Little at Large: Schools debate rumbles on: is Borat a public benefit?

The debate about the charitable status of public schools in the Scottish Parliament last week found Labour MSP George Foulkes in a combative mood.

He accused public schools of perpetuating class divisions and backed the call of Stephen Maxwell, associate director of the SCVO and a member of the Scottish National Party, for a review of charities law. This was a red rag to the SNP's Fergus Ewing, who felt compelled to bring up Foulkes's alma mater, Haberdashers' Aske's public school.

"Members will be interested to learn that, along with comedian David Baddiel and actor and Borat creator Sacha Baron Cohen, Lord Foulkes is a notable old Haberdasher," he noted wryly. Which does raise the question of whether the activities of those educated by public schools should be considered when assessing their charitable character. Is Borat a public benefit?

Being a fundraiser for emotive causes must sometimes feel like ambulance chasing (unless you are a fundraiser for an air ambulance charity, in which case you are an ambulance chaser). In central London last week, one charity was shaking tins at witnesses moments after a man shot himself. The victim was named as Kenneth Branagh, who blew his brains out on the stage of Wyndham's Theatre at the conclusion of Anton Chekhov's Ivanov. The canny charity was the Actors' Benevolent Fund.

A non-profit organisation, ShareLiverpoolFC, is bidding to buy Liverpool Football Club from American owners George Gillet and Tom Hicks. With an annual turnover of £122m, the club would make an interesting addition to the sector. But the inclusion in salary surveys of Steven Gerrard, the club's star midfielder, who reportedly earns about £6m a year, would surely skew the results a bit.

 - Mathew Little is a freelance writer mathew.little@haymarket.com

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