How the new head of the Charity Commission is linked to the Henry Jackson Society


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11:20 am - December 7th 2012

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by Marko Attila Hoare

Earlier this year, I resigned from the Henry Jackson Society (HJS) and requested that my name be removed from its website.

The HJS is a UK think-tank frequently described as ‘neo-conservative’. It was in fact formed as a centrist, bipartisan think-tank seeking to promote democratic geopolitics through providing sober, objective and informed analysis to policy-makers.

But it has ceased to uphold these principles, instead becoming an abrasively right-wing forum and has been accused of having an anti-Muslim tinge. It churns out polemical and superficial pieces by aspiring journalists and pundits that pander to a narrow readership of extreme Europhobic British Tories, hardline US Republicans and Israeli Likudniks.

The HJS is a registered charity, and according to the Charity Commission’s guidelines, ‘a charity cannot exist for a political purpose, which is any purpose directed at furthering the interests of any political party, or securing or opposing a change in the law, policy or decisions either in this country or abroad.’

Nevertheless, when its chair Alan Mendoza was asked in July 2008 by ConservativeHome ‘to offer 100 word thoughts on how the Conservatives might make some ground on foreign policy’. He responded in his capacity as Executive Director of the HJS, that with “Labour heading down the route of international irrelevance, Conservatives should have the courage to explore where to stand on” various issues.

It is a moot point whether the Charity Commission will ensure that the HJS will abide by its guidelines. The Charity Commission’s new chair, William Shawcross, told Civilsociety.co.uk this month: “Most of the 160,000 registered charities don’t require regulation – they’re small and they get on with their work properly and independently and it’s only a few that do require to be looked at.”

William Shawcross, on 19 October 2011, was appointed a member of the board of directors of none other than the Henry Jackson Society.

It was announced on 29 August 2012 that Shawcross was the government’s preferred candidate to head the Charity Commission, and he was elected to the role at a meeting of the Public Administration Select Committee of the House of Commons on 5 September. At the meeting, his membership of the HJS featured prominently in the discussion.

Following the meeting, Labour MP Paul Flynn had this to say: ‘A pre-appointment hearing to decide whether William Shawcross is sufficiently politically independent to do the job as head of the Charity Commission. Three of us thought he was not. Four Tories thought he was.’

The chair of the Public Administration Select Committee was Conservative MP Bernard Jenkin, himself a member of the Political Council of the Henry Jackson Society, for which he has contributed analysis.

Another Conservative member of the committee that elected Shawcross was Robert Halfon MP, who declared ‘that I was a founding patron of the Henry Jackson Society when it was first set up and I am fairly involved with the organisation.’

Robert Halfon is also a member of the HJS’s Political Council. In the view of Fraser Nelson, editor of the Spectator, Shawcross’s appointment was a ‘declaration of intent’ on the part of the government to deal with ‘Labour’s new fifth columnists’ in the ranks of the charities.

William Shawcross promised that, were he elected chair of the Charity Commission, he would resign all memberships of the HJS and other charities which he was involved with. This has been the case. However, he is still listed on various corporate databases as a member of the board of directors of the Henry Jackson Society registered company. His biography on the Charity Commission’s website makes no mention of his past involvement with the HJS.

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Reader comments


And the previous head was a Labour partisan quango queen.

Sauce for the goose alas…

Eactly cjcj.

Many charities and the quangocracy are stuffed with Gordon Brown’s place(wo)men. Cameron has been very restrained – possibly foolishly – in the use of his political patronage in the quangocracy.

Whether the HJS is a genuine charity or not is up for investigation. But I expect William Shawcross to accept the objective assessment of his officers. In any event, he could hardly more biased than Dame Suzi Leather.

Apologies for irrelevance, but “Marko Attila Hoare” has to be a candidate for “Name of the Year”.

I was going to vote for a colleague called Caeser Castro, but there is simply no contest.

I once had a colleague called Thurston Goliath.

Total name envy!

1. All ‘progessives’ are GOOD (eg Dame Suzi Leather)
2. William Shawcross is not ‘progressive’
Therefore:
3. William Shawcross is not good (ie evil).

Essentially and crudely, this is the syllogistic reasoning here. But the inference is invalid, because you can be ‘good’ and yet not a ‘progessive’ – ie the class of good people is wider than the class of progessives.

I know this is hard for SOME LC readers to accept; but it is true.

Of course, you can define ‘good’ as ‘what progressive people do/believe’. But this is self-defeating, as (1) then would become a tautology. So (1) would become:-

1a: All ‘progessives’ are ‘what progressive people do/believe’

And 1a is the same as saying: x=x

The Henry Jackson Society always looked neo-conservative from the outside. Its first ‘international patrons’ were Bruce P. Jackson, Robert Kagan, William Kristol, Clifford May, Joshua Muravchik, Richard Perle and James Woolsey – all from the American neo-conservative think tank the Project for the New American Century; General Jack Sheehan (VP of military contractor Bechtel); and Michael McFaul – the only Democrat (and the only one to have left).

With those associations, it looked more like a continuation of the PNAC by other means, once their ideas for Iraq had been shown to be disastrous. I’m not surprised it’s talking almost solely about the Middle East these days; but the influence over Cameron and Hague is worrying, just as the PNAC’s influence over G.W. Bush and his cabinet was.

