There’s No Such Thing As A Free Lunch
With thanks to one of our number for suggesting the title of this blog.
I made myself a promise that I wouldn’t keep harping on about Think Tanks, but I’m afraid it didn’t last very long. Please accept my apologies.
It has come to my attention that certain Police Officers and Local Government Officials allied to the Police, Mayor’s Office For Policing and Crime for example, have been partaking of dinners free of charge as guests of certain Think Tanks.
Now I am in no-way suggesting that these officers and officials haven’t prroperly recorded these dinners in the relevant Hospitality Registers, because indeed they have, I have seen the entries for myself. My issue with this is two-fold.
Firstly, as most Think Tanks register themselves as Charities is this morally appropriate? I know what my idea of a charity is and Think Tanks do not fulfill that role.
The Oxford English Dictionary defies Charity like this
an organization set up to provide help and raise money for those in need: the charity provides practical help for homeless people
[mass noun] the body of organizations viewed collectively as the object of fundraising or of donations: the proceeds of the sale will go to charity
2 [mass noun] the voluntary giving of help, typically in the form of money, to those in need: the care of the poor must not be left to private charity
help or money given to those in need: an unemployed teacher living on charity
3 [mass noun] kindness and tolerance in judging others: she found it hard to look on her mother with much charity
archaic love of humankind, typically in a Christian context: faith, hope, and charityIn which of these ways do Think Tanks operate??Personally I would be very uncomfortable if offered a meal from a ‘Charity’ whose status I wasn’t completely happy with, but fortunately the decision is not mine to make. I do however remember, when I was a serving officer, that the rules said “Do not accept gratuities”. Nothing too ambiguous there. No dilemmas.Me? I don’t know the answer, is there an answer? I just don’t feel very comfortable with it.Secondly, and possibly far more sensitive, is the issue of fraternising with Think Tanks per se.It is well known that they are political animals. They openly admit to offering guidance and advice on policy to government. My belief is that Police and Politics should not and must not mix. There are many policies being formulated and reformulated at the moment, some of them affecting the police. Is it right that ACPO types, HMIC types, Local Govt types are sitting down having a lovely meal at the expense of Reform or Policy Exchange? I know it happens, I have seen it recorded in Hospitality Registers. How would Inspector have reacted if I told him once or twice a month that I’d been out for a free meal with a load of Think Tank types? I don’t think he would have been particularly impressed.Is it possible to sit through a meal and not engage in conversation with your hosts? In this particular instance that would undoubtedly involve something on the political radar.The 1st 2 sentences on Policy Exchange website say this;Policy Exchange is the UK’s leading think tank. As an educational charity our mission is to develop and promote new policy ideas which deliver better public services, a stronger society and a more dynamic economy.REFORM says this;Reform is an independent, charitable, non-party think tank whose mission is to set out a better way to deliver public services and economic prosperity.Our aim is to produce research of outstanding quality on the core issues of the economy, health, education and law and order and on the right balance between government and individual; and to communicate it to politicians and opinion formers in all parties and none in order to create a consensus for reform.The Centre For Policy Studies;The Centre for Policy Studies has a rich history. Established in 1974 by Sir Keith Joseph and Margaret Thatcher, it aimed to ‘think the unthinkable’ with regard to public policy.These are but a few of the myriad Think Tanks that currently abound. Given the quoted aims and raison d’etres above I ask you thisIs it appropriate for Senior Police Officers (or ANY Police Officer for that matter) or Local Government official to be accepting gratuities from such a body?I don’t know the answer. I have an opinion, but I’m hoping someone will give me the answer.Police, Local Government or Think Tank, please leave your answers in the Comments section for all to view. Anonymous is fine, I’m just seeking the answer. Let us know, let’s have this debate, it’s long overdue in some folk’s eyes.