by Mary Harrington
Friday, 7
January 2022
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The manufacturing of consensus

Bodies like Stonewall are falsely creating an imprimatur of civil demand
by Mary Harrington

Just how nationalised is Stonewall? An eagle-eyed gender critical account recently spotted that the trans activist charity’s latest published accounts show that, of total grant income of £2,401,159 in the 18 months to March 2021 just over half — £1,207,615 — came from government departments.

https://twitter.com/genderisharmful/status/1479054517568167936?s=20

This is dwarfed by Stonewall’s ‘fees’ income, which includes money from the now-notorious Diversity Champions scheme — £4,920,675 in the 18 months to March 2021. This is despite a recent series of high-profile government or public-sector bodies opting to leave the scheme, including the Cabinet Office, the Government Equalities Office, Ofcom and the BBC.  In June then-International Trade Secretary Liz Truss called for all 250 Government departments to quit the scheme.

This all represents growing public awareness of the incestuous relationship between professionalised and commonly government-funded ‘civil society’ organisations, and the official organs of government.

A little while back I discussed the emergence of this phenomenon over the twentieth century, as the state took over a growing body of welfare organisations once run by charities, and we swapped place-based charities for quangos. Such synthetic, professionalised ‘third sector’ bodies, I’ve suggested, functions as a kind of ‘policy laundering’, in which government employees pay supposedly independent charities to propose policies the government already wanted to enact, and which thus gain the imprimatur of ‘civil society demand’.

I’ve argued that this is in effect a post-democratic regime, in which policy laundering is used to route round the public duty to gain the assent of electorates, by employing insider ‘charities’ to help pre-determine the available options on which the electorate then gets to vote.

The last two years have seen widening recognition that many of the policies propagated by such bodies are in no way ‘neutral’ or even particularly widely-supported — at least in the case of Stonewall. Thanks to the tenacious efforts of a vocal body of campaigners, Stonewall’s policy-laundering impact has faltered. Meanwhile, importantly, campaigners have also begun to put forward their own preferred players in the post-democratic policy landscape, such as LGB Alliance.

But we shouldn’t take this to mean that much political will exists among politicians to challenge the overall ecosystem. Stonewall’s accounts list the FCO as the charity’s biggest source of grant income to March 2021: a whopping £765,061. With that level of departmental enthusiasm, perhaps it’s unsurprising that despite Truss’ lack of enthusiasm for its work the FCO remains (according to the campaigning group Sex Matters) a Diversity Champions member several months after her appointment as Foreign Secretary.

More generally, there’s no reason to suppose the organic civil society this synthetic, government-funded one replaced will re-emerge spontaneously any time soon. Meanwhile there’s plenty of reason to suppose that an equivalent policy-laundering ecosystem exists across other contentious domestic policy areas where public opinion may be out of step with the official government one.

What if the wider British public wants to challenge the ideological closed shop of professionalised ‘third sector’ do-gooders and their counterparts in our official government? The inference is that there’s no point complaining about ‘The Blob’. To move the needle, activists will need to take a leaf from the gender critical book, and begin working to launder their own preferred policies into officialdom.

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Jon Redman
Jon Redman
7 months ago

This is a really important point and kudos to Mary for hammering away at it. The charitable sector is in need of huge reform, on the scale of what was done to the trade unions in the early 80s. As well as removing government funding from “charities” that simply lobby the government, there should also be far greater transparency into how these rackets raise and distribute their money. If you look at a seemingly impeccable outfit like Guide Dogs For The Blind, for example, you find they had 2020 income of £114 million that they spent £35 million on raising. £44 million is said to have gone on providing services but there is nothing in there about how this breaks down; how much was fat salaries, for example.
This stuff needs to be a lot more visible to expose the fact that a lot of charities are just indoor relief for unemployable neo-Marxists.

D Ward
D Ward
7 months ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

Another fine mess brought to us by T Bliar esq, soon to be ennobled.

Though some would wish for him to be nobbled.

