The Charity Mess

W.G. Runciman

It may be too soon to be passing judgment on the Cameron government. But it does sometimes look as if we are back with the impatient legislation of the Blair era, along with the facile soundbites, the eye-catching initiatives, the whitewashed sleaze, the fawning towards the tabloids (in Blairspeak, ‘managing the relationship’), and the unwillingness or inability to think through the implications of under-researched policy decisions – tendencies which in the end came to be deplored by many of Blair’s one-time supporters as well as his opponents. The U-turn over Osborne’s attempt to cap the amounts that rich taxpayers can save by donations to registered charities is, as U-turns go, a little one. But it is symptomatic of a disposition to tinker for a short-term reason with an issue that cries out for long-term thought. A veteran Conservative stalwart, Lord Hodgson, has been appointed to conduct a review of the 2006 Charities Act, and he is on record as having announced that ‘nothing is ruled in, and nothing is ruled out.’ But it requires no supernatural gift of prophecy to predict that the opportunity missed in 2006 will be missed again.

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