Who is the chair-elect of the Charity Commission?

29 Jan 2018 Voices

Kirsty Weakley looks into the background of the next chair of the regulator, and finds a woman the sector can work with.

Baroness Tina Stowell is the preferred candidate to be chair of the Charity Commission

Baroness Tina Stowell was announced as the government’s preferred choice to be the next chair of the Charity Commission on Friday. A pre-appointment hearing will take place in February before her appointment. Here’s what we know about her so far.

She became a Conservative peer in 2011 and was government whip and spokesman before becoming a minister for the Department for Communities and Local Government in 2013. Between 2014 and 2016 she was Leader of the House of Lords. Before that, she worked in the civil service, the BBC and for the Conservative party. A fuller CV is published below. 

If appointed, she has said she will resign from her party membership and sit in the Lords as an independent peer, though inevitably there have still be some initial questions over political neutrality. 

This is something she has done voluntarily. There’s nothing to stop Commission board members from having ties to political parties, although they must be declared.

Her two predecessors, William Shawcross and Dame Suzi Leather, were both accused of being too close to the government of the day, so we can expect her early moves to be scrutinised for any trace of partiality.

The Beyonce of the House of Lords 

Unlike Shawcross, whose links with royalty and the establishment were never well hidden and who frequently referred to being chair as of the Commission as his first proper job, Stowell seems more down to earth and relatable. 

She left school at 16 and joined the civil service after doing a secretarial course. In 2013 the Independent newspaper described her as the “perfect antidote to the Conservative Party’s image as ‘posh’ and ‘out of touch’”

She won particular praise, and a few fans, for how she was steered the gay marriage bill through the House of Lords. 

Opening one debate on the bill she started with a joke about George Clooney: “Perhaps I should declare from the outset that I am not married, and as long as George Clooney is still available I am prepared to wait. But even though I am single—and I of all people understand that not everyone wants to get married—I believe in the institution of marriage. “

She was named Politician of the Year by Pink News for her work getting this through the House of Lords. 

There was a certain level of consternation when David Cameron made her leader of the House of Lords, but, unlike her male predecessor, did not make her a full cabinet member. 

She responded to concerns raised by fellow peers by saying: “I am an independent woman and a single lady. Noble Lords may want to think of me as the Beyonce of your lordships' House." 

In contrast to Shawcross, Stowell has embraced social media, and spent much of the weekend responding to tweets from people in the sector congratulating her on the announcement. 

Charity links 

Stowell is currently a trustee of two charities: Crimestoppers, which is chaired by Lord Ashcroft, and the Transform Trust. 

These are both relatively recent appointments. She joined the board of the Transform Trust in January and Crimestoppers last summer 

She put in a brief appearance at the All Party Parliamentary Group on Charities and Volunteering shortly before Christmas, where she asked William Shawcross and Helen Stephenson how they expected to use the additional funding the Commission hopes to raise from charging larger charities. 

In an interview with the Times at the end of last year she said she raised £7,000 for a disability charity, Phab Kids, when she ran the New York marathon a decade ago. 

As an independent communications consultant she has referenced NSPCC being a client in 2011. 

Communication style

The sector can also look forward to fresh syle of engaging with the regulator on social media. 

Within minutes of the official announcement being made she had tweeted that she was "delighted" and spent much of the weekend responding to people's messages on social media. 

 

 

Politics needs to be less partisan

Her maiden speech in the House of Lords focused on social mobility. 

“I am here today because I am fortunate enough to have benefited from it,” she said, and added: “Parents from backgrounds similar to mine are not aspiring for their children as they get older because they cannot see enough opportunities and because they do not know how their children can achieve success. In my view, addressing that disparity is our biggest challenge and should be one of our priorities.”

Since leaving government she has written and spoken about the need to understand voter concerns that led to Brexit and calling for a shift in how politics is conducted. 

In an article for HuffPost she wrote: “I would argue that what those of us in positions of responsibility in all parties and none - together with leaders in other fields - have to understand is this: Brexit is the route to renewal chosen for us by those who feel most let down and who most want things to change.” 

She’s also called for politics to become less partisan. 

In an article for Unherd last autumn she wrote that “it’s the way we do politics that’s wrong” and that: “In this modern era of transparency and accountability, they want clarity from those seeking high office: this is why we want to govern, here’s what we’ll do, and when we’ll do it by.” 

And in an interview with the Institute for Government, she suggested that this applies not just to politicians but to the wider class of the political elite. 

“All of us who work in public affairs, whether as politicians or as public servants in government or opposition, what we have to recognise in the public dissatisfaction is that there’s something about this system that we are a part of that needs to change. We have to change our behaviours and the way we think about things,” she said in conversation with Daniel Thornton.


CV

Current roles 
Trustee, Transformation Trust (since January 2018)
Trustee Crimestoppers (since July 2017)
Non-executive Director, ABTA Ltd, travel, (since June 2017)
Non-executive Director, Impellam Group plc, staffing and managed services provider, (since October 2017)
Conservative life peer (since January 2011) and member of the communications committee (since November 2017)

Previous roles 

Leader of the House of Lords and Lord Privy Seal - Jul 2014 - Jul 2016
Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Communities and Local Government) - Oct 2013 - Jul 2014
Lords Spokesperson (Department for Work and Pensions) - Sep 2012 - Oct 2013
Lords Spokesperson (Women & Equalities) - Sep 2012 - Oct 2013
Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip) - Sep 2011 - Oct 2013

Before entering the House of Lords she worked at the BBC for almost ten years, latterly as head of corporate affairs. 

In 2001 she ran William Hague’s office when he was leader of the opposition and worked as a civil servant for ten years, including spells at Ministry of Defence in London, the British Embassy in Washington and the 10 Downing Street Press Office from 1991 to 1996. 


 

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