Last edited 7 months ago by D Ward
Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
7 months ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

What is frustrating is that while I can take a decision not to support charities that will pay large sums to its staff and publicity department my pocket is picked by HMG to pass sums on to charities I have no wish to support. Stonewall is indeed a prime example. Should not some taxpayer initiate proceedings for a judicial review of the Foreign Office’s support of Stonewall as I can’t see any interest that the Foreign Office has in promoting the transgender movement.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
7 months ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

Yes I was thinking the same thing. The fundamental conflict of interest in a government dept funding a lobbying group that proceeds to use this funding to lobby the same government dept is inherently corrupt.
Maybe a gofundme type judicial review led by the LGB Alliance or Sex Matters, which should attract huge support?

Last edited 7 months ago by Ian Stewart
Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
7 months ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

Yes they have the interest do they have the cojones? Taxation seems to be providing less funds for services and more a gigantic slush fund for individuals in the civil service to fund pet projects.

Last edited 7 months ago by Jeremy Bray
Keith Jefferson
Keith Jefferson
7 months ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

I totally agree. I always understood the meaning of charity to be an entirely voluntary endeavour – as opposed to taxation where you are forced into contributing to the social good. I’m not against taxation – civil society depends on it. But the Govt that taxes you should be clear about what they intend to spend your money on, and I don’t recall any party manifesto stating that they intend to spend your money on supporting organisations like Stonewall.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
6 months ago

The transparency is key as well though. Some few years ago I had an acquaintance was once involved in refitting Guide Dogs For The Blind’s sumptuous offices, and asked me if I wanted a room-sized roll of brand new white carpet. He had fitted it in some honch’s office, and said honch had then rejected it and had something else put down.
I was interested enough in this to through their accounts a while back. Something like 30% of their gross revenue goes on raising their revenue. Some of that is perhaps advertising but how much is paid to salespeople? They won’t tell you. Buried in there too was the supposed cost of a guide dog: £14,000 per year. £14,000 per dog I could believe, but per year? Really?
What is needed is an obligation for charities to state, everywhere and upfront, what their revenue is, what percentage goes in sales commissions, how much non-salary spending goes to the advertised cause, and how many staff they have on a pro-rata £200k a year or more, £100k etc. If you knew that £0.95 of your £1 donation was going to pay for white carpets for the CEO you would probably rethink.
Educational charities would have a lot of salary overhead and that’s fine because you need people to teach people, but why is it £14,000 a year per guide dog? If you cut off government and NGO funding for pure political lobby groups, and made it non-deductible for others, and if you made dodgy charities state up front that 95% of revenue is spent on staff salaries, it would transform the charitable sector, possibly even into something worth having.

Stuart Rose
Stuart Rose
6 months ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

Some good proposals there.
The thought of one’s charity contribution being largely directed to the interior decorating whims of an administrator galls, and must have repercussions for charities that don’t essentially behave as crypto-businesses.

Stuart Rose
Stuart Rose
6 months ago

No candidate or party operative would dare announce support for spending public funds on breathing life into Stonewall. They know how unpopular it is. They need to be confronted by voters.

Saul D
Saul D
7 months ago

I’d like to see a rule that companies and organisation involved in lobbying are not permitted to receive government contracts due to conflict of interests.
That would mean it would be OK for trade associations acting on behalf of several companies, and OK for campaigning groups with no financial interest in the outcome, but not OK for a single company or organisation lobbying where it can achieve benefit for itself.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
7 months ago
Reply to  Saul D

This suggestion makes much sense. I suspect if you went through the list of contributors to Stonewall you’d find a large number of “trusts” and other charities whose own funding, used to buy stuff from Stonewall, is itself government-sourced. Overall I reckon you would find many “charities” are constructive departments of government.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
7 months ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

I’ve gone through the list of Stonewall contributors and participants in their ‘diversity champions’ and unsurprisingly it’s mostly govt depts, local councils, NGOs and academic institutions.

Keith Jefferson
Keith Jefferson
7 months ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

As Mary notes, the contributions from Govt Departments are dwarfed by contributions from business buying into their Diversity Champions Scheme. But presumably as Stonewall has charitable status, these businesses can offset their ‘contributions’ to the charity against their tax burden? So the taxpayer ends up subsidising their contributions too. Laws need to change to make a clear distinction between charitable giving and Govt sponsorship.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
7 months ago

How many of these businesses are required to participate in Diversity Champion schemes in order to win government contracts? Once that starts it quickly becomes a requirement throughout the private sector too.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
6 months ago

A leaf to take out of Trump’s book would be to make companies ineligible to receive government contracts if they have given money to inappropriate charities.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
7 months ago

Good work , Mary.
Much appreciated.
Wherever there is a river of free money, there is corruption – whether the payoff is financial or ideological. When that free money is cloaked in virtue, the pickings are so much easier and the lure is irresistible.

