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A strange convergence of interests



The Telegraph reports that complaints have been made to the Charities Commission about green NGOs campaigning on Brexit. 

The charities watchdog will on Monday issue new guidance on political neutrality after Friends of the Earth, The Wildlife Trusts and Greenpeace all made public comments backing EU membership.

The charities have all insisted that Britain being a member of the EU is vital to protecting Britain’s wildlife - with one suggesting that those backing Brexit want to make the country “the dirty man of Europe”.

The author of the piece, political correspondent Ben Riley Smith, seems to have missed the fact that Friends of the Earth and the Wildlife Trusts are heavily funded by the EU.

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Reader Comments (79)

I've given up my membership of the National Trust and the RSPB because of them wasting my money on their political and other climate-related nonsense. It looks like membership of my local Wildlife Trust could be the next one to go.

Mar 7, 2016 at 9:22 AM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby


Mar 7, 2016 at 9:24 AM | Unregistered Commenterkim

They put their objectives above British democracy.

My favourite extract is the Wildlife Trusts explaining why EU membership “matters for wildlife”.

Democracy matters to me. But in their book I expect I count for less than wildlife does.

Mar 7, 2016 at 9:31 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Page

I wonder how much of the money we supposedly get back from the EU goes to organisations like these.

Mar 7, 2016 at 9:34 AM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

Note that Greens are also keen on supranational authorities, as this the best way to protect the international environment.

Mar 7, 2016 at 9:42 AM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Tol

Well, when they see the likelihood of their inflated salaries/pensions/lifestyles are put at risk, they'll fight like the wildlife they principles & no morals = survive!

Mar 7, 2016 at 9:57 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlan the Brit

Here is the blog at the Wildlife Trust website that's referred to in the Telegraph article.

Mar 7, 2016 at 10:30 AM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

I'm planning to vote Remain and in principle I don't have a problem with charities stating what they believe will be in the best interests of their beneficiaries. Why wouldn't you?
What I do object to is political campaigning since all charities will be supported by.a cross-section of political views. I've said before, if charities want to campaign politically they should set up a 'branch' for that purpose and only use money freely donated by the public directly into that fund.

Mar 7, 2016 at 10:30 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

But they're not campaigning on Brexit - they're campaigning for Brremain. Like I said, there are too many remainians in this country.

Mar 7, 2016 at 10:33 AM | Unregistered CommenterHarry Passfield

Guido had an article about EU funded UK charities to the tune of almost £220 million every year.

Mar 7, 2016 at 10:36 AM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

Mike Jackson, Greenpeace do have a commercial arm. Personally I don't think any charities should have special tax status because none of them resist political meddling if they get the opportunity.

Mar 7, 2016 at 10:42 AM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

I am sure the populations of Sparrows & other small birds are delighted at the decimation of their populations by the Sparrowhawk, a protected species, & that of the Hedgehog community at the mercy of the Badger population, a protected species! Why do they always complain when a predator is made a protected species that their prey starts to delcine in numbers?

Mar 7, 2016 at 10:45 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlan the Brit

Guido had an article about EU funded UK charities to the tune of almost £220 million every year.

Mar 7, 2016 at 10:36 AM | TinyCO2
Um. They are not funded by the EU. They are funded by us. The EU simply hand our money on to them. Without so much as a by your leave.

Mar 7, 2016 at 11:25 AM | Unregistered CommenterJeremy Poynton

Mike Jackson, Greenpeace do have a commercial arm. Personally I don't think any charities should have special tax status because none of them resist political meddling if they get the opportunity.

Mar 7, 2016 at 10:42 AM | TinyCO2

Agreed - and NZ & Canada, I believe, have removed Greenpeace's charitable status because of their political meddling, and India have of course gone for them big time. Time we did the same.

Mar 7, 2016 at 11:28 AM | Unregistered CommenterJeremy Poynton

Jeremy Poynton, my question was whether that money is officially classed as part of what we get back from the EU. I'm guessing that it is. Most people wouldn't think of the charities when talking about what we 'get' from the EU. Also, just because a charity is from here, doesn't mean it does charitable work here.

