A couple of days ago the Charity Commission published a case report on an educational charity and one of the research documents it had published. The commission states “Whilst we considered that the trustees do recognise the need for balance and neutrality, they crossed a clear line with this publication” The issue for me was that a charity has got tangled up in politics which is a matter that one would assume would be criticised by our Government following years of debate and part 2 of the Lobbying Bill which people like Iain Duncan Smith voted for during the coalition Government. My own view is that charities need to be able to speak out when it comes to matters that are at the heart of their work, even when their concerns may have a political dimension, however back in 2014 the Tory party drew a deep, clear and unambiguous line in the sand.
The Charity Concerned is the Legatum Institute Foundation (no. 1140719) which is linked to the Legatum Group which is a major investment organisation that has made its money from overseas deposits and so optimistically if naively the role of the Foundation might appear in the same light as the foundation set up by Bill Gates to deal with Malaria, providing of course it is genuine in its objectives. In the last two years accounts the LIF received over £4m 90% from the Group and the year before nearly £3m. According to the Charity Commission website the Charity exists “To advance the education of the public in national and international political, social and economic policy, focusing on understanding, measuring and explaining the journey from poverty to prosperity for individuals, communities and nations.” One of the problems with charitable objectives is that they can sound very grand, even when the work of the charity is focused on very narrow matters. The reality is that any paper focusing on issues of free trade and the focus on Brexit which was the case here, does not sound like a good fit to the idea of a simple journey from poverty to prosperity, particularly in the 4th or 5th largest economy. However that was merely my thought.
I decided to check out the Charity Commission website which gives as much of a story as the report, even though I had not heard of Legatum prior to this weekend. The charity took off during 2014 when it received the £2.8m from the Legatum Group. According to its latest annual report “the charity has a mandate to educate the general public about what drives and restrains national prosperity” which may explain why a matter such as Brexit features high on their list of concerns. The senior staff and Trustees include Richard Briance, a Trustee of Londons Children Ballet and Alan McCormick the Chair of the Board and Trustee of two other charities that relate to the Legatum group known as The End Fund and the Freedom Fund. Two of the other six Trustees listed don’t have any other charity connections noted.
The fifth Trustee is Toby Baxendale who is Trustee of two other charities. The Cobden Centre is a think tank set up by Toby and Steve Baker, a pro Brexit Tory MP. The Trustees include Daniel Hannan, a pro Brexit Tory MEP. The Cobden Centre website makes clear that Italy should leave the Euro currency scheme! The other charity is the Church Revitalisation Trust which is part of the Holy Trinity Brompton family of charities and churches. HTB is an active network of churches within the Church of England with congregations across the nation and social and outreach organisations. The link between Legatum and HTB extends to the staff team where the Director of Operations is Shelley Hartland who was previously DofO at HTB.
The final Trustee of Legatum is also connected at a high level to an active international church network which was known as New Frontiers. She is also Conservative member of the House of Lords with strong links to Iain Duncan Smith who she used to advise. Baroness Philippa Stroud is currently described by Wikipedia as “a British think tanker” and it refers both to her connection with the Legatum Institute and also that she is “a co-founder and former executive director of the think tank the Centre for Social Justice (Iain Duncan Smith was her co-founder). She is a member of the Conservative Party and in 2009 The Daily Telegraph named her as the 82nd most influential right-winger, ahead of the last Conservative leader Michael Howard” In October 2016 Philippa joined Legatum as a Trustee and also as its CEO. This is unusual and if still the case puts their decision making at risk. Separating out the role of the Executive decision making from that of governance is vital. Usually Chair of Trustees and CEO’s sit in a space which overlaps the Executive and Governance roles. However their ability to separate is vital when key issues arise. As CEO Philippa was paid £104k which questions if the criticism by Priti Patel MP of much larger charities for paying employees more than £100k was appropriate!
Other members of their team have included:
- Matthew Elliot who joined as Senior Fellow in 2016 but has left – Matthew was the founder of TaxPayers’ Alliance and in 2015 became the CEO of Vote Leave
- Shanker Singham was part from 2014 to 2017 and is a contributor to Brexit Central and is now Director at the Institute of Economic Affairs, a pro Brexit Think Tank.
Georgiana Bristol is Corporate Membership Director and also works part-time for BrexitCentral as BrexitCircle Director. Georgiana was also Head of Regional Fundraising for The Conservative Party.
Several others within the team have clear connections with the Centre for Social Justice or the Conservative Party and also the Institute of Economic Affairs.
It is vital that Legatum with a clear link to the Tory Party and Iain Duncan Smith and a strong pro Brexit view must call for a repeal of part 2 of the Lobbying Bill in the light of their abject failure to meet its demands!