CAF at Labour Party Conference – The Civil Society Rally

Sunday evening saw the first of CAF’s fringe events for 2014 conference season red book pic– the launch of  The Red Book of The Voluntary Sector in partnership with ACEVO.The essay collection features contributions from a range of Labour MPs and thinkers who have set out their vision for the voluntary sector, and we were joined by a packed crowd in the Midland Hotel, keen to hear what some of the contributors had to say.


The event began with ACEVO chief executive, Sir Stephen Bubb, outlining the project to our audience, and stressing the need for engagement at this stage in the electoral cycle. CAF’s John Low then chaired the session, and first to speak was Steve Reed MP, who argued in favour of a people power revolution in the delivery of public services, citing his experience as Leader of Lambeth Council and stressing the benefit of involving voluntary groups in service delivery.


Next to speak was Susan Élan Jones MP, who outlined the progressive history lab 14 fringe event 2of philanthropy and called for a future Labour government to reform Gift Aid to encourage greater usage, with a particular focus on harmonising the scheme with digital giving. Susan was followed by Shadow Civil Society Minister Lisa Nandy MP, who told that audience that the voluntary sector is “in Labour’s DNA” and reiterated the party’s pledge to repeal the Lobbying Act.


Lisa was followed by her predecessor in the brief Gareth Thomas, who advocates the creation of social innovation zones and using some of the best and brightest entrepreneurs to strengthen communities. Malik Gul then reviewed some of the policies of the last Labour Government from the perspective of his organisation, which works with charities in Wandsworth, and pointed out the need to learn from past experience when devising future policy.


Baroness Hayter, Labour’s spokesperson for charities in the House of Lords, lab14 fringe eventspoke of the damage that the Lobbying Act could do to the charity sector and added her name to Lisa’s earlier calls for its scrapping. Prospective Parliamentary Candidate Will Straw spoke about a number of voluntary groups locally, warning that many had struggled to stay afloat over recent years and explaining that support mechanisms are needed if charities are to continue to be able to provide the services that so many depend upon.


Finally, Chi Onwurah MP spoke about the benefits associated with social investment and called for greater access to investment for local community programmes. Members of the audience were then given a chance to discuss what they heard and offer their perspectives on The Red Book.


Many of the ideas contained within will doubtless be considered as the Labour Party begins to contemplate their next manifesto – but we want to hear what you think! Take a look here and let us know which ideas you think are best, at


The fringe was an excellent discussion covering a number of important issues, but that’s not all we’re doing at conference. We’re also discussing our ‘Charity Street‘ report with visitors to our stand, including a number of top Labour politicians, to make sure that the needs of charities remain high on the political agenda. Follow us on twitter @cafonline to find out more!


Steve Clapperton

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