Conservative MPs call for government to stop charities 'promulgating weird, woke ideas'

More than 60 charity leaders respond by backing charities' right to campaign

A group of more than 60 charity leaders has put out a statement backing charities’ right to campaign after a group of backbench Conservative MPs called for the government to stop the “worthless work” of organisations “promulgating weird, woke ideas”. 

In a parliamentary debate yesterday, following the highly disputed report by the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, Sir John Hayes, the MP for South Holland and the Deepings, told Kemi Badenoch, the equalities minister, that he was one of a group of 20 MPs who had written to the Charity Commission to complain about the charitable think tank the Runnymede Trust. 

Hayes said the group, which included Tom Hunt, the MP for Ipswich, Brendan Clarke-Smith, the MP for Bassetlaw, and Darren Henry, the MP for Broxtowe, had asked the regulator to examine the trust’s response to the report, which he said “reflects the outrage of those who have had their long-standing bourgeois liberal prejudices challenged”. 

Hayes said: “It is important that the minister give me an assurance today that she will make representations across government to stop the worthless work—often publicly funded—of organisations that are promulgating weird, woke ideas and that, in doing so, are seeding doubt and fear and, more than that, disharmony and disunity.”

Badenoch replied by saying Hayes was right and she would look into his request “and see what we can do across the house and across government”. 

It came after the trust yesterday warned that Conservative MPs were attempting to “weaponise” the Charity Commission by filing complaints to the regulator against charities they disagreed with. 

In the statement published by the membership body Acevo today, more than 60 charity leaders say many charities exist because “the state has failed and a clear example of the failure of the state is a failure to dismantle race inequality in Britain”. 

Its statement said: “This is not the first time that MPs have complained to the Charity Commission when charities have sought to raise awareness about or tackle the issues that are harming people that MPs are elected to serve. 

“The changes that charities are asking for are not ‘worthless’ or ‘weird’ but focused on solving some of this country’s most enduring challenges.”

The statement points out the Greensill lobbying scandal shows that those with power and connections had access to the heart of the government while those campaigning on social justice issues were frequently denied an audience. 

“We stand in solidarity with all those working to end racism and recognise that organisations run by racialised people and organisations seeking to tackle inequality are disproportionately targeted by attempts to discredit and quieten them,” the statement said. 

“We also stand with all charities and civil society organisations working for the public good to create the kind of safe, just and free society that benefits us all.”

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