VoteLaw has drawn my attention to the fact that the Charity Commission in England & Wales has ruled that the think tank set up in memory of the late Labour leader John Smith (the Smith Institute) broke the laws governing charities by getting involved in party politics.
The Commission’s inquiry reconfirmed that the Smith Institute is a charity and is capable of operating for the public benefit. The inquiry also found that the Smith Institute is producing work which falls within its charitable purposes, is of educational value and is freely available to the public.
However, the Commission has concluded that the trustees were not sufficiently engaged to ensure the proper supervision of the charity, given the nature of its activities, work programme and the political environment in which it operates. The trustees did not adequately manage the risks to the independence of the Institute and its reputation.
Andrew Hind, Chief Executive of the Charity Commission, said “Trustees of charitable “think tanks” have a responsibility to ensure the political neutrality of the work they do. When a charity operates close to the political environment, it must safeguard its independence and ensure that any involvement it has with political parties is balanced … it was vulnerable to the perception that it was involved in party politics – never acceptable for a charity.”