Third Sector at Large: Lady T charming? Pass the green ink, I want to complain

Margaret Thatcher, the Charity Commission, Charity Market Monitor and the News of the News of the World are on our minds this week

- "Utterly charming" is not a phrase everyone associates with Margaret Thatcher, but our interviewee this week, Caroline Slocock, found her to be so when she rolled up in Downing Street, aged 32 and terrified, for a job interview in 1989. "She even came down the stairs with a bowl of hyacinths for me," says Slocock, who duly became the first-ever female private secretary of a prime minister. It didn't last, of course: a year later, the Iron Lady was gone.

- "The Charity Commission have now told me that they will not reply to any letters I write. Who do they think they are?" So runs a comment below our website story last week on complaints about our beloved regulator. It's a question many of us have asked without always receiving an entirely satisfactory answer. But let's face it, the commission probably gets more than its fair share of attention from the green ink brigade, and only the other day a caller to the contact centre was, a snout informs us, "incredibly abusive". And in all our lives, doesn't there come a point when you just have to put the phone down?

- The new Charity Market Monitor says the most striking result of its analysis of the major fundraising charities is a 4.4 per cent real terms rise in income for animal welfare last year, when the general trend was down. Of course, one doesn't begrudge the Dogs Trust its arrival in the top 20 fundraising charities - or maybe one does. But the CMM's "most worrying result" is the same year's 10.2 per cent drop in money raised by young people's charities. So, true to form, most true Brits still prefer a persecuted pooch to a problematic pubescent.

- A postscript to the free charity ads in the final News of the World: as the newspaper chased around, failing to sign up the likes of the RNLI and its own designated charities Fairbridge and Trees for Cities, it received an application for space for an ad from the MediaWise Trust, the charity that supports victims of media abuse, which began with the words: "Ever been turned over by a tabloid?" And suddenly, hey presto, all that space was no longer there. "There was a certain irony in our decision to ask for this ad," says the trust's director Mike Jempson. "We thought we'd test their mettle."

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