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Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Baroness Tonge and Christian Aid

Most of what is rotten in the state of Christian Aid is encapsulated in the Jewish Chronicle's revelation (read it via Engage) that Baroness Tonge was appointed as a trustee of the charity in April.

Admittedly, in April her foray into conspiracy theory at the Lib-Dem conference still lay in the future. Nor had she written to the Independent complaining about the effectiveness of the Israeli security barrier in excluding terrorists. But she had already been sacked from the party's front bench for her comments expressing 'understanding' for Palestinian terrorists.

It's a little odd that the appointment of a trustee first becomes public knowledge when a newspaper reveals it five months later (there's no mention of it on the CA website). Not exactly a great example of transparency.

And what of the CA spokesman's damage limitation exercise?

'The areas on which she was speaking are outside the remit of a development organisation which deals with issues of poverty and humanitarian relief.'

Oh, yeah? Sorry, but this is not a branch of the Missionaries of Charity we're talking about. In reality, as CA inform us on their FAQ page...

'Does Christian Aid get involved in politics?
'Christian Aid is never party-political, and always works within the law. But we believe that it is our duty to address the causes of poverty. Many of these causes, such as debt or trade, are essentially political or economic in origin.' which end they spend 12% of their income on 'campaigning, education, advocacy'. As I've documented ad nauseam here, Israel and Palestine feature more prominently in their 'advocacy' work than any other area of the globe, and they spend a lot more time advocating Israeli withdrawal from the Occupied Territories than they do advocating repudiation of terrorism and recognition of Israel by Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah. Which, of course, just happens to be the way Baroness Tonge sees things. And she made a direct contribution to CA's advocacy campaign when she visited Gaza as their guest in 2003 (read how this was written up in Christian Aid News here).

So are we to believe all this is coincidental to Baroness Tonge's appointment as a CA trustee? Trustees are officially nominated by CA's sponsoring churches. Since there are 39 of these it could in theory be a distinctly cumbersome process. But anyone with inside experience of the ways of bureaucracies will have little difficulty imagining how the wheels get oiled in practice. If CA were to give the odd informal hint as to who they thought would make a good trustee, matters would be a whole lot more straightforward. And if they had an ongoing relationship with a politician who (a) had some time on her hands having been put out to grass in the Lords and (b) regularly said the kind of thing they like to hear about one of their pet political issues...

OK, I'm speculating. It's time for some real transparency as to how and why Baroness Tonge got the job. This is a woman whose extremist utterances have got her sacked by one party leader and disowned by his successor. The director of the Council of Christians and Jews sees her latest outburst as displaying 'dangerous paranoia'. How can she be a fit person to act as a trustee of a major Christian charity?

1 comment:

SnoopyTheGoon said...

So true and so sad. One would tend to disregard her as another fruitcake, but her influence shows...