The beggars: fake charities

There was a longstanding rule in charity law that political purposes cannot be charitable. Political purposes includes any purpose to change the law or government practice, here or abroad. For centuries judges would take a dim view of attempts to get around the rule. A political purpose cannot be for the good of the public because there is no way to judge it.

This was strictly enforced. A society for encouraging friendship with Sweden, which seems benevolent enough, was struck down because, as the judge observed, the court could not take the view that it is always for the public benefit to be friendly with Sweden – for all the court knew, it might benefit the public to have a war with Sweden.

That is not to say that charitable uses were very circumscribed. There have been some strange charities, and to go through the conditions placed upon village charities for educating boys or feeding the worthy is to realise how the past can indeed be a foreign country. Then there is the Baconian Society, which seeks to prove that Francis Bacon wrote Shakespeare’s plays and which is a charity because the course of its ridiculous quest involves scholarly research that might be of public benefit and might turn up genuine insights (if not the one they are looking for).

There may still be funds founded in the seventeenth century for buying Christians out of slavery on the Barbary Coast of Africa. That used to be seen as a quaint leftover, but these days the number of slaves held in the world makes such funds as relevant as when they were created.

The turbulent politics of the twentieth century pushed at the boundaries. Occasionally there would pop up an educational charity ‘to educate the public in the benefits of socialism’ – not charitable. (The socialists instead just took the mainstream educational institutions over and still use them to promote socialism anyway.) Wealthy charities started to play politics, because political individuals infiltrated their governing structures to do so, and all that cash donated by starry-eyed elderly ladies is a big draw for someone who wants to spend it on their personal campaign.

Spending charity funds outside the charitable purposes for which it was given, which includes spending on any political purpose, is a breach of trust and in effect is theft.

There is subtlety in the abuse: it is not called lobbying but advising government from a position of expertise. The line between advice and naked political advocacy is a fine one and the Charity Commission used to issue guidance on what is acceptable and what is naughty. One rule was that a charity may not get its supporters to lobby their MPs and may not send them pro forma letters to use. Well, I posed as an RSPCA supporter once and collected some lobbying packs which blatantly broke all those rules: the Charity Commission made excuses for them. I had seen the Commission falling like wolves on innocent, small charities for minor infractions, but here was a huge abuse of charity funds being winked at. It might not have been the wholesale corruption of the Commission, just a single junior clerk afraid to make a fuss about a powerful charity, but when a national body presented the same material higher up, the commission when into self-defence mode and it was again brushed off. Here it became clear that a very wealthy charity like the RSPCA could ignore the rules against politics with impunity, as if somehow close coworking had turned into regulatory capture.

All the rules changed under Tony Blair. The old rule against political purposes was nominally kept in place, but charitable purposes were now to include ‘the protection of human rights’. That can be anything.

Even the most virulently socio-political organisation can claim charitable status, their objects being to protect the human rights of their client group. Charitable status shuts the mouth of doubters – it is a state-sanctioned approbation of moral goodness and to condemn a charity it therefore a secular blasphemy.

While it shuts the mouth of critics, charitable status open the public purse. Grants are made to large, political charities for ‘research’, and it all goes to fill the swollen coffers, so that the government is using taxpayers’ money to pay for lobbying against itself. Our money is being used to fund damaging social and political campaigns.

You may look at the extremist campaigns run by political advocacy groups like Stonewall and Mermaids and wonder how on Earth they have the money to campaign – you and I are paying for them. We are paying for the circulation in schools, of mendacious propaganda, aimed to shape tender minds to political goals and out-and-out lies. If a fantasy writer had penned a tale of a small committee who hate maleness so much they deem it toxic and set about lopping the goolies off as many small boys as they can, it would be classified as a disgusting dystopian fantasy, and the idea that the state would fund it – that would be beyond Kafka at his most lurid. However that is happening, and the same group is using taxpayers’ money to take over the school curriculum and silence dissent. That group is a charity under Blair’s dispensation.

These are fake charities: not charitable under any logical definition but that which Blair’s law attributed, running not from the benevolence of donors to a public benefit, but from an abuse of taxpayers’ money. Further, any charity whose trustees or officials join with the motive of using donated money to run a political campaign, that is corruption.

The immediate thing must be to turn off the tap of taxpayers’ money to these fake charities. Find out how they get the grants; find which civil servants approved them, and show them the door.

Then try to bar propaganda from schools. It would help if there were sources of information to replace those from the lobbyists – I can moan, but those of us who just do that are complicit in not providing an alternative.

Next, reverse Blair’s deformation of charity rules and at a stroke revoke the charitable status of political bodies. Let charity mean what it means to most people.

