Right-wing blogger attacks political neutrality of Citizens Advice


That’s right – the Citizens Advice Bureau has come under attack from the right-wing Guido Fawkes blog, which is trying to create a story about a haven of “Labour apparatchiks”, operating a politicised agenda behind a mask of neutrality. The email extract above is being presented as justification.

What utter codswallop!

The claim is that the charity, which helps people resolve their legal, money and other problems by providing free, independent and confidential advice, pushes a left-wing or Labour-supporting agenda because it is “stuffed full” of Labour members like “former Miliband aide and Labour candidate Polly Billington”.

In fact, a quick glance through the very email being waved around as evidence is enough to prove the opposite. It leaves no doubt that Ms Billington is leaving her role in Citizens Advice precisely because she knows that taking up her political activities would create a conflict of interest if she were to remain. It’s there in black and white.

The email states: “Polly and I have been thinking carefully about how to make sure this is a smooth transition, so that the campaigns and communications teams are fully supported… and both THE REALITY and perception of our political neutrality are maintained” [boldings and CAPS mine].

That’s right – the intention is to maintain THE REALITY of the charity’s political neutrality.

How did Guido report it? She “has been moved from the front line … so that the ‘perception of our political neutrality’ is ‘maintained’. This is an extremely clumsy misinterpretation because, as noted above, the email refers very clearly to THE REALITY of the charity’s political neutrality.

Indeed, the CAB Code of Conduct prohibits any politicisation of the kind suggested by Guido: “Trustees and committee members must comply with… the avoidance of activities which might compromise Citizens Advice’s political neutrality.”

So where Guido‘s article continues: “Meanwhile, the charity has just hired the Resolution Foundation’s James Plunkett as its new head of campaigns. That would be the same James Plunkett who used to work for Gordon Brown and who has written a string of articles for the Guardian laying into the Tories and “the cuts”. Wonder how they will maintain his ‘perception of political neutrality’,” again it is spouting nonsense. He will be tied into political neutrality by the same code of conduct that ties everybody else in positions of authority, including members of CAB trustee boards across the United Kingdom who may be supporters of the Conservative, Labour, Green or any other party in their personal life, including this writer.

Since the article is clearly trying to suggest the CAB’s political neutrality is only a front, it seems clear that CAB has every right to sue Guido into oblivion – or at least seek compensation for the intended damage to the charity’s reputation.

This seems like another attempt to claim left-wing political bias that isn’t there, in order to install exactly the same kind of sympathy towards the right-wing parties instead – for an example of this strategy, look at the BBC.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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  1. NMac December 19, 2014 at 1:53 pm - Reply

    The hatred and bile from the Nasty Party knows no bounds.

  2. Peter Rogers December 19, 2014 at 2:08 pm - Reply

    Any appearance the CAB might have of a left-leaning bias is probably down to the amount of issues they have to advise people on that are caused by the ConDems

  3. fathomie December 19, 2014 at 2:37 pm - Reply

    Having dealt with CAB on a professional basis for years, there is no Political bias among the staff at all. To be fair, members have included Tory and Liberals in the past, yet there has never been a lean to the right either. Cab staff are normally volunteers, often retired, and need to be educated and have sufficient empathy to be able to work with people who often have severe learning and other difficulties. I’m not trying to paint them as ‘saints’, but they do a difficult job, on their own time, and under quite a lot of pressure. I haven’t heard, in conversation with the staff, any mention of the politics of the day. They are focused on sorting out their clients issues, not trying to score political points. Tbh, attacking CAB is a new low even for the Right. Still, the Foodbanks have been attacked, charities abused, no doubt the Samaritans will be next. Anyone who highlights the plight of the poorest off will come under increasing attack as we approach the election.

  4. Andy Birtwistle December 19, 2014 at 2:41 pm - Reply

    The Right’s nastiness knows no bounds and as they are running scared at the moment they are getting even more vicious.They will turn up the heat constantly as the election draws closer.The recent attack on the BBC was the tip of the iceberg.Expect anything and anybody with a liberal agenda to come under pressure.

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