AC Harper
AC Harper
7 months ago

What if the wider British public wants to challenge the ideological closed shop of professionalised ‘third sector’ do-gooders and their counterparts in our official government?

Defunding the BBC, not advertising in the Guardian, and disestablishing the Church of England would be a good start. Removing the ‘cover’ for the professionalised ‘third sector’ do-gooders.

Laura Creighton
Laura Creighton
7 months ago
Reply to  AC Harper

Electing people who will pass laws strictly defining what a charity is, and can do, with ‘political lobbying’ and most ‘consciousness-raising’ activity left on the outside. Strictly limit government and corporate donations to charitites. I’d do away with tax deductions for charities altogether, but definitely for the corporations.
Require the registration of lobbyists. Legally re-define what a bribe is, so that the revolving door between regulators and the industries they are supposed to regulate goes away. Set up stiff penalties for regulatory capture, and watchdogs for detecting this.

Keith Jefferson
Keith Jefferson
7 months ago

This is a purely selfish point, but when I contribute to one of my favoured charities I get something out of that economic transaction – a nice warm fuzzy feeling inside that I have done something good. Call it smugness if you want, but that’s why people donate to charities. Both sides get something out of that transaction.
When the Govt funds charities through taxation, that economic transaction is distorted. I don’t get that fuzzy feeling, even though I’m partly paying for it. It’s even worse when that charity is agitating for a cause that I do not approve of. Instead, that fuzzy feeling is experienced by the activist of that charity at my expense. And it galls when you realise that many of those activists are probably earning more than I, and many other taxpayers, do.
This, I think, is the cause of much public distrust of charities that have effectively become state funded agencies. The public accepts funding of healthcare, benefits for the needy and those that can’t work etc, but public funding of charities with clearly political objectives is another thing. The Govt needs to realise this and end charitable status for organisations with clear political objectives.

John Tyler
John Tyler
7 months ago

Well said!

The big charities are really businesses using grants and much free labour to carry out government policies, thus distancing government from accepting blame when mistakes happen. At the same time they remove the reliance on direct individual contributions of money and personal contact . This suits the agendas of both those who seek a world in which personal responsibility is replaced by state-provided rights and interventions, and those who build empires in the civil service and third sector.

I think Ms H has hit the nail on the head!

Adam Bartlett
Adam Bartlett
7 months ago

Excellent & true points as always with Mary. As a counter though, I’d say much goverment NGO funding is less objectionablee than the examples she talks about. In fields I’m familiar with like anti loneliness work, I’ve been quite impressed with how they’ve been dispersing the grant pot.

Also, UK’s “organic civil society” probably remains much more vital than is implied in the 2nd to last para. There huge ammounts of grass roots action in play. For evidence, look at places like Covid Mutal aid or even Nextdoor (though admitedly in some localities there is a much nonsense to wade through on the latter.) Or you could cut to the chase & ask someone who lives and breathes organic civil society,like Rowenna Davis. She’s friends with seveal Unherd writers, but even if you just checked out her twitter you’d get a view of what’s going on.

Mike Bell
Mike Bell
7 months ago

Brilliant again, Mary.
There has been a similar thing happening with (what you might call) the ‘Domestic Abuse Industry’.
There is a network of Women’s Aid, Refuge, Domestic Abuse Commissioners etc all peddling the claim of high levels of domestic abuse – they focus almost exclusively on female victims, all while the official figures show DA in decline.
The total budget looks to be about £1/2 bn
They constitute a huge lobby group.
After WW2, Eisenhower warned about the ‘military industrial complex’ who would generate conflicts to be able to sell their weapons. Presumably this works at all sorts of levels.