See also

Ochlocrats

I need not write yet another article on the idiocy behind the felling of statues – enough have been written, and more will come. Collaboration with lawlessness is more serious. Every age has outbreaks of ochlocracy; the rule of the mob, but authorities in league with the rioters? That is a modern disease, and it is deadly to democracy and to society itself.

Riots happen, and mob come together for the release it gives them, whatever the excuse. In past centuries it might be a section of the rootless poor with nothing to lose (hated by most of their fellows, who understand the need for order). Now we have rootless middle-class thugs, with one idea, if that, in the heads, and hatred spewing from every pore. This was the same contingent who burned Paris in ’68, but in 1968 the authorities and the respectable media were on the side of law and order: today as often the rioters have confederates in office.

With a small state, there is control over who is entrusted with power. The modern sprawling bureaucracies are a playground for activists with agendas. There is no conspiracy – there does not have to be – it just needs lots of seemingly innocuous positions to be filled by the sort of people who want the power they bring, to use for their own purposes, and for appointment panels to be staffed by cultural Marxists or those who are frightened to oppose the cultural Marxists. In this way the mindless, nihilist Marxists on the streets can know that there is no will to fight them. They have not won public opinion nor can they ever win an election, but they have power which bypasses democracy.

The Long March Through The Institutions has succeeded, in spite of the public will, in spite of democracy, and it is entrenching itself. The rioters are irrelevant really but provide a focus and an excuse for their collaborators in office to do what they wanted to do anyway. They are the ochlocrats.

(If I sound angry; I am. To hear my mother in law cowering in terror in her quiet country town, which has few policemen if any, because a mob of urban, white students have descended upon the town to take over the streets, scream their hatred and destroy the town’s soul, and nothing is done to oppose them – I am angry.)

For the woke thugs, the idea of personal autonomy must feel liberating, and the belief of utter rightness relieves one of the discomfort of having to think, while providing an internal justification for rebellion. It is not modern though: Hobbes, who had been through the Civil War described exactly that as one of the fatal diseases of a commonwealth:

To which may be added, the Liberty of Disputing against absolute Power, by pretenders to Politicall Prudence; which though bred for the most part in the Lees of the people; yet animated by False Doctrines, are perpetually medling with the Fundamentall Lawes, to the molestation of the Common-wealth; like the little Wormes, which Physicians call Ascarides.

We may further adde, the insatiable appetite, or Bulimia, of enlarging Dominion; with the incurable Wounds thereby many times received from the enemy; And the Wens, of ununited conquests, which are many times a burthen, and with lesse danger lost, than kept; As also the Lethargy of Ease, and Consumption of Riot and Vain Expence.

The disease of the state in having these ochlocrats in power will prove fatal unless drastic action is taken. It need not be what Franco did, however tempting that may be in the restless small hours, but tumbling as many as can be found out of office is needed. Make Joseph McCarthy look timid and slow.

Remember too that many of these dull officials doing the rioters’ bidding act that way not because they are fellow-travellers, but out of fear. Lift that fear then: burst open the Overton window, sack the ranks of driven ‘diversity officers’. Search the lists of daft ‘woke’ decisions, track them to their sources and hurl the guilty parties out. For those who try to get their fellow workers sacked for dissent, discipline and dismiss. (Let them find jobs in the commercial sector like the rest of us, where they might learn something of reality.) Lift the fear and allow honest decision-makers to shine and to do their duty.

One immediate thing can be done though: end the lockdown at once. It has already been ended by the crowds on the street, which has undone months of work. During the lockdown, the world is weird and nothing is normal. The structure of life is gone. It encourages the thought that anything might happen, and it might. Testosterone-filled youth are growing listless, bursting for action. Normality will begin to calm it down, just as routines soothe madness. We desperately need normality.

If the Government, those who are meant to be in charge, do not do this, do not take back control, then they are resigning their own authority to the ochlocrats. They should remember the dire warning Hobbes gave against assuming that the name of government means anything when it ceases to be real:

The Obligation of Subjects to the Soveraign is understood to last as long, and no longer, than the power lasteth, by which he is able to protect them. For the right men have by Nature to protect themselves, when none else can protect them, can by no Covenant be relinquished. The Soveraignty is the Soule of the Common-wealth; which once departed from the Body, the members doe no more receive their motion from it. The end of Obedience is Protection; which, wheresoever a man seeth it, either in his own, or in anothers sword, Nature applyeth his obedience to it, and his endeavour to maintaine it. And though Soveraignty, in the intention of them that make it, be immortall; yet is it in its own nature, not only subject to violent death, by forreign war; but also through the ignorance, and passions of men, it hath in it, from the very institution, many seeds of a naturall mortality, by Intestine Discord

See also

Books

Is the Housing Court dead?

