Tristan Blythe: Charities are an important part of maintaining a healthy democracy

01 Mar 2024 Voices


A few days after this issue is published, the chancellor of the exchequer will deliver the spring budget, which could be the last major economic announcement before the next general election.

Traditionally, pre-election budgets are often a chance for the government to present tax cuts and spending plans in order for voters to view them more favourably at the ballot box. It is widely reported that this budget will follow this pattern, with statements from both Jeremy Hunt and Rishi Sunak being interpreted as signals of planned tax cuts.

Given how far behind the Conservative party is in opinion polls (and its recent by-election defeats), it remains to be seen whether the budget is able to swing opinions. Also, it remains to be seen how any giveaways will be funded – especially now that the UK officially entered a recession at the end of 2023.

Of course, the UK is not alone in facing elections this year. Some commentators have suggested that more elections are taking place worldwide in one year than ever before. These include India, Pakistan, the USA and Russia and a great many other places. There is not the space to list them all here, but Wikipedia has produced a list.

It would be nice if the debates that arise are conducted with respect and that participants avoid inflammatory commentary. Although, in reality, political rhetoric is likely to be highly heated in many of these elections.

The so-called “culture wars” as well as misinformation and fake news have proliferated on social media and partly fuelled these more hostile debates. No doubt this will step up as election campaigns get under way.

There has been much discussion on how, and if, charities should campaign. It is, of course, a legal right for them to do so.

More so, it is an important aspect of our democracy that charities do take part in national debates – whether there is a general election or not.

As experts in their field, charities are often well-placed to add important information and facts to these debates. Their voice should be clearly heard to help deepen understanding of issues and combat misinformation, so opinions and voting decisions can be based on facts.

That can only be healthy for society.

Tristan Blythe is the editor of Charity Finance 

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