by Mary Harrington
Friday, 7
January 2022

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.

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.

Join the discussion

  • 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: 
    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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • To get involved in the discussion and stay up to date, become a registered user.

    It's simple, quick and free.

    Sign me up