Two threads were being spun before the election, in fact during the May ministry, on changes to housing law, and both were bad ideas.  One was to abolish assured shorthold tenancies retrospectively, or as the spinners put it to ‘end no-fault evictions’. The other was to establish a new Housing Court.  The former got through to the Conservative and Unionist Manifesto and to the Queen’s Speech.  I looked at it some months ago intending to revisit it:

The second thread, creating a Housing Court, has gone rather quiet, with the occasional squeak being heard.  A consultation process began at the end of 2018 from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. The Law Society were opposed and other bodies responded just by talking about resourcing (or in plain terms, wanting more taxpayers’ money). Is the Housing Court then dead?

The idea of  a dedicated Housing Court is understandable but flawed in concept for three reasons:  first of all it not only putting the cart before the horse, but is failing to include the horse at all; secondly, it will be subject to interest group capture; thirdly, it does not address the major issue.

There is a genuine, deep-seated problem with the current system, and if you doubt that I recommend sitting in a county court office all day.  You may frequently see a strong man break down in tears as his case is adjourned yet again and another month’s mortgage payments are to be made while no rent is coming in and no remedy is forthcoming. The tenant is thumbing his nose at his landlord, paying no rent and may be wrecking the flat so as to make it unlettable, but the landlord cannot do anything.

Some urgent action is needed.  A Housing Court is the wrong action though.

Cart / horse

The fundamental flaw in housing law is that it is complex, hard to find and self-contradictory.  The only experts are those who practice constantly in the field.  There is no single, comprehensive code of housing law.  Instead, innumerable Act of Parliament and statutory instruments have to be read together, and anything read in an older statute may have been replaced by a later one, or even by a section retrospectively inserted into an even older Act.

Typically an Act is passed after a report or a scandal calling for action and may be focussed on a particular list of mischiefs or alleged problems, adding a new complexity rather than smoothing the landscape.

There are contradictions, and inconsistent approaches, which is unsurprising given the piecemeal way in which the law is made.  This inconsistent and incomprehensive branch of law is the fundamental problem which landlords, tenants and courts face, and no new court should be put in place until it has coherent law which it can administer.  If though the law were rationalised, then there would be no need for a new court.

Interest-group capture

Interest group capture befouls many worthy endeavours.  It is a form of regulatory capture, by which a particular lobbying body or interest group takes control of a regulatory or judicial function, and a new Housing Court would be an open target.

The pressure for a new court has come from frustrated landlords, finding their claims for rent and possession pushed back in a queue of other cases The idea has indeed been attacked by tenants’ groups as a landlords’ weapon, but we would soon find that the system is captured by the opposite interest.

The body representing Citizen’s Advice Bureaux saw the idea as creating a landlords’ court and advised that “the power imbalance between landlords and tenants could be made worse”. Shelter, more interestingly, were positive on it (as long as they are given more taxpayers’ money), which alone should make us suspicious.

The idea may be to staff a court with those who spend all their time in the field so as to become experts. However the staff must be recruited, and applications will of course come from those with a particular interest in the field, and successful candidates will be those with long practice acting for tenants.  It needs little imagination to guess the socio-political tendency of the main applicant base, and who will in due course form the interview panel.

There should not be an ideological divide between pro-landlord and pro-tenant as if they were different creatures. Justice should be a neutral forum applying the law even-handedly between individuals, not classes, as it is in the general courts. However in a specialist court that ideal is distorted. The false narrative of eternal class-war is embedded in many and it has informed the shaping of the statutes defining housing law (to the extent that it they have any discernible shape). This idea of opposing, class-based sides will shape the mindset of those seeking to work in any new single-issue court.

The judges may remain fair and neutral, but they are influenced and briefed by their support staff. Then as each decision forms a precedent for the next, the direction of the court as a defender of tenants against their landlords will become institutionalised.

Fundamental toothlessness

A third issue was identified by the Civil Justice Council, which opposed the creation of a specialist court:  the judges currently do understand the law and do apply it justly, but there is poor enforcement.

A thing little spoken-of in the law is that effective landlords are those who ignore the law and evict tenants in ways it does not countenance.  Therefore good landlords are penalised by the Housing Acts for the failings of ruthless landlords, but ruthless landlords are less bothered.

Essentially, if the court eventually orders an eviction, the process of removing the tenant is slow and expensive.  There are too few bailiffs and getting an appointment takes too long, and the bailiff’s costs (and those of a locksmith) must be paid by the landlord already impoverished by months of legal proceedings.