“The Charity Commission’s new chair, William Shawcross”

This made me laugh. What a sign of the times we live in.

8. Tubby Isaacs

Suzi Leather was a member of the Labour Party only. She’s basically just got on with the jobs she’s had. Shawcross on the other hand is a neo-con big mouth. Atlantic Bridge must be thinking it packed up too soon.

Leather copped it largely for being a woman with a funny surname and for taking on public schools- even if she was only doing what the 2006 Charity Act required. I expect Mr Blair, under whom the legislation was passed, was pretty nervous about the ludicrous “class war” headlines she generated.

And “quango queen”- what a killer insult! A woman with lots of experience in the area she worked in. She’s now to join the board of the General Medical Council. Sounds a fairly serious individual to me.

9. Tubby Isaacs

As an example of the sort of rubbish Leather had to put up with, note how she was accused of class war by private schools for pushing them to offer more bursaries. While also apparently being a hypocrite for sending her own kids to private school.

Not a fan of private schools myself, but you’d think the Telegraph and all would credit her for trying to get more kids with less money than her into private school, even if she lost the case in the end.

There’s been a fair bit of stuff about all these supposed Labour cronies being in quangos lately- for a laugh see Cristina Odone, who thought Save the Children was a quango. No evidence is ever offered that the people have been bad at their jobs.

“I once had a colleague called Thurston Goliath.

Total name envy!”

What a rib tickler

Surely the objection to Shawcross is that he wrote the most toadying biography of Murdoch. Also rightists like TONNNNNNNE and Cjcj, are right, it is their turn for patronage. Labour did it, so why shouldn’t the Tories.
Although it would nice to see a non political charity professional to be put in the job. I cannot see how Shawcross or the previous incumbent are qualified for the job.
To be fair to Shawcross his book sideshow was very good.

“The HJS is a UK think-tank frequently described as ‘neo-conservative’. It was in fact formed as a centrist, bipartisan think-tank seeking to promote democratic geopolitics through providing sober, objective and informed analysis to policy-makers”.

Oh please. The HJS believes that ‘liberal democracy’ is best dispensed from the barrel of a gun.

The problem is not simply that Shawcross is right-wing, but that he is actively politically partisan. The chair of the Charity Commission is supposed to be politically independent. However, Shawcross agitated for a Conservative victory in the last general election, on the grounds that ‘New Labour has forced Britain to become a mere piece of the bland but increasingly oppressive Bambiland of the E.U., promoting such PC global issues as gay rights (except in Muslim lands) and man-made climate change’, and ‘Those who hate the rise of the British National Party should blame Labour, not the poor white voters whom Labour abandoned and whose lives have been changed forever by uncontrolled immigration. Last week, two London taxi drivers told me that they were going to vote BNP because it’s the only party that cares at all about them.’

(Shawcross has also described Guantanamo Bay as representing ‘model justice’ and as being ‘probably the best-run detention centre in the world and with more habeas corpus rights for detainees than anywhere else’, and has claimed that ‘Rupert Murdoch has been the bravest and most radical media owner in Britain in the last 40 years’, whose ‘real crime is to have challenged liberal conventions in the US and here.’)

The problem also is that Shawcross was appointed to his post as chair of the Charity Commission by a parliamentary committee dominated by Tories, including two members of the Political Council of his own neoconservative political ‘charity’, the Henry Jackson Society. The Labour and LibDem members of the committee did not think he was sufficiently politically independent to qualify for the job.

“Where they burn books, they will also ultimately burn people.”
citation from the United States Holocaust Museum’s web site.

In a digital age, one does not need fire to burn books, but rather administrative privileges to erase them from the face of the internet. Dr Marko Hoare’s high-quality analysis of the Balkan politics and a powerful criticism of genocide denial disappeared from the Henry Jackson Society’s web site. Some of his articles, one of our favorites being “Chomsky’s Genocidal Denial”, still “live” on our blog as a republished material for which Dr Hoare gave us permission.

http://srebrenica-genocide.blogspot.ca/2005/12/chomskys-genocidal-denial.html

15. Tubby Isaacs

@13,

Shocking quotes there, Mark. I think the point isn’t just that Shawcross is actively partisan in a way Leather wasn’t.

It’s that he’s an utter moron.

I think that you were naive, Marko, if you originally thought that HJS was a centrist, bi-partisan think-tank. Some of the earliest public statements by Mendoza post-2001 suggested a neo-con world-view, a disdain for international law and an enthusiasm for western military adventures. William Shawcross wrote in the Guardian on 1st August 2002 that it did not matter who replaced Saddam Hussein; it could be a military man. HJS analysis has rarely been sober. HJS has always assumed that military adventures would lead to democratic geopolitics rather than thinking through the difficulties of trying to impose democracy throughthe barrel of a gun.

But since your resignation from HJS, Marko, you analysis has been interesting. The HJS is one of those organisations that, in my opinion, shouold be stripped of its charitable status. So it is fascinating to find out how many HJS members have been involved in the appointment of the new head of the Charity Commissioners, himself a member of HJS. Ruling on political activity by charities is one of the trickiest jobs of the Charity Commissioners and it is bizarre that their new head comes direct from a contentious organisation.


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