Editor-At-Large: Charities should just say no

Using their unearned wealth to back worthy causes made the Rausings feel useful
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The Independent Online

Eva Rausing's death has led to a series of eulogies from charities offering sympathy, and tributes to her generosity. Through the Eva and Hans K Rausing Trust, she and her husband funded a range of worthy causes from the Prince's Foundation for Building Community, to Greenhouse, a charity helping disadvantaged young people through sport and dance, as well as the National Portrait Gallery. One project involved funding prisoners who had given up drugs to train as counsellors to support fellow inmates. She helped to found the anti-drug charity Mentor UK and was a patron of Action on Addiction. Prince Charles has called her husband (who has been arrested on suspicion of her murder) "a very special philanthropist".

Addicts live in a permanent state of denial – I know, I've driven several to rehab. They only seek treatment when they are at rock bottom. Four years ago, an emaciated Eva Rausing was caught entering a function at the American Embassy in London with cocaine and heroin in her handbag – that shows just how tenuous her grip on reality had become. Her husband was arrested when police found class A drugs at their home. After protracted legal negotiations, the couple apologised publicly and said they would seek treatment. Astonishingly, Hans was only cautioned, so that, by not prosecuting Mr and Mrs Rausing, the Crown Prosecution Service enabled a pair of junkies to avoid confronting their problem, do nothing and retreat into their own world. Using their unearned wealth to support worthy causes made them feel they were doing something positive, but the act of giving was a distraction which allowed them to continue taking drugs without focusing on their problems. I don't think charities should take money from people they know are still using. The message that it sends to the vulnerable is that with enough cash you can buy your way out of anything. I don't think charities should take money from tax avoiders or crooks either, but that's another story.

Get tough, girls

Clare Balding exchanged tweets with Lily Allen last week, complaining she was quoted out of context by The Daily Telegraph following her chat on the Mumsnet website. The newspaper headline read "being a lesbian helps me be a better sports presenter". When asked on Mumsnet if she and her partner newsreader Alice Arnold attracted attention in public because they were gay, Clare seemed to agree, but joked saying "such is life … it's changed as people have got used to the idea". Precisely – so why did Clare and Alice tip up to the ludicrous Tatler women-only dinner the other night, which claimed to be "celebrating" lesbians? Lesbians in the UK haven't got a lot to cheer about while David Cameron shows signs of wobbling on same-sex marriage. As for equal rights, the Church of England has once again shoved the issue of female bishops on the back burner. Why aren't smart prominent lesbians such as Clare and Mary Portas following the example set by their sisters on the other side of the Atlantic and forming a pressure group to force politicians to listen? LPAC is backed by Billie Jean King and Glee cheerleader Jane Lynch, and is raising $1m to promote its point of view on a range of issues, including women's health, during the presidential election campaign. Although President Obama recently endorsed gay marriage, Mitt Romney says he does not support it, and 30 states don't allow it. But ABC news ran a poll showing 53 per cent of Americans think gay marriage should be legal, up from 36 per cent in 2006. Clare's Mumsnet chat was super-cosy. Isn't it time to get tough, girls?

Cruel sea

Today is St Swithin's day and, according to myth, the weather will set the pattern for the next 40 days. This dank and dreary summer has played havoc with my plan to swim in the sea whenever possible. My hero is my friend the author Philip Hoare, who swims in the Solent near his home in Southampton every day of the year. Last year, I started in May in Whitstable and thoroughly enjoyed it. So far this summer I have swum just four times in freezing winds and nasty choppy water for about 30 minutes a dip. The sea itself is a reasonably tolerable temperature – the secret is to dash straight in with no dithering. I read somewhere that you burn calories getting warm afterwards. Last weekend it took two hours to do that, and I eventually went back to bed in sweat pants. I have banned the weather forecast in our house, and anyone telling me about how the gulf stream has "moved". Now, we're told that the wet weather has brought another problem apart from flooding – a plague of rats, flushed out of sewers by the downpours. My lettuces are doing well, though.

This race isn't on

When the Spanish bank Santander held a swanky party last month to announce it would be sponsoring a London Grand Prix, few thought that the race would become a reality because of the massive costs and the inevitable protests the event would attract from environmentalists. The proposed route takes in Piccadilly, the Mall and Leicester Square and would cause huge disruption to the city, not to mention noise pollution. Now, Formula One rights holder Bernie Ecclestone has revealed to a journalist that he is planning to waive the £35m fee host cities normally pay to stage the race, and his organisation is even prepared to cover the running costs. Bernie is said to be dedicated to making it happen. What Londoners don't need now is Boris on board, bellowing about the "benefits" a bunch of petrolheads would bring to London. We must start manning the barricades and making the placards – he can't be eulogising about sustainability and the environment one minute and planning a massive act of egomaniacal pollution the next.

Minister cowed?

Agriculture Minister Jim Paice might not know the price of milk (because his wife usually buys it), but he's only following a long tradition of agriculture ministers who seem ill-qualified for the job. Labour appointed Jim Fitzpatrick in 2009, a vegetarian who opposed hunting. He reported to Environment Minister Hilary Benn, another non-meat-eater. Mr Paice is being lobbied by irate dairy farmers, who say they are being forced to sell their milk to middlemen (who supply supermarkets) at a loss. He met them at the Great Yorkshire Show last week, and they aired their grievances again at a mass rally in Central Hall Westminster. The dairy farmers have a strong case, but will Mr Paice take their side? This government likes cosying up to supermarket chains, encouraging them to open surgeries and opticians on their premises and fund education projects. I don't see the Tories siding with the protesters, even if Mr Paice part owns a farm.