Without enforcement, the courts are no more than vanity.  It is a neglected field though:  those concerned with civil justice do not want to look at the sordid business of actually laying hands on a man and hurling him from his erstwhile home. That is what the whole procedure is there for though: to authorise the landlord to get his own property back. Without that step, all the bewigged judges, clerks, staff and lawyers are pointless.

See also

Books

Puritans and the Pilgrim

The Church Times (which may be some readers’ favourite journal) carried an article recently by Dr Nicholas Fisher, ‘Standing down the Puritan Penumbra’, celebrating the work of Symon Patrick, who played a crucial part in defending the settlement of the Church of England after the Restoration. It is not just a subject of interest to church historians but it contains a strong lesson about the nation’s social and political divisions in our own day.

The history and the conflict

In the 17th century, the Church of England commanded the moral teaching of the nation and potentially its whole social outlook, and so control of it was key to controlling the ideology of England.  The Church’s official doctrines included freedom of conscience in that only the Bible is an absolute standard, but secular authorities would frequently find an excuse for punishing dissentient speech.  (Thomas Hobbes was accused of atheism for some of his ideas even though fully concordant with the Bible.)

Therefore the church in England and in Scotland was a battleground, much as media regulation is becoming a battleground for us today, and dissent from the established church would be punished not for doctrinal reasons, but to control preaching.

Before the Civil War, Parliament’s Puritan faction demanded that the King abolish bishops, to cow them into ceasing their opposition, and when the war was over the victorious Roundheads carried this through; they changed the polity of the Church of England, replacing bishops and dioceses with assemblies and presbyteries. It was a classic political case of the means to an end which became an end in itself, or the fringe demand, put just to be sacrificed in negotiation, which became an unshakable demand.

The old order was restored at the Restoration but it was not a foregone conclusion: Pepys in his diary confides that the King may be forced to concede to a Presbyterian church. In the event, the bishops returned, clergy were required to conform, huge numbers of clergy left to form non-conformist congregations, but it was not over:  strong voices still pressed for the abolish prelacy, to turn the Church of England into a Presbyterian church.

The pressure for Presbytery was strong and growing, and each fault in a bishop, or any slippage towards ceremonialism was held as proof of lapsing towards Roman ways. The move to Presbyterianism was made to feel inevitable.  That is echoed in every age: imperfection is held up as utter corruption and the word ‘inevitable’ breaks resistance. You may think of your own examples.

Into this stepped a clergyman, Symon Patrick. He could see that the Puritans were gaining the upper hand, and so he wrote ‘The Parable of the Pilgrim’, about a pilgrim trying to travel to Jerusalem, and first seeking a reliable guide.

I cannot say the Patrick’s Parable is a gripping read.  It is for from Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress. (written in the same age).  It was popular though, and is credited with convincing the King and the establishment that Presbytery was not inevitable nor was it the will of the people, and that the public mood was for the old ways.

The argument and the outcome

Patrick’s theme in essence was that the Church of England is a reliable guide, and the non-conforming Puritans are a violent, extreme faction who were responsible for the Civil War and would cause another one.

He does not claim that the episcopal version of the Church had the sole claim on truth and does not accuse the non-conformists of false doctrine, except in as far as they claimed to have a monopoly of the way to salvation and of acceptable practice. This then is a key: we are the reasonable men; they are dangerous extremists; remember the horror of the late war, as a revival of it looms in their counsels.

The result was effective: public opinion turned strongly in favour of the bishops, and the Puritans shrank back.  However it also encouraged the secular authorities to impose malicious penalties on non-conformity.  Whether Symon Patrick had that in mind I cannot say, but it makes it uncomfortable to read the triumphalist tone in the Church Times article, perhaps just an echo of the inevitable affection of a biographer for his subject.

Ill-treatment of non-conformists was unprincipled and counter-productive. Since the Restoration, the non-conformist churches and the Church of England have had a mutually supporting role in their mutual antagonism: the non-conformists are often the conscience to admonish the Church of England when it goes wrong, as it frequently does, and they allow preachers to speak out, on matters such as slavery and false doctrines, where the Anglican structure encourages silence and bland following of liturgy. At the same time, the Church of England provides a structure and written standard against which the non-conformist churches may be measured in case they are tempted to stray, as they do without structure: the Quakers have ceased to be Christian in any meaningful sense.

The lessons into modernity

In our own day, the moral teaching of the nation is secularised. Novel, irreligious doctrines coming out of nowhere are established and pressed upon us by secular authorities and those who set themselves up unelected as authorities. Even the clergy of the Church of England are complying.

