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The Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust

There's a hum-dinger of a post from Anthony Barnett on Our Kingdom:

Particularly worrying here for anyone concerned with the fate of democracy in this country is the role of the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust, which is and will remain the strategic funder in the area of constitutional reform, as it is the largest non-charitable trust able to make donations to political causes. (There are three Rowntree entities, see the endnote for the differences between them.) Historically, the JRRT backs the Lib Dems and supported attempts to build a wider democratic movement and without it the UK’s constitutional reform movement would barely exist. It has created a cluster of campaigns and causes that can define the agenda as with the AV campaign. I am going to focus most of this post on the Reform Trust.

The JRRT was the source of funding for the Campaign for the English Regions which resurfaced, after many years of complete silence, during the Power2010 vote to urge their supporters to vote for anything but English Votes on English Laws. By pure coincidence other JRRT funded organisations, also opposed to an English Parliament or English Votes on English Laws, were also engaged in an attempt to bump English Votes on English Laws out of the Power2010 top-five, as Gerry Hassan noted at the time:

The Power 2010 inquiry has significant monies from the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust and its Reform Trust (1). Chaired by the formidable and impressive Helena Kennedy and led by Pam Giddy, previously of Charter 88, it has attempted to build on the work both did with the Power inquiry a few years ago....

The final list of 29 left the English question represented by English votes on English Laws, while a referendum on an English Parliament, which had been on the original list, was knocked out.

As we entered into the last few days, Unlock Democracy, the successor to Charter 88, asked supporters to vote for an elected second chamber, the demand which was below English votes. The Campaign for the English Regions urged their supporters to vote for any issue but English votes.

It's hard to escape the idea that the organisations funded by Joseph Rowntree operate as some sort of shadowy inter-connected club with someone acting as the hub - or in the words of Anthony Barnett a "cluster of campaigns and causes that can define the agenda". Certainly my involvement with Power2010 left me with a bad taste in my mouth. Firstly the proposal for an English parliament was 'experted' out of the running during the deliberative phase (there seemed to be something very underhand about that), then when English Votes on English Laws made the top five the rules were changed so that it became a pick n mix pledge, and then Power2010 was merged with Unlock Democracy (another JRRT organisation, formerly the New Politics Network and Charter88) and the English Votes on English Laws part of the pledge was never heard of again.

Of course, those of us who participated in the original Power Inquiry knew full well that Helena Kennedy disliked the Campaign for an English Parliament, so we went into Power2010 with our eyes open and should be delighted that Power2010 bore fruit at all. But despite this success I can't imagine that I'll ever engage in JRRT project again when I know that it is so biased towards certain political outcomes, namely the complete destruction of England’s political identity as a discrete nation.

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