Has Oxfam Become too Political?

In the past 18 months or so Oxfam have taken a drastic change of course in their approach to charity work. Smaller community projects in the UK will lose around 25% of funding, and the charity will instead be devoting greater emphasis to highlighting what they deem the leading causes of poverty.

Whilst this might not sound exceptionally controversial, its entanglement in issues branded “too political” have led to a slew of attacks on the charity, from impassioned columnists and Tory MPs alike.

Founded in 1942, Oxfam was established as a committee who successfully lobbied the government for relaxation of allied blockades throughout Europe, and were able to dispense aid to the most impoverished, including Nazi-occupied Greece, and Belgium. Today Oxfam is a global titan, and a world leader in emergency response, aid work, and as civil rights campaigners.

The change in tact by Oxfam seemed pretty well marked out too, making it a little hard to fathom that anyone actually found them “shocking”. Swathes of reports being published, almost daily it seemed, concerning the causes of poverty as they see it, namely: gross inequality. Again hardly controversial or extreme left-wing, the BBC even ran a recent series dedicated to the topic.

So statistics began to flood out, on one hand concerning life at the bottom of the economic spectrum, but on the other hand, highlighting the considerable effect caused by those at the top.

Reports claiming that the wealthiest five families in the UK hold more wealth than the bottom twenty percent. That the top eighty or so of the world’s wealthiest individuals hold the same wealth as the bottom half of the planet (that’s around three and a half billion other humans). And perhaps most impressive of all Mexico’s Carlos Slim, the world’s richest man, were he to cash it all in, could fuel a spending spree of a million dollars a day, and his binge would last for 220 years (that is, before he would have to start dipping into the interest).

At the other end, Oxfam has said that over 350,000 in the UK used food banks in 2014, food banks which they now work with, and aid with funding. And it was their campaign against the causes of this type of poverty in the United Kingdom which ultimately landed the charity in trouble.

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Their twitter campaign “The Perfect Storm” was, just a little OTT, even their most vehement supporters should agree. Surely this was taken into account, but still it seems unclear at who the campaign aims to win over.

The response though was magnificent. Conservative candidate Rachel Maclean tweeted of Oxfam being “a thinly disguised left-wing lobby group”, and likewise, MP Conor Burns who was especially offended, last year requested Oxfam be investigated by the Chairman of the Charity Commission. Fellow MP Charlie Elphicke proclaimed the same campaign by Oxfam; addressing zero-hour contracts and austerity measures, as “a shameful waste of taxpayers money”.

This final little statement having caught the wind among the impassioned flock of left-bashing journalists, found in The Times, The Daily Mail and so on. Latching on to this little factoid, and demanding to know; how they dare make such flagrant use of the Tory government’s kindly donated cash, to brazenly implicate government responsibility for the quality of life. How much does a pixelated poster cost anyway? It looks like something an intern knocked up over lunch.

Though all given on both sides, it seems as though if Oxfam’s figures are even close to accurate, concerning on one hand the rich, and on the other, the poorest in society; that for the main causes of poverty in this country, we may indeed need to turn to face political concerns from time to time.

It has been a growing concern though among charitable organisations that government is creeping only further into an agenda of encroachment upon their voice. Why is dialogue concerning key political issues censored? Issues which should rightly occupy the mind of everyone, particularly so in the run-up to a general election.

Enter the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-party campaigning, and Trade Union Administration Bill. Among other things (including a stab at labour) the Bill limits charity spending surrounding election campaigns, limiting non-party political influence on the process. Effectively taking many elements off of the table for public dialogue.

Over 150 UK charity groups from Oxfam, and Greenpeace, to Help the Heroes, and the RSPB spoke out against the legislation, endearingly named the Gagging Bill.

But anyway, the Bill is now in place, so we shouldn’t need to hear any more tricksy statistics or rhetoric from the Commies over at Oxfam for a while. Unfortunately though still no action has been taken to impede Rupert Murdoch’s crusade to feed millions of readers and viewers daily, all over the civilized world, that global warming is nothing but a left-wing hoax to redistribute wealth… Ahem.

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