Charities warned over election support

The Charity Commission has written to more than a dozen Muslim charities reminding them that they are not permitted to support political candidates after their names were included in an open letter supporting Ken Livingstone's bid to be re-elected as Mayor of London.

The letter, which was organised by the anti-Islamophobia group the British Muslim Initiative, was posted on The Guardian’s Comment is Free blog on 3 January.

It read: “We the undersigned believe that it is in the best interest of the Muslim communities of London, and indeed all Londoners, to back Mr Livingstone in this year’s mayoral elections.” It was signed by members of 63 organisations, including 16 charities.

The commission received several complaints that the letter breached charity law, which forbids charities from supporting political candidates or parties.

The commission told Third Sector: “The British Muslim Initiative has assured us that the individuals who signed the letter did so as private individuals rather than representing the charities’ views. The initiative has now made this clear on its website, and we have written to the charities involved to advise them on the type of political activity a charity can be involved in.”

In a letter to a complainant, the commission also says that one of the signatories identifies itself as a charity on its website, despite being unregistered.

The letter says: “The East African Society, which claimed to be a charity, does not show on our records. We have therefore contacted them advising them of the minimum legal requirements for registration or, if they are not charitable, to remove the word ‘charity’ from any literature.”

Third Sector was unable to contact the East African Society. Its website is no longer active.

Electoral ambitions

Meanwhile, Matt O’Connor, the founder of controversial campaigning group Fathers4Justice, has been selected as the official candidate of the English Democrats Party for the London mayoral elections.

O’Connor founded Fathers4Justice in 2003 to highlight the difficulty he and many estranged fathers have in gaining legal access to their children.

The pressure group’s publicity stunts, including powder-bombing MPs in the House of Commons and members handcuffing themselves to government ministers, meant it was never far from the headlines.

O’Connor temporarily disbanded the organisation in January 2006 after reports of an alleged plot by members to kidnap Leo Blair, the son of the then Prime Minister, Tony Blair. Three months later, members stormed the BBC’s live National Lottery show.

Last year, O’Connor announced that he was putting £10,000 of his own money into the Future Heroes Project, which aims to distribute £1m over the next five years to projects working with disadvantaged children.

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