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Charities Hit Back At Tory MPs Over Attacks On Runnymede Trust And Defend Right To Criticise Race Report

A group of charities has hit back after the Runnymede Trust was reported to a watchdog for criticising the government's race report (Alamy)

3 min read

Exclusive: A group of leading charities has defended their right to tackle social justice after a group of Tory MPs attacked the Runnymede Trust for criticising the government’s controversial race report.

In a statement today, they reject a move by the veteran Tory MP Sir John Hayes who told the Commons 20 of his colleagues have written to the Charity Commission calling on them to investigate the race equality thinktank.

Hayes also asked the equalities minister Kemi Badenoch to make representations across government to “stop the worthless work – often publicly funded – of organisations that are promulgating weird, woke ideas”.

But the charities, including the End Violence Against Women Coalition, Shelter, Liberty, Friends of the Earth and the Quakers in Britain, say many organisations exist “because the state has failed and a clear example of the failure of the state is a failure to dismantle race inequality in Britain”.

“The changes that charities are asking for are not ‘worthless’ or ‘weird’ but focused on solving some of this country’s most enduring challenges,” the letter, organised by the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations (ACEVO), adds.

It comes after the Runnymede Trust was one of a number of organisations to criticise the Sewell report into racial disparities in the UK, delivering an open letter and petition to Downing Street urging Boris Johnson to reject its findings.

But Badenoch defended the review in Parliament yesterday and condemned the “abhorrent and appalling abuse” faced by its authors, which has included death threats.

She instead accused those who made criticisms of “bad-faith attempts to undermine the credibility” of the report, and said the Runnymede Trust was part of a "climate of intimidation" around those involved with it.

It prompted a spokesperson for Black Lives Matter UK to say Badenoch’s statement “only confirms our view that the report was not intended to interrogate structural racism, but instead serves as propaganda”.

ACEVO highlighted this is not the first time Tory MPs have complained to the charity watchdog, after Conor Burns wrote to them about an Oxfam campaign which linked cuts in benefits to poverty in 2014, and last year the ‘Common Sense Group’ of backbenchers called for an investigation into Barnardo’s after it published an article explaining white privilege.

But the Charity Commission’s chief executive Helen Stephenson published a blog in response to complaints made about the National Trust’s work on colonialism that “charities are allowed to campaign and to take controversial opinions in support of their purpose”.

The statement from the charities adds: “We stand in solidarity with all those working to end racism and recognise that organisations run by racialised people and organisations seeking to tackle inequality are disproportionately targeted by attempts to discredit and quieten them.

“We also stand with all charities and civil society organisations working for the public good to create the kind of safe, just and free society that benefits us all.”The Runnymede Trust has said it regrets the "recent trend for politicians to forsake dialogue and simply file complaints against charities whose efforts to address and challenge racism they contest".

In a statement, the charity said: "Given such universal and excoriating criticism of the Sewell Report, it seems sadly revealing that the MPs in question have chosen to pillory one of the UK's leading race equalities charities as a consequence of its response to the report, rather than focus on the substantive issue of how to tackle racial inequality in this country."

A Charity Commission spokesperson confirmed they were looking into the issue. “We take all concerns raised with us seriously, and assess them carefully to determine whether they fall within our remit as regulator,” a spokesperson said. 

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