Clement Attlee famously remarked:
Charity is a cold grey loveless thing. If a rich man wants to help the poor, he should pay his taxes gladly, not dole out money at a whim.
This gets bandied about a lot by many on the tax-hard left, so there’s a dull inevitability about the fact that the Clement Attlee Foundation is a registered charity and, as they point out:
… if you’re a UK taxpayer GiftAid increases the value to us of your donation by 28p in every £1 at no cost to you.
That is, the UK tax man loses the income tax you paid on the money earned and donated.
It continues. I’ve added emphasis to parts of the following quote which is, I think, from the same 1920 Attlee book as the first:
In a civilised community, although it may be composed of self-reliant individuals, there will be some persons who will be unable at some period of their lives to look after themselves, and the question of what is to happen to them may be solved in three ways – they may be neglected, they may be cared for by the organised community as of right, or they may be left to the goodwill of individuals in the community. The first way is intolerable, and as for the third: Charity is only possible without loss of dignity between equals. A right established by law, such as that to an old age pension, is less galling than an allowance made by a rich man to a poor one, dependent on his view of the recipient’s character, and terminable at his caprice.
Attlee had a point. But he had a very different welfare state in mind than the one we’re facing now. His intention was for a safety net for people fallen temporarily (“at some period in their lives”) on hard times in a “civilised community” of “self-reliant individuals”.
UKIP would be happy with that. It’s not what the people who quote Attlee today have in mind. They seem to leave this bit out when picking their citations.
The Attlee Foundation does seem to be a good thing, though:
Our past projects include:
- Housing for teenagers in London’s East End, similar to today’s foyer projects, and a halfway those leaving the housing
- Opening a community centre and day care for drug users at a time when there was no government funded support for drug users. This was funded initially by the Leverhulme Trust and later a London borough. This project led to development of a drug-free hostel for the next stage of rehabilitation which became the first of many Phoenix Houses across the UK.
- Providing eye camps in India and funding for an Indian doctor to study at Moorfields, in association with the Royal Commonwealth Society for the Blind.
- Developing an adventure playground in the heart of London’s East End. After many years of successful operation we redeveloped the site to add the youth and community centre and sports pitches.
- Attlee Means Business is an exciting project to develop entrepreneurial skills in young people in Tower Hamlets with support from City businesses. A programme of support over six workshops covering business basics and planning will be provided by City business volunteers with inspirational talks from successful business people and entrepreneurs. This project is funded jointly by City businesses and London Borough of Tower Hamlets.
Cold? Loveless? And even if you have paid all your taxes gladly, is it a bad thing to want to do more?
Attlee can’t have thought so. The Foundation was established before his death, to carry on his work. By then, more than 40 years after he wrote his famous sentence, he had, presumably, changed his mind.