Friday 18 September 2009

British Legion Foolishly Accepts BNP Gift

If, like me, you downloaded Radiohead's tribute to Harry Patch, whose proceeds were donated to the Royal British Legion, you'll share my disappointment at the news that the ex-services charity has accepted a donation from a member of the British National Party, after seeking to distance itself from the party with a full-page advert in national newspapers and an open letter to Nick Griffin calling on him to stop wearing a Poppy.

The money was raised by a BNP member from Skelmanthorpe, Rachel Firth, who was sponsored to spend 24 hours on the streets in a cardboard box. She then donated half of the funds raised to the BNP and half to the Legion.

The Legion says it was assured by Firth that the donation would not be used "for partisan political activity" but have complained that it was then splashed on the BNP website.

What did the Roysl British Legion expect? That the BNP wouldn't cynically try to link the charity's respectability to its particular brand of racist extremism? After all, the BNP has form in this regard: it is linked to another donation to a Rochdale bird sanctuary that it also heavily exploited on its website.

I work for a charity and am on the board of trustees of several others. Trustees have a responsibility under Charity Commission rules to avoid undertaking activities, including decisions about fundraising, that "might place the charity’s... reputation at undue risk."

With that in mind, I can see no other option for the Legion than returning the donation and making it clear that do future offers from the BNP or its members will be accepted.

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