Right-wing bloggers Guido Fawkes and Iain Dale have, over the past few weeks, consistently been questioning whether the think-tank Smith Institute is too close to Gordon Brown and breaking some of its rules as a charity. In fact Guido, aka Paul Staines, has gone as far as lodging a complaint himself with the Charity Commission and it is now being investigated.
This has predictably annoyed many on the left because a Brownite think-tank is under attack. I have no sympathy for that view because political organisations on both sides of the political spectrum should be more transparent and accountable. Others are annoyed because of the implication that Iain and Paul pretend to be non-partisan and should be looking closer to home. I think they are a tad bit hypocritical, but they are entitled to be non-partisan. That is the way politics goes.
Last week things got a bit hotter.
Will Guido end up in jail, as the Telegraph playfully insinuated earlier? Well that much is rubbish despite the mock-horror headlines displayed by some Tory bloggers.
Last week Guido Fawkes gave his first interview on record to me (background here) and I asked a few questions about his attacks on the Smith Institute. For a start he was already aware of the Charity Commission requirement and wasn’t stressed about it all. I suspect the Telegraph simply needed a spicy angle for yet another story attacking SI and decided on the jail angle. Sheesh.
Anyway, you can listen to that segment of the inteview below. We were in a restaurant and Guido’s dad joins up early on in the interview. A bit where GF lets on a little libellous piece of gossip has been chopped out.
I actually welcome an enquiry into the Smith Institute; it may indeed be too close to Brown. But all this may also herald a much-needed wider investigation into links that other think-tanks also have with political parties. Who knows, Iain and Guido may end up doing the centre-left a favour!
[Meanwhile Guido, Tim Ireland has a question for you]
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