labour Party.
In a national newspaper article – in which he singled out law reform charity the Howard League for criticism – Grayling said: “Britain’s professional campaigners are growing in number: sending emails around the country, flocking around Westminster, dominating BBC programmes and usually articulating a left-wing vision that is neither affordable nor deliverable – and wholly at odds with the long-term economic plan this government has worked so hard to put in place.
"An extraordinary number, moreover, are drawn from the ranks of the Labour Party. If you read through the CVs of its candidates in 2015, a substantial proportion have worked for pressure groups and as trade union campaigners.
"It’s now the career route of choice: they can use that platform to attack this government and make their name, lining up alongside former special advisers, MPs and councillors to argue for more spending, or to spread scare stories that are often exaggerated or wholly untrue."
You have to wonder why some senior Westminster figures are so touchy about this – is it because there are areas upon which they don’t want any light shed? - Martin Sime SCVO
Grayling’s intervention is the latest in a series of attacks on the charity sector from senior Westminster figures.
Tory MP Conor Burns complained to the Charity Commission in England and Wales over Oxfam’s Perfect Storm campaign, which highlighted deprivation caused by austerity policies.
Burns said the charity was being “overtly political” in its criticisms.
It was also claimed that Conservative MP Andrew Selous, an aide to work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith, told Trussell Trust chair Chris Mould that the government might try to close the foodbank charity because of its anti-poverty campaigning.
In Scotland, MSPs have been challenged to protect the right of the third sector to campaign against and criticise government policy and the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) has spoken out against the new UK lobbying act, which has been seen as a means of suppressing dissent.
SCVO’ chief executive Martin Sime said: “It is essential that charities and campaign groups can continue to campaign and to criticise and hold governments to account.
“You have to wonder why some senior Westminster figures are so touchy about this – is it because there are areas upon which they don’t want any light shed?”