Care after Combat: Trustee Andrew Griffiths MP and Conservative campaigning undermine its credibility

  1. Here I reveal two reasons for concern about military charity Care after Combat as it seeks more money from the government for its work with veterans, following the £1m it received in 2015 (registered charity number: 1159342).
  2. First, there is conflicting evidence whether disgraced former government minister Andrew Griffiths MP was or is a trustee. What’s more, the charity’s response – from the chief executiveto a polite request for clarification was obstructive, dismissive and rude. Second, Care after Combat uses its official Twitter account for party-political campaigning, as the recent Conservative party conference shows.
  3. Registered as a charity on 25 November 2014, Care after Combat was founded by comedian Jim Davidson, who is chief executive. His is a paid role plus “expenses”, as Andrew Gilligan revealed in The Sunday Times newspaper on 25 September 2016. His report also mentioned that Mr Griffiths, then a government whip, was a trustee at the time. But was he?
  4. The charity’s 2016 trustees’ annual report shows Mr Griffiths became a trustee on 10 March 2016. Further, Care after Combat announced on its website on 23 March 2016 his appointment as a trustee (screen shot in Figure 1). So that’s clear then. Not quite.

    Figure 1. Andrew Griffiths MP appointed as a trustee: Care after Combat website on 23 March 2016

  5. The Companies House records for Care after Combat don’t show the concomitant appointment of Mr Griffiths as a director (registered company number: 09152620).
  6. Also, Mr Griffiths didn’t disclose he was a trustee of Care after Combat in parliament’s list of ministers’ interests at December 2016. There the then government whip lists roles with six charities, none of which are Mr Davidson‘s.
  7. Meanwhile, the charity’s 2017 trustees’ annual report, its latest, omits to mention trustee Mr Griffiths. There’s no record of him at all.
  8. Again, the list of ministers’ interests at December 2017 shows Mr Griffiths‘ posts with now five charities, none of which are Care after Combat.
  9. Mr Davidson is public contact, too, for the charity. I emailed him two questions about alleged trustee Mr Griffiths. First, why don’t the Companies House records for Care after Combat show the concomitant appointment of Mr Griffiths as a director? Second, why does the 2017 trustees’ annual report omit to mention trustee Mr Griffiths?
  10. Mr Davidson replied instantly: “With the greatest of respect……… [sic] You are clearly without all the facts. I would suggest you aim your questions to Companies House or the Charities [sic] Commission.” I didn’t respond.
  11. A few minutes later I received another message from him: “I’ve just looked you up…. [sic] have you nothing better to do? Sad [sic]It could have been President Trump of the US.
  12. The lack of reference to alleged trustee Mr Griffiths in Care after Combat‘s 2017 trustees’ annual report raises serious questions about the management of the charity and its record-keeping. If he had resigned as a trustee, it should be recorded in the annual report. Similarly, the absence of filings at Companies House about Mr Griffiths as a director needs explanation.
  13. Mr Griffiths isn’t currently listed as a trustee of Care after Combat on the Charity Commission public register of charities.
  14. In July, Mr Griffiths resigned as minister for small business – after the Sunday Mirror newspaper revealed that he had sent hundreds of sexually explicit messages to two female constituents, both over 20 years younger than him. Mr Griffiths, who is married with a young child, continues as MP for Burton, sitting as an independent in light of ongoing investigations.
  15. Mr Griffiths didn’t respond to requests for comment.

    Figure 2. Care after Combat re-tweets glowing assessments of 2018 Conservative party conference by justice secretary David Gauke and party chair Brandon Lewis on 3 October 2018

  16. Care after Combat has been closely linked to the Conservatives from the beginning. Mr Davidson is a long-term public supporter of the party. Thus the formal involvement of Tory MP Mr Griffiths as a trustee isn’t surprising. Particularly concerning, though, is the charity’s use of its official Twitter account for Conservative campaigning. I refer to its tweets around this year’s Tory party conference, for example, which took place in Birmingham from 30 September until 3 October. Here I show examples from two days, but there are many others. First, at the end of the conference, Care after Combat re-tweeted glowing assessments of the event by justice secretary David Gauke and party chair Brandon Lewis (screen shot in Figure 2). Second, on 1 October, the charity tweeted and re-tweeted Tory MP Conor Burns: “Conor Burns. Great supporter. Good friend. Top bloke. Nuff said” (screen shot in Figure 3). The same day it re-tweeted a quote from Defra secretary Michael Gove’s conference speech, a quote strongly attacking Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn (Figure 3).

