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Policymakers must divorce themselves from the old connotations of what they always believed “charity” represented, and instead see them as what they have morphed into today.

This article, republished with permission, originally appeared on January 13, 2023, in ConservativeHome—an independent conservative site in Great Britain.


Are you familiar with the dark-money networks corrupting British politics?

Behind the scenes, nefarious and unaccountable groups are lobbying politicians to force through radical policies in direct contradiction to the wishes of the electorate. They wage legal warfare to ensure their agenda is affirmed, while politicians hoping for a comfortable post-retirement gig turn a blind eye.

It’s no exaggeration to say that these organisations represent one of the greatest threats to Parliamentary democracy today. I’m referring, of course, to the charity sector.

Once considered an unimpeachable moral alternative to the messy business of governance, many modern charities are virtually indistinguishable from political lobbying groups.

However, they are subject to nowhere near as much scrutiny. Trusts that enjoy widespread public and governmental support, thanks in large part to their legacy status and moderate branding, funnel vast amounts of cash towards hardcore activists who actively disrupt the functioning of civil society.

Nowhere is this process more obvious than in our immigration law enforcement.

No deportation planes have taken off to Rwanda due to constant legal challenges in the High Court. The blockage of the Rwanda plan follows a longer trend of grounding deportation flights with the help of charity cash. The Centre for Policy Studies’ latest report, Stopping the Crossings, referenced the controversial case of the Somali national and gang-rapist Yaqub Ahmed, who stayed in Britain for an additional two years after his Turkish Airways flight was blocked from takeoff in 2018.

In the same year, the infamous ‘Stansted 15’ blocked another deportation flight. All fifteen activists were members of the ‘End Deportations’ group, a charity now rebranded as ‘Detention Action’.

The group is almost entirely funded through grants from larger charities, such as the Joseph Rowntree Trust, which was founded in 1905 by Quakers, and the Tolkien Trust, which manages the estate of the beloved fantasy author. These are hardly the sort of organisations you’d expect to be funding groups that break the law.

The charitable rabbit-hole gets even stranger when you consider the direct involvement of the Conservative Government. According to Conservative Way Forward, charities battling the Home Office’s plan to relocate asylum seekers to a safe third location have cost the taxpayer £203 million.

Yet the Refugee Council, a group that slammed the Home Secretary Suella Braverman for her ‘cruel and unworkable’ plans, received £10 million of public funds. Smaller groups like Asylum Aid, which launched direct legal challenges against the government have, as of this year, began to enjoy direct public funding.

The British state is directly funding a ‘charitable’ organisation that is lobbying politicians to liberalise immigration laws—laws that are already significantly laxer than desired by the public.

The Conservative-controlled borough of Kensington and Chelsea runs a ‘corporate services grant scheme’, which allocates taxpayer funds towards various charitable groups.

One such ‘community outreach’ expenditure is to Migrants Organise. They highlight on their website their involvement in launching the campaign for the Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FAIR) charter. The FAIR charter consists of a list of demands for the government, including an independent judicial inquiry into the institutional, structural, and policy failures of the government departments that deal with immigration matters, especially the institutional racism of the Home Office.

According to the most recent data I can find, the Conservative-run borough I live in gave £57,528 to a group that believes their own Government is institutionally racist.

What we may think of as a common sense definition of charity—that it is an independent, apolitical process—is not what the law mandates. And as with most of our ill-conceived legislative reforms, New Labour were the forerunners.

In 2006, after years of secondary legislation, Blair redefined ‘charitable purposes’ in the Charities Act to include the advancement of human rights, conflict resolution or reconciliation, or the promotion of religious or racial harmony or equality and diversity.

Strangely, the Conservative Party then reaffirmed the reforms, upholding the promotion of equality and diversity as a charitable purpose in s3(1) (h) of the 2011 Charities Act.

Prior to these changes, a charity that sought to promote inclusivity would have to provide evidence that their activities promoted religion or education or gave some tangible benefit to the community. Instead, the Conservatives essentially granted express permission for controversial organisations to benefit from charitable status: left-wing political goals suddenly became defined as non-political in the eye of the law.

Our laws are now indisputably biased towards far-left organisations, and unfairly penalise ideologically-aligned groups that have a right-wing programme.

The only difference between Migration Watch and a group like Migrants Organise is that the latter pushes an open-borders agenda that is allowed to be defined as ‘promoting racial harmony’, while the former is boxed-in as a lobbying organisation for disputing immigration orthodoxy. It’s “my human rights campaign, your culture war politics”.

The charity sector is overwhelmingly wealthy, with an estimated £42 billion market share. We can no longer delude ourselves into believing all of this money sloshing around is bookmarked for donkey sanctuaries.

Policymakers must divorce themselves from the old connotations of what they always believed ‘charity’ represented, and instead see them as what they have morphed into today: immensely wealthy lobbying organisations, filled with staffers who have no regard for the democratic process, and who use the funding which is so graciously gifted to them to help erode the last remnants of trust in civil society.

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