OPINION: Does charity make you naff?

Peter Stanford, a writer and broadcaster. He chaired the trustees of the national disability charity Aspire and now sits on various trustee boards

Do any of you remember Lesley Judd? After Valerie Singleton and before all those ones I am too middle youth to have watched, she was the female face of Blue Peter. There was something slightly cheesy about her - too nice, too smiley under her perfect blonde bob for our adolescent sensibilities, so we started using her surname, "judd", as an adjective. It was a rough equivalent for the more contemporary "naff".

I have been worrying about being judd recently. There are two principal sources of anxiety - one a piece I wrote for a broadsheet about getting my children to put together a box of toys to send to the children's hospital in Angola I mentioned here recently; the other an interview I gave for a three-minute Channel 4 film on the same subject.

My wife never understands why I insist on reading my own articles when they appear. I know what they say, she points out, but down there in black and white they often take on a different complexion. A potentially judd complexion in the case of the newspaper article. It all sounds slightly holier-than-thou, doing my bit for a better world, colonising the moral high ground. I am blushing as I think about it.

The perception that you must be good and wholesome if you work for a charity is something all of us have encountered. It cuts both ways. It damns charities as apart from the real world, but it is kind of nice to be seen as principled. Equally the idea that, as a trustee, you do it for nothing makes you some kind of freak in our society where most things are judged by what they're worth. Perhaps that's why we do it.

At a time when our political leaders do whatever they like regardless of our views, when we feel powerless over so many of the things that are carried out in our name, it is a way of saying "hold on a minute". Freakish, perhaps, but let's admit that there is a self-serving aspect in there too.

So perhaps I can spare my own blushes but the Channel 4 film is definitely out of bounds.

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