Foreign Office probes charity it funds for ‘anti-Corbyn’ bias

11 Dec 2018 News

The Foreign & Commonwealth Office has said it is investigating a charity it funds over alleged political partiality.

Institute for Statecraft, based in Fife, Scotland, runs a programme called Integrity Initiative - which has received more than £2m in Foreign Office funding over the past two years.

The Sunday Mail reported that the Integrity Initiative Twitter account - which has more than 3,000 followers - shared a series of links to articles criticising Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and his allies.

The newspaper quoted posts that linked to articles that called Corbyn a "useful idiot" who "helped the Kremlin cause", as well as one that said the Labour leader's communications chief Seamus Milne had worked "with the Kremlin agenda".

Sir Alan Duncan, foreign office minister, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme yesterday that he had ordered his department to investigate why the account shared the links.

He said: “I don’t know the facts but if there is any kind of organisation for which we are paying which is involved in domestic politics in that way, I would totally condemn it and I have already over the weekend asked for a report to be on my desk by 10 o’clock this morning to say if there is any such activity going on.”

Duncan added that if the Initiative has spread politically biased material it should stop doing so and added “I want to know why on earth it happened in the first place”.

Civil Society News has asked the Foreign Office whether its investigation into the charity has concluded.

According to the charity’s latest accounts, the Foreign Office awarded it a grant of £250,000 in the year to November 2017. It had a total income of around £500,000 in that year.

Last week, Duncan said in an answer to a written question that the Foreign Office had funded the Institute for Statecraft's Integrity Initiative £296,500 during 2017/18, with that figure set to rise to £1.961m in the current financial year.

Meanwhile, Emily Thornberry, Labour’s shadow foreign secretary, said: “It is one of the cardinal rules of British public life that official resources should not be used for party political purposes.

“So, it is simply outrageous that the clearly misnamed Integrity Initiative - funded by the Foreign Office to the tune of £2.25m over the past two years - has routinely been using its Twitter feed to disseminate personal attacks and smears against the leader of the opposition, the Labour Party and Labour officials.”

Charity response

The charity denied that it had “engaged in party political activity” and said it “would never take up a party-political stance”.

It said: “The Integrity Initiative is a non-partisan programme of The Institute for Statecraft, a non-partisan charity which promotes good governance.

“The Integrity Initiative looks specifically at the use of disinformation and malign influence to undermine the values of democratic societies.”

An OSCR spokesperson did not say whether it would investigate the charity.

 

They said: "Any concerns we receive will be handled in line with our inquiry policy.

 

"In line with this policy, OSCR cannot discuss its inquiry work as it may prejudice a charity’s work or the work of OSCR."

 

For more news, interviews, opinion and analysis about charities and the voluntary sector sign up to receive the Civil Society News daily bulletin here

 

 

More on

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. Read our policy here.