Charity Commission exposes the Guardian’s TPA liesPosted on February 2, 2011
The Guardian is always in the vanguard when it comes to alleging that the TaxPayers’ Alliance or anyone else criticising Government waste are guilty of inaccurate claims. It seems only fair, then, to draw attention to an official finding – not an allegation, mark you – that the Guardian itself has been making up stories about the TPA.
In December 2009 the Guardian ran a front page story by Robert Booth alleging that the TPA was in breach of charity law for accepting donations from a registered charity, the Politics and Economics Research Trust. John Prescott promptly got in on the act, filing a formal complaint.
Nine days later the same paper gleefully reported (again in a story by Robert Booth) that the relationship was being “investigated by regulators”, namely the Charity Commission. The smear implication was clear – and the headline may as well have been “hooray, we don’t like them and an investigation confirms their guilt”.
Strangely, there’s no report in the Guardian today about the findings of the Charity Commission’s investigation, which was published yesterday. Nor, despite his promise that “I’ll let you know when I get a reply”, has Prezza published it or even made reference to the report’s existence.
It’s not really so strange, actually, because the Charity Commission’s findings don’t make happy reading for either the Guardian, Robert Booth or John Prescott. In short, the PERT and the TPA were cleared entirely of the allegations.
But there’s even more to it than that – it turns out that at best the story was written on the back of a fag packet, and at worst it was deliberately misleading the public in order to discredit the TPA.
When the Commission investigated the claims, they found that the PERT was in fact obeying the law – as it said at the time. More remarkable than that, they found a number of massive holes in Booth’s original article:
Booth claimed that the Midlands Industrial Council had donated to the TPA through PERT. The Charity Commission found that in fact the MIC had not done so.
Booth claimed that the MIC was able to claim gift aid on donations to a charity. The Charity Commission found that the MIC is an unincorporated association, does not pay tax on its income from donations by members and thus neither it or its members would have been able to claim gift aid.
Booth quoted David Wall, secretary of the MIC. The Charity Commission spoke to him and reports him as saying that “the comments attributed to him in the newspaper article were misleading”.
Most damning of all, when the Charity Commission asked Booth for “any additional information” on his story or the issue, he “had no further information to provide” – i.e., when he was given a free run to prove his story, produce his evidence and stack up his claims, he literally had nothing to offer.
So in short, the outfit Booth that claimed had donated hadn’t, the tax relief he claimed they would have got if they had donated wouldn’t have been claimable and he was unable to produce any evidence to back up his false claims. How’s that for accuracy?
At the moment, the original Guardian stories are still online, and they have published no retraction or apology. The smear is still common currency among the TPA’s detractors, despite the fact that it has been comprehensively proven to be untrue.
When will we see the Guardian run a front page story headlined “Guardian allegations against TPA ‘totally unfounded’, says official report”?