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Department of Double Standards: According to the Telegraph, the left-wing Institute of Public Policy Research is being investigated by the Charity Commission because of its connections with the last Labour government.
The Torygraph reckons half of Gordon Brown’s special advisers now work for charities or “supposedly neutral” thinktanks, many of which now lobby the Coalition government.
“There is increasing concern among Conservatives that charities and thinktanks are being used as vehicles for a pro-Labour agenda,” the paper crowed.
On the face of it, it may seem reasonable for charities to be investigated for putting forward partisan opinions as they should remain politically neutral.
Thinktanks like the IPPR, on the other hand, are entirely free to put forward any political philosophy they choose; it’s part of their reason for existing.
But what about when a Conservative government minister actually employs, as his special adviser on policy, a person who is not only already an employee of a right-leaning government thinktank – set up by the minister himself – but actually co-founded it with him?
Step forward Philippa Stroud, who co-founded the Centre for Social Justice alongside Iain Duncan Smith in 2004, as a right-wing research and lobby group. When Mr… Smith became a government minister in 2010, he appointed her as his policy special adviser, even though she was still employed by the CSJ as co-chair of its ‘board of advisers’.
The special advisers’ code of conduct stipulates that they “should not receive benefits of any kind which others might reasonably see as compromising their personal judgment or integrity”.
An annex to the code, titled the Seven Principles of Public Life, adds: “Holders of public office should not place themselves under any financial or other obligation to outside individuals or organisations that might seek to influence them in the performance of their official duties.”
The code also makes clear that ministers making such appointments, in this case Mr… Smith himself, are held responsible for their advisers’ conduct.
So Philippa Stroud, a prominent member of the Conservative Party, took public money on top of her own salary and had a job as a senior member of a pressure group that tries to influence his department, when her role within that department was to give him advice on what to do.
That’s a conflict of interest, right there.
Oh, but the arrangement was cleared by the DWP and the Cabinet Office, both of which are currently headed by members of the Conservative Party, with no mention made of any conflict of interest they might have been enduring at the time.
Chris Grayling, writing in the Telegraph, claimed: “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 which 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.”
Sauce for the goose, Mr Grayling!
If it’s fine for a Conservative Party member and special adviser to Iain Duncan Smith to be employed by a thinktank that foists right-wing policy views on the government, then it should be perfectly acceptable for Labour Party members to be employed by thinktanks too.
In fact it is clear that the Labour members are committing the lesser of the two evils.
The moral: If you’re going to accuse your enemy of cheating, make sure you’re not doing it yourself.
Also: Chris Grayling is a fool.
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