The argument in Patrick’s Parable holds good today: the Puritans who claim a monopoly of truth are dangerous, and while their positions and arguments may be within the wide cast of honest opinion, they cannot be allowed in charge.

However the position of our own day is reversed from the Restoration period: the establishment has been seized by secular Puritans, little different from those Patrick describes in his Parable of the Pilgrim. They act in the way he warns, and without any apparent sense of irony the New Puritans are ready to accuse dissenting, conservative-minded folk of being dangerous extremists, and spit hatred at them in the name of opposing hate.

The New Puritans are not a myth, as case after case demonstrates: careers ruined, businesses closed and intimidated, others harassed by lawsuits. In this, the radical New Puritan may act as legislator, judge, jury and executioner. After the Long March Through the Institutions, establishment positions are held by left-wingers, so there is little resistance.

Now we need non-conforming commentators. A secular Symon Patrick in our own day would face ostracism, even in the cowed Church, as he would be writing outside the establishment. Maybe it would be coming too late: Patrick wrote to prevent a takeover, but for us, that takeover has happened.

See also

Books

Murmuring the judges – 2

The system of appointing and keeping judges is often under scrutiny. A few little pushes and a constitutional outrage can be committed in the dark.

In a previous article I looked at the condition of the judiciary and concluded that actually the quality of British judges, in all three of the jurisdictions, is very good, possibly the best in the world, and generally neutral in political controversies.  That makes the system a target for activists.

It would be worse if judges were forced to be political, as they are in the United States. British judges do not get to overturn primary legislation they dislike, and delegated legislation can be struck down only on narrow grounds. They are more vulnerable when decisions turn on social attitudes, and in a multicultural and acultural society in the midst of a culture war, there is no cultural norm and no equilibrium.

David Gauke, Lord Chancellor at the time of writing, gave a speech on 3 July 2019 in which he observed the pressures on judges:

“Those grappling with complex problems are not viewed as public servants but as engaged in a conspiracy to seek to frustrate the will of the public. They are ‘enemies of the people’.”

– and that:

“Our judiciary has a reputation for intellectual rigour, careful consideration of the arguments, and a serious-minded determination to each decision based on what is right and not necessarily what is superficially popular. I am not sure that all politicians have the same reputation.”

The easy target in the speech was ‘populism’, but there is more pressure from social justice warriors. A judge stepping out of line in a judgment or an intervention may be attacked more ruthlessly then being called an enemy of the people.  A judge may make the rather obvious point that a young woman who gets recklessly drunk in a low dive wearing provocative clothes is putting herself at unnecessary risk, but those judges who have said that have reaped a whirlwind of complaints. Had they suggested ‘she deserves it’ that would be despicable but just to suggest that people take more care of their own safety should not be criticised.

This post could be filled with pages of examples of magistrates and officials removed for expressing the slightest dissent from the progressivist line, but that would serve little purpose: the process of Twitterstorm, written complaint and disciplinary action is well known. The main point is whether social justice warriors can enforce their will, and to what extent.

High Court judges have a constitutional protection: they can only be removed after a joint address from both Houses of Parliament.  That ensures that they are politically independent.  Over the course of the three centuries since that rule was enacted, only one judge has been removed by this procedure, for criminal abuse of his position. Circuit judges are less well protected, but there cannot be removed at a whim. For those in the lowest positions, and lay magistrates, a word may remove them.

Watch for voices claiming the current system is old-fashioned or, worse still. ‘obsolete’. It will not be the populists who do that, but the ‘unpopulists’; those with a woke agenda.  They will be working in the dark, in committees and all the little offices that that have been infiltrated on the Long March.

We should all worry about making it easier to sack judges, as that they would be removed for petty reasons.  The argument in learned reports will talk of taking action where a judge has committed a crime or corruption, or become a Weinstein, for that is the way to prise the lid off.

The lid off, it would open the way to politically motivated sackings and we would have an ochlocracy.  The Daily Mail headline about “Enemies of the People” was mild and brief compared with pressure from within the establishment; and the new establishment, not the democratic overlay.  Political storms are easy to begin without thought: when the ‘Birmingham Six’ had their convictions overturned, one MP tried to start the process to sack the judge who had gaoled them, but could go no further as constitutional procedure is robust against emotional lashing-out, but when there is a disciplinary procedure, that will be another matter. Every so often there is a Twitter storm demanding sackings for public officials alleged to have said something unfortunate (whether they did or not – Roger Scruton’s treatment is still raw): when once even High Court and Supreme Court judges are vulnerable, there is no stopping it.

We would end up with fearful, bland, useless judges, taken from the ranks of those meek and willing to be led by the changing fashions of discourse, not those willing and able to command, which is what a judge must do.

See also

Books