Editorial: Big Ben showed law is no barrier to effectiveness

Tania Mason

This week, the Charity Commission made the announcement that its thinking has "evolved".

Instead of requiring charities to be just "well-run", as it once did, it now expects them to be "effective". Six hallmarks of what constitutes an effective charity can now be perused on the commission's website. Not surprisingly, five of the six new hallmarks mention the importance of charities staying within the law.

While admittedly it is not a registered charity, no campaigning group has been more effective in getting a point across to the Government and the public in the past month, than Greenpeace.

The two activists who scaled Big Ben early on the morning of the global anti-war demonstrations on 20 March and unfurled a 'Time for Truth' banner, got their picture on TV screens and the front pages of newspapers all over the country and beyond. But more importantly, both they and the banner were an uncomfortable reminder to the Government of the voting public's scepticism over the reasons for invading Iraq.

As a result of the stunt, and the subsequent questions about the effectiveness of the security around the Houses of Parliament, Greenpeace got acres of media coverage - more than it has garnered in many months. While it had also made the news during the same period for trying, and failing, to get the Attorney-General's advice on the legality of the Iraq war heard in court, it was the clock-climbers that ensured the invasion of Iraq was returned to the top of news agenda.

While stepping outside the law to get a message across is, quite rightly, regarded by most campaigning groups as a last resort, there is no denying that Greenpeace's actions on 20 March tick all the rest of the boxes for effectiveness.

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