    Figure 3. Care after Combat tweets and re-tweets Tory MP Conor Burns on 1 October 2018; and re-tweets quote from Defra secretary Michael Gove, which strongly attacks Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn

  17. Charities are prohibited from party-political campaigning. Thus Care after Combat‘s tweets in support of the Conservatives are unacceptable. Charities must be politically neutral.
  18. Care after Combat has recently appointed a political lobbyist, Hume Brophy, according to the firm’s disclosures on the current register of the Association of Professional Political Consultants (APPC), that from 1 June 2018 until 31 August 2018. The charity wasn’t a Hume Brophy client on the previous register. Here there’s a yet another link to the Conservatives and the government! Former government minister James Wharton is executive chair of corporate and public affairs at the political lobbyist.
  19. Care after Combat is lobbying government for more money, it appears. On funding, its 2017 trustees’ annual report says: “The next twelve months will indicate the commitment of Her Majesties [sic] Government to Care After Combat’s cause and the Phoenix project that it helped to establish.” Back in 2015, the government somewhat controversially awarded the charity £1m from the LIBOR fund, which was established by then Conservative chancellor George Osborne to support veterans. On 25 September 2016, The Sunday Times revealed that Tory ex-Brexit secretary David Davis had the previous year written a letter to Mr Osborne in support of the charity receiving a grant from the LIBOR fund. Clearly, Mr Davidson‘s links to senior Conservatives helped secure the £1m from government for what was then a new charity without a meaningful track record.
  20. The lack of clarity and transparency around when Mr Griffiths was or is a trustee, if indeed he ever was, is unacceptable. The apparent deficiencies in the charity’s reporting of his role only adds to the concern, as does its contemptuous response to legitimate questions. Meanwhile, Care after Combat‘s communications on Twitter demonstrate it isn’t politically neutral. It’s difficult to avoid the conclusion that founder Mr Davidson as chief executive – salaried plus “expenses”, of course – is overly dominant and conflicted. Being a right-wing comedian and long-term Conservative campaigner is one thing. Being the chief executive of a charity is another – or at least should be. The two roles are simply incompatible, even without the fact that Care after Combat has been dependent on government largesse (Conservative chancellor) and is lobbying for more.
  21. ADDENDUM: For the avoidance of doubt, this analysis isn’t politically motivated. The problems arise because even as a charity chief executive, Mr Davidson, who styles himself “the people’s comedian”, has been and continues to be a public supporter of a political party. A party that as the government holds the purse strings.
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Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards opens inquiry into Jeremy Hunt

  1. On 18 April 2018, Kathryn Stone, Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, announced on her website that she has opened an inquiry into health secretary Jeremy Hunt, after he admitted breaching money laundering rules when buying seven luxury flats in Southampton.
  2. The revelations about Mr Hunt that led to the opening of the inquiry were reported in the front-page lead story in the Daily Telegraph newspaper on 13 April 2018 (see 13 April 2018 post). I was named as source of the story in the Telegraph exclusive.
  3. Mr Hunt received a “bulk discount” on the seven flats from a property firm owned and chaired by a Conservative donor, Nicolas James Roach, according to the Guardian newspaper on 19 April 2018.

National newspaper follow-ups of my Jeremy Hunt exposé

  1. Today (14 April 2018) the rest of the national press have followed up yesterday’s Daily Telegraph front-page exclusive on health secretary Jeremy Hunt for which I was source (see previous post).
  2. Here I highlight two reports, where the journalists quoted me, after bothering to speak to me and ask questions. Proper journalism, then.
  3. I told the Daily Mail I was disappointed Mr Hunt simply blamed his accountant for the failures I identified (Daily Mail 14 April 2018).
  4. The Guardian, meanwhile, reported my comments about the lack of scrutiny at Companies House. It seems Companies House is open to potential abuse. Why didn’t it pick up the glaring errors in the details for Mr Hunt’s company? (Guardian 14 April 2018).