Mar 7, 2016 at 11:35 AM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

Yes welcome to the FUD campaign that was used by the tories for the Scottish referendum and the Election campaign. No doubt Cameron and/or the EU will also come up with a last minute bag of false promises as in the referendum or sling racist slurs around like confetti as in the election to appease the mindless nodding dogs with the 'I'm alright jack' tee-shirt that forms the bulk of his support.

Mar 7, 2016 at 12:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG

Mike Jackson, but do these charities necessarily reflect the will of their members/donors when they undertake such political campaigns (and deciding where and by whom political decisions are taken seems to to fit the qualification of "political" in this instance)?

Perhaps they should be made to poll their members before they strike out, just like Thatcher did with the Trade Unions.

Mar 7, 2016 at 12:13 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

Friends of the Earth, Wildlife trusts etc. can always move to Europe after a successful Brexit

Mar 7, 2016 at 12:13 PM | Registered CommenterAlbert Stienstra

It would be worth finding out the answer to that question.
Since Greenpeace (to take that as an example) is an international organisation it may be that the EU doesn't differentiate as between one national section of it and another. If it simply funds Greenpeace and leaves it to Greenpeace to decide how to divvy up the goodies then I would assume that the cash that comes to Greenpeace UK does not count as money the UK gets from the EU.
Again, to repeat myself, I am very uncomfortable with charities getting any money from national or supranational governments unless that is payment for a contract to supply a service where the charity is better placed than government to provide that service.
Since the environmental organisations are almost entirely political in their function ... fill the rest in!

michael hart
My point. I suspect that, certainly with the RSPB, a lot of the climate stuff does not have support from donors. In fact a better example might be the RSPCA which is currently going through some turmoil because it has strayed from its original path thanks to a certain amount of infiltration.
Set up a "fighting fund" and anyone who wants to can contribute to that.

Mar 7, 2016 at 12:20 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

Also pertinent: BCC boss resigns over 'Brexit' support

The director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, John Longworth, has resigned after being suspended for saying the UK's long-term prospects could be "brighter" outside the EU.[..] Announcing Mr Longworth's departure, the BCC said he had breached the group's official position of neutrality on the referendum.
BCC president Nora Senior said the organisation was "non-partisan" and had decided not to campaign for either side in the forthcoming UK referendum on EU membership.

Mar 7, 2016 at 12:24 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

Since when did Friends of the Earth, The Wildlife Trusts and Greenpeace have any interest in British wildlife..?

Mar 7, 2016 at 12:31 PM | Unregistered Commentersherlock1

Alan the Brit: This is from a hedgehog website:

Does badger predation explain hedgehog population decline?

No – hedgehogs and badgers have coexisted for thousands of years without the latter threatening the existence of the former. It is has not been shown that all badgers prey on hedgehogs as the technique for opening up rolled up hedgehogs may have to be learned. Zoologist Hans Kruuk studied badgers at Wytham Woods in the 1970s and did not report hedgehogs forming a large proportion of their diet (small mammals and carrion were recorded), or predation in the field. However, hedgehog numbers are lower when badgers are present so it may be that badgers do exert some control of hedgehog populations. Our local Hogwatch survey may help cast more light on this.

Can hedgehogs and badgers coexist?

Yes. The main requirement is an adequate food supply for both. Suitable habitats will provide good cover for hedgehogs to hide and nest, and an environment free of toxins. Suitable habitats need to be of sufficient size and connectivity to allow both species to forage for food over large areas, if required.

Mar 7, 2016 at 12:39 PM | Registered Commenterdennisa

michael hart
This refendum is throwing up some strange anomalies.
The idea that government ministers are being allowed to campaign against government policy is a bizarre idea to start with. The idea that ministers campaigning for Brexit should be allowed to access papers not relevant to their department the better to carry on that campaign is weird.
The idea that we should be up in arms because the D-G of an organisation that represents a broad cross-section of British businesses (and which has, rightly in my view, decided not to favour one side or the other for that reason) has been asked to stand down — not for supporting Brexit but for breaching his organisation's policy on neutrality — is frankly crazy.
The Leavers have been playing this game from the beginning. They have tried to hogtie the Remainers while having everything their own way. Which is one reason why I am inclined to vote Remain; I can't stand being in the company of the creeps on the other side.

