Little at Large: One man's beneficiary is another man's dross

The sector gets so many sickly love letters from politicians that it's refreshing when one puts the boot in.

Step forward Rob Gibson, irascible Scottish National Party MSP for Highlands and Islands, who weighed in during a debate on the voluntary sector in the Scottish Parliament last week.

"I am sorry to say that, this morning, we have heard only the usual tear-jerking stuff about vulnerable and disadvantaged people," he declared. The SNP government had "lifted the lid on the sector", he went on, and "we are now seeing where the valuable parts are and where the dross is". Umbrella body the SCVO, which represents the dross and the good bits, said it was concerned with the tone of Gibson's remarks and had asked for a meeting.

- Charities might not cut the mustard in the Outer Hebrides, but they are still all the rage in Downing Street. Prime Minister Gordon Brown used his US trip to promise a big role for UK charities in "enlarging the Anglosphere" (the what?). He announced that regulators on both sides of the Atlantic were working together to "make it clear how to register a charity here in Britain and qualify for tax benefits". Charities here might wonder not only about his influence over independent regulators, but also why he is encouraging American rivals to set up shop and fundraise on their patch. Perhaps politicians haven't yet realised that charities don't cooperate - they compete.

- Boris Johnson has accused Ken Livingstone and Brian Paddick, his rivals in the London mayoral election race, of "ignoring the voluntary sector". The reason? They didn't show up for a debate on the sector at Iain Duncan Smith's think tank the Centre for Social Justice last week. Surely that's just a case of ignoring The Quiet Man and the Conservative Party?

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