National Trust and RSPB in firing line ahead of Government's much needed shake up of charity sector
[Sir John Hayes is leading the calls for a shake up]
It was revealed over the weekend that over 25 MPs will write to Boris Johnson urging him to speak out for Britain’s ‘patriotic’ silent majority and take a stand against the bids by ‘elitist bourgeois liberals’ to denigrate the nation’s history.
The appeal is being led by senior backbencher and ex-Minister Sir John Hayes, who will call for drastic action to be taken, including the decriminalisation of the BBC licence fee, and potentially stripping the National Trust, the RSPB and certain other charities of their charitable status.
The UK charity commission stipulates strictly that all charities must seek to deliver only the objectives of which they were founded and to not engage in any political campaigning.
In the case of the RSPB it is clear that it falls short on both these points. The RSPB was founded to ‘protect birds’, yet increasingly it acts as if it is the global voice of any issue tenuously linked to climate or conservation, rather than anything to do with the protection of birds.
The revised focus of the organisation into climate change politics, often at the expenses of the birds it was created to protect, is known to have made some within the organisation increasingly uncomfortable.
Indeed, their perceived lack of genuine interest in birds has been demonstrated by their social media account misidentifying a curlew with a golden plover, one of the most widely recognised of birds.
Last week it distributed campaign emails to its membership with the deeply misrepresented heading ‘stop burning the peat’.
The willingness of the RSPB to ‘bend the science’ to their own political ambitions was reported in parliament last week by Sir Edward Leighs, who said:
“I suggest to the hon. Lady that any research that comes from the RSPB or related organisations should be treated with a great deal of scepticism. I suspect that they have a political agenda. The fact is that the RSPB distorts the science on burning.
The Times reported how it does so. A dozen top scientists—a dozen, I say to the hon. Lady—wrote that RSPB press releases on burning bore “only passing resemblance” to the science.
The RSPB is a charity. It has to act like a charity and not like a political organisation. It is all very well to argue, “Ban the burn”—an emotive phrase, but that is to try to simplify something that is highly complex in reality.
The royal society—it is a “royal society”—makes no distinction between two different things: the controlled burning of heather for wildlife management and the burning of peatland. Shooting requires careful land management that protects the growth and survival of many species of birds. Rural people have spent decades in careful custodianship of the land and the wildlife that lives in it. Despite that, they find themselves the target of RSPB campaigns that would do serious harm to the environment.”
The group of MPs have said in their letter:
‘As long as the purpose of these charitable organisations is perverted by political posturing, we request that you ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport to review all outstanding funding applications from [bodies] that pursue political causes.’
There can be few clearer indications of the political allegiances of the RSPB given its Public Affairs team is run by Adam Barnett, a former Labour party staffer who previously worked in the office of former shadow DEFRA secretary, Kerry McCarthy MP.
McCarthy, a vegan and Vice-President of the animal activist charity League Against Cruel Sports, demonstrated her lack of knowledge in Parliament this year when she declared that grouse, a wild bird, were ‘imported into the UK in their millions’. McCarthy has previously supported the campaign against controlled cool burning of heather, with Chris Packham and even been willing to campaign alongside the convicted criminal animal rights activist, Luke Steele, and his group ‘The Moorland Monitors.’
The sooner the shake-up of these organisations starts the better.
[Kerry McCarthy MP, speaking at an event for Luke Steele's campaign group]