When campaigning becomes political

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Charities are reminded of their obligations to comply with charity law following the publication of a report by the Charity Commission on the work of The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR). 

The Commission launched its investigation after reports that the charity had supported a political party.  Such support goes against the Commission's guidance on political activity and campaigning, and is inconsistent with charity law.

The specific allegations centred around IPPR's work to produce its ‘Condition of Britain’ report, described  as “offering a comprehensive assessment of the state of British society after the crash and setting out an ambitious programme of social renewal in these tough times”.  It was alleged that the charity had worked closely with the Labour Party to produce the report, which was launched in June 2014 with a key note speech by Ed Miliband.  The launch attracted wide media coverage.

The Commission found the report advanced the charitable purposes to educate the public, that it had been independently commissioned by the charity and that it has not been funded by or at the request of a political party.  Nonetheless, the charity had "exposed itself to the perception that it supported the development of Labour Party policy".

The Charity Commission acknowledges that some charities, such as think tanks like IPPR, operate in the political sphere. It therefore said that such charities "should be careful of becoming associated in the minds of the public with a particular political party and should always ensure that their independence and political neutrality are protected in all that they do. Inviting speakers associated with a particular political party carries risks for a charity, which trustees are expected to manage and mitigate. Where this happens on a regular basis, we would expect a charity to have a written policy and clear procedures in place to manage the risk and protect its reputation. It should also be able to demonstrate evidence of engagement with politicians from across a range of parties in the totality of its work."

To read the full report on IPPR, please click here. 

If you are a charity trustee and have any concerns about your charity's campaigning activities, click here to read the Charity Commission's guidance on political activity and campaigning.