Present company probably excepted!

Mar 7, 2016 at 12:52 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

Green NGO's need to be set free from the financial constraints of the modern world, and provided with a natural habitat to co-exist with nature, free from money, food, reliable energy, water, medical aid, housing, etc. Large parts of the Sahara, and Arctic circle are not lived in by intelligent primate species, and would be ideal. They could be given UN Conservation Zone Special Status, to conserve the rest of the planet, from their destructive tendencies.

Mar 7, 2016 at 12:56 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

" heavily funded by the EU"

As are the BBC, natch.

Mar 7, 2016 at 1:30 PM | Registered Commenterjamesp

LOL, how do FOE respond to being told off by the charity commission for political campaigning?
By writing to the PM.

Mar 7, 2016 at 1:34 PM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

Mike Jackson
I agree with virtually everything you've written here.

Mar 7, 2016 at 1:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

Mike Jackson:

The idea that government ministers are being allowed to campaign against government policy is a bizarre idea to start with. The idea that ministers campaigning for Brexit should be allowed to access papers not relevant to their department the better to carry on that campaign is weird.
What is really weird, if I may, is to know that while you are at odds with the crazy politics practised by our elected representatives, you are prepared to allow an un-elected cabal (the EC) take you and this country into a federal state with more federal powers that we, as Brits, will have no control over. I always took you for a man (based on your posts on CC science) in favour of democracy.

Mar 7, 2016 at 1:46 PM | Unregistered CommenterHarry Passfield

It would be interesting to see the FoE report itself.
If Brexit would really and honestly be "bad" for the environment in the UK then that could be an important elememt in making up people's minds on the subject.
I don't see how a change in governance in the UK could seriously affect the environment one way or the other and I suspect the report is more "nuanced" then we are being led to believe. Either that or they fear the writing would be on the wall for a lot of their climate-related stuff which is being driven largely by EU policies not UK ones!
The crunching sound you hear may well be a gravy train hitting the buffers.

Mar 7, 2016 at 1:51 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

Do you have irrefutable evidence of EU funding for the BBC, Robert Christopher made the same claim yet when you search the amounts involved when compared to the license fee are very small beer. Internet searches reveal

The BBC admitted in a letter to a Tory MP that it has received nearly £3million in grant money from the European Union over the past four years.

The broadcaster also disclosed that its commercial arm BBC Worldwide borrowed over £141million from the European Investment Bank since 2003. Of that figure £30million is still due to be repaid by the end of May this year.

Total licence fee income collected increased by £16million from £3,706million to £3,722million as a result of modest household growth.

You may well consider total grants of 0.1% of annual income spread over 4 years unacceptable and I'd have some sympathy for that view but I don't it warrants shock horror headlines such as this

REVEALED: BBC accepts MILLIONS in EU cash during run up to referendum

THE BBC has admitted to taking a massive £2 million of funding from the European Union in the run up to the referendum.

The corporation, which already gets £3.7 billion from the licence fee, took the cash over the last three years to expand its research and development (R&D) arm.

But critics have blasted the broadcaster, saying the payouts give the impression the BBC “is being paid to do the EU’s bidding”.

As far as I can tell these accusations of EU funding biasing the BBC fall into the same category as big oil funding climate change sceptics, yes there is a teeny bit but has it changed anything they'd be doing? Probably not.

Borrowing from banks wherever they are based is also a no-no n my opinion despite the amounts being fairly small

But if you have better evidence than this I'll happily change my view (several hundred million annually will do it) .

Mar 7, 2016 at 2:07 PM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

@dennisa: "In Britain, they are the main predator of hedgehogs, which have demonstrably[21] lower populations in areas where badgers are numerous, so that hedgehog rescue societies will not release hedgehogs into known badger territories."

Extract from the Wikipidia page!

Mar 7, 2016 at 2:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlan the Brit

Mike Jackson

Like Harry Passfield I am surprised to find you siding with the EU. Is it a coincidence that today it was announced that Google has been instructed (by the EU) to fulfil its legal obligation to remove from the web (in the EU). all entries that are deemed to be inflammatory, out of date or irrelevant if asked to by an EU citizen?

