Funds raised from the sales of former Radio 1 DJ Mike Read’s controversial song ‘UKIP Calypso’ have been donated to a charity, but which charity has not been named.
The song was released in October 2014 to raise funds for UKIP and the victims of Ebola. It was endorsed by UKIP leader Nigel Farage MP who invited the public to buy it and send it to number one in the charts.
The funds raised were previously offered to the British Red Cross but the charity rejected them on the grounds that, in order to protect its impartiality, it does not accept donations from political parties:
As a neutral organisation we cannot benefit from something which overtly supports one political party.
— British Red Cross (@BritishRedCross) October 22, 2014
I can see plenty of reasons why a charity should accept a donation, legally derived. Indeed, they, and specifically their trustees, are obliged to do so by law, with only a few reasons why they might legitimately choose to refuse it, hence the British Red Cross’ decision. For a smaller charity in particular, such an unexpected gift might be transformational, helping them achieve far more far more quickly.
Of course, anonymous donations to charity are made every day, whether large gifts or small, and that is the prerogative of any individual. But in my view gifts to charities by political parties should not be made in secret, both for the reputation of the party and the charity.
Why secret charity donations from all political parties are wrong
There are several reasons why this transaction leaves a nasty taste in the mouth.
1. The single was sold specifying beneficiaries – UKIP and victims of Ebola. Does the charity that accepted the money work with victims of Ebola? If not, were purchasers of the single misled? How can anyone check that the money was spent correctly?
2. Was it UKIP or the charity that insisted on secrecy? Or both? What does that say about each organisation?
Third Sector quotes a UKIP spokesman who explained why they didn’t reveal the charity: “If we do, people are going to put that charity under a whole lot of pressure when actually it’s going to a good cause”. Yet it did name the British Red Cross as its original intended recipient.
If a political party insists on silence in return for a donation, should a charity accept such a gagging clause?
3. How much was donated to charity? Was it a precise 50/50 split as originally suggested? Were expenses deducted beforehand?
4. What was donated – was it the 50% promised to an Ebola-related charity, or was it in addition the 50% pledged to UKIP? The donation was apparently made by UKIP, which suggests the latter. But why would a political party act as a channel from the sales by an independent performer (Mike Read) to a charity? Would he/his company not make the 50% donation earmarked for charity directly to charity?
5. Is this the only secret donation to charity that UKIP has made? Have other political parties made secret donations to charities?
6. Transparency is an essential element of charities maintaining public trust and credibility. Could this secret donation and agreement between a political party and charity undermine this trust and affect other charities negatively, whether those working with Ebola victims, or all charities?
7. The secret donation was made in the run up to a General Election in the UK, with greater attention paid to the activities of political parties. Why was the donation made at this time? Did it need to wait until Parliament was recalled, or is that unrelated and it was simply because the income had finally been tallied?
8. What happens if or when the details are leaked, possibly from within the charity?
9. And last but not least – let’s return to the issue of how much are we talking about? Is there a level of gift that it is worth being secretive about? Was the sum raised embarrassingly small, and therefore the charity could be seen as helping shield UKIP from public criticism?
That’s the problem with combining secrecy, party politics and charity. It just leads to more questions.
Photo: Secret by Rynio Productions on Shutterstock.com