Emre Emre
Emre Emre
7 months ago

I’m beginning to think, this is all a result of Thatcher’s neoliberal revolution building on Hayek’s conception of conservatism. It’s quite an irony then that Thatcher is a dirty word amongst the people who staff these charities. Reaching its full potential in Blair’s New Labour, it was an attempt to privatise the charity sector so that it would be the markets not the state who would look after the various charitable concerns. What no one may have seen coming (well, at least myself), is the potency of the postmodern and culturally leftist ideas and their radical progressivism which ended up driving many of these charities. It’s no surprise then conservatives would be looking for a different formulation of what conservatism is in a (post-)liberal society which is where I see UnHerd coming in.

Last edited 7 months ago by Emre Emre
Alan B
Alan B
7 months ago
Reply to  Emre Emre
Emre Emre
Emre Emre
7 months ago
Reply to  Alan B

Thank you, this is relevant, and it’s nice to have a direct link to it too. Perhaps what you’re highlighting here is the key point, that fiscal conservatism, or being pro-market is no longer conservatism, and perhaps never was.

michael stanwick
michael stanwick
7 months ago

I’ve suggested, functions as a kind of ‘policy laundering’, in which government employees pay supposedly independent charities to propose policies the government already wanted to enact,
Does this sound similar to Fraser Nelson’s twitter convo with the Chairman of the Sage Modelling Committee?
Eric Kaufmann of Birkbeck College mentioned a low resolution, three tier organisation of society in which there was an institutional intermediary stage between the government and the citizen, and some form of government intervention might be necessary to protect the citizen from this unelected institutional layer.

Andrea X
Andrea X
7 months ago

Do you really feel that the government is behind the push for Stonewall’s trans agenda? It seems hard to believe.

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
7 months ago
Reply to  Andrea X

I agree, and I do wonder to what extent these policies are carried forward less because they are government policy but rather policy that is carried forward under the political radar by civil servants with their own agenda. What interest the Foreign Office has in promoting trans ideas is completely beyond me. It is not as if we need to suck up to some powerful country ruled by transsexuals. 
The appalling story reported here:
 https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-10378257/Publican-Geoffrey-Monks-settles-4m-Northampton-council-wrongful-imprisonment.html 
about a council official using his position to ruin the life of a pub owner shows how such officials are able to act with impunity pursuing their own interests and vendettas for extended periods – over 20 years in this case. The Northampton Council tax payers appear to be picking up the bill for his vindictiveness.

Last edited 7 months ago by Jeremy Bray
Harry Child
Harry Child
7 months ago
Reply to  Andrea X

It depends on what you mean by the government. I suspect that the politicians are largely unaware of the detail antics of Charities but I bet the civil service is well aware. Personally I think there should be a savage appraisal into the whole charity sector. For example it is estimated that there are 620 cancer related charities. WHY!
I would also go further and require each charity by law to display how much % in a pound actually goes to the beneficiaries on their begging adverts and letters as well as how much the CEO gets paid.

Andrea X
Andrea X
7 months ago
Reply to  Harry Child

So it would be the civil service and their nefarious intents at fault.
I can believe that, but how they would benefit from the trans agenda is mysterious to me. It is much more believable that they just sleep walked into it.
That said, what Mary says makes sense if the boundaries are blurred.

Harry Child
Harry Child
6 months ago
Reply to  Harry Child

I would like to make additional points:- From Gov’t website
Government funding. Some charities are funded by central or local government.’ 
When people donate using Gift Aid, charities can reclaim tax from HM Revenue and Customs. For every £1 donated they can claim an extra 25 pence.’
‘ Major charities employ teams of professional fundraisers and have departments dedicated to securing legacies, getting major gifts from wealthy philanthropists and signing up new supporters in the street’ Google.
It would seem that many charities are businesses and while the country’s funds are so stretched gift aid should cease

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
7 months ago
Reply to  Andrea X

Nah it’s woke civil servants, who used to be the ‘useful idiots’ supporting communism/socialism in the old days; combined with civil service senior management who just want an easy life, a la ‘Yes Minister’, and don’t want to be seen blocking ‘progress’.
Remember Labour and govt civil servants at one time, in the late seventies, countenanced working with paedophile lobbying groups because the fashion then was to liberate ‘free love’.
In my silver hatted moments, I sometimes wonder if some clandestine paedophile group has organised the assault in recent years of transgender activists seeking to ‘help’ kids understand their sexuality and change their gender.