OPINION: Shout louder, charity minister

So farewell Clare Short. I've always had a soft spot for someone in public life so obviously incapable of holding her tongue. Sometimes the result was self-indulgence, but there was always a gem or two in there.

Witness her resignation speech to the Commons. It had little of Robin Cook's cold, forensic power, but amid the bluster, she managed to articulate concerns about the direction of this Government that many of its natural supporters are feeling.

Colleagues who work in development charities are mourning Short's resignation as a minister. The partnership that we all endlessly talk about between the Government and the voluntary sector has long been a fact of life in overseas development. With Short at the Cabinet table (unlike previous Tory ministers with the same brief), the newly created Department for International Development brought to that already functioning model a passion, a populism and a political weight that, by all accounts, reaped substantial rewards.

She has been an excellent example of what a larger-than-life minister can do for an otherwise neglected area of government. And that set me thinking. We currently have an exceptionally nice minister responsible for the charitable sector, but so seldom does he raise his head, and by association ours, above the parapet that I'm afraid I've forgotten his name in the few short weeks since he appeared in Third Sector's anniversary issue. How much more progress might have been made on questions like partnership, service delivery, the fate of the lottery, the direction of social policy and financial incentives to donors had there been someone in his place with Short's profile?

It is impossible to gauge, but let's dream. There would be, I am sure, huge benefits in having a minister for charities with real clout and enough profile to make a stink if fine words are not matched by actions. Peter Mandelson, I hear, is still hoping for a political comeback. What better post in which to show he's learned his lessons.

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

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