Charity Commission chair Baroness Stowell has once again incurred the wrath of voluntary sector leaders, this time for urging charities to “leave party politics” and “culture wars” out of their work.
In a Mail on Sunday article, former Conservative Party minister Stowell told charities that “there’s more than one way to help those in need, but if you want to improve lives and strengthen communities through charity, you need to leave party politics and the culture wars out of it.”
Her article adds that issues such as Brexit, human rights and inequality have sparked “new divisions which don’t neatly respect party lines”.
She said that “for charities to survive and thrive in this environment, particularly after this most difficult of years, it is even more important that they demonstrate sensitivity and respect for everyone”.
Stowell’s comments have sparked outrage among charity leaders.
Katherine Sacks-Jones, the chief executive of children’s charity Become said there is “so much to disagree with” regarding Stowell’s comments.
So much to disagree with here. What is important for charities is fighting tirelessly for the people they are set up for- that means being angry about & tackling the root causes of injustice not just dealing with the symptoms https://t.co/WYkKOW5FYI— Katharine Sacks-Jones (@KatharineSJ) November 29, 2020
In addition, UK Youth chief executive Ndidi Okezie, said that she was “perplexed” by Stowell’s stance and said that “progress doesn’t happen by making sure everyone feels comfortable”.
Many charities literally exist because something about the “status quo” doesn’t work for all! I’m perplexed as to how they can change those societal conditions without! calling out those very inequalities. Progress doesn’t happen by making sure everyone feels comfortable all time https://t.co/74W70QxVkX— Ndidi Okezie🕊 (@Ndidi1st) November 29, 2020
Meanwhile, shadow health minister and former chief executive of not for profit think tank the Young Foundation, also raises concerns about Stowell’s view of charities’ role.
@tinastowell the problem is, Tina that the Conservative Party believe that anyone who disagrees with them, points out inequalities and campaigns to change the world, is somehow ‘political’, and your view of the world is somehow apolitical. Bit of challenge in current job?— Glenys Thornton (@GlenysThornton) November 29, 2020
This is the latest controversy to embroil Stowell, who served as deputy chief of staff to Conservative leader David Cameron and was a coalition government minister.
This autumn it emerged she is to leave the regulator and not seek a second term.
Senior charity sector figures, including ACEVO chief executive Vicky Browning and Small Charities Coalition chief executive Rita Chadha, called on MPs to prioritise “transparency, accountability and political neutrality” when assessing her successor.
They cited concerns about her appointment and performance in the role.This includes comments by Stowell that charities need to be meeting public expectation which charity leaders warn is “a significant shift from the function of the regulator”.
The charity leaders' letter also notes that the DCMS select committee had recommended unanimously against Stowell’s appointment “due to serious concerns about her experience and political associations”.
Stowell attracted further criticism this year after being accused of launching an “attack on lefty lawyers”.