Mar 7, 2016 at 3:03 PM | Registered CommenterDung

Alan the Brit, dennisa: The badgers wiping out hedgehogs myth is largely propaganda spread by the NFU and CLA in an attempt to deflect opposition to culling of badgers.

Mar 7, 2016 at 3:05 PM | Registered CommenterSalopian

@Salopian: Not terribly sure where the "badgers wiping out hedgeogs" came from at all. I merely pointed out that a primary meal source for a badger is a hedgehog, among other things! Wasn't aware anyone was trying to "wipeout! hedgehogs or badgers.

Mar 7, 2016 at 3:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlan the Brit

Alan: I suggest you try some more authoritative sources than wikipedia! There is a considerable difference between "badgers being the main predator of hedgehogs" and "a primary meal source for a badger is a hedgehog". The primary food sources of badgers are earthworms, invertebrates, fruits and nuts. Badgers do not predate adult hedgehogs, but will take their young, which are only available for around 4 months of the year.

Mar 7, 2016 at 3:38 PM | Registered CommenterSalopian

@Salopian: If you bothered to read the page I looked at it says pretty much tha badgers are among other things they eat. However, a small mammal would seem to be a "main meal" for a badger given it's relative size!

Mar 7, 2016 at 3:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlan the Brit

Mike Jackson, a quick query if you'd be so kind.

"...The idea that government ministers are being allowed to campaign against government policy is a bizarre idea to start with..."

Is this actually the case? I was under the impression that it was government policy to hold a referendum and then abide by the wishes of the British people, whereas David Cameron's position is that we remain part of the EU.
I may be wrong, but I'd welcome some further input.

Mar 7, 2016 at 4:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterSteveW

Ridley had something to say about the badger/hedgehog issue...

Mar 7, 2016 at 4:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG

@Mike Jackson

I'm planning to vote Remain....

Odd. Out of curiosity, can you tells us what your major reason is for this? As far as I can tell the only reason to vote remain is that the establishment wants us to...

Mar 7, 2016 at 4:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterDodgy Geezer


"the amounts involved when compared to the license fee are very small beer"

So why take it at all when it undermines their claims to impartiality, not to mention 'the unique way they're funded'? To me, it just smacks of their usual arrogance.

Mar 7, 2016 at 4:25 PM | Registered Commenterjamesp

The EU budget finances activities ranging from developing rural areas and conserving the environment to protecting external borders and promoting human rights.

The first two are logically opposites and the last two are failures. Wasting money is what the EU does, n'est-ce pas?

Mar 7, 2016 at 4:37 PM | Unregistered Commenterssat

Harry Passfield (and others)
First off, if you still believe that the 'United States of Europe' is anything but a pipe dream among a small group of Euro-fanatics then, in the famous phrase, I have a bridge you might be interested in! It has been kicked into the long grass so many times I doubt they could find it if they went looking, which they won't because the Irish will vote against it, the French will vote against it, the Brits will vote against it, the Dutch will vote against it, the Danes will vote against it.
If they were allowed a vote the Germans would vote against it and their leaders know that.
Ask any sane European politician and he will tell you that "ever closer (political) union" will only ever happen if it is clear that the people of Europe want it. Those that don't can stay as they are. Ever closer monetary or commercial union is a different matter; it's happening and it's largely beneficial.
Since this subject is causing as much rancour as the Scotland referendum I'm anxious not to pursue this very much further. I will only say that to date I am finding the Leavers a damn sight more intolerant than the Remainers. I won't even speculate as to why that should be so.
On the question of policy: Cameron reached an agreement with the other EU countries which was approved by the Cabinet — as in more voted for it than against it. At which point it became government policy. On balance I agree with the decision to let ministers speak out; this is after all a major constitutional decision. That doesn't make the situation any less odd.
Incidentally I'm awaiting June 24 with bated breath. I am prepared to bet anything (within reason!) that if Remain win Leave will throw all its toys out of the pram; if Leave win they will throw their erstwhile colleagues out of the pram!
But of course that's just my opinion.
And I think for the sake of peace and love in the congregation, that will be my last word on the subject.

Mar 7, 2016 at 4:42 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

Thanks Mike, I was somehow unaware of the ratification/vote in favour by the cabinet, but that makes sense.

