Hurd is not seen and Hope (twice) makes a right Herbert of himself

Physicist Nick Herbert
Physicist Nick Herbert

The committee scrutinising the draft Protection of Charities Bill has recalled a certain Nick Hurd to the limelight. So it's unfortunate that the chair, Lord Hope, has twice, the second time with a smile, referred to the former charities minister - a paragon beside his successors - as Nick Herbert. It's not clear whether Hope was referring to the famously bearded American US quantum physicist (above) or the former minister for police and criminal justice, who resigned in a huff after missing out on promotion in 2012 - but maybe it was one reference each.

The committee's sessions have heard many a criticism of the Charity Commission, which is hardly new. But one lawyer confides a nervous wish for the punches to be pulled on the grounds that "some nutter will come along and abolish the commission". That would certainly lighten the workload of m'learned friends at a stroke ... but "some nutter"? Rather unlawyerly terminology for Her Majesty's government, isn't it?

The insidious effects of the lobbying act are being felt, it seems, even at the august National Council for Voluntary Organisations. When shadow charities minister Lisa Nandy spoke there recently, her office said members of the press weren't invited because the NCVO had to be careful about anything classifiable as campaigning under the lobbying act. The NCVO puts it differently: "We just wanted to give members a chance to quiz her without worrying that there could be a story about their organisations."

Fair enough. But the "purpose" test under the act is whether the activity can reasonably be regarded as intended to influence voters one way or the other - and no one was at the event from other parties; and the "public" test involves public dissemination, including through the press. So you can see why any impartial charity might be a bit nervous.

Would you interrupt your honeymoon to meet Hazel Blears, MP for Salford and Eccles? Well, that's what Lucy Findlay, managing director of the Social Enterprise Mark, did recently when invited to discuss the social value act over breakfast with the diminutive but hyperactive former Labour minister. Findlay even drove up from the west country at five in the morning to get there on time. "I wasn't very popular," she says. "There was nearly a divorce."

It's not every day you walk onto an Underground platform to be confronted by a picture on an advertising poster of your boss in her bra. But this is what happened to Tania Cohen of the Charity Finance Group, and the resulting smartphone snap of her chief exec, Caron Bradshaw, taking part in the Moonwalk in May, has been widely retweeted.

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