Little at Large: Another hero emerges from the voluntary sector mist

After the revelation that Stephen Bubb, head of chief executives body Acevo, is the secret poolside motivator for the England football team, this column can reveal more about the hidden lives of the third sector's leaders.

On holiday in Sicily last week, Stuart Etherington, chief executive of umbrella body the NCVO, had reached the top of a mountain when an impenetrable fog descended. Stuck with him on a narrow path surrounded by vertiginous ravines, travelling companion and charity lawyer Rosamund McCarthy feared the end was nigh. But Etherington, a former officer cadet in the Royal Artillery, whipped out his trusty compass and led the way to safety. A metaphor, perhaps, for the third sector on the perilous paths of public service delivery, skirting the abyss of compromised independence?

Next week: Is Navca's Kevin Curley really Batman?

- We all remember Make Poverty History: NGOs launch huge campaign on developing country debt; thousands march in Edinburgh; Bob Geldof holds Live 8 concerts. But that might not be the whole story. A rumour is doing the rounds in Whitehall that charities were victims of The Gleneagles Conspiracy.

The alternative version of history goes like this: the Government decided to implement what it publicly announced at Gleneagles many months earlier, but urged NGOs to go on campaigning because it would show world leaders in a good light if they were seen to be swayed by civil society. If true, Geldof needn't have bothered.

- The Terrence Higgins Trust had a stall at the Conservative Party conference last week for the first time in 10 years. The charity stopped attending because of all the homophobic abuse. This year, only one delegate used the word 'queers'. Progress, of sorts.

- Mathew Little is a freelance writer

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