Mar 7, 2016 at 5:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterSteveW


"an agreement with the other EU countries"

Which will last until June 24th!

I shall be placing two small bets:
1) Cameron will lose his job
2) There will be a general election this year

Both require a 'leave' vote, of course, but that seems plausible. I'm old enough to have been around for the first referendum, and what we signed up to then was very different from what we have now.

Mar 7, 2016 at 5:20 PM | Registered Commenterjamesp

Mike Jackson. I think my last word on your foray into the EU Ref will be when I accept an apology for calling 'leavers' "creeps". But anyway, let me leave you this thought. When the DG of BCC is censured for declaring a position on the Ref (when BCC wanted to stay neutral), it is interesting that his fellow board members are able to go censure-free when they publicly proclaim their support for " remain".

Mar 7, 2016 at 5:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterHarry Passfield

" The idea that ministers campaigning for Brexit should be allowed to access papers not relevant to their department the better to carry on that campaign is weird."

The idea that there is something in those papers which might reinforce the out case or undermine the in case and that info is not allowed to emerge, now THAT is weird.

Mar 7, 2016 at 5:26 PM | Unregistered Commenterrhoda

Mike Jackson, June 24th will also dramatically alter the betting on who will be the next UK Prime Minister. Simmering resentments will surface across the political spectrum.

Presumably other countries with growing disaffection for EU policies, are watching the UK with interest/trepidation.

Mar 7, 2016 at 5:27 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

The Leavers have been playing this game from the beginning. They have tried to hogtie the Remainers while having everything their own way. Which is one reason why I am inclined to vote Remain; I can't stand being in the company of the creeps on the other side.

Present company probably excepted!
Mar 7, 2016 at 12:52 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

Mike Jackson, that sounds a bit like politics on all sides to me. The stay-inners seem to me to have the establishment advantages largely on their side, which has the effect of pushing me in the other direction. I am now undecided, where I was strongly in favour of "in" most of my life. With tens of millions of voters each with their own varied opinions, but only two voting options available, describing the "other side" as "creeps" is not a helpful approach when it comes to election time, IMO. That is the black-and-white mistake the media is making again with Donald Trump. In fact, it may well be that this dumbed down black-and-white approach to ambiguity by the media is what produces Donald trumps.

They also treated Reagan with the same contempt (in the UK, at least). I certainly laughed hard and loud when Not-The-Nine-O'Clock-News gave Reagan the full treatment [They had an “energy” question then too!] but, so far, I would say history has rightfully given him the last laugh.

But at least we get to vote out the politicians. Or so we fondly liked to think. Many people aren't so sure now. I grew up hearing lots of complaining about the access and influence enjoyed by corporations, and how they abused that power. Now I see equal abuse by lobbies of various descriptions who I didn’t vote for. The energy and carbon dioxide twaddle spouted by greens and a handful of activist scientists is what broke the camels back and moved me to comment here at BH, when I normally don't bother for most other political issues.

Regarding the EU, I shall have to consider my position carefully.

Mar 7, 2016 at 5:29 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

The antics of the assorted "charities" and NGOs is a simple "who pays the piper" thing - "follow the money" being a very reliable indicator of motivation - especially when the money is other people's and continuing receipt is consequent on loyalty to the paymasters and 'nowt else.

The morass of carefully cultivated and paid-for allegiance spreads far beyond the few usual suspects Andrew notes in the post and we can expect the recipients of Berlaymont largess (and pensions) to increase the volume of prompted chirruping as the vote approaches

A little historical perspective which I think is worth a few minutes of the time of anybody who's going to vote.

One thing is abundantly clear - the UK media are swerving or being directed around the disarray that is precipitating across the mainland.

It would seem that Migration, The €-zone, military adventures and climate policy are not actually viewed by Cameron's crew as suitable fare for inclusion in the public's decision matrix for voting.,.

Mar 7, 2016 at 5:52 PM | Registered Commentertomo

We have to come out sooner or later. They want ever closer union. We don't. We just want a common market. This circle cannot be squared.

Out now, with a bit of dignity.

Mar 7, 2016 at 6:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterJames Evans

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