Charity leaders take leave to campaign as parliamentary candidates

24 May 2024 News

Melanie Ward, chief executive of Medical Aid for Palestinians

Medical Aid for Palestinians

Some charity leaders have temporarily stepped down from their roles to campaign as parliamentary candidates in the general election.

Following prime minister Rishi Sunak’s announcement on Wednesday that an election will take place on 4 July, leaders of International Rescue Committee (IRC) UK and Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) both took leave to focus on their efforts to be elected as Labour MPs.

IRC UK confirmed that executive director Laura Kyrke-Smith would take unpaid leave while she campaigns over the next six weeks to represent the parliamentary constituency of Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire.

In her stead, IRC UK has appointed its senior director of strategic partnerships Khusbu Patel as interim executive director.

MAP chief executive Melanie Ward confirmed in a social media post that she was taking a leave of absence from her work with the charity.

The charity said its senior management team would oversee its work, including its Gaza emergency response, while Ward campaigns in the Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath constituency in Fife, Scotland.

Meanwhile, Oasis Community Housing chief executive David Smith was recently selected as Labour’s candidate in a newly-created North Northumberland seat.

The charity has not yet confirmed whether Smith will be taking leave.

Regulatory guidance

According to Charity Commission guidance, sector leaders are free to run as candidates alongside their usual roles.

“If an employee is directly engaged in a charity’s campaigning activity and also has personal involvement with one particular political party, for example they are standing as a candidate, they should declare this to their employer (the charity),” its guidance reads.

“The trustees should then consider this potential conflict of interest and assess the risks for the charity in terms of both reputation and legal liability of the person taking on both roles simultaneously.”

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