Editorial: Happy mondays for the man in the street

Stephen Cook, editor

A smart idea, a boost to charity income and an intriguing piece of social research: the new charity lottery, monday, manages to be all of these things at once. It also has a great name, redolent of the Mamas and the Papas or - in a harsher mood - the Boomtown Rats. Camelot has every right to feel a bit nervous - as do the various National Lottery distributors.

Tim Holley, the chairman of monday, used to run Camelot, and it's a fair bet that the new organisation makes good use of inside knowledge. This could well include feedback that some National Lottery players feel frustrated that they can't know or control the charity to which the 'good cause' slice of their ticket money will go - those decisions are made by the various distributors. And if the 'man in the street' sees those decisions criticised or lampooned by the tabloid press - asylum seekers and Peruvian guinea pig farmers come to mind - then the frustration of some parts of the public may only increase.

Monday slices through all this. What you see is what you get - or, rather, what you get to support. The logos of five charities from its 70 current partners sit at the side of the web page as you choose your numbers, and you choose one of the five charities as well. It cuts out the middleman and includes at a stroke the element that the Big Lottery Fund, prompted by culture secretary Tessa Jowell, has been struggling to provide through initiatives such as the People's Millions. That element, first proposed by the Conservatives, is a consumer choice of sorts.

Of course, the money that monday will give to charities is a good thing - it's no wonder that charities want to join and that those already on the list don't want to hear any criticism. But we should recognise that its declared 'man in the street' criteria are likely to favour fairly mainstream causes and well-known names that, in many cases, already do fairly well in the fundraising battle.

Having said that, monday does include beneficiaries that some men in the street might to a certain extent shy away from, such as the Mental Health Foundation and the green student outfit People and Planet. It will be interesting to see who else comes on board.

What will be even more interesting, however, is the way monday's players exercise their choice of charity. It's a popularity contest of the kind we've never really seen before, and therein lies the social research.

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