Telegraph leads with my Jeremy Hunt exposé

  1. On 13 April 2018, the Daily Telegraph newspaper used my Jeremy Hunt exposé (see previous post) as the basis of its front-page lead story, “Hunt admits breaking rules over luxury flats”.
  2. Im named in the story as source, in the final paragraph on p.2.
  3. Here is a scanned copy of the front-page lead: Telegraph 13 April 2018 p.1. And here is a scanned copy of the rest of the story on p.2: Telegraph 13 April 2018 p.2.
  4. It’s also available online (paywall): https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2018/04/12/exclusive-jeremy-hunt-admits-breaking-governments-rules-company/.
  5. Er… That’s it.

Jeremy Hunt corrects errors at Companies House after my email – but is unresponsive

  1. I recently discovered errors in Companies House records for a new company jointly owned by health secretary Jeremy Hunt and his wife. The company information was duly corrected the day after I emailed Mr Hunt at parliament. Yet at date of publication the health secretary, or his office, hasn’t responded to requests for comment, which is disappointing.
  2. On 7 March 2018, Mr Hunt registered on the register of MPs’ financial interests joint ownership with his wife of “property holding company” Mare Pond Properties Limited (registered company number: 10970413). At the same time, he also registered purchase by his company of seven flats – just seven – in Southampton the previous month.
  3. On 28 March 2018, I asked the health secretary in an email: If you and your wife are joint owners, why aren’t each of you shown as a person with significant control” (PSC) on your company’s PSC register at Companies House?
  4. There was no PSC, according to his PSC register. (For an explanation of PSC, see http://www.companieshouse.gov.uk/PSC.)
  5. I finished by inviting Mr Hunt to comment.
  6. An automated acknowledgement email immediately appeared in my inbox.
  7. The day after my message (i.e. 29 March 2018), his company’s PSC register at Companies House was duly corrected, filings there show.
  8. Having heard nothing a week later, I sent a reminder, now referring to the changes at Companies House, too. Again, I requested a comment.
  9. Straightaway another automated acknowledgement email arrived. But at date of publication there’s been nothing else.
  10. Mr Hunt‘s unresponsiveness is disappointing. The health secretary continually bangs on about how NHS staff and organisations must be open, transparent and accountable – particularly when things go wrong during patient care (“duty of candour”). He’s right, of course. What a pity, then, Mr Hunt fails to practise what he preaches.

Iain Dale is an “ex-Tory MP” – POLITICO

  1. On 10 December 2017, political news website POLITICO described Iain Dale as “commentator and ex-Tory MP” in its weekly Sunday Crunch round-up of British politics that, er, Sunday (screen shot in Figure 1). In fact, Mr Dale was never actually an MP: he was a prospective parliamentary candidate for the Conservatives in the May 2005 general election, though, according to the biography on his personal website.

    Figure 1. Iain Dale, “commentator and ex-Tory MP” – POLITICO Sunday Crunch on 10 December 2017

  2. Mr Dale is well known for being managing director of Biteback Publishing, which bills itself as “Britain’s leading publisher of political and current affairs titles”. Biteback’s new books include high-profile “Betting the House: The Inside Story of the 2017 Election,” by UK political journalists Tim Ross and Tom McTague.
  3. Which brings us back to POLITICO: Mr McTague is its chief UK political correspondent, based in parliament. As such, he was joint author with Paul Dallison of the 10 December 2017 Sunday Crunch.
  4. Mr Dale must hope “Betting the House” is more accurate.
  5. We’d love to hear what you think,” says Sunday Crunch. Yet at date of publication Mr McTague hasn’t responded to my email. The “ex-Tory MP” claim remains, too.

Tim Yeo was Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, says Turquoise

  1. Former Tory MP Tim Yeo is a “senior consultant” at Turquoise, a London-based merchant bank specialising in “energy, environment and efficiency”.
  2. He was South Suffolk MP from 1983 to 2015. His parliamentary career included a stint as Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, according to his biography on the Turquoise website (screen shot in Figure 1). That’s a government post.

    Figure 1. Tim Yeo at Turquoise at 25 September 2017

  3. Yet the parliament website shows Mr Yeo was in fact, twice, Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs: https://www.parliament.uk/biographies/commons/mr-tim-yeo/136. And that’s an opposition post.
  4. Government and opposition are, er, obviously different.
  5. At date of publication Mr Yeo hasn’t responded to a request for comment via email, nor has Turquoise. His biography on the merchant